- December 7, 2017
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As the saying goes, “a family that prays together lives together.” after my pilgrimage to the Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo, I have lived an unforgettable memory of this sweet saying as part of my experience as a first time pilgrim and I would like to testify for those that shared these moments and may not be able to get the opportunity to share since we were like a flock of locust in number.
I was lucky to have been able to start my sabbatical on the 30th May 2016 at a time when Christians from our diocese of Machakos, Kenya were joining the rest of the world for the famous Namugongo pilgrimage. Lucky enough, there was still room for one last person and without hesitation I took it up, packed and joined the pilgrims that were to depart on the 31st May 2016.
I strongly felt that God had plans and purpose for me to attend the pilgrimage since among the many was my mother who had done this before and I was overwhelmed to join her on this one.
As we waited for departure from the Machakos cathedral grounds, we recited the rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet and many other prayers that created the mood of prayer, and prior to hitting the road, a priest from the Cathedral led us in prayers for journey mercies. During the rest of our journey that night, the pilgrims kept vigil until we reached Namungogo on the 1st June.
On arrival, my first sight of the Shrine, the different activities taking place and more so the arrival of the foot pilgrims that were flooding into the Shrine made me feel like I was indeed in a very holy place and the power of prayer took over me. We attended several novena and vigil Masses and to my surprise, I learned that there were people who had arrived a week earlier and were camping in the grounds of the Shrine awaiting the Uganda Martyrs Day celebrations.
Despite the commotion in and out of the Shrine, the open ground created a peaceful atmosphere, there was peace and tranquility, and one could enjoy moving around peacefully. Though we were not living so far away from the Shrine, we decided to go for the Mass as early as dawn but to our shock, there were long queues of pilgrims awaiting entry to the Shrine; but we were well handled by the experienced security officers that kept the pilgrims flowing in.
Although we were not able to seat at the front, we were still able to follow each and every moment of the Mass that began with the long processing since the public address system and the digital display screens were well spread and clear.
I was very impressed by the flow of the Mass, the liturgy accommodated every one of us, the hymns were translated in all commonly spoken languages in Africa, and the announcements were brief. This made us fully part of every moment of the expectedly unusual and long Eucharistic celebration.
After the Mass I approached a young mother of five children aged between one to nine by her side, I had been thrilled and touched by how well behaved they were all during Mass. After mass, I saw them unpack their packed meal, the big ones helping the mother to set it on the mat as she concentrated on the little one and shared it with grace, I saw in the mother a lady who had time to educate and guide her children to learn to help one another.
After the family had had their lunch, we approached them but unfortunately, with no common language, we had to seek for translation from a young catechist who also took photos of us and shared our admiration of the family. I am glad that I was able to experience such a gesture at this time and generation where exemplary Christian and African families are getting extinct; my pilgrimage was not in vain since I have made more friends from the pilgrims from my diocese and expanded my prayer family with the beautiful humble family of the young mother. I pray we emulate such a humble and Christian family and life style.
It was my joy to be able to experience such a colorful event, I hope and pray that more people can make time to visit this Shrine and learn about the sacrifice of the Martyrs. I also thank all those who work tirelessly to keep the place a prayerful and holy place to save many souls.