12 August 2016

Bukalasa seminary memories of 1920s

Today, August 13, 2016, is ordination day at Lubaga Cathedral. About a dozen deacons are to be ordained priests by Kampala Archbishop, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga . The new priests include Emmanuel Katalemwa from Lubaga parish,who now becomes the third priest from the family of Lawrence Kateregga Musoke in just a space of six years.

The family boasts of two other priests, Fr Evaristo Kateregga, a teacher at Nyenga Seminary, and Fr David Lubulwa who teaches at Kisubi Seminary. Interestingly, deacon Katalemwa’s ordination comes exactly five years after that of his elder brother Fr Lubulwa which took place on August 13, 2011.

Many called only a few chosen
Priesthood has come to be regarded as one of the most difficult dreams to realise. Some often compare it to the game of gambling whereby it is not necessarily the holiest or brightest seminarians that make it to the altar. Instead the way Jesus picks those to administer to His flock remains a mystery. Little wonder then, that only a drop in the ocean of those that get admitted to the seminary end up making it while the majority falls by the wayside.

Old students
Stephen Wagaba Nsubuga, a resident of Lubaga Division’s Wagaba zone, (named after him), is one of those that missed out on priesthood. Wagaba, who will clock 99 years next month, went to Bukalasa Seminary in Masaka in 1929.

Among his classmates were Uganda’s first Cardinal, Emmanuel Nsubuga and Msgr. Joseph Kyeyune who died three years ago at Lubaga parish, aged 97 years. Wagaba’s only living former classmate is Stanislas Matovu of Mubende, who is already 100 years old.

Bukalasa tales
Wagaba has fond memories of Bukalasa and the seminary life of the time. “We joined Bukalasa when only a few students from well to do families could afford shoes and which were mainly made of leather- then popularly known as Lusejjera while the majority went barefoot,” he recalls.

Wagaba, Nsubuga, Kyeyune and Matovu were all members of the school choir and band. Their class had a total of 32 students, out of which only nine ended up being admitted to Katigondo Major Seminary while only five made it to priesthood. Life at Bukalasa was so vibrant.

Their breakfast and lunch comprised a wide variety of food found in Buganda at that time, especially pork because the school reared many pigs.

Hand of the axe
The new students would first be taught table etiquette, including how to use cutlery ,which many of them were using for the very first time. The rector (head of seminary) at Bukalasa was a French priest referred to as Pere Re-Row. The only African members of staff were Fr Aloysious Ngobya (whose canonisation process is underway) who taught Latin, and Fr Yoanna Ssewajje. According to Wagaba, there were stories about the sacrifices Fr Ngobya made for students, such as sleeping on a bare bed without a mattress.

According to Wagaba, during those days, seminarians were being discontinued on almost weekly basis. “Those from Kampala and other distant areas would unknowingly be allowed to continue studying and only be informed about their fate at the end of the month when the then monthly Munno newspaper lorry, “Kikere” would come to Masaka to deliver newspapers.

“The lorry was nicknamed “kikere” because it had a very ugly looking front. It was this lorry that would transport discontinued students back to Kampala. Its appearance at Bukalasa usually caused panic and fear among students. On being informed about their dismissal, those affected used to cry like babies before packing up their bags and bidding farewell to seminary life.”
Wagaba’s turn finally came midway after three years of stay. He doesn’t disclose the reason for his dismissal, but says he doesn’t regret missing priesthood. “I am already contented.

Even though two of my sons later went to Nyenga Seminary and also failed, I now feel privileged to have adopted someone I regard as my real son who finally made it. He is Fr Kibowa of Lugazi diocese. Besides, my first born Suzan Ndagire is the mother of renowned musician, Rev Fr Michael Ssenfuma of Masaka diocese.

My late wife Carolina Nammande Wagaba’s first born is Fr Benjamin Lubega, the youth chaplain of Lugazi diocese.

So why should I regret having missed priesthood?” he asked rhetorically. Wagaba married Carolina, a former nun from Nkokonjeru convent at Lubaga Cathedral in December 1947. She died in a Uganda Airlines plane crash over the skies of Rome in October 1988 while returning from a visit to London.

Early childhood in the Kabaka’s courts


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