(2012) It all began with an innocent question in a telephone conversation between Fr. Emmanuel Katabaazi, coordinator of Catholic Health Care for the Diocese of Masaka Uganda and Fr. Ron Sajdak. “Where do your twenty-nine clinics and two hospitals purchase your equipment and medicines?” Surprisingly, the answer wasn’t the name of a local distributor but the JMS: 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: “wouldn’t it be more convenient 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 ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa ministry discerned then committed their involvement.
The first order of business was getting permission for and enabling Fr. Emmanuel Katabaazi to fly from Uganda to Buffalo to participate in the 2010 Diocesan Missionary Cooperative. Each year the Diocese of Buffalo receives approximately two hundred letters of request to be considered and chosen for the annual spring/summer Mission Cooperative. Of these many applications, fifty 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 Fr. Emmanuel received permission from his bishop to be in the USA for about one month, plans were made for his arrival. Though there were some scheduling difficulties, it worked out that in 2010 Fr. Emmanuel had the opportunity to speak at Immaculate Conception Parish in East Aurora, Good Shepherd Parish in Pendleton, and Sts. 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: Reaching Out 2 Africa 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, Sts. Columba Brigid in Buffalo and Blessed John XXIII in West Seneca were added to the project funds.
On Friday, May 18th 2012 in the early morning the skies above looked heavy with rain clouds prompting Deacon Matt 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 Medical Store location in which Mass would be offered. Soon Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa, Bishop 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, blessing and dedication of the new medical store building.
Fr. Ron Sajdak, Director of the ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa Ministry cut the ribbon to open the facility and the gathered assembly walked through the building inspecting the most 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. Following the music was a host of speeches given by all who were gathered, witnessing to the generosity of the people of the Church in Buffalo and the partnership with the Church of the Diocese of Masaka, Uganda through ROTA: Reaching Out 2 Africa. This most excellent event was 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, Diocese of Masaka, is but one of the many success stories of our Mission Church’s efforts around the world.