Our Diocesan Connection with Uganda

Through St. John’s University and School of Theology, our diocese has been able to develop the friendship of Fr. Gabriel Ssenkindo.  Below is a reflection he wrote about his coming to know us and his ministry in Uganda that we are blessed to be able to come to know as well. 

Friendship and Support

frgabriel_rosariesMy name is Father Gabriel Joseph Ssenkindo.  I joined the Priory of Christ the King Benedictine Monastery in 1983 after high school.  I was ordained June 24, 1995, and two years later, in the fall of 1997, I traveled to St. John’s University School of Theology.  In the winter of 1999 I completed my Masters in Monastic Studies with a minor in Liturgy.

It was while at St. Johns that I met Fr. Bill Vos who was then the Director of the Mission Office of St. Cloud Diocese. In our conversation, we found out that I was from Uganda, East Africa and he had worked in Tanzania.  Since that meeting, we became connected.  On a couple of occasions I helped him with weekend Eucharistic celebrations at the parishes where he was Pastor at the time.  And likewise, Fr. Vos become a kind hearted help to me also, especially through Mass Stipends.  After Fr. Vos’s retirement, the Mission Office continued our established friendship and support.

After returning back to my religious community in Uganda, I first served as a Novice Master (Director of Formation) for two years, followed by work in a Parish as Associate Pastor for another two years.  Then I returned to serve in my community as Subprior (Assistant to the superior), after which I was sent to work in our Benedictine Eye Hospital as Administrator.  Since May 2010, I have been working as Pastor of St. Teresa’s Parish, Achilet chilin within the Archdiocese of Tororo.

frgabriel_baptismSt. Teresa’s Parish is constituted by 15 Sub-parishes with 15 Chapels. We have eight Catholic foundation Primary (grade) schools, one Secondary school (high) school, and one Health Centre. To help me in the pastoral work are 17 Catechists and six Special Ministers (Communion Ministers).  Since May 2010, we have had over 800 kids for First Holy Communion, over 600 youth for Confirmation and over 1,000 infant baptisms.

Since the Pastors have no salary, they rely on the good will of the people.  Take for example the Sunday collection offertory, which in my Parish brings in about 100,000 Uganda shillings (about 43 US dollars). Gas for the car to move around the 15 Sub-parishes is about 50,000 Uganda shillings. A bottle of Altar wine is 25,000 Ugshs. Some of our Sub-parish Chapels are semi-permanent.  Some don’t even have roofs on them.  We pray in the open.  The Catechists and Communion Ministers get no stipend; it is just voluntary work.

It is in this respect that I am grateful to the Mission Office, and people of your St. Cloud Diocese, who continuously sent me Mass Stipends for support.  During my last visit to the Mission Office a few months ago, I also got a couple chasubles, albs, chalices and Rosaries.  It was a great help.  But the most help comes in knowing I have friends who pray for and support me, my parishioners and community.frgabriel_mass