I have been walking every year from my village Kigoma in Nyabubare, St. Kaggwa Parish, Bushenyi, but it is sad that I have missed this year’s pilgrimage which is important in a special way as it marks the 100th year of the Uganda Martyrs beatification in 1920.
For the last nine years, Mzee Bernard Tibyangye has been walking the 300 plus kilometres to Namugongo from Bushenyi for the commemoration of the Uganda Martyrs. The old man who claims to be 99 years old spent this June 3rd at his home in Kigoma. Emmanuel Asiimwe found him attending morning Mass on Radio Maria with some of his family members. He and his wife Theresa Matyobane Tibyangye 85, were happy to share their feelings on this year's scientific Martyrs Day
Mzee Tibyangye; I have been walking every year from my village Kigoma in Nyabubare, St. Kaggwa Parish, Bushenyi, but it is sad that I have missed this year's pilgrimage which is important in a special way as it marks the 100th year of the Uganda Martyrs beatification in 1920.
I had promised God that in my remaining years on earth, for as long as I have the strength, I would walk to Namugongo. I don't know if I will manage next year if I am still alive to make another pilgrimage. For every pilgrimage to Namugongo, I never know if it is the last one in my life. But I am not complaining because I know it was God's plan and may His name be glorified. My first pilgrimage was in 1969 when Pope Paul VI visited Uganda.
Tibyangye receiving blessings from Fr. Muhumuza.
I remember visiting Namugongo soon after the Uganda Martyrs were beatified. There was a small church. I remember we slept in the nearby bush in fear of being attacked by thugs. This year would have been my 51st year since I started attending the Martyr's Day celebrations at Namugongo and my 10th while walking from Bushenyi.
This year, I decided to first attend Mass in my home with my family on Radio Maria in which I prayed through the Uganda Martyrs for their intercession to help Uganda overcome the COVID-19 pandemic".
Theresa Tibyangye: For us here we are privileged as a family to have Mzee a devoted husband and parent, who has served God as a Catechist for so many years since 1944, and who has not only been an exemplary but also hard-working which has enabled the sustainability of the family. What pains me is that he was going to complete his tenth consecutive walking pilgrimage to Namugongo, which has not been possible as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown".
Kizito Bahumuze: Our father would leave here on 10th May, and it would take him 12-13 days to reach Namugongo. He would first do his normal activities in the morning and at around 3.00 pm he would come and bathe and pack his food. After praying with his family, he would leave at 5.00 pm for St. Kaggwa Parish to join his team members in Holy Mass to bless the pilgrimage.
Last year's pilgrimage, before he started his journey, his fellow group members assembled here at home at 3.00 pm and we, the family members, escorted him to St. Kaggwa for Mass.
Whenever he leaves for the pilgrimage we keep praying for him so that his intentions are fulfilled. When he returns, we organize a Thanksgiving Mass here at home on the Sunday following his return.
Surprisingly, some people used to think that he does not walk that whole journey.
One day, I took a bus after 11 days and found them at Nalukolongo walking to Kampala. I joined them and we set off in the morning and reached Namugongo in the evening. But by the time we reached Namugongo, my feet were already swollen while Tibyangye was jumping and rejoicing singing victory songs".
Mzee Tibyangye (extreme left) with his fellow pilgrims from St. Kaggwa Parish pose for a photo.
Centre in a tunic, is Fr. Urban Muhumuza.
Fr. Urban Muhumuza: Mzee Tibyangye is exceptional and hard to find that at his age he can energetically manage to walk to Namugongo annually to celebrate the Uganda Martyrs Day on 3rd June.
He is a living example in promoting and supporting his faith as a catechist, a parent, and a citizen and his legacy will remain. I hope by so doing, it is where God has based to give him an opportunity to live a long and happy life.
In his old age, he continues to proclaim his religion especially in making the pilgrimage to Namugongo. I challenge the young believers to emulate Mzee Tibyangye so as to ensure the development of their churches".
Richard Bangirana: As the leader of the St. Kagwa Parish Namugongo pilgrimage group, I never fail to admire Mzee Bernard Tibyangye, leave alone being my Father-in-law. While many of us would feel we are unable to continue with the walking, he would be there to encourage us by telling us that the Martyrs themselves never complained of anything when they were being handcuffed and made to make the sorrowful journey to Namugongo to meet their death.