Fr. Benedict Chola is the new Vocations Director of the Comboni Missionary in Uganda, at the moment he is also a formator at Philosophy Center Jinja.Before his priesthood train arrived, Fr Ben had dreams of becoming a lawyer. “When I was growing up, my intention was to become a lawyer because lawyers have lots of money,” said Fr Ben. His journey to priesthood started on Mission Sunday of 2003 when he expressed interest to learn how to play a guitar after his senior six.
It was on this day that he met a Comboni priest Fr Dawit who had animated Mass at his Parish of holy saviour Parish Kafue after mass; Fr Dawit played the guitar which impressed Fr Ben, it was his chance to learn how to play the guitar he told himself. He later approached the priest and requested he teach him to play the instrument. Fr Dawit did not refuse but instead told him that if he wanted to learn how to play the guitar, he should join a group of boys who he later came to know were aspirants preparing to join Comboni missionaries.
Fr Ben accepted and immediately joined the boys who would meet Fr. Dawit for lessons on St Daniel Comboni and all they needed to know about Comboni Missionaries. After two months, they did exams which he passed. He was selected to join Postulancy in Malawi from 2006 to 2009; in 2009 he was taken back to the novitiate in Zambia until 2011.
Since his dream of becoming a lawyer had not died, he thought he would go to Malawi for a few months and return to Zambia for Christmas holidays which he would postpone and not go back to Malawi but instead go and pursue it
Unfortunately, that year all Zambians were not allowed to go home and his plan of joining the university to do law failed. He decided to count his loss and go on to the Postulancy the following year. After a long semester at the Postulancy, they broke off for a long holiday and he returned home. Two weeks into his holiday, his attitude on the path he had chosen started to change when people called him father and asked when he would return to seminary.
This was the time Fr Ben realised that God wanted him to work in his vineyard. When he talked to his Parish Priest and told him about his intention of joining the Comboni missionary; The Priest was amazed by his decision, and wondered if he would manage life as a Comboni missionary because according to him, their life was a tough one and needed the strong willed.
In the course of his journey Fr Ben says his experience at the Postulancy was hard. His toughest experience was at the William Nyadru Novitiate in Lusaka from 2009 to 2010. This was time for transformation and change, he added that he packed his bags three times hoping the Novice master would tell him to leave but that did not happen.
After that, his life transformed for the better from the young man full of ideas to a young man full of priorities.
This point in his formation was time to concretise who St Daniel Comboni and his missionary work was; he learnt so much about Comboni and the Comboni missionaries. He added that his formators helped him realise the beauty of missionary life.
n May 21st 2011, he took his first vows in Lusaka. It was the happiest day despite all the challenges he went through in formation he knew he was nearing his destination. He added that it was a day of relief.
Fr Ben was sent to the scholasticate in Nairobi Tangaza. He was not happy to remain in Africa since six of his Zambian colleagues were sent outside Africa and he was the only one in Africa. He decided that he was going to Nairobi for a tour and true to his word his life was that of a tourist in Nairobi. After a chat with Fr Wokorach Rafael, he decided to put his life in order. He changed his life and decided to make a good experience out of his stay in Nairobi. Fr Wokarcah told him that he would make a good missionary and priest.
In 2012, he was sent to Ombachi Parish in Arua for his first experience. He notes that it was a nice experience and he loved it there but he loved the idea of coming to Uganda more since he had always wanted to visit Namugongo Martyrs shrine, he knew one of his dreams was about to be lived. What made his trip and experience in Ombachi memorable was the fact that he had realised why he wanted to become a missionary While in Nairobi and his life had changed so he had no worries.
In January 2015, he returned to Uganda for his missionary experience in Ombachi. While there he lived with Fr David Bolts and Fr Anthony Solcha who helped him to settle in community life and also understand the value of prayer. He added that the priests challenged him to learn Lugbara since they were from Europe and could speak very good Lugbara. So it shouldn’t be hard for a Zambian to learn the language.
On 30th April 2016, he took his final vows at Namugongo and May 8, 2016, he was ordained deacon in Arua by Bishop Sabino Odoki. On 22nd 2016 Fr Ben was ordained priest in his home Parish at Holy Saviour Parish Kafue Zambia, and he had his thanks giving Mass on Mission Sunday.
In 2017 Fr Ben returned to Uganda as a priest with his first assignment in Ombachi Parish Arua diocese. In 2018, he received his second assignment to go to Philosophy Center Jinja as a formator. Mid this year, Fr Ben Chola was appointed the new Vocations Director for Comboni Missionaries Uganda.
He noted that when he returned to Uganda in 2017, he looked at his journey to priesthood and his perception of priesthood and defined it from Isaiah 40:1: ‘Console my people, console them’ says your God.
He added that he is still a lawyer though in church. Fr Ben feels he made the best choice of his life, if given another chance he would choose being a Comboni priest again.
By Irene Lamunu
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