It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. However little or insignificant the first step may be compared to a thousand miles it is very essential if at all the journey is to be made. Thus, on November 18th, Panyangara Parish in Karamoja, Uganda, joyfully celebrated its 20 years of existence with appropriate ceremony and feasting
In a thanksgiving Mass led by the bishop of Kotido, Rt Rev. Giusseppe Filipi, the Christians gathered to thank God for the first but giant steps that were taken in the very beginning by the Mill Hill missionaries in setting up the parish setting it on a journey to make it what it is today.
Panyangara at the time was a mission station under Losilang parish. From its early beginnings with just two mission stations – Panyangara and Watakau – the parish has witnessed a steady growth in the number of mission areas and mission stations (now 7 mission stations). All along there was a steady increase not only in the number of Christians but also in their level of commitment and participation in pastoral activities. The many Jie people of Panyangara who used to be so distant from the church and distanced from the means of grace are now witnesses of the presence and work of God in their midst, a goal the first Mill Hill missionaries set out to accomplish.
Panyangara and indeed Karamoja is emerging from a history of hostility, insecurity, raids coupled with harsh climatic conditions. Insecurity, poverty, the outbreak of diseases/epidemics, difficult and unpredictable weather conditions and strong cultural practices are the conditions in which Mill Hill started up the parish and sailed through. Indeed twenty years is only a short time. But with grateful hearts we remember the wonders the Lord has done for Panyangara since its inception, especially through the powerful witness of the missionaries who have served in the parish and the Franciscan Sisters of St Joseph.
Although security has greatly improved over the years, the difficulties of Karamoja still remain and sometimes prove a challenge to the work of evangelization giving us more reason why we should be here and evermore close to the people. With the grace of God and the spirit and mission of Mill Hill we forge ahead and with hope believing that we can make it. It remains our hope and desire to reach out to the poor, to invite and lead people in their endeavor to know God and love Him. Hopefully the Christian experience shall be owned and become a voice from within the communities of Panyangara and not only an external push or influence from the missionary.
The tragic death of Fr Declan O’Toole mhm (†2002) was especially remembered. He paid the ultimate price by laying down his life for the people in search for justice and peace.
In his message, the bishop encouraged people to build lasting values and communities which listen to the Good News and are God-centered in order to be able to counter all difficulties and hardships.
To Love and to serve.
Ignatius Tanjua mhm