The martyrs Daudi Okello and Jildo Irwa were two young catechists from Uganda at the beginning of the 20th century. They belonged to the Acholi tribe, a subdivision of the large Lwo group whose members even today live mostly in the North of Uganda, but they are also present in Southern Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania and Congo. They lived and were martyred in the years immediately following the foundation of the mission of Kitgum by the Comboni Missionaries in 1915.
Daudi and Jildo did their work in Paimol. Jildo assisted Daudi in his work as a catechist. Daudi was about 16-18 years old as Jildo was around 12-14 years old.
They would gather children willing to take religious instruction. At dawn, Daudi would beat the drum to call his catechumens for morning prayers and, for Jildo and himself, also for the Rosary. Daudi taught them the prayers and the catechism’s questions and answers, repeated often in a sign-song like manner during the lesson, to facilitate the memorising. It was a matter of teaching the first elements of faith, the so-called Lok-odiku (the words of the morning), namely the essential parts of the catechism. To this activity Daudi added the visits to the nearby small villages from where the catechumens were coming, busy during the day in assisting their parents to look after the cattle or work in the fields.
At sunset, Daudi gave the signal for common prayer and the Rosary, always closing with a song to Our Lady. On Sunday, he held a longer prayer service, often enlivened by the presence of catechumens and catechists of the area.
Jildo had spontaneously and very willingly offered to go with Daudi to teach God’s word in Paimol. Here he was loved by everyone because he was always available and exemplary in his duties as assistant-catechist.
On the morning of their martyrdom Jildo answered to Daudi who was warning him about a possible cruel death, “Why should we be afraid? We have done nothing wrong to anyone; we are here only because Fr. Cesare sent us to teach the word of God. Do not fear!”
During the weekend of 18-20 October 1918, long before dawn, five people headed for the hut where Daudi and Jildo were staying with the clear intention of killing them. A village elder confronted the new comers telling them they were not allowed to kill the catechists, as they were his guests. Daudi appeared at the door of his hut and entreated the elder not to get involved. Then the intruders entered into Daudi’s hut and insisted with him that he gave up teaching catechism. Realising that Daudi was not giving in to their threats, they dragged him outside, pushed him to the ground and pierced him with their spears. He was about 16-18 years old.
Jildo repeated the words to Daudi to those who were urging him to leave that place and his duty as assistant-catechist. “We have done nothing wrong”, he was saying in tears “For the same reason you killed Daudi you must also kill me, because together we came here and together we have been teaching God’s word”. Having said this, somebody grabbed him, pushed him outside the hut and, placing him at a distance of two steps, pierced him through with a spear. Then one of them struck Jildo’s head with a knife.
It’s right and fitting to look up to Daudi Okello and Jildo Irwa in our apostolate.