By Irene Lamunu
On June 8th 2019, five priests from Arua diocese, four of Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus (MCCJ) and one of the brothers of Immaculate Heart of Mary(Marian Brothers) celebrated their Golden and silver jubilees at Holy Cross Parish Ombachi. The three MCCJ Priests who celebrated their Golden Jubilee included Rev. Fr Ogen Justine the first Ugandan Comboni missionary Rev. Fr Martin Isaac Arnanz who works with Comboni Missionaries in Lomin but relocated to Moyo because of insurgency and Rev. Fr Roberto Pegorari who works at Holy Cross Parish Ombachi. Dr. Fr Ruffino Ezama the Mission Director of Comboni Missionaries in Cincinnate Ohio in the United States of America and Fr Biajo Candiga of Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Chaplain of Holy Trinity Monastery Ediofe-Arua celebrated their silver jubilee. They shared their story with our reporters Irene Lamunu. Photos by R.N. Ayago
Fr. Roberto Pegorari
answered God’s call to become a priest
Fr. Roberto Pegorari was born in 1943 in a family of seven children in a small parish of Caspoggio Sondrio in Italy. This parish gave the church more than 80 religious men and women. At the diocese, he felt the vocation to become a priest, so he joined the seminary of Don Folci. Fr. Roberto said he enjoyed a good environment of formation and he got an opportunity of becoming an altar server in the Vatican Basillica for two years. His memory of Pope Pio XII writing an encyclical letter inviting the diocese of Europe to share some of their numerous vocations with other countries that had fewer vocations like Latin America is very fresh in his mind. He noted that it was the time many diocesan seminarians in Italy accepted the invitation. Among them was Fr. Roberto who was attracted by the spirit of St. Daniel Comboni to spend his life for the people in Africa.
The Comboni Missionaries then admitted him and he was sent to Carraia for Philosophy studies, then Firenze for his postualancy and novitiate. In 1955, Fr. Roberto had his first profession and on April 6th 1960, he was ordained in his Parish and had his perpetual profession in 1968. After his ordination, he expressed his desire to be sent to Kinshasa to complete his theology in an African environment. He was instead assigned to Thiene (Vicenza) where he worked in formation and animation.
After 10 years, his dream of coming to Africa was fulfilled. He came to Uganda at a time when President Idi Amin Dada had just fallen. The following day after his arrival in Maracha formerly Arua district, he had to run away to Olovu for safety before going to DR Congo as a refugee. He said the period of being a refugee in Congo was a difficult and stressful one. Finally, after the war, he returned to Uganda and was appointed the Parish Priest of Olovu Parish where he enjoyed a beautiful period of service as a curate and a parish priest.
He was later sent to Comboni Brothers Formation Centre in Nairobi and came back in 1995, then went to Ombachi. In 2008, he was sent to Lodonga Parish till 2015 when he handed over the diocese and travelled to Rome for medical reasons.
Today, Fr. Roberto is back in Uganda working at Ombachi Parish. In June, he celebrated his golden jubilee in priesthood. The Priesthood experience has all been good for him, though he says it is hard to rank them objectively.
His memory of a good time he says were the years after the tribulation they had in Congo. He added that they spent time as refugees with their people in Congo and coming back with the people was great joy.
He said the people he went with to exile were so grateful to him for not abandoning them. He noted that they revealed to him that they were happy that he spent the years of tribulation with them and returned with them. Fr. Roberto remembers that when they returned, it was a year of construction. Though there was a lot of poverty, it did not make him despair because every day in Maracha was special. Another place that he enjoyed in his life as a priest is Ombachi, especially before it was divided into different parishes. This was because they were serving so many people in the parish. His major challenge was when he arrived in Uganda and had to run away to exile in DR Congo during the war that over threw Idi Amin the following day. Fr. Roberto said when he became a priest, he was answering God’s call to become a priest and he is happy that he said yes to the call.
Fr. Justine Ogen
Comboni Charisma inspired him to join the missionary
Fr. Justine Ogen was born in Zombo district in November 13th 1939 to Mr. Alarokudi Mark and Miss Klara Ayugi. Fr. Ogen began his education in 1950 to 1955 in Zombo Nyapea, before doing two years of junior school from 1956-1957.
His vocation begun at Lacor Minor Seminary in 1961. Upon completion of his studies at Lacor, he joined the major seminary for philosophical studies. He said that the idea of St. Daniel Comboni about sharing the faith with others inspired him to follow in his footsteps.
He was admitted into the noviate at Sunning- Dale Comboni Missionaries in England. He went to Italy for four years for Theology at Venegono Superiore Varese. On June 28th 1969, he was ordained a priest at Nyapea Parish by Bishop Angelo Tarantino of Arua diocese. Fr. Ogen is the first Ugandan Comboni missionary priest. He celebrated his golden jubilee as a Priest this year in June. During the celebrations, Fr. Ogen said he was happy to share the joy of sacrificing himself to save others who need the word of the Lord. He added that the faith he received in Baptism and the training he received from seminary has helped him recognise the Grace of God working in him as a human being.
He noted that the idea of St. Daniel Comboni coming to Africa to bring Christ to this continent gave him so much joy and that God has given his people joy to know him, appreciate and serve him. He added that he has been faced with a very big challenge of carrying on the Charisma of St. Daniel Comboni constantly in different places including war areas. He experienced helplessness but always asked God to help him. Being the first Ugandan Comboni missionary, Fr. Ogen was trained in Europe which was so hard for him especially being far away from home for a very long time. He however noted that it was God’s Grace that has helped him to go through the detachment from human life.
Fr. Ogen also said that the experience of his life as a religious person is a challenge for him. He however is grateful to the training he received from Europe saying it has helped him to know the deep experience into life. However, Fr. Ogen is very happy with his choice into priesthood. He is happy that he is able to give people nourishment and share their suffering. He said that it was God’s will that he becomes a priest and he followed God’s will. He said that when he was in seminary, he felt the calling to join the comboni missionaries. He also noted that it was God’s gift for him that he could have given anybody.Observing that Comboni Charisma is for all people who are suffering, Fr. Ogen said that priesthood is a vocation that is good for all. He called upon many young men to join the vocation.
Fr. Issac Martin
happy to make a choice as a priest
Fr. Isaac Martin Arnanz was born in Valladolid Spain, on December 7th 1936. He is the youngest of the four children. He went to School of Lourdes (Brothers of San Juan Bautista de la Salle) in Valladolid.From 1951 to 1959, he studied at the Trade school of Valladolid where he obtained the title of Commercial professor. In May 1960, while he was preparing with his older brother for technical examination of the treasury, he got surgery on one of his legs. While on his hospital bed, his friends and relatives would visit him and bring him magazines which he would read to pass time. One day, they brought him two magazines published by the Comboni Missionaries. These two magazines changed his life forever. After reading the two magazines, he felt God calling him to become a missionary. After two years of Vocational discernment, Fr. Isaac decided to join the Comboni missionaries in Corella and in August 1962, he was at the novitiate.
Two years later, in 1964, he made his first vows in Moncada Valencia. After four years of Theology in Venegono Superiore in Italy, his request to be sent to Sudan for missionary work was granted. On April 6th 1969, he was ordained a priest in Moncada. He was sent to Damascus in Syria to learn Arabic. From 1969 to 1971, he worked in Sudan. He became the Parish priest in Omdurman from 1971-1974 then he was sent to reopen Nyala Parish which was closed during the war. Thereafter, he moved to Darfur from 1974-1975.
In 1976, Fr. Isaac was sent to El Obeid to open a seminary for candidates for the priesthood among several catechists. In a rotation, he was sent back to the Spanish Province until 1988. While there, he prepared the African Museum of Comboni Missionaries in Madrid which was opened in 1985. This did not take long before he was sent back to Sudan in 1988 where he was assigned to work as the Executive Secretary of Communication of the Sudanese Episcopal conference until 1999.
He moved to Wau, together with Fr. Peter Alenyo where they opened the new Comboni Parish and he was Parish Priest until 2016 after which he was moved to Lomin. He hardly stayed in Lomin when in February 2017 the Comboni community left Lomin and moved to Uganda to help the refugees of Kajo Keji in the settlement at Palorinya Sub-Parish in Moyo.
This year, Fr. Isaac celebrated his golden jubilee as a priest. He said he is happy with his choice as a priest and has no regrets of becoming a priest. Every day spent with his people makes him a happy man though he still has many things that he wishes could change; those would make him happier. Fr. Isaac wishes tribalism could be eliminated in South Sudan and the world over, because it is the biggest problem and the major cause of war in South Sudan. He added that to change the attitude in South Sudan needs a lot of Charisma. Fr. Isaac has also met a number of challenges and he said every day is a new challenge. The different cultures he has worked with have also challenged him a lot.
SILVER JUBILEE CELEBRANTS
Dr. Fr. Ruffino Ezama
would chose priesthood again and again
He celebrated his silver jubilee in June at Holy Cross parish Ombachi in Arua diocese together with other four priests. Fr. Ruffino thanked God for 25 years as a Priest and he was grateful to the Christians for walking with him in this journey. He began his journey to priesthood from Pokea Seminary before going to Ombachi for his secondary education. After sitting for his Advanced level of education (UACE), he joined the Comboni Missionaries Postulancy in Gulu and later went to Katigondo Seminary. He obtained a diploma in Religious studies from Alokolum National Seminary and a B.A in Philosophy from Urbaniana University in Rome.
Dr. Fr. Ruffino also got a Bachelor’s of Theology and an M.A in Philosophical Anthropology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. He graduated with a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Makerere University Kampala and in 1994, he was ordained a priest. Thereafter, he served at Saint Francois D’Assisi Parish in Cotonou-Benin as assistant Parish Priest then he became the Parish priest. Later in 2002-2003, he served with Fr. Luigi Moser in Londonga Basilica before moving to Mbuya as the Provincial Vocation Director of the Comboni Missionaries from 2003-2008. In 2009, he went to the United States of America in Cincinnati Ohio where he is working as the Mission’s Director of the Comboni Missionaries.
Fr. Ruffino’s passion is passing knowledge to others especially the youth. He was YCS diocesan team Leader for West Nile for four years during his life as a student. He added that his journey to priesthood has not been an easy one; sometimes he is faced with a situation where he is not able to give people what they need but only share the faith with them. He is grateful for all the moments where he has served as a Priest. Though he has had nothing to share with the people, he has shared hope and faith with them.
As a priest, he has also had some challenges though they did not distract him from serving the Lord. The biggest challenge Fr. Ruffino says was when he was far way from his mother during her last days. He added that the Lord who sent him far away knew how to stand in; he never let his mother feel the gap especially when she was really sick. Fr. Ruffino said that people never failed to go and visit his mother in the hospital and at her funeral, 35 priests and 20 nuns from different congregations were present to pray and comfort the family.
If Fr. Ruffino was to become younger, he would choose priesthood one hundred times. He said he would do that because the population keeps increasing and preaching the gospel is still a big task. He also added that it would be a moment to encourage the young ones to give their lives to the service of God.
Fr Biajo Candiga
He did not make a mistake to become a priest.
Fr Biajo Candiga belongs to the brothers of The Immaculate Heart of Mary (Marian Brothers); he was ordained priest on July 16th 1994. He celebrated his silver Jubilee in June at Holy Cross Parish in Ombachi. He is currently the chaplain of Holy Trinity Monastery Ediofe in Arua and also a member of the General council and Administrator General, Marian Brothers Congregation. Before joining religious life, Fr Biajo studied Principles of accounts at Kampala Business Institute in Kampala. He later joined the Congregation of the Marian Brothers. He took his first vows as a religious Brother in 1983 three years after joining the Marian Brothers.
After taking his first vows he joined Secondary education at St Joseph’s College Ombachi untill 1988. In 1988, he joined Philosophical and religious studies at St Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary in Katigondo till 1991. From where he moved to Theological studies in Hekima College, Jesuits school of Theology, Nairobi Kenya until 1994. After ordination, he was appointed the curate of All Saints Parish Oluvu from 1995-2000. He worked concurrently as an Assistant Pastoral Coordinator – Arua Diocese until 2001. During the same time, he was the Vicar General and Administrator General Marian Brothers Congregation from 2000-2009.
Fr Biajo also held position of AG Chaplain, Arua Core Primary Teacher’s College. He has enjoyed his life as a priest and says his best moments were the six years in the parish at Olovu. He added that he enjoyed administering sacraments to the parishioners. He noted that he enjoys his current assignments though he cannot forget his parish years. He said today’s world is so challenging to the religious men and women of God because so much is needed to do their work. He added that they need material to do work.
Fr Biajo decried the lifestyle of the young people which makes him think he is not doing enough, though he takes solace in what one Comboni Priest told him, that it takes time to change people. He is grateful that he took the priestly vows and has no regrets over it. He comes from a predominantly Muslim community but he has never thought he made a mistake. He added that many of his Muslim brothers have despised him for not having a wife or children but that has never made him regret his choice.
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