Fr. John De Bernard of the Comboni Missionary Society also known as the Verona Fathers was founder of Kiwamirembe Shrine (Queen of Peace), a prayer retreat center near Kajjansi, Entebbe road.
By Juliet Lukwago
Fr. John De Bernard of the Comboni Missionary Society also known as the Verona Fathers was founder of Kiwamirembe Shrine (Queen of Peace), a prayer retreat center near Kajjansi rading centre, Entebbe road.
He died aged 80 last Sunday (November 2) and was laid to rest two days later.
The Italian-born lived in Kasana-Luweero diocese before he returned to Italy.
According to Fr. George Previdi, parish priest of Kasaala in the same diocese, Fr. Bernard founded the retreat center in between 1982 and 1986, a period marred by wars in the pre-NRM regime era.
During this difficult period in the country’s history, many people lost their lives as was property. According to Fr. Previdi, many of the people who felt the brutality of these wars “thought that God had forgotten them”.
It was around this time that the late Fr. Bernard, who was then the parish priest of Lweza, conceived the idea of starting prayers at Kiwamirembe, invoking the Virgin Mary as queen of peace, to restore peace in the country.
His pledge was that he would erect a shrine for the Virgin Mary on the hill and dedicate it to her if peace was restored in Uganda.
Indeed, after the civil war had ended, Fr. Bernard did just as he had promised.
He built the shrine at the now popular place known as Kiwamirembe at the top of the hill overlooking much of Kajjansi.
True to his word, he then named it ‘Queen of Peace Shrine – Kiwamirembe in dedication to the Virgin Mary. The shrine was opened by Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga Wamala May 26, 1989.
Kiwamirembe has since then become a popular place of worship for people of various religious denominations despite it being a Catholic establishment.
Many who have made frequent visits to the location have often testified how their prayer requests presented to the Virgin Mary have been fulfilled.
There is a decorated monument of the Holy Mother where people from all parts of the country collect to say personal prayers.
Somewhere away from the shrine are the forested gardens of Gethsemane, similar to the one at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel, which is known as the place where Jesus and his disciples prayed the night He was arrested ahead of his subsequent killing.
The gardens are filled with artwork depicting Jesus suffering before he was crucified.
On the Sunday following his death, Bishop of Kasana-Luwero, Paul Ssemwogerere organised a requiem mass to pray for Fr. Bernard’s soul.
TRIBUTE: Fr. John De Bernard, founder of Kiwamirembe Shrine