BREAKING BREAD - Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga shares lunch and conversation with Father Dave Beauvais (to his left), Dick Kunnert (across the table) and priests of the Kampala Archdiocese during a seminar designed to help the priests become more Jesus-like leaders.
By Dick Kunnert
Senior Fellow, Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute
What a week. January 7-13. Father Dave Beauvais and I responded to an invitation to go to Kampala, Uganda, and make a presentation on the S3Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesusto the priests of the Kampala Archdiocese. It was the second time in four months that personnel from the Yeshua Catholic International Institute had provided such training for priests in Kampala at the invitation of Archbishop Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga. He said he first learned of the program last year from Cornerstone Development, which helped arrange both Yeshua visits.
Father Dave and I were given one and a half days to make our presentation to about 175 priests. Based on conversations and written evaluations, we achieved our goal of getting the priests to see their leadership and the universal call to discipleship from a different prospective.
Our presentation was made at St. Mary National Seminary, in a theatre style auditorium. While it wasn’t ideal for small group discussions, the acoustics were fine. On the road, especially overseas, it’s essential to be flexible. Despite his busy schedule as shepherd for almost 2 million Catholics and his familiarity with the material, the archbishop attended the whole first day – a thrill for us to seem him modeling leadership for is priests.
Electrical power can never be taken for granted in the Third World, a concern for us because our presentation relies heavily on PowerPoint slides and videos. As a measure of how important our program was to the presbytery’s leadership, they committed to turning on the seminary’s generator if the power went out. Diesel fuel is expensive in Uganda, but we switched to generator power several brief times during our presentations.
Our day and a half program came in the middle of a four day clergy conference. It was a thrill when on our second day Father Dave was asked to be the principal celebrant at conference’s morning Mass. It was a humbling one too, because the liturgy was especially beautiful with all the vested priests assembled and the music sung in harmony, accompanied by an organ and drums.
The priests gave Father Dave and I the clear impression that not only did they find our leadership lessons helpful, but they also had a variety of audiences in mind with whom to share the Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus. Many priests in the room were chaplains or teachers at different levels of the educational system, while others worked in hospitals and social service agencies. The largest number, of course, were assigned to parishes in the Kampala Archdiocese.
All of these places can be fertile ground for planting the seeds of S3 Jesus-like leadership.
A VISION TAKES SHAPE – A new school goes up as part of a new parish complex being built near Kampala, Uganda by two Polish Franciscan priests. In just three years they have build a friary for five priests and their school is about 75% completed. Dick and Father Dave were surprised to learn that their own Rockford (IL) Diocese contributed $100,000 to help build the parish and its school.
New parish takes shape
After the workshop, Father Dave and I were invited to visit a new parish being built by two Polish Franciscan priests. It is amazing what thee men have accomplished in three short years. Their friary for fie priests has been completed and the school is about 75% completed.
The school will have seven rooms, with each classroom holding 100 children. One room on the second floor is already being used for a 100 kids. OSHA would croak. The scaffolding (see photo) is nothing but sticks tied together. As the place goes up, the men building the school live in a shed adjacent to the school.
There is a large metal building on the property that represents the old church. It is now used as a school building. The parish’s “new “ church is in the bottom level of the new school. At a Friday morning school Mass you will find 300 kids present! We were pleasantly surprised to hear that the Rockford Diocese, which is our home diocese, has contributed $100,000 toward building the new parish.
Father Simon, the pastor, has been in Rockford and is returning for a parish mission in March. He will be speaking at both St. Stan’s and St Anthony churches in that city. This young priest is certainly a high achiever, and as he poured out his story about his new buildings and pastoral efforts we couldn’t help but be impressed.
He told us how he once traveled the area on a motorcycle, but he stopped when he had an accident that caused his leg to broken in 15 places. As he lay in the ditch, in pain, he was aware people were going through his clothes and robbing him. A fellow priest arrived on the scene and probably saved his life. He now drives a pickup he got by writing a grant. Riding with him is a real treat.
As we were going toward his parish with him in his pickup, we saw a police car flying down the street with lights flashing and the siren blaring. A Chevy Suburban followed closely. I asked the priest if the squad car was leading a VIP vehicle. He told us anyone for $30 can hire the police to give them such an escort to anywhere in the city. With the traffic jams we experienced, it is easy to understand why that might be money well spent.
Kampala is a huge city of over 3 million people. It is built on hills, and it doesn’t take a great deal of observation to see that the rich live on the top of the hills and the poor at the bottom. Kampala seems to be about three steps up from Haiti. The slum areas would break the hardest heart. People live in tiny shacks up against ditches and deeply rutted dirt roads.
Since people have neither cars nor refrigerators, shopping must be done everyday and locally, so there are markets every few blocks. The staple diet is green bananas, which are mashed and baked inside of banana leaves. This is served everywhere to rich and poor alike, although the poor’s portions are meager. The dish is bland and needs a sauce to liven it up. Potatoes, yams, pumpkin and rice are generally in abundant supply, but if you don’t grow these yourself, it’s a struggle to feed your family. Getting water is a major daily activity, as it is in all Third World countries. People rely on community wells. Men participate in hauling water, which is not the case in many other places I’ve seen.
FAITH, HOPE AND DETERMINATION – In the shade of a mango tree in their parish grounds, 22 lay leaders of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parsh in Namunyumya, near Busembatya, Uganda, gather to share their plans for teaching parish members in 55 substations how to be Jesus-like S3 Leaders, working under the leadership of their pastor, Father Vincent Kanyankole.
Against all odds, the power of God shines through His faithful people
On Thursday we traveled three hours from Kampala to visit Father Vincent Kanyankole. Father Vincent, who oversees a parish that consists of 55 churches, hosted 190 of his parishioners for an Encounter that Dr. Owen Phelps facilitated in October. Many of these folks are illiterate, but they participated eagerly over a two-day period. Then 40 spent part of another day learning how to facilitate the curriculum, relying by necessity on oral learning because additional workbooks are an expensive luxury and literacy is not the norm.
Father Vincent wanted us to come see their progress, so after coffee with him we went to meet the folks. There, in the shade of a huge Mango tree, were 22 parishioners who were working at facilitating the Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus in the parish’s many outposts (called “substations”). In the parish there are 10 centers, then beyond each center are five outposts. Again, because of travel limitations, religious activities are carried out by catechists, with the priests coming about once a month for Mass.
Father Dave and I were blown away by the sight. The folks were dressed in their best, and one woman had ridden her bike three hours to meet us. After introductions and prayer, we were told Sebastian, a senior catechist, wanted to share a progress report with us. He offered a very succinct two-page report, along with a one-page outline of their work plan for 2012.
In the heat of an African afternoon, I had chills as I listened to this proud man read to us of the parish’s progress and plans. It was excellent. When he finished we all clapped. I told him that I knew of no parish in the whole world that was doing a better job of integrating the Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus into parish life. Again, they all clapped. It was a great session, one neither Father Dave nor I will ever forget.
Despite the challenges they face, they had just one request. They had all gotten workbooks at the Encounter they attended, but after seeing references in it to Owen’s hardcover book, The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus, they wanted 30 copies of the source book to assure they knew what they needed to know to teach effectively in their substations. Despite the expense of the books and shipping them to halfway around the world, I couldn’t tell them no. Instead, in a rash moment, I promised them the books! Wouldn’t you know, by the grace of God and the kindness of friends, we were able to send them to Uganda at no cost.
A remarkable Jesus-like leader
Father Vincent is phenomenal. This humble priest is the kind that we would all like have in our parishes. He is totally transparent with his people. It is clear he is there to serve them and to help them grow. The parish lay leaders we met obviously love him and hold him in high regard. They are especially appreciative of him because, they told us, they have not always had priests who could be held in esteem. One had stolen form the parish. But they did not let the faults of one man discourage them.
They do their best to support the priest’s efforts – which in terms of money generally comes to about $8 a week in collections throughout the parishes many church. Fortunately, English families he met when he went to their country to have a knee repaired help him pay the bills. He said he usually doesn’t mind when the power goes out in his rectory because it means he will use less electricity and his bill will be smaller. He goes to England for a month each summer to fill in for a priest who takes his vacation. That arrangement serves as something of an umbilical cord for his massive parish with meager resources. (If you’re looking for a worthy Third World ministry to support, his is certainly worthy. Write to us for details about getting in touch with him.)
On Friday we had a full day before getting on our plane. We were able to see the Uganda Martyrs Shrine, honoring 22 men who were killed in the late 1890s by the country’s king at the time. The manner of each of their deaths is a sad witness man’s cruelty at its worse.
We then met with Archbishop Lwanga and some of his staff for lunch. Trapped in Kampala’s infamous traffic, we were 40 minutes late for lunch. The archbishop was totally gracious and said local traffic can be hell. The lunch gave us an opportunity for more feedback about our work with Kampala’s priests, and we were pleased with what we heard. Apparently, our efforts fulfilled the archbishop’s hopes and expectations.
Finally, on the way to Entebbe International Airport, we stopped to meet some of the young people involved in the soccer program supported by Cornerstone Development. These are street kids who Cornerstone is attempting to save -- physically, mentally and spiritually. Musa, our driver for the week and a Cornerstone staff person, asked me to say a few words to the young men. I shared with them the core principles of Lead Like Jesus. I hope they take them to heart.
Copyright © 2012 Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute, 208 E. North St., Durand, IL 61024. Any part of this newsletter may be reproduced so long as there is full attribution, our web site is listed, and any electronic reproduction includes a link to our site: http://www.yeshualeader.com.