A Twins’ Encounter with the Uganda Martyrs

Twin Sisters, Maria Nila Ortega Argel and Maria Luz Ortega Bolong from the secular order of the Discalced Carmelites, Philippines province of St. Teresa of Jesus while on their 84 day’s pilgrimage around the world visited the Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo and prayed through the Martyrs’ intercession for the success of their pilgrimage. They wrote back a day after to share their experience and favor.

“St. Teresa of Avila as a teacher did not want us to stick to her words, nor with her experiences. She encourages us to have our own unique experience of God. God, eternally new, challenges us to give Him our lives.”
The Catholic Church celebrates on the 3rd of June every year, the Memorial to St. Charles Lwanga and Companions; Martyrs. Three popes had visited Uganda. His Holiness Pope Paul V1 in 1969, His Holiness Pope John Paul II in 1993 and Pope Francis in 2015.
Seeing the Uganda Martyrs Minor Basilica/Shrine on our way to the Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Carmel at Mityana is a grace from God. It is a great privilege to have walked “where some of the Uganda Martyrs were killed (Namugongo) near Kampala.
We were awed by “the Shrine’s beautiful and unique interior and exterior. Emmanuel Obong, who was our tour guide, gave an impressive view of the place.
He explained the shape and architectural plan of the Basilica, the 22 copper pillars-over 100 feet, the Shrine built in form of an African hut and its wooden doors that depict the history of the Martyrs. The Shrine has a capacity of about 1000 seats arranged in a circular form.
St. Teresa of Avila wrote in her book (Live 25:17), “Oh, who will cry out for you, to tell everyone how faithful you are to your friends!”
With our 84 days journey “Around the World –Teresa Forever” also dubbed as Fatima 100 Pilgrimage, we, twins are going on a road adventure, that is not something theoretical or imaginary and we are experiencing the Lord’s favor.
Surely, St. Charles and his companions have performed a miracle for us as twins! Here is a narrative of what happened.
Upon our arrival at the Entebbe/EBB airport Flight No.KQ410 on November 9, 2017, we went to the Information Desk. We asked for a taxi and materials of what is to be seen in Uganda.

A man from a travel agency led us to their office and through Luz’ MasterCard, we paid for our taxi fare in going to the Carmelite Nuns Monastery at Mityana with stopovers at the site of the Uganda Martyrs Trail which we have seen in a Travel Brochure. The driver suggested that a voucher is prepared and we include payment for pick up from the Carmel Mityana on November 13 and also a visit to the Rubaga Cathedral on our way to the airport.

Luz was certain that our flight is at 3:50 in the afternoon. Luz instructed the travel agent that we are fetched Monday at 6 o’clock in the morning to be on time for our 3:50 flight in the afternoon for Tanzania.

When we were nearing the Carmel Monastery, Luz again reminded the driver to pick us at 6 in the morning
, At the monastery grounds while the driver was transferring our luggage, the driver inquired from Nila what time will he pick us up on Monday.

Together with Luz, they checked the itinerary and the driver said, “Your flight is at 3:50 in the morning.” Luz mistook the 3:50 as in the afternoon. If afternoon, 15:50 should have been indicated. Luz sighed, our pilgrimage would have been ruined if the driver did not ask. So, the driver will pick us up on Sunday, November 12 at 12 noon.

Mother Prioress, Sr. Mary Helen of the Trinity welcomed us as twins and we stayed with them at their guest house until noon of November 12. Tired from the trip, we slept until around 6:30 in the evening. We got out of bed when we heard a knock at the door informing us that the nuns are to see us at the parlor.

Meeting the nine nuns was a great joy. We were asked to share our experiences in our just-concluded visit to Europe—Portugal, Denmark, Scotland, Russia, Greece, and Turkey. Also in Ghana, Africa.

With Friends
With Friends

They gifted us with their Golden Jubilee Souvenir Program. Browsing over it while in our room, we read how blessed the community is. Fifty years ago, eight Carmelite Sisters from the Monastery of Welden in the Diocese of Augsburg, Germany arrived in Uganda to found a new Carmelite Monastery at Mityana which was then part of the Archdiocese of Kampala.

Why 84 days travel? There are 12 Apostles and 72 Disciples. It must have been heaven-blessed that on the day of our departure from the Philippines on October 5, 2017, the Gospel of Luke 10: 1-27 is on the Mission of the Seventy-two. The pairing of the 72 disciples “two by two” was designed by Christ in order for us to think and face whatever challenges of life that await ahead together.

At the airplane “Africa World” the man seated beside Luz noticed our scapular and enumerated the 12 apostles and pointed out that indeed there are 72 disciples. People we met were struck with our unique scapular and we opened a conversation with some.

Father, you have made the blood of the martyrs the seed of Christians. May the witness of St. Charles and his companions inspire us twins to zealously do our missionary work as Secular Carmelites. In the Spirit of St. Elijah, may we be able to help with the spread of the Gospel
, Bless our pilgrimage, we pray to You Almighty God! May you bless us as we continue our journey that started in Europe and continues to Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Oceana, and Asia and back to our native home, the Philippines.

“The guide was so humble just like the martyrs he talked about” Maria Nila O. Argel, The President.

“I kissed the star with light under the altar and it felt like kissing Bethlehem” Maria Luz O. Bolong, 1st Councilor.

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