Uganda Mission

California – Arizona Province of St. Joseph

Discalced Carmelite Friars

Mission Office

Fr. Christoper La Rocca, O.C.D.
Mission Zelator
P.O. Box 347
Oakville, CA 94562
Phone: (707) 944-1520

Uganda Mailing Address

Discalced Carmelte Friars
P.O. Box 834
Jinja, Uganda, East Africa

“As Carmelites we are necessarily Missionaries”

(Quoted from the 1st OCD World Missionary Congress held in Nairobi in 1994)

Pope Paul VI urged the traditional religious Orders to bring their Charisms to the new Churches of Africa and establish their presence on that continent. The Discalced Carmelite response (to name a few) has been to go to:

The Congo – directly under the Generalate sponsorship
Malawi – a mission of the Navarre Province of Spain
Central African Republic – a mission of the Genoa Province
Nigeria – a mission of the Anglo-Irish Province
Kenya – from the Eastern (USA) Province of Washington
Tanzania – from the Karnataka – Goa (India) Province
And Uganda – from the California-Arizona Province

Uganda is a country about the size of the State of Oregon. It is situated in East Africa and has a population of 21 Million. A good 85% of the population is Christian, and 40-45% of these are Catholic. It is estimated that there are 4,000 Religious, including a number of prospering native congregations.

One of the 18 Dioceses within the country is KiyindaMityana, where St. Kizito, Kyengeza Catholic Parish is located. Mityana is about 50 miles West of the Capital, and it’s just 15 miles from Mityana to the Carmelite Mission at Kyengeza.

When the Carmelites were invited to make a foundation in Uganda, the Diocese of Mityana had 21 parishes. Two of these parishes were staffed by the White Fathers and the Capuchins, the rest by Diocesan Clergy. There are 72 Diocesan Priests and 530 Catechists and the usual array of Diocesan Organizations: Priest’s Senate, Parish Councils, Education, Social Service, and Justice Departments, Legion of Mary and Small Christian Communities. There are neither permanent Deacons nor Lay Eucharistic Ministers.

The desire to have the Carmelites make a foundation stems from the appreciation of the Charisms of the more ancient and traditional religious orders in the Church. Another important factor is the existence of a Convent of Discalced Carmelite Nuns in Mityana. Their Monastery is part of the Diocesan complex, which includes a modern Cathedral, various Diocesan Offices and residences, as well as a Catechetical Training Center. It is the site where three – Luka, Noa and Matia – of the 22 Ugandan Martyrs were killed.

In Jinja, a city East of Kampala and about a two-and-ahalf hour drive from Mityana, there is an Intercongregational Philosophy Seminary. It is owned and operated by four founding congregations: The White Fathers, The Comboni, Holy Cross and Mill Hill Fathers; each has its own Formation House, but the academic effort is in common. Future Carmelite Students would be able to study at this Seminary.

The Uganda Mission

In 1942-43 Fr. Karooli, a native Ugandan Missionary of Africa priest (White Fathers) offered Fr. Patrick Perjes, OCD (who later became a member of our Calif-Arizona Province) some land to build a Carmelite Monastery of the Friars. Fr. Patrick was a prisoner of war, waiting for release and return to Europe, and so could not do anything about it. He recounts this incident in his Memoirs. Fr. Patrick died in 1993, but in 1998, Fr. Jeremiah Fitzpatrick, OCD, Fr. David Costello, OCD and Sr. Elizabeth of the Mityana Carmel visited Fr. Karooli in a Rest Home in Kampala. He was very feeble and unable to speak. Later, Fr. Stephen and Fr. David visited with him again.

The Invitation

The insistent requests of the Nuns in Mityana to our Generalate in Rome to “please send us some friars” did not receive a positive response. The Bishop of Mityana also sent a number of requests to Rome, but to no avail.

Then, in 1998 Fr. Jeremiah Fitzpatrick, OCD one of the General Definitors from Rome visited our California – Arizona Province from November 15th to December 5th . At that time he made known to us that the Superior General, Fr. Camilo Maccise, OCD wished to initiate a dialogue with the Province about the possibility of founding a Mission in Uganda.

The Province and its Provincial took this invitation seriously, and engaged the services of a facilitator to assist the Province in its process of discernment. A Uganda Task Force was set up in January 1999 and the entire Province was invited to participate, and it wasthe chief topic of discussion at the Plenary Council of February 2-4, 1999 at El Carmelo Retreat House.

In order to attain clarity about the proposed foundation in Uganda, and to better understand what the General Definitory was setting before our Province, Fr. Gerald Werner, then Provincial wrote to Fr. Jeremiah on February 18th, 1999 posing some questions. The response from Fr. Jeremiah (on behalf of Fr. Camilo and the General Definitory) was a letter dated March 27th , 1999. (This exchange of correspondence is located in the Mission Office files)

That same March, 1999, Fr. Jeremiah and Fr. David traveled to Uganda to inspect possible sites for a house, and to make inquiries.

In October of that same year, 1999 our newly elected Provincial, Fr. Stephen Watson traveled to Uganda with Fr. David Costello to inspect the Mission site and to meet with Bishop Joseph Mukwaya of KiyindaMityana Diocese. The result of this meeting was that Fr. Stephen and the Bishop agreed to open the new parish at Kyengeza in August of 2000. Fr. David would definitely be available to come, and the Bishop would provide a Diocesan priest to help him become acclimated to the Pastoral situation of the Diocese.

Upon his return to California, Fr. Stephen realized that it would not be possible to begin the Mission in August, he so informed the Bishop, who was very understanding, but who was determined to establish the new Mission Parish during the Jubilee 2000. This he did, on January 6, 2001, the last day of the Jubilee Year. The Bishop assigned two young Diocesan priests as resident priests until the Carmelites would arrive.

Arriving in Uganda

Fr. David arrived at Entebbe Airport with Lillian Kelley, OCDS on February 8 th. They were most warmly received. The following day, they were joined by Brother Bernard Olk, OCD, and all three were transported to Mityana and lodged in the Bishop’s House Mityana, where the Bishop’s house is located, is about 15-20 minutes drive West of Kyengeza. Bishop Joseph invited the newly arrived missionaries to come with him on his pastoral visit to Kyengeza parish, so that he could formally introduce them to their future parishioners and the resident priests.

The Bishop arranged for the missionary team to go to Kasambya Parish, run by the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers), to become acclimated and to gain local Pastoral experience. Kasambya (located about 80 miles West of Mityana) is considered to be a model parish, and they have a great teacher of the Luganda language.

Fr. David and his team stayed there for close to three months.

Mission Sunday

Mission Sunday, October 20th , 2002 was red letter day at the Parish of St. Kizito, Kyengeza. Bishop Joseph Mukwaya handed over the parish to the Carmelites and installed Fr. David Costello, OCD as the first Pastor. Our Provincial, Fr. Stephen Watson, OCD, concelebrated. After the Mass, papers were signed by the Bishop and Fr. Stephen, the Provincial.


A Vibrant Province

Provincial Office

Fr. Adam Gregory Gonzales, O.C.D.
Provincial Superior
P.O. Box 8700
Redlands, CA 92375
(909) 793-0424

Nellie Lara
Assistant to the Provincial Superior

Vocation Office

Fr. Matthias Lambrecht, O.C.D.
Vocation Director
P.O. Box 3420
San Jose, CA 95156
(408) 251-1361 x324

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