District of East Africa
Holy Cross established a presence in East Africa in response to an invitation given through Propaganda Fide by Bishop Ogez of the Mbarara Diocese. The first group of Holy Cross priests to arrive was led by long-time missionary Rev. Vincent J. McCauley, C.S.C., who later became the first Bishop of Fort Portal Diocese and later a Servant of God. He was accompanied by Revs. Francis Zagorc, C.S.C., Burton Smith,C.S.C., and Robert Hesse, C.S.C. These four intrepid missionaries landed on Ugandan soil on November 4, 1958.
Holy Cross was entrusted with the northern part of the Mbarara Diocese that later evolved into the dioceses of Fort Portal, Hoima and Kasese. The first Holy Cross priests were joined within a year by three Holy Cross brothers – John Harrington, C.S.C., Christian Stinnet, C.S.C., and Cyrinus Martin, C.S.C. – who worked in schools such as Saint Augustine’s Teachers’ College Butiiti, Saint Mary’s Minor Seminary and Saint Leo’s College Kyegobe.
In the 1960s and the 1970s, successive generations of Holy Cross religious worked creatively to establish the local Church, taking into account the language and culture, as well as the need for basic evangelization and educational and social development. The political pressures and threats to the missionaries’ lives in the difficult 1970s challenged Holy Cross to rethink its mission priorities. The need to root Holy Cross in Africa prevailed and three important decisions were made in the following years: First, to begin a presence in Nairobi, Kenya; second, to start accepting local vocations; and third, to have the Holy Cross brothers and priests provinces in East Africa unify into one District of East Africa to work together administratively. This positioned the Congregation to meet the varied and emerging challenges in the region.
The mission of the District spans three countries – Kenya, Uganda and since 2000, Tanzania. In all three countries, Holy Cross helps to bring Christ’s message of love and hope and directs efforts at breaking structures that demean human dignity.
In Kenya, the District’s mission centers on Holy Cross Parish in Dandora, which includes the St. James Nursery and Primary School, the Brother André Dispensary and a variety of youth programs. The professed formation program, also in Nairobi, is temporarily housed on the Consalata Property after the government demolished the McCauley House of Formation.
In Jinja, Uganda, the District runs Holy Cross Parish in Bugembe, which includes St. Andrew, Holy Cross and St. Jude primary schools. It also runs Holy Cross Lake View Senior Secondary School, which has been recognized nationally for its academic excellence. Jinja is also the home to the André Formation House, named after two Saints: Andrea Kagwa, the Uganda martyr, and Holy Cross’ own André Bessette. In Kyarusozi, Uganda, the Diocese of Fort Portal, where Fr. McCauley was the first Bishop, Holy Cross administers St. Jude Tadeo Parish, which sponsors St. Joseph’s Hill Senior Secondary School and the Kyarusozi Vocational Training School. The Novitiate is also located on picturesque Lake Saaka in Fort Portal.
In Tanzania, the Holy Cross mission centers on St. Brendan Parish in Kitete, which runs a clinic and the Audrey Veldman Vocational Training Centre.
Alongside the missionary priests and brothers, there are several indigenous Holy Cross priests and brothers. There are more than 70 young men at different levels of formation. From the first four missionaries in 1958 to the most recently professed East African religious, evangelization through the development of parishes and schools in mostly low-income areas has been central to our mission in East Africa. Holy Cross religious in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania build on this firm foundation. Though the settings of the ministries are diverse – large and small, rural and urban, with different ethnic groups served – certain characteristics remain constant: a special concern for the poor, a commitment to education and a closeness to the laity that forms and empowers them to be church.
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