The Uganda Martyrs: the seed of our faith

How the Martyrs were killed

The first to be martyred on 15th November 1885 was the King’s major domo and Christian leader, Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe. He was killed because he had pleaded with the king not to kill Bishop James Hannington, an Anglican Missionary, who had made an attempt to enter Buganda from east, then considered to be the backdoor of the kingdom. Joseph was beheaded and burnt at Nakivubo swamp, at the Kampala City center.

The main persecution that led to the Namugongo Holocaust broke out on 25th May 1886 at Munyonyo, then a royal enclosure near Lake Victoria when King Mwanga condemned Christians to death With the Spearing and condemning to death Denis Ssebuggwawo. He (Denis) was killed on the following and the same day as Andrew Kaggwa.

On the 26th of May 1886, as a ceremonial opening of the death-march, Pontian Ngondwe was speared by Mukaajanga, the chief executioner, his corpse hacked and pieces scattered to all directions at Ttabataba, now known as Ttaka Jjunge, about a mile from Munyonyo on the way to Mengo.

In the morning of 27th May 1886 at Mengo, Athanasius Bazzekuketta who was thirsty for martyrdom, volunteered to be executed at a spot on the foot of Mengo Hill where Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe, his leader had been martyred earlier.

On the same day, while at Old Kampala on his way from Mengo to Namugongo, Mathias Kalemba Mulumba refused to walk further in demand for execution. His hands were cut off first, fresh removed from his back and roasted then his legs cut off, blood vessels and veins tired, and traditional herbs applied to wounds to stop him from over bleeding. He died three days later from thirst.

Tired on their necks and feet to another by the cords and slave-yokes or by the stocks, the Uganda martyrs had to walk for over ten miles to reach Namugongo. But about a mile from their destination, Gonzaga Gonza who could hardly keep up with the pace collapsed at Lubaawo hill, he was speared at about midday on 27th May 1886.

In Namugongo, the Uganda martyrs were confined for about a week before execution, in that time, the executioners went about with preparatory activities like collection of enough fire wood and cutting of reeds to be used in the event, this took until 2nd of June.

The 3rd of June 1886, on the feast of the ascension, Charles Lwanga became the first victim of holocaust, Ssenkoole, the Guardian of the sacred fused had singled him out, following the traditional procedure of a ritual execution, which prohibited his (Ssenkoole) presence at the actual scene of a large execution but rather expected to select one victim and burn him apart from the others.

Ssenkoole took Charles Lwanga to a spot about fifty yards from the road, he (Charles) was allowed to arrange his own death-bed of firewood. Then wrapped in reeds laid on the pyre and was burnt slowly from the foot to the head at about midday, 3rd June 1886.

Achilles Kiwanuka, Adolphus Mukasa Ludigo, Ambrose Kibuuka, Anatoli Kiriggwajjo, Bruno Sserunkuuma, Gyavira, James Buzaalilyawo, Kizito, Luke Banabakintu, Mbaaga Tuzinde, Muggaga and Mukasa Kiriwawanvu are the twelve catholic that were burnt in the great namugongo holocaust together with thirteen Anglicans and six other prisoner that were on death sentence for other offences other than religion.

Martyrs killed outside Namugongo include; Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe and Atthanasius Bazzekuketta, at the city of Kampala (St. Balikuddembe Market), Denis Ssebuggwaawo and Andrew Kaggwa, killed at Munyonyo, Pontian Ngondwe killed at Kyamula (Ttakajjunge), Matthias Kalemba Mulumba killed at Old Kampala, Noe Mawaggali killed at Kiyinda-Mityana, Gonzaga Gonza killed at Kamuli-Lubaawo and lastly John Mary Muzeeyi killed at Mmengo-Kisenyi.

Thirty one years after the Namugongo holocaust, two young Christians from the Acholi people of northern Uganda, Daudi Okello, a chatecist and Blessed Jildo Irwa an assistant were martyred by a party of raiders. They were dragged from their hut and pushed to the ground, speared several times on 18th of October 1918 at midnight. Their bodies were not buried until later by the local community.

[Copied from the Uganda Martyrs Shrine website]

February Senatus meeting held on 20th February 2022

Members were welcomed to the second meeting of the year 2022.

In the meeting, we were informed that the Pope had granted a Plenary Indulgence for the Centenary Celebrations. The details of the Indulgence are available on THIS LINK. Members were requested to share the message with the Spiritual Directors for interpretation and guidance. In organising the celebrations, we were requested to make arrangement with our Spiritual Directors for the Sacrament of Confession.

We were informed that Concilium revised the 2014 edition to include St. Raphael among the Patrons of the Legion and also the invocation in the concluding prayers. Find Official Handbook of the Legion of Mary, 2014 edition (revised January 2022) from the documents here on the website

Kamuli Comitium (from Jinja Comitium) was inaugurated on the 12th February 2022 and it is attached to the Senatus bringing the total number of attached Comitia to 26.

Nairobi Pilgrimage: Legionaries were asked to start saving for the pilgrimage to Nairobi for the death anniversary of Venerable Edel Quinn. Kampala Comitium B will spearhead the organisation.

Cause of Canonisation: We were reminded to pray through the intercession of Servant of God Frank Duff, Venerable Edel Quinn and Servant of God Alphonsus Lambe. Favours should be sent to Senatus of Uganda.

Extension work in Soroti and Arua Dioceses is going on well and Legionaries were requested to support in any way possible.
About the work started of spreading the Catholic faith at the Ssese Islands, Kimaanya Comitium were organising for the second visit during Lent.
Each Legionary is called upon to participate in anyway possible in the extension of the Legion of Mary in our different places in different ways possible.

We received reports from Seat of Wisdom Praesidium, Philosophy Center Jinja, Kansanga Curia and Kasana-Luweero Comitium.

Happy New Year 2022

Dear Spiritual Directors, Legionaries and all people of God,

On behalf of the Senatus of Uganda, the Officers of Senatus wish you a blessed new year.  We thank God and Mother Mary our Queen for protecting and guiding us throughout year 2021. We thank you our Spiritual Directors for the prayers, love, guidance and support you give to all people of God especially Legionaries.

The two years 2020 and 2021 are known as the years of the Corona Virus Pandemic.  Many friends fell sick, others died (including the former Senatus Spiritual Director Rev. Fr. Expedito Walakira on 18th May 2021) and in the whole world, many people registered negative changes in their lives.  The situation got worse when movement of people was restricted and all activities, including Church congregations, Schooling, Legion of Mary meetings and social gatherings were on halt. 

Thank you, Legionaries, for persevering and for supporting each other. Thank you for the masses you participated in through the media, Legion of Mary prayers, the 24-hour rosary and other prayers.  Thank you for keeping our catchphrase in mind, which says “whatever it costs we shall never let the Legion of Mary die during our time”.

We shall always remember the year 2021 for Centenary celebrations of the Legion of Mary, which was founded on 7th September, 1921.  The inauguration of the Centenary year took place on 7th September 2021 at Nsambya Parish where Edel Quinn was welcomed when she came to Uganda for the first time. Celebrations are ongoing thereafter in different Praesidia and Councils until September 2022. 

As we celebrate, we have a theme to guide us: “Remember, Renew, Recruit, Rejoice. 1921 – 2021”.  Dear Officers of councils ensure that each section of the theme is put in practice. For example, “Recruit”:- This section may involve taking time to study your area of operation and listing Parishes, Sub Parishes or Small Christian Communities.   Thereafter identify areas where Legion of Mary does not exist. Then draw a plan for the outreach.  If each council does this then we shall be sure of the expansion in the whole country.  Remember we also have a task of extending Legion of Mary in the North and Eastern Uganda, where it has not been introduced in many Parishes.  We commend Councils like Kampala Comitium B, Lugazi, Jinja, Mbale, Kimaanya Comitia, St Matia Mulumba Curia and others that have embarked on this mission. We call upon all Legionaries to participate in all possible ways.

Finally, our immediate focus as we start the new year  2022 is to ensure that we go back to the basics, woo back members who have not yet turned up, hold weekly meetings, pray the Catena every day, carry out weekly duties; attend higher Council meetings to mention but a few.  Let us follow the system as laid down in the Legion of Mary Handbook at the same time observe the Standing Operating Procedures given by the Government through the Ministry of Health.

The first Senatus meeting to be held in the new year will be held on the 16th January, 2022, starting at 10.00am at Kiwummulo, Bunnamwaya. All Officers of councils affiliated to Senatus are reminded of their obligation to attend.

May Mother Mary Mediatrix of all graces pray for us.

We wish you a happy and blessed new year.

God bless you.

Announcement of the appointment of the Spiritual Director

Rev. Fr. Ronnie Mubiru, Spiritual Director Senatus of Uganda

Rev. Fr. Ronnie Mubiru, the former Assistant Spiritual Director of the Senatus of Uganda has been appointed the Spiritual Director of the same effective 29th November 2021. The announcement was made at the December Senatus meeting.

Rev. Fr. Ronnie Mubiru

Fr. Ronnie was appointed a Spiritual Director by the Uganda Episcopal Conference, the Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy in Uganda through the Lay Apostolate Commission.

The appointment comes after the death of Rev. Fr. Expedito Walakira on 18th May 2021. Fr. Expedito Walakira had been a Spiritual Director since 1993.

Rev. Fr. Ronnie Mubiru becomes the 10th Spiritual Director of the Senatus after Fr. Agostoni Tarcisio (1st), Bishop Joseph Mukwaya (Then Fr.), H.E Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala (then Fr.), Fr. Joseph Galdes, Fr. Caesar Mutyaba, Fr. Larry Kanyike, Fr. John Mary Bukenya, Fr. Vincent Kanyonza and the immediate past, Rev. Fr. Expedito Walakira.

As an Assistant Spiritual Director

Following the ill health of the then Spiritual Director, Rev. Fr. Expedito Walakira (RIP), Fr. Ronnie was appointed as his assistant in 2018 until 2021.