SADAB KITATTA KAAYA
It’s Thursday, December 31, 2009; the time is 4:20p.m and bells at the Cathedral in Kitovu toll as priests line to receive the body of the former Bishop of Masaka, Dr. Adrian Kivumbi Ddungu.
St. Cecilia choir leads mourners in singing “Tuli zukira fenna mu kitiibwa kya Yezu” as pallbearers of the Uganda Funeral Services roll the casket into the cathedral.
Tears flow freely down the cheeks of mourners as the late Ddungu’s successor, Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa, invites the Vicar General of Masaka, Msgr. Joseph Kato Ssempungu; the Diocesan Coordinator, Rev. Fr. John Baptist Kaganda; the Chancellor, Rev. Fr. Edward Ssekabanja, and the Diocesan Arch – Priest who is also Kitovu Cathedral Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Henry Kasule, to lay a white cloth on the casket. Bishop Kaggwa thereafter places a Bible and a cross on the casket.
Bishop Ddungu was rushed to Nsambya Hospital mid last October after suffering a stroke which paralysed his right hand side. While at the hospital, he suffered another stroke, and later got an infection in the lungs that could have eventually led to his death on December 30.
Born on July 15, 1923 at Ssango in the district of Rakai to the late Petero Lugwana and Bulandina Nnakabugo Basanyukira, Ddungu became Bishop of Masaka Catholic Diocese on March 18, 1962.
He succeeded the late Archbishop Joseph Kiwanuka who had then been transferred from Masaka Diocese to Kampala Archdiocese. He attended primary school at Nkoni, 12kms along the Masaka – Mbarara road from where he was inspired to join priesthood by Msgr. Bartholomew Wamala, a son of his paternal aunt.
Between 1939 and 1946, Ddungu studied at Bukalasa Minor Seminary where he excelled. He was admitted to Katigondo Major Seminary in 1946 but studied there for only 10 months before going to Rome, Italy.
In Rome, he studied at Propaganda Fide College with 60 other students from different nationalities. He was ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic Church on December 21, 1952.
On December 13, 1953, Ddungu returned to Masaka to take up a teaching job at a boys’ school at Narozari Catholic Parish, as well as supervise two other schools in the villages of Kyengerere and Butenzi.
In 1956, he was appointed the Parish Priest of Matale Catholic Parish near Kalisizo before he was assigned to teach Philosophy, Canon Law and Pastoral Theology at Katigondo Major Seminary in January 1960. About 21 months later, he was appointed Bishop of Masaka Diocese.
During his time as bishop of Masaka, Ddungu established a number of development projects, including the Masaka Diocesan Development Organisation (MADDO) whose activities benefited all the people of Masaka.
“Most of the developments in the diocese are traced to him. During his time as bishop, he established many contacts with donors in Germany that have greatly contributed to a number of projects here,” said Rev. Fr. Charles Ssebalamu, the Diocesan Secretary.
According to records at the diocesan data base, priestly ordinations became more frequent in Masaka during his time as bishop. More catechists and basic Christian leaders were recruited and trained, plus the establishment and enhancement of the activities of the lay apostolate movements.
“He was a determined servant of his Lord Jesus Christ. For this, he didn’t hesitate to implement any directive from the Vatican even at the most critical period of our history,” says Bishop Kaggwa.
He is said to have started a number of schools and health facilities spread in different parts of the diocese. This in addition to setting up more parishes, and facilitating the construction of churches using donations he received from Germany.
At the advent of the AIDS scourge in the early 1980s, Bishop Ddungu encouraged a number of charity organisations to come to his diocese and support the infected and affected families.
“He preached openly, telling the community the truth about the new disease, even when everyone else feared at the time to speak about the disease,” Kaggwa said.
To many Christians, Bishop Ddungu was a gifted preacher who easily related readings from the Holy Scripture to the prevailing situations.
“He was an interesting preacher, the type you would not wish to stop listening to. Even if he took long at the pulpit, none would dose since everyone was attentively enjoying,” said Charles Kasibante Kibabirire, acting Mayor of Masaka Municipality.
He is also credited with the fusion of indigenous African cultures with the norms of the church because he loved his culture too much. It was because of his love for his culture that he was chosen to perform religious functions during the coronation of Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II on July 31, 1993 at Naggalabi, Buddo, near Kampala.
“Besides, he has been an ardent advocate of respect for human rights. He was a voice for the voiceless, and would speak out without fear of anyone,” said Rev. Fr. Henry Kasule, the Parish Priest of Kitovu Cathedral.
Besides his mother tongue, Luganda, Ddungu was also fluent in Runyakitara, English, French, German, Latin and Arabic. But as Masaka mourned the death of Bishop Ddungu, news of the death of Rev. Fr. Augustino Muddu made the atmosphere more solemn.
Muddu, who was in charge of schools in Matale Catholic Parish, near Kalisizo town, died on Wednesday, December 30. He had just been attending the baptism party of Kalisizo Town Council youth councilor, Robert Semanda’s son.
Fr. Muddu died in an accident after his car rammed into a perimeter wall, metres away from the venue of the party. Police said Muddu may have died of shock as he sustained no injuries.