By Mathias Mazinga
Many Ugandans have a culture of not recognising people, places and things of outstanding significance that surround us. We have many places and heritage sites, which have the potential for tourism.
Apart from the iconic Martyrs’ Shrine at Namugongo, the Catholic Church in Uganda has many other establishments. The Cathedral of Kitovu and the Bukalasa Minor Seminary in Masaka, are two such places.
The Cathedral of Kitovu holds a prominent position in the history and development of the Church and State not just in Uganda, but the whole of Africa. The cathedral building, which seats about 5,000 Christians, was the seat of the first ever black African Bishop in Africa and south of the Sahara. This Bishop was Dr. Joseph Nakabaale Kiwanuka, of the missionary society of White Fathers and a divinity and canon Law guru. He was ordained bishop by Pope Pius XII on October 29, 1939, in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome.
Prior to Kiwanuka’s consecration as the bishop of Masaka, there was the Pro-Cathedral of Villa- Maria, located in Kalungu District, which had been built by Bishop Henry Streicher way-back in 1892. Kiwanuka nonetheless decided not to operate from Villa-Maria, but established his headquarters at Kitovu near Nyendo town. It is still not clear why Kiwanuka had to relocate. But Msgr. George Sserwanga, a Catholic researcher, thinks Kiwanuka just wanted his cathedral to be closer to the town.
The cathedral was inherited by The Most Rev. Dr. Adrian Kivumbi Ddungu, when Kiwanuka was transferred to Rubaga Archdiocese in January 1961. After his death, Kiwanuka’s body was preserved at Rubaga Cathedral.
The pipe organ
One prominent marvel at Kitovu is the modern pipe-organ, which was installed in the cathedral by Dr. Adrian Kivumbi Ddungu, in the 1990s.
Kitovu is now on record as the only Ugandan Catholic Cathedral with a pipe-organ. This is the musical instrument that the vatican council II recommended for use during liturgical worship, owing to its glorious sounds. Kitovu’s pipe organ is another marvel that makes the Cathedral attractive to tourists.
Home to potential saints, Msgr. Ngobya, Sr. Amadeo
The prominence of Kitovu shot even higher, last year, when the remains of Msgr. Aloysius Ngobya and Rev. Sr. Amadeo were transferred to the cathedral. Msgr. Ngobya is acknowledged as a simple priest, who led an outstandingly pious life. His prayers were so powerful that they healed people physically and spiritually.
Ngobya had been buried at the Marian Chapel near the Cathedral, where many Christians flocked to pray for blessings. Sr. Amedeo also lived a saintly life and many Christians claim to receive favours through her intercession. On starting the process for their sainthood last year, the remains of the duo were taken into the cathedral, where hundreds of people still flock to receive special blessings. Inside Kitovu Cathedral. It is said to be the oldest institution of its level in Uganda
Villa-Maria, the mother cathedral of Kitovu
Kitovu Cathedral has not overshadowed the prominence of Villa-Maria pro-Cathedral, the seat of Bishop Streicher’s administration (which covered central and western Uganda). Your visit to Kitovu will not be complete without going to Villa-Maria, where the first two native Ugandan priests, Fr. Bazilio Lumu and Msgr. Victoro Mukasa, were ordained in 1913. Villa-Maria houses the tombs of Bishop Streicher, the apostle of Buddu/Masaka (who built it), the tomb of Bishop Ddungu and the tombs of the first native Ugandan priests. Villa- Maria is also the fountain of modern architecture in Uganda. At Villa-Maria, the first brick house was constructed by the White Fathers, in 1892 and later the first storied house was also constructed here.
Both houses still stand today as a testimony of the missionaries’ design and engineering mastery that they bequeathed to the country. The cathedral’s thick-poles, reed-ceiling and elevated iron roof, which has stood for decades, are a marvel.
Detour to Bukalasa seminary
If you are in the neighbourhood, do not leave without seeing the oldest seminary in Uganda and sub-Saharan Africa at Bukalasa. Holy Family Minor Seminary, Bukalasa, located in the civil district of Kalungu, also has a national and continental significance.
Bukalasa Seminary pioneered modern secondary education in Uganda and East Africa. Bukalasa was established in 1893 by the White Fathers to train priests. Moved by the deep faith of the Uganda Martyrs, Pope Leo XIII ordered Bishop Hirth, the prelate of Nyanza Vicariate, to start a seminary. Hirth implemented the order through Fr. Streicher and Fr. Marcou.
The seminary started at Villa- Maria. The first one operated in grass-thatched huts. But the seminary moved to Rubaga after one year. It was again shifted to Kisubi, in 1895 before being finally settled at Bukalasa, in 1903, where the Church had acquired a huge chunk of land, courtesy of the Buganda Agreement of 1900. Note that the first seminarians were completely illiterate. They were thus first taught to read and write.
Bukalasa has breath-taking buildings, which are visibly old. The seminary also has a cool atmosphere and a neat environment. The priests’ dining room shows the incredibly simple lifestyle of the priests, with simple old wooden furniture.
Msgr. Henry Kyabukasa, 82, who has taught at the seminary for over 4 decades, confirmed that Bukalasa is the oldest institution of its level in Uganda and Africa, arguing that nobody has yet disputed this even after he wrote it in a book. Needless to say, Bukalasa’s old buildings need urgent renovation, since they are vital in the preservation of its rich history.
Pioneer of brass music
Bukalasa is the cradle of brass music in Uganda. The first ever brass ensemble in Uganda was introduced by the White Fathers at the inception of Bukalasa Seminary. Until now, the original brass instruments (like the drums, trumpets and the French-horn) are still preserved at the seminary’s music store. If you visit the seminary, Fr. Dr. Joseph Namukangula will show you.