Namugongo shrine

3 June 2024

3 June 2024: Walking towards Uganda Martyrs Day celebrations

As Ugandans prepare to celebrate Martyrs Day next week, on Monday, some pilgrims are currently walking 380 Kilometers from the northern district of Lira to the Uganda Martyrs Shrine at Namugongo.

3 June is a public holiday in Uganda.

The commemoration of Uganda Martyrs Day is an event held annually on 3 June in memory of a group of 22 Catholic and 23 Anglican converts to Christianity in the historical kingdom of Buganda. The converts were executed on the orders of the Kabaka (King) Mwanga between 31 January 1885 and 27 January 1887.

820 Lira Pilgrims walking to the Shrine

About 820 pilgrims from Lira Diocese in northern Uganda, having been walking since 18 May 2024. The pilgrims hope to arrive at the Namugongo Shrine on 31 May for the 3 June national liturgy. It is always colourful Eucharistic service.

This year, Nebbi Catholic Diocese, located in North Western Uganda, is set to animate the liturgy at Namugongo Catholic Martyrs Shrine under the theme “But as for me and My Household, We Shall Serve the Lord,” taken from Joshua 24:15.

The generosity of strangers

As they walk, the Lira Pilgrims sleep at various designated places, such as schools and parishes. They are carrying provisions and cook for themselves.

Mr Goddie Akio, the principal spokesperson of the pilgrims, told Vatican News of the overwhelming generosity the pilgrims have received from total strangers, parishioners, and schools on their way to Namugongo. Sometimes, the locals would cheer them on. He said the pilgrims have been offered fruits, assorted beverages, and other soft food items to help rejuvenate their strength in this walk of faith.

Mr Akio also said apart from joining in the daily evening Mass celebrated by priests walking with them, the pilgrims also recite the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy as they seek God’s mercy and intervention in their personal life situations. And in line with the Rosary Month of May, pilgrims have fervently prayed the rosary beads, asking the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intervention in their lives. The pilgrims also have prayer intentions for the Diocese, the Bishop, priests and the religious of the Diocese of Lira. They equally pray for friends, and relatives who could not make the trip. Above all, they have also prayed for love, peace, and unity to prevail in Uganda.

Safety: Police and military protection

Road safety and the security of pilgrims are major concerns for such a large group of travellers.

Fortunately, all the known large pilgrimages currently underway in Uganda, from the Dioceses of Lira, Nebbi, and Gulu, have received state protection. The Ugandan Government assigned police and military units to escort the pilgrims. For example, the Uganda Police Force and the Army have been with the Lira Pilgrims throughout their trek, and the pilgrims are extremely grateful for the calibre of the men and women in uniform accompanying them, Mr Akio said.

Catholic teaching in the Catechism recognises the value of pilgrimages as a chance for Catholics to work on their faith. Pilgrimages remind Christians of their earthly journey towards heaven. They are are also intense periods of prayer.

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