Courtesy of Father Ronald Sajdak - Father Ronald Sajdak speaks at the dedication of a medicine store in Uganda. Also taking part in the dedication are Deacon Matthew Hens (from left), Fidele Dhan and Joan Ersing.
It all began with an innocent question in a telephone conversation between Father Emmanuel Katabaazi, coordinator of Catholic Health Care for the Diocese of Masaka, Uganda, and myself. “Where do your 29 clinics and two hospitals purchase your equipment and medicines?”
Surprisingly, the answer wasn’t the name of a local distributor, but the Joint Medical Store operated by the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches in the Archdiocese of Kampala, located some two and a half hours away. The wheels of thought began turning from that point onward thinking about how convenient it would be if such a facility were more centrally located within the Diocese of Masaka for their own medical outreach projects. A new facility was envisioned for just such an enterprise and the Reaching Out 2 Africa ministry discerned, discussed, envisioned and then committed to the project.
The first order of business was getting permission for and enabling Father Katabaazi to fly from Uganda to Buffalo to participate in the 2010 Diocesan Missionary Cooperative. Each year the Diocese of Buffalo receives approximately 200 letters of request to be considered and chosen for the annual spring/summer Mission Cooperative. Of these many applications, 50 are chosen each year.
Missionary communities and/or mission organizations based within the diocese get preference if they wish to participate. Because ROTA was invited by the Pontifical Mission Societies Office and Father Katabaazi received permission from his bishop to be in the U.S. for about one month, plans were made for his arrival. Though there were some scheduling difficulties, it worked out that in 2010 Father Katabaazi had the opportunity to speak at Immaculate Conception Parish in East Aurora, Good Shepherd Parish in Pendleton and SS. Peter and Paul in Hamburg.
The contributions from these parish communities, along with a contribution from the “Hope Fund” of St. Vincent Parish in Springbrook, and the dedicated support from ROTA enabled him to begin the project with some confidence.
Work on the project continued and ROTA’s Africa project supervisor, former “Lost Boy of Sudan” Fidele Dhan, had the opportunity to visit the job site and inspect the progress. Portions of the Mission Cooperative contributions from the 2011 Mission Appeal by ROTA held at Our Lady of Victory in Lackawanna, SS. Columba-Brigid in Buffalo and Blessed John XXIII in West Seneca were added to the project funds.
On Mother’s Day evening, May 13,, a team of four from the Diocese of Buffalo, including Deacon Matthew Hens from the local Pontifical Mission Societies Office, Gregg Prince, a media specialist from the Communications Office; Joan Ersing, pastoral associate of St. Martin de Porres and executive director of ROTA; and me, pastor of St. Martin de Porres and director of ROTA, were on the way to Uganda to witness the dedication of the new medicine store within the mission diocese of Masaka.
Nineteen and three quarter hours of air flight time later we arrived in Entebbe, Uganda, and were welcomed by Father Katabaazi and his brother Frank. Though the travel was strenuous, we were joyful to have our feet firmly planted on the ground again and see the smiling faces of our hosts.
“I forgot about the hour drive time we still had to negotiate through the crowded small town city streets of Entebbe and Kampala, Uganda” Father Sajdak said. “The back seat is my favorite, due to such driving conditions as driving on the left side of the street, the traffic congestion, no stop signs, no traffic signals and an enormous crowd of pedestrians, bicycles and mopeds called “borda-bordas.”
On Friday, May 18, the early morning skies looked heavy with rain clouds prompting Deacon Hens to ask one of the African priests who joined us for the event, “Father, say a prayer that it doesn’t rain today for our event.” His response was classic, “We Africans don’t have a prayer for it not to rain. Rain is always a blessing.”
Needless to say God smiled on us Americans and the clouds blew over to reveal a most beautiful afternoon. Three tents were set up at the medicine store location in which Mass would be offered. Soon Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa of Masaka, his vicar general and other priests, women religious, as well as staff and members of their Catholic Charities ministry, all gathered under the tents to begin Holy Mass as well as the blessing and dedication of the new medicine store.
I cut the ribbon to open the facility and the gathered assembly walked through the building inspecting the excellent work of the skilled laborers. What followed was drumming music, choir songs and tribal dance from the members of the Archbishop Kiwanuka Secondary School of Kitovu.
After the music there was a host of speeches witnessing to the generosity of the people of the Church in Buffalo and the partnership with the Church of the Diocese of Masaka through ROTA. This event concluded with the sharing of gifts from our African hosts to our American delegation and gifts from us to them as well.
While speaking about the official mission activity of the Church in a day of recollection for the permanent deacon candidates and their wives, one person commented that they are aware of all the missionaries that continually come into our diocese, share their stories with us, receive our support, but then are gone mostly never to be heard from again. The events that occurred in May in Kitovu in the Diocese of Masaka, is but one of the many success stories of our mission Church’s efforts around the world.
The new medicine store will mean better quality, quantity and cost-effective drugs reaching the 29 basic health centers and clinics as well as the two hospitals that the Diocese of Masaka offers as a concrete expression of Jesus’ Gospel of care and concern for the least of our sisters and brothers.
The advisory board of ROTA would like to thank the people of the Body of Christ in Buffalo for their continued assistance and support. Thanks for making the missions an important part of your prayer and support. Because of you miracles continue to happen across the globe.
Father Sajdak is the director of Reaching Out 2 Africa.
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