We were privileged to have Bishop Sanctus Lino Wanok of the Catholic Diocese of Nebbi, Uganda as our guest this past weekend. He was the principal celebrant at the 5:30 PM Mass on Saturday and the 10:00 AM Mass on Sunday. Bishop Wanok arrived in the USA to visit the priests from his diocese who are working here in the Camden Diocese—most notably Fr. Alfred Onyutha who had been assigned here at St. Joseph Church.
While enjoying a couple of meals and conversations with the bishop, a few priests and I were able to ask some questions about the church in Africa. We were told by the bishop that one of his major concerns for his diocese was the strengthening of the family unit and having marriages take place or regularized (convalidated) within the Catholic Church. For various reasons, people in his diocese would get married outside of the Church (or not be married at all) and he desired to correct that situation. He informed us that recently 220 couples had their marriages take place together in a common ceremony at the cathedral in Nebbi. Plans were being made to have this happen in other cities as well.
We were also informed of a few interesting bits of information during our conversations including: the relative youthfulness of the clergy in the Nebbi Catholic diocese, the large Catholic population there (approximately 80%), the problem of AIDS present in an almost exclusively heterosexual culture, and the matter of fact attitude toward not having many material or technological amenities. At one point the Bishop informed us that he had been discouraged from visiting our area because of the recent power outages. His smiling response was: “For us this is every day.”
There is a certain peace and serenity that I found in these our African brothers. I observed that they had a pleasant sense of humor, they appreciated so many things that we probably take for granted (like running water and electricity), while they seem to embody a refreshing, simplistic spirituality.
The bishop asked me if we could send his priests some Mass intentions since these were lacking for his diocesan priests. (If anyone wishes to have us send the priests of his diocese some intentions for Masses to be celebrated, please contact our parish office with the information and any donation.)
Our guest bishop, by his very presence, reminded us all of the true universality or catholicity of our Church. We all enjoy one faith rooted in Jesus Christ and were able to be with one of the Successors of the Apostles who shepherds a Church far away from us in distance, but nonetheless united in Spirit!
Fr. Ed Namiotka