By Irene Lamunu
Rt. Rev. Bishop Dr. Muhirwa Robert Kasaija, the Bishop of Fort Portal diocese has served the diocese since June 15, 2003. Akiki as he is known by his people revealed that becoming a bishop widened his boundary to serve God. He shared his journey and love for serving God. Born to Mr. Methodio Kasaija (RIP) and Miss Anna Mary Kisembo (RIP) in Ibonde village, Bishop Muhirwa is the fourth born in a family of eight. While his mother taught them to sing, his father was a devoted Christian who never missed any prayers at Virika Parish. The love his father had for religion strengthened his love for church. This would at one time lead him to where God had chosen for him. When Bishop Muhirwa was a small boy in primary five, his aunt was already in the convent at the Banya-Teresa Convent. She loved him so much and when she was making her first vows, she was asked to choose a name and she chose Robert which is also the bishop’s name; this impacted on him and inspired him to become a priest.
In 1970, when he was in Primary five, the Parish Priest of Virika Parish went to his school to talk to the boys about the life of priesthood. This was a great opportunity for him. The young boy showed interest in the priest’s talk, he did an interview at the St. Mary’s Minor Seminary Virika which he passed, and, he was admitted to the school which is where his journey to priesthood begun. Bishop Muhirwa went to Butebe Primary school from 1965 to 1970, after which he joined St. Mary’s Minor Seminary Virika in 1971 to 1975 for his Ordinary level. In 1976, he was admitted at Teso College Aloete for Advanced level. When A-level results were released, he was admitted at Katigondo Major Seminary in Masaka from 1978-1981. In 1982-1983, he did his Pastoral spiritual year at Butiti Parish, after which, he joined Ggaba National Seminary for theology in 1983-1985. In August 11, 1985, Bishop Muhirwa was ordained a priest and his first assignment was at St Leo’s College Kyegobe as a chaplain from 1985 up to 1991.
Bishop Muhirwa loved his calling from the start. While at Kyegobe as a young priest, he loved encouraging students to pray and also got involved in different groups like Young Christian Society (YCS). He said the school had a vocation’s club which he was also part of. He taught the young members of YCS drama. He worked as a house master and was also part of the sports team at the school. He started reciting the rosary at school and every time they recited the rosary, even students who belonged to the Church of Uganda joined them. From 1991-1998, Bishop Muhirwa was admitted at a university in the United States where he did his Master’s degree in theological studies and a Doctorate in Spirituality thus becoming Dr. Fr Muhirwa. When he returned to Uganda in 1998, he was made the Parish Priest of Bukwali Parish till 2000. In 2000, he was appointed as the Parish Priest of Virika Cathedral parish by the late Bishop Paul L.Kalanda (RIP) where he worked for three years.
One day, the late Bishop Kalanda told him the Pope Nuncio to Uganda who was Christopher Pierre then wanted to see him. His fears came to pass when they met the Nuncio who told him that the Holy Father had chosen him to be the Bishop of Fort portal diocese. At first, he was scared because he thought he was not Bishop Material, “I was a bit scared because I was not Bishop material, then I agreed because it was the Lord’s call.” On June 15th, 2003, he was inaugurated as the bishop of Fort Portal diocese. The diocese is having a crusade; “Me and my family shall serve the Lord.” This crusade is looking at renewing family life, couples renewing their commitment, parents taking on their parental role and economic empowerment of the people in the diocese. It also encourages people to take on their health wellness by having regular checkups at the hospital. This crusade is also about spiritual renewal among the people, they are also promoting holy marriages among the couples since this is the year of the Christian family. Bishop Muhirwa said he is spreading the Holy Father’s teaching of the “Joy of Love” by encouraging people in his diocese to live by the teaching.
Akiiki as he is fondly called by his people has many pleasant times, but, his favourite are when giving sacraments like Baptism, Confirmation, matrimony and when he is ordaining new priests in his diocese. He also enjoys religious professions. The diocese prides in two congregations, which are the Daughters of St. Teresa of the child of Jesus (Banyateresa sisters) and the Brothers of St. Joseph the worker. He said he has since opened up nine Parishes in the diocese and hopes to open more. Bishop Muhirwa has a soft spot for the youth and his dream is to see them prosper in life spiritually and economically. He has had talks with a number of youth and young people together with their parents. He called upon people to change attitude towards jobs to skills so that joblessness among many young people is reduced.
He noted that the country needs to change attitude from white collar jobs to practical skills like vocations training in carpentry, brick-laying, mechanical and many other handiwork. For the love of the youth in his diocese, Bishop Muhirwa introduced “Jesus Youth Movement,” from India, an offshoot of the charismatic which has six pillars: personal prayer, sacramental life, word of God, Fellowship, Option for poor and evangelisation. Besides, the diocese has also been promoting a pioneer association of the sacred heart of Jesus; mainly to reduce alcoholism in the diocese.
Besides, Bishop Muhirwa is a talented playwright. While in Katigondo, the Bishop who has always condemned alcoholism wrote a play “The Divorced husband” about excessive drinking in homes which was acted by many schools. The Bishop says he has translated the play in Lutooro and it already has a CD recording. He added that the play is being used for the Lunyoro/Lutooro literature examination by Uganda National Examination Board (UNEB).
However, not all is rosy for Bishop Muhirwa. He is faced with hard times especially when it comes to raising tuition for the 90 seminarians in the major seminary in his diocese. Since most of them don’t come from well to do families, he added that he always requests parishes to help solicit for the money.
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