KAMPALA, Uganda (LifeSiteNews ) – During an annual pilgrimage, the Bishop of Fort Portal Diocese exalted the legacy of the Ugandan patron saint of catechists in persevering in holiness and family support.
Bishop Robert K. Muhiirwa gave the homily during Mass in the Munyonyo Minor Basilica on Thursday, May 26. The Mass commemorated the martyrdom of St. Andrew Kaggwa, the patron saint of the catechists and the teachers. St. Andrew Kaggwa was among the Ugandan Christians put to death during the reign of King Mwanga II. Every year catechists and teachers in Uganda undertake an annual pilgrimage in his honor.
In his homily, the bishop relayed the memorable teachings of St. Andrew for the congregation to adopt about the family life and holy life. He asked the gathered catechists and other Catholics to take him as their role model.
“I remind you, catechists and believers, to maintain purity as St. Andrew and St. Charles Lwanga did with their companions in the midst of impure obstacles in the society they lived in,” he stated.
Muhiirwa further stressed the need for men in families to teach their wives Catholic doctrine, following the example of St. Andrew, who taught his wife Clare the catechism. Later, upon the return of French missionaries to Uganda in 1885, Clare was baptized by Fr. Siméon Lourdel.
“Families, regularly seek St Andrew Kaggwa’s intercession to stay holy and solid, because he was the first man in Uganda, with his wife Clare, to receive the Holy Sacrament of Marriage in 1885,” said the bishop.
In recent times, many Catholics have turned away from the sacraments, arguing that they are difficult to obtain, particularly when there is no financial support. They also lack time to attend catechism courses because they spend so much time hunting for anything to feed their families. This has significantly diminished the desire of young people and the elderly to learn about their faith.
Bishop Muhiirwa reminded the congregation of St. Andrew’s great faith, in which he overcame numerous trials without abandoning the sacramental life. He offered the example of the saint, upon hearing a rumor about his impending martyrdom, arising at midnight to travel approximately 25 kilometers to Kampala from Munyonyo to attend Mass and receive the Holy Eucharist.
“Every Christian is obligated to spread the Gospel, not just through words but also through acts,” the bishop stated.
He also emphasized to the catechists the need for being as devout, modest, trustworthy, honest, and corruption-free as St Andrew was.
Father Male, the National Rector and parish priest of Munyonyo Minor Basilica, added to the Bishop’s message at the close of Mass by challenging the faithful and catechists to embody the charism of St. Andrew in teaching the faith and supporting the family.
St. Andrew Kaggwa was the third Christian to be martyred in 1885. Born in 1856 in Bugangazzi Bukumi Parish in Western Uganda, he was captured at an early age by Buganda raiders and carried off as a slave to the palace of King Muteesa I.
The boy was creative, kind, very jolly, and a wonderful conversationalist. His talents were noticed by the Kabaka (king) who promoted him within the court.
In 1875, the Welsh-American explorer Henry Morton Stanley visited Buganda and presented European drums to King Mutesa. The king sent St. Andrew to Madagascar to learn how to play the drums from the King’s factotum, a Muslim named Toli.
Toli also taught St. Andrew carpentry, the cleaning of guns and, most importantly, how to read, speak and write Kiswahili and Arabic. This was because the king intended Kaggwa to be helpful to him in dealing with incursions from Arabs in Egypt. St. Andrew later become the first formal teacher of Kiswahili and Arabic in Uganda. He also, after the arrival of the missionaries, became the first to master and teach English in the Kingdom. In addition, he became the king’s master drummer, and later bandmaster in charge of all the court musicians and composers.
St. Andrew Kaggwa at first was a Muslim, then a Protestant and, in the end, was baptized a Catholic on April 3, 1882, by Fr. Lourdel after the arrival of the White Fathers. Thereafter he became a catechist.
In October 1884, Muteesa I died and was succeeded by his 16-year-old son Mwanga II. Mwanga reappointed St. Andrew bandmaster. However, the musician’s popularity and influence with the Christians at court as well as with the young king himself made Andrew a particular object of hatred of the king’s Chief Minister Mukajjanga.
The Chief Minister interrogated St. Andrew for having taught catechism to his children. He demanded that he catechist renounce Christianity and expose his fellow Christians to whom he had taught the faith, but St. Andrew refused to do so. In retribution, Mukajjanga informed King Mwanga that St. Andrew disapproved of his impure behavior. Although, as intended, this news greatly angered the king, Mwanga did not agree with his Chief Minister’s insistence that St. Andrew should be executed. In the end, the Chief ordered the execution anyway, insisting that he would not touch his food until the arm of St. Andrew was brought to him. The king approved of the martyrdom after the fact.