By Irene Lamunu
He wanted to become a Priest so that he could rescue the people in his village from walking 17kms every Sunday to the Parish for mass. This is what inspired Fr. Anthony Kibira to Priesthood. As a child, he said that he saw Priests twice a year on Christmas and Easter. His dream was to become a Priest so that the people of his village could have Eucharistic celebrations every Sunday. He kept this dream a secret until one day when he confided in his Catechist and parents about it. After hearing their son’s confession, his parents were very supportive of him and encouraged him to follow his dream. His Father also helped him become an altar server at a tender age of 9. He was so committed to his faith and to achieve his dream that he did not feel burdened to walk 17 kms every Sunday to go attend mass at the Parish and also do his duty as an altar server. Fr. Anthony said he was so excited to become an altar server because he thought that Priests evolve out of altar servers.
One day during his catechism lessons, the Catechist told them that for one to become a priest, he needed to go to the seminary. He discussed it with his parents and they were willing to help him achieve his dream, his father sacrificed so much including selling part of his land to enroll his son into the minor seminary at Bukalasa in 1989 to 1995. While doing his Advanced level still at the Minor seminary, he landed on a Leadership Magazine which had an article about a Ugandan Comboni missionary living and working in Ecuador, he loved the article so much and he developed a desire to become a missionary meaning the dream of being a diocesan Priest would soon be gone. “I was touched and inspired by an article I read in the Leadership Magazine in which a Ugandan Comboni Missionary shared his mission experience in Ecuador, from that moment, I desired to become a missionary, that article awakened the desire in me of becoming a missionary” commented Fr. Kibira. The experience the missionary got learning the language and teaching people in their language made me so happy, I talked to my Spiritual Director about it and he did not take it serious until after my senior six that I got the contact of the Comboni Missionaries he added.
In August 1995, Fr. Kibira joined the Comboni Missionary’s Queen of Apostles Philosophical Centre Jinja (PCJ) where he did three years of Postulancy and philosophical studies from where he moved to Comboni Missionary Noviate in Namugongo from 1998-2000. While doing is formation, Fr. Anthony learnt a number of things that have helped him identify himself with the kind of life he wanted, the regular prayer life, community life, academic formation and missionary apostolate. The one thing that he remembers is that the formation community was mixed with different tribes, and cultures; this helped him open up and embrace other cultures and accept them. This lesson would one day help him during his missionary work. On 14th May 2000, he took his first religious vows. After which Fr. Anthony was admitted to study theology at Karl-Rahner Faculty of Theology at the University of Innsbruck in Austria which was a German speaking territory. In 2004, he was ordained a deacon in Austria.
The following year, on August 6th, 2005, he was ordained priest in his home diocese at Kitovu Cathedral in Masaka. He said, the day of his ordination was a very fulfilling day, which he never takes for granted. This ordination day (6th August) was the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, and he said that he embraced a new identity. Fr. Kibira remembers his first years as a priest were for him to grow into the new identity he had embraced and to learn how to be a priest and not only work as a priest. His most memorable time was when the children at his first working station in German would call him Father Deacon; Fr Kibira said he needed time to take it in and believe that he was a priest.
His first mission assignment was in a German speaking Province (Germany, Austria and Northern Italy – Brixen) where he was put in charge of the youth ministry and vocation promotions. He did not find a problem with the language since he had done his theology studies, at Karl-Rahner Faculty of Theology at the University of Innsbruck in Austria which was a German speaking University. Fr. Kibira has good memories he encountered with the people of Nuernberg (Bamberg diocese- Germany); he had the opportunity to have an introduction into the pastoral reality when he joined seminarians who were getting ready to become Deacons and they were being accompanied by a lay person. For him, this was an opportunity of knowing the reality of the local church, the world of the youth and of schools where he did his teaching practice.
He noted that, however much he was theologically prepared, he needed help to land from the theology of books to concentrate on real Pastoral work. All jobs have great times and for Fr Anthony, was as an assistant Parish Priest of St Michael Cathedral Parish in Brixen in Northern Italy from 2007 to 2013. He says what made it memorable for him was the acceptance he was accorded by the people and the humble contribution to youth Apostolate which required a lot of creativity to reach the youth. Another memorable thing for him was in the “House of Solidarity”in Brixen. He says this was the initiative taken to accompany immigrants from Africa, Afghanistan, Iran and South America. He added that, that was the time he felt the joy of being able to realize the Comboni Charisma of being with the poorest and most abandoned. Fr. Kibira remembers initiating bible sharing groups for the youth that rotated in the deanery of Brixen.
He also had some challenging times in his missionary work but he says they have made him stronger. Working in foreign countries all this time, he has learnt to love the people and their culture. This helped him feel at home and take part in people’s life. As a missionary, he was expected to work outside his home country and in a way, cut him off the people he loved and he was close to. He noted that, he never got the chance to take part in what happens at home. He added that what helped him was modern communication to be in touch with the people at home and many times practiced the Joy of detachment. Fr. Anthony’s most discouraging moment was when he was a vocational promoter in the German speaking province of Brixen and he did not get any single candidate for missionary work for eight years, but he was happy that he managed to get two for the diocese. But that did not weigh him down so much because he understood that; being a missionary among the youth with testimony of his life was like sowing seeds whose fruits he would not see. Quoting St. Comboni as saying, “a missionary is a stone hidden in the foundation it’s never seen”
Fr. Kibira said that St Comboni’s quote inspires him so much. Four years at the postualancy in Jinja, Fr. Kibira has learnt that young people who are making a journey of discernment for religious and priestly life help the ones accompanying them to teach not with words but with life, He added that it is a moment to try as much as he could to live the values for the candidates. He also noted that it was joy to be a witness of journeys of growth.
Today Fr Kibira is coming to Leadership as the new Director. He said that it’s a very big challenge to come from a formation house to a media house; he added that he has not been prepared for the media as the case for formation house. He believes that with his humble contribution to evangelization, his presence at the media house which is a place for mission animation will be appreciated. The new Director wishes to be able to give some input towards the spiritual growth of the readers, he counts on the help of the collaborators of Leadership Magazine and readers.
Fr. Anthony says he has expectations and time will tell. He wishs to preserve the original intention of the magazine for formation of Christians and leaders with appreciation of Christian values and attitudes towards life and its dignity.
He wishes to use Leadership Magazine as an instrument for missionary animation and vocation promotion so that many can come to join missionary life like he did. Fr. Kibira added that, he has no regrets choosing missionary life and he would choose missionary life again, he is grateful to God for this life and grateful to the Comboni Missionaries who accepted him to be part of them. He says he will not change much but he instead will strive to change himself in order to meet the demands of missionary work. Today, where he would work hard as a missionary would be not to carry out missionary work only for the people but with the people.
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