Lugazi Catholic priest rejected wreaths at his funeral

Jan 31, 2024

In both his written and verbal will, Fr. Balikuddembe requested that no wreath be laid on his casket. 

The Late Fr. Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe advised those who wanted to send him off with wreathes to give the money to the Church as mass-stipend so that his brother-priests could offer sacrifices of mass for him. Photos by Mathias Mazinga

Mathias Mazinga
Journalist @New Vision

Rev. Fr. Prince Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe Wasajja, the 88-year-old Catholic priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lugazi who died on January 15, 2024, has remained humble in death as he was in life. 

In both his written and verbal will, Fr. Balikuddembe requested that no wreath be laid on his casket. 

He instead advised those who wanted to send him off with wreaths to give the money to the Church as mass-stipend so that his brother-priests could offer sacrifices of mass for him.

Fr. Balikuddembe’s stunning will was pronounced with even greater emphasis during his requiem mass at Namagunga Catholic parish-church (on the Mukono-Jinja Highway) in Mukono district. 

The parish-priest of Nkokonjeru, Fr. John Chrysostom Maviiri incensing the casket of Fr. Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe Wasajja during the requiem mass at Namagunga Catholic parish church.

The parish-priest of Nkokonjeru, Fr. John Chrysostom Maviiri incensing the casket of Fr. Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe Wasajja during the requiem mass at Namagunga Catholic parish church.

Mourners who had come with wreathes were visibly disappointed when Fr. John Chrysostom Maviiri (the reigning parish-priest on Nkokonjeru where Fr. Balikuddembe was retiring from) confirmed the will. 

All the same, Maviiri thanked them for loving the deceased and exercising solidarity with him even during his death.

Eulogies

Delivering his homily during the requiem mass, the Bishop of Lugazi, Christopher Kakooza praised Fr. Balikuddembe for his heart-rooted commitment to the people, particularly the needy and the suffering. 

He revealed that during the time of the bush-war, in the 80s, Fr. Balikuddembe who was then the director of the social/relief services department of the Greater Kampala Archdiocese (which then still covered the civil districts of Luweero, Nakasongola and Nakaseke, the epicenter of the guerilla war) was frequently assigned by Archbishop Emmanuel Kiwanuka Nsubuga (RIP) to take relief items such as food, clothes, blankets, etc to the victims of the guerilla-war, most of whom were taking refuge at churches and schools after being displaced from their homes. 

On a number of occasions, Obote’s errant soldiers manning the deadly roadblocks stopped Balikuddembe and forced him to surrender to them the aid he was carrying to the war victims. 

Surprisingly, Balikuddembe was never intimidated; he always told the soldiers the aid was not meant for them but for the vulnerable victims of the war. This always annoyed the soldiers and at one time, they forced him down and caned him thoroughly.

Still during the guerilla-war, Obote’s soldiers at one time seized and imprisoned Balikuddembe for three days, together with three of his seminarians. 

This followed the execution of one soldier by the guerillas at the road to Kiziba Catholic parish (in Masuuliita Town Council), where Balikuddembe was serving as the parish-priest.

The Bishop Emeritus of Lugazi, Dr. Mathias Ssekamaamya also praised Fr. Balikuddembe (his contemporary) for his flowery sacerdotal ministry. 

He asked the priests and the religious men and women to find time and ponder on the attributes and priestly qualities of the deceased priest and subsequently emulate him for the betterment of their ministry and the greater glory of the Church. 

Ssekamaaya also advised priests, catechists and the consecrated religious to be even more committed to children because they are the future leaders of the Church.

Prince John Fisher Mulondo Balikuddembe (who spoke on behalf of the family) also spoke highly of Fr. Balikuddembe referring to him as a development-oriented cleric who committed himself to improving the life of the people. 

He said Balikuddembe greatly promoted agriculture through mechanization. Working with Caritas (the internationally coordinated development organization of the Catholic Church, Balikuddembe ensured that rural parishes got a tractor which the Christian farmers can hire at a subsidized rate. 

Mulondo later cited a number of miracles that God worked through the life of Fr. Balikuddembe. One miracle happened during the 90s, when he took his mother who had been dumb for 9 years on a pilgrimage of faith to Rome at the conclusion of which she began talking again! 

Another incredible incident was when the deceased cleric was operated on, got into comma and recovered after 9 days! 

Balikuddembe also got the rare chance of meeting Saint Pope John Paul II (three times) and Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

The Rev. Fr. Prince Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe hails from Luvumbula, Kiringente, in Mpigi district. 

He was born on June 3, 1936, to the late Joseph Mwanje Musisi Namwatulira and Bernadette Namirembe Nanfuka.

During his 50-year-long priestly service, he worked in various parishes including Bukalagi, Mulajje, Kayunga, Buvuma, Kiziba, Kitimbwa, and Nkokonjeru where he retired prior to his death.

Fr. Balikuddembe was buried at the priests’ cemetery at Namagunga Catholic parish-church, in Mukono district.

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