By Wilson Kamukono
MASAKA: It is rare and sometimes not possible for one to describe Masaka catholic diocese without the name Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa.
His openness, sound opinions and guidance in his 25 tenure as the catholic bishop in Masaka is one of the portraits that defines a soft voice bishop clad in his black cassock.
As it’s the normal during the coronavirus pandemic reaching at his gate adjacent to Kitovu cathedral Masaka, I was welcomed with a soap and water to wash hands before he smiled with a hospitality expression to welcome me.
As I entered I realized that the emeritus Bishop was supervising workers who were renovating and performing paint works at his gate.
He quickly asked how long the interview will take before we sat under the tree for the interview.
Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa was born on 22 March 1943 at Sumbwe village Bulenga sub county, Busiro County, Wakiso District, to Mr Matiya Sentamu and Felisitah Nazziwa all late.
He says his mother was a house wife but his father was a tailor by profession and it’s out of tailoring that he could get all the provisions of the family.
He is the second born of 14, he says they were seven boys and seven girls unfortunately some died and they remained five boys and four girls who are still living.
His father died in 2000 and the mother died 2011.
He started his Pre –primary at Sumbwe in Wakiso from 1950-51 before joining Rubaga boys in 1952 where he attended his primary school and completed primary six in 1957 and in 1958 he then joined Kisubi Minor Seminary where he studied his junior and completed in 1963 .
In 1964 he later studied at Katigondo Major Seminary studying Theology and philosophy where he spent one year and a half before late Archbishop Joseph Kiwanauka sent him to Urban University in Rome, Italy in October 1965 to further his studies in philosophical and theological studies.
He returned back to Uganda in August 1971 after completion of his studies in 1971 with a Bachelors and MA in Philosophy and Bachelors and MA in Theology.
He was ordained a deacon in 1970 April before he was sent to Busubizi PTC Mityana districts as a deacon and after a period of four months he was ordained a priest on 12 December at Rubaga cathedral in 1971 by late cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga, at the age of 28.
He was later transferred to Nswanjere preparatory Seminary in Mityana as dean of studies teaching English, History and Civics, he was equally the head of sports then.
In December 1975 he was moved to Ggaba Kampala to start a late vocational of St Mbaaga Major seminary, he was there until 1982 after graduation of his pioneer students.
In 1982 he was moved to Kisubi seminary to teach Latin before he was taken to Christ the King secondary school as the parish priest. In 1985 Cardinal Wamala asked him to go back to Rome to study specialization in church law and Civil law.
In 1989 he graduated with a Master’s degree in church law and civil law from University of Lateral Rome.
Following his doctoral studies, he was appointed vice rector of the Pontifical College of St Paul, Rome, for five years. He returned to Uganda in the 1980s and was appointed the first rector of Ggaba National Major Seminary.
In April December 1995, he was appointed by pope the coadjutor Bishop of Masaka. He was consecrated bishop on 24 June 1995 by his predecessor Bishop Adrian Kivumbi Ddungu. He succeeded as Bishop of Masaka, Uganda on 10 January 1998, and retired on 16 April 2019.
Bishop Kaggwa’s 5 point programme.
He revealed that his leadership aimed at five major reasons and they included deepening Faith, Education, self-reliance, Leadership and Unity.
To deepen and strengthen the faith. He said this was his big purpose in the diocese and they have tried to reach the Christians although shrines have been a stumbling block to this cause. He said some local shrines sacrifice people and hoodwink believers calling upon Christians to continue teaching people of God at the end the truth will win.
In education he said they aimed at building new schools, replacing head teachers with very active and hardworking ones, renewing the school committees, and forming a body of catholic teachers in bid to improve teacher’s welfare (Masaka catholic Teachers Association) and continuous supervision of the schools.
Bishop Kaggwa revealed that with well-motivated teachers they expected good results and this has been observed as schools in Masaka have been among best performing schools in the country.
He appealed to all believers in various denominations to aim at improving education and sensitizing parents to support their children to attain education because it’s major foundation for development
He said they aimed at how the diocese can stand on its own feet without depending on donors and by empowering the Christians the diocese leadership thought it would avail financial freedom to the diocese.
The diocese has initiated projects which include JOBASCA shopping mall in Nyendo town, a Masaka suburb, Jubilee building on Ben Kiwanuka Street 2013. Centenary Bank Lyantonde and Sembabule branches and Caritas Maddo dairies.
He believes that the above projects can sustain the dioceses in activities and self-reliance can easily be obtained.
Cow project. The diocese teaches farmers irrespective of religion and gives them a cow after giving birth. The farmers give back a calf which is passed on to other farmers.
He said it’s a self-propagating project with over 2000 beneficiary farmers. The diocese started a dairy and the cows given produce about 20 liters and farmers sell 18 liters to Caritas Maddo dairies.
Then money is later deposited on individual accounts of farmers after every month which has since improved the livelihood of farmers. He said with improved income among Christians then the diocese can easily lean against their shoulders financially.
Leadership. The emeritus Bishop shares that his mission was to make leaders servants and this has successfully been observed. “Every after five years we get new leaders on various committees and this has given an opportunity for Christians to serve in the dioceses,” he said
He said they equally preach good leadership not only in church but also at national level and they are always against any form of bad leadership and any of its kind.
Uniting people. “Our History has been marred with differences amongst religions but in 25 journey we have created more relationships with other denominations for example we have so many projects we are running with Protestants and Muslims in the Masaka region,” he revealed .
Bishop Kaggwa prides on uniting believers and creating a self-reliant diocese with its own projects.
He said that it’s normal to meet challenges while working but whenever they come one forms a way to approach them. He said the biggest challenge in deepening faith was local shrines in the region which is still a big problem and believes who call themselves what they are not contrary to the Catholic Church.
Bishop Kaggwa asked religious, political and all other leaders to involve the youth because they make up 65 percent of population in productive work to enable them have livelihood which will avail strong foundation for a future Uganda.
He urges that the poor state of roads in Nyendo a Masaka suburb and increased misuse of the environment remains an unfinished chapter for him and he will continue the struggle until sanity is two is observed.