By Fr. Anthony Kibira MCCJ
With the theme: “Faith, Courage and witness; washed in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7, 14), thousands of pilgrims, gathered at Wipolo-Paimol on 20th October 2018 to celebrate the centenary of the martyrdom of Blessed Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa. The pilgrims were mainly from the GANAL region (Gulu, Arua, Nebbi and Lira Dioceses), other catholic dioceses of Uganda, East African countries, South Sudan, Europe, USA, and Russia. The liturgical celebration was animated by Kalongo deanery from the archdiocese of Gulu. The main celebrant, Rt. Rev. John Baptist Odama (Archbishop of Gulu) welcomed the pilgrims to the ground which was sanctified by the blood of the martyrs. “Coming to this ground of the martyrs is an opportunity to let God make us holy,” said Archbishop Odama. He further decreed the reception of the partial indulgence for all the pilgrims who were well disposed.
Archbishop Odama encouraged the pilgrims to carry home the message that the martyrs preached: “Be strong in faith, be courageous to show your faith in action, and be zealous to preach the gospel wherever you are.” The celebration of the centenary of the martyrdom of the blessed catechists is, according to Archbishop Odama, a time for self-examination and re-dedication to Christ, and reawakening the missionary spirit in all the Christians. During the same celebration, Archbishop Odama presented articles of faith to the youth of the northern catholic ecclesiastical province.
The preacher of the day, Rt. Rev. Santos Wanok, the ordinary of Nebbi Catholic Diocese, invited the participants in the centenary celebration to take the historical gathering as an opportunity to bear witness to what happened 100 years ago when the blood of Daudi and Jildo was shed at Wipolo and at the same time to embrace the challenge that the celebration of martyrdom poses. “The blood of the Lamb (Christ) is a special blood that washes bright,” said Bishop Wanok. He further quoted the words of the Church Father, Tertullian: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity.” The political system of that time thought it was going to silence the voice and light of the gospel, but the pilgrims are all witnesses to the fact that the truth of the gospel can’t be silenced.
The blood of the martyrs speaks very loudly even after 100 years, for the Lord multiplies the faith of believers. Bishop Wanok reminded the pilgrims of what Pope Francis told Ugandans on his pilgrimage to Namugongo in 2015: “The blood of the Ugandan Martyrs flows in the blood stream of every Ugandan”.
The witness and faith of the two young catechists Daudi and Jildo who carried out their mission amidst hostility is the reason for the pilgrimage to Paimol. Bishop Wanok encouraged the pilgrims to contemplate how the power of a living faith attracts. The two martyrs of Paimol challenge all believers to ask for the grace to remain firm in the profession of faith and to have the strength of being witnesses where we live. This was the message he derived from the first reading from the second book of the Maccabees (2 Macc 7, 1-2; 7-14). With reference to the second reading from 1 Peter 4,12-19, the bishop made an invitation: “Let us share the suffering of Christ.” This suffering, however, should be for something good and not for wickedness. He told the gathered faithful never to deserve to suffer for what is wrong, but rather to suffer for the truth of Christ. In the Gospel, Christ Himself tells His disciples: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Mat 10, 28) – one of the ways suffering for goodness is to work for unity amidst all the turmoil within and outside Uganda.
With the faith in Christ Jesus, the faithful ought to avoid self-destruction of murder, abortion and all sorts of institutionalized evil. Those who propagate abortion, wars of all kinds, make bomb are all mistaken and their actions are a shame to humanity. The bishop called upon the youth in a special way to wake up to the truth in order to avoid manipulation. Full of gratitude to the Lord for what the witness of the martyrs has brought about in the last 100 years, the preacher invited all the pilgrims to draw strength of being authentic witnesses and take back unity into their families and communities in order to foster a humanity united in the blood of martyrs. We are all capable of doing good and we can suffer as witnesses in defense of life and what makes life valuable.
The “chief pilgrim” at the celebration was Hon. Jacob Oulanya, the Deputy Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament who represented the president of the Republic of Uganda. The President pledged 100million Uganda shillings for the development of the martyrs’ shrine of Paimol.
The two were catechist missionaries who had been sent from Kitgum Mission to Paimol. Because of their faith in Jesus Christ and preaching of human equality and against witchcraft, and clan discriminations of their time, they were killed on 18th October 1918. This was barely two years after their baptism and confirmation.
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