- Kalema was born deformed, but he can now walk, thanks to the martyrs
As we prepare to celebrate the Uganda Martyrs Day on June 3, Juliet Lukwago brings you the two special miracles that were presented in Rome for their canonisation. This year will be 50 years since they were canonised.
The miracle of the bubonic plague
In 1941, Sr. Philothy from Bannabikira, Bwanda in Masaka was struck by a strange disease and had to be sent to her brother for treatment.
Her brother, Andrew Ziryawulamu of Kisubi Parish in Wakiso district, took her to one Dr. Ahmed, who confirmed that it was bubonic plague (kawumpuli).
The nuns who were healed of bubonic plague through the intercession of the Uganda Martyrs
There was no treatment for bubonic plague and so, Philothy had to be quarantined at Rubaga convent in Kampala.
When she passed on, she was buried at Rubaga by only two nuns, Sr. M. Aloyse Criblet and Sr. Richildis.
However, soon after the burial, the two nuns contracted the disease. Dr. Ahmed and his colleague, Dr. Reynolds, prescribed a quarantine.
Msgr. Edward Michaud and Pere Joseph Cabana, who was the parish priest of Rubaga, called for a novena through
the martyrs over the sick nuns.
After protracted prayers for three days, the doctors were amazed to find both nuns had recovered.
A photo of Kalema (left) in his childhood with curved legs.
Rome commissioned specialists to analyse the diagnosis, medicines and interview the two doctors — Dr. Ahmed, a Muslim and Dr. Reynolds, an Anglican.
The conclusion was that not only was the medicine the nuns were taking ineffective against the plague, but even if it had been effective, it could not have produced results in such a short time.
The miracle of the carved legs
Salongo Revocato Kalema’s case was also registered as one of the Uganda Martyrs’ miracles. Kalema was born with carved legs.
However, today, he has a different story to tell. He can walk and stand straight.
And Kalema has told his story to all parishes where Kampala Archbishop Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga has gone to popularise the jubilee year of the Uganda Martyrs.
Kalema was born on June 11, 1959 in the Catholic Parish of Bigada near Kyotera town in Rakai district.
His mother, Josephine Namuddu, died only months after giving birth to him, leaving him with his father, who also died a year later.
Kalema was left in the care of an aged grandmother, Clara Najjemba.
Fortunately, the Good Samaritan Sisters of Bwanda offered to look after him and took him to their main convent at Bigada in Rakai.
It was at that time that the Catholic church announced that they were looking for miracles for the canonisation of the Uganda Martyrs.
The martyrs’ relics were also taken to Bwanda Convent where people prayed in earnest for miracles through the martyrs’ intercession.
According to Lwanga, the church mobilised people to recite novenas through the martyrs and all miracle claims were reported to Rome.
Two special ones were selected and presented to Rome. Kalema was young, but the story has been told to him so
many times. He says:
Kalema shows off one of his once curved legs. Photo/Juliet Lukwago
“I was told that I was born deformed and was presented for a novena for miracles at Bwanda Convent. Nuns placed me at the altar in the main church, where the martyrs’ relics were and prayed for me. I was told that Maria Mutagamba (the Minister of Tourism) was among the children who used to pray for me.”
Mutagamba confirmed Kalema’s story, saying: “I was young, but older than Kalema. The nuns, who were our teachers, told us to pray for him. We used to carry Kalema from his home to the parish, before they took him into the convent,” she said.
Kalema said the miracle happened on the sixth day of the novena. “There was a girl who had been assigned the duty of carrying me to and from the church. She used to take me there every morning, take me back for lunch, take me back to church in the afternoon and then collect me in the evening.
One day, she came to pick me and didn’t find me where she had placed me. She said she thought someone had transferred me from the room.
Through the intercession of the Uganda Martyrs Kalema can now walk, normally. Photo/Juliet Lukwago
She panicked and started looking all over the place for me. She wailed when she found me moving among the pews,” Kalema narrated.
He adds that news travelled fast and people stormed the church to see what had happened. They found him standing and supporting himself on pews, as he tried to take steps.
The nuns lifted Kalema and checked his legs. His feet were straight enough to support him!
“By evening, I was walking. I was told this was one of the miracles God had done through the Uganda Martyrs that were presented in Rome as a testimony for them to be beatified, canonised and eventually announced saints by the Pope.”
Kalema was later taken to hospital where his legs were straightened.
Martyrs become saints
In 1920, the congregation for the Causes of the Saints in Rome voted in favour of the Martyrs’ beatification and three weeks later, Pope Benedict XV granted it.
The beatification ceremony was held at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on June 6, 1920. The martyrs henceforth became the Blessed Martyrs.
According to the Canonisation process, any candidate who reaches the Blessed stage, needs at least two more miracles to become a saint. But for the martyrs, that stage was waived because martyrdom is considered a certification of witnessing faith and/or an act of heroic charity for others.
So, from 1920 onwards, the Blessed Martyrs, were publicly revered till October 18, 1964, when Pope Paul VI canonised them during the third session of the Vatican II conference.
That Sunday, October 18, 1964, over 165 pilgrims from Uganda attended the St. Peter’s Basilica canonisation.
The Ugandan delegation included Fr. Emmanuel Wamala (now Cardinal), Sr. Criblet and the former Archbishop of Rubaga, Joseph Nakabaale Kiwanuka, who led the delegation.
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