With just three months to the annual Martyrs’ Day celebrations, Nebbi, the leading diocese on the Catholic side, has made a substantial reduction of nearly Shillings 2 billion from its initial budget.

Catherine Akumu Mavenjina, the chairperson of the organizing committee, explains that when Nebbi was selected to animate and lead the 2024 Martyrs’ Day by the Uganda Episcopal Conference, a committee formulated a budget of Shillings 3.8 billion for a vibrant event.

However, Akumu, who is also a Member of Parliament representing older persons in Northern Uganda, adds that financial constraints among the faithful supporting the budget have led to a revision, downsizing the budget to Shillings 1.8 billion to ensure the event’s successful organization.

To secure the required funds within the remaining time, the diocese plans to engage with well-wishers. Fundraising efforts will primarily involve collecting money from parishes, and available information indicates that parishes have been grouped into three categories based on the number of Christians. Each category is expected to contribute between Shillings 5 to 15 million to support the Martyrs’ Day celebrations.

Akumu mentioned that the diocese is actively seeking government funding and support from other partners to generate the necessary funds for the event. Additionally, she emphasized their intention to allocate some of the funds for the improvement of the shrine’s altar and the renovation of bathrooms and toilets, which are currently in a deteriorated condition.

“Every year when people leave Namugongo they leave a lot of damage, so as Nebbi diocese we want to improve on what has been damaged after the celebration,” Akumu stated. Over the years, the budget for organizing the Martyrs’ Day event on the Catholic side has experienced significant growth, with dioceses ambitiously expanding the event to meet the expectations of pilgrims and leave a lasting impact.

In the previous year, Jinja Diocese allocated Shillings 2.2 billion for the preparations of the annual Uganda Martyrs Day celebrations, which was twice the sum requested by Fort Portal Diocese the preceding year and more than three times what Gulu Diocese had budgeted for in 2019.

While some faithful criticize the large budgets, organizers defend them, emphasizing the expensive logistics involved in ensuring a flawless event. However, there is also information suggesting that organizing dioceses sometimes use these national events to support their local needs. 

For example, they invest in finishing or rehabilitating churches, serving as monuments to commemorate the mega pilgrimage and the animation of the event, which unites Catholics from all over Uganda for a common cause. In 2022, Fort Portal Diocese utilized its organizing chairmanship to undertake a flagship project, renovating its cathedral. 

Similarly, in the previous year, Jinja Diocese exceeded its budget, raising over a billion shillings, and the surplus funds were allocated to a development project within their diocese, serving as a commemoration for the 2023 Martyrs’ Day. Meanwhile, members of the Archdiocese of Mbarara Development Association (AMDA), comprising Catholic Christians, conducted a fundraising event to assist the Nebbi Diocese in preparations for this year’s Martyrs Day celebration. 

During the fundraising efforts, they generated 17.1 million shillings in cash and received pledges amounting to 1.17 million Shillings in support of the Nebbi Catholic Diocese. Akumu lauded the actions of AMDA, highlighting that their efforts demonstrate a commitment to fostering friendship among different dioceses. She urged other dioceses to emulate AMDA’s positive example.

Chris Gumisiriza, the chairperson of AMDA, stated that they have supported various dioceses in a similar manner, including the Gulu diocese and the Fort Portal diocese, among others.

Rt Rev Raphael Wokorach, Bishop of Nebbi, during the fundraising mass, emphasized that the Uganda martyrs were ordinary people, and the celebration represents what the church should be for Christians. He highlighted that the faith ignited among Christians from various dioceses reflects the fervor of the early days when Catholicism was introduced in Uganda.

Bishop Wokorach prayed that this spirit would endure among the faithful, urging them not to delegate matters of the Catholic faith solely to bishops, priests, and other church leaders.

Since its establishment in 1996, Nebbi Catholic Diocese will be animating the celebrations at the Namugongo Catholic Shrine for the second time, the first being in 2007. This year’s celebrations at Namugongo hold special significance as the Church marks the diamond jubilee (60 years) since 22 Uganda martyrs were declared saints.


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