An Interview with Father Jonathan Opio

by Gordon Nary


Gordon: When you received your vocation, with whom did you discus it and what was their advice?


Father Jonathan: At a very young age, that should be about 9 years, I felt within myself that I wanted to serve in a special way, just like the Priests within our Parish were doing. I admired how the Priests would calmly talk to the Parishioners, their availability to all, and how they loved little children; how they vested during Mass and their preaching!. This idea kept within me until when I was twelve; I approached our area Catechist and talked to him about my desire. I remember asking the catechist “how can I become a Priest?” The Catechist was so gracious to me, he explained in details ‘how to become a Priests’. From that encounter, the Catechist asked me every Sunday to take reading in the Chapel during Services. The catechist also took steps to introduce me to the Parish Priest, and that is when I was given an application form to apply for admission to the Minor Seminary. This marked the beginning of my journey to the Priesthood.


Gordon: Where did you attend seminary and what was your most challenging course and why?


Father Jonathan: Well, I started Seminary formation from St. Joseph’s Seminary Aboke (a Minor Seminary). Latin was one of the course units taught at the Seminary. We had a teacher who loved Latin so much that he seemed to want everyone to get it instantly. The zeal the teacher had for Latin, created some challenges to the learners, I inclusive. Each one was made to conjugate and do declension of Latin words. However, along the way we started to love it, and sometimes we would sing the declension. My study at Aboke was cut short, after the attacks by the Lord’s resistance rebels in 1993, where Aboke girls were abducted (Close neighboring School to Aboke Seminary), I left Aboke Seminary and proceeded to Apostles of Jesus Seminary Moroto, where I completed my minor Seminary; and later joint the Apostles of Jesus Philosophicum in Nairobi, Kenya. My second circle of formation at the Apostles of Jesus took three years, after which, I joined St. Paul’s National Major Seminary Kinyamasika for my Scholasticate for four years.


Gordon: What academic degrees do you hold and where did you earn them?


Father Jonathan: Apart from other certificates of Education, and Diplomas I have; I have earned Bachelors of Philosophy from Urbaniana University Rome; Bachelor of Theology, Urbaniana University Rome; Post Graduate Diploma in Theological and Pastoral Studies; Master of Religious and Theological Studies, Makerere University; Bachelor of Laws, Makerere University, Post graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, Law Development Center Uganda; and I am a candidate for Master of Laws in Oil and Gas, Uganda Christian University; and Master of Science in Public Health, Uganda Martyrs University. God willing, I would further my education to position myself well, to confront the forces of death from various angles.


Gordon: How did the paper Tenth Anniversary of Genocide: Y.C.S Experience in Rwanda inspire you?


Father Jonathan: Taking about this paper brings fresh memories about the encounter in Rwanda. The experience was very striking, you see the glaring evidence of hate, the harrowing tale of pain and fear. I did ask one of the four surviving men from Murambi village, what happened. His response was, “the devil was at work”


This experience taught me one important lesson, that we should always see the image of God in every one; and that all our action should carry a human face. The experience further inspired me to write the “Tenth Anniversary of Genocide: Young Christian Students (Y.C.S) Experience in Rwanda. This was a sharing so that other could appreciate the fact that we all need to love and care about our neighbours. Coming back from Rwanda, I started to reach out to Schools to share about the Rwandan experience so that the young people grow up with a positive attitude. This is when I learnt that many young girls from the Schools I visited were lured to visit Contraceptive and abortion Clinic created by Marie Stopes International; they were told the services were youth friendly. Little did they know they were being led into abortion Mills. This also changed by approach to the Students; I had to talk about the sanctity of human life, behaviours change and chastity etc. The paper “Tenth Anniversary of Genocide: Young Christian Students (Y.C.S) Experience in Rwanda, was very instrumental in shaping my pastoral approaches, and contributed greatly to my stance on issues of life and the family.


Gordon: Where was your first assignment as a priest and what were the challenges that you faced?


Father Jonathan: After my ordination on the 14/07/2007, I was assigned to Christ the King Parish Losilang, Kodito Diocese. Kotido is one of the Districts within Karamoja region; the indigenous people are cattle keepers, and others also get involved in cattle rustling. One of the breathtaking challenge was how to deal with warriors who walked lived and naked, and how to bring them to Church. Many of them did not appreciate certain civilized ways of doing things. Infact certain modern approaches such as formal education was associated with a source of bad luck. I could see what the first missionaries encountered when they arrived in Uganda. Secondly, due to cattle rustling, and the gun culture among the warriors, there was a lot of insecurity compounded with shootings along the roads. Many Priests and religious lost their lives in Karamoja over time, and it continued when I was first assigned to the Parish. One of the missionary Priests was killed on his way from the Parish to the Diocesan Headquarters. This was a real threat to Priestly ministry.


Gordon: What initially interested you in pro-life challenges and what have you done to address them?


Father Jonathan: My experience in Rwanda, and the encounter with the young people during pastoral visits shaped my interests in pro-life ministry, and the challenges I saw the young people going through as a result of deception from the abortion industry. I also had an encounter with pro-life challenges while I was a student in Nairobi; I used to attend the talks by Prof. Wanjohi, the then Country Director of HLI Kenya. He would share passionately the challenges in pro-life mission, but he was also very encouraging, and called upon each participant to do whatever little they could to address the challenges.


Secondly, my pastoral experience among the youth during visits to Schools called to mind - the talks I attended while I was student in Nairobi. I immediately wanted to address the lure of girls to contraception and to the illegal abortion clinics. But I needed more literature and information on the subject of Contraception and Abortion. I wrote to Prof. Wanjohi asking for materials so that I too could use such inspiring materials; (remembering how he used to talk to us) to address the challenges. Luckily, my mail was forwarded to HLI Country Director, Mr. Hagamu Emil, sitting in Dar es salaam. Through this coordination, I received the required materials from HLI central – which greatly boosted my pastoral ministry. Today, the challenges we experience are threats from International NGOs with deep pockets who promote all kinds of illicit conduct in the name of rights. Other challenges include the many calls to reach out to all parts of the country but without the required resources. We have always prayed about this with gratitude to Human Life International leadership, Fr. Shenan Boquet and his team, who do all they can to support the lifesaving mission in Uganda and other parts of World. We also pray for God’s protection, we often find ourselves standing as enemies of the forces of death.


Gordon: When were you appointed HLI Country Director in Uganda and what are your primary responsibilities?


Father Jonathan: I was appointed HLI Country Director in June 2010; my responsibilities include coordinate and undertake HLI mission activities in Uganda. I do trainings, advocacy and lobby those in position of power to protect and promote the pro-life course. I am also engaged in Policy and legal advocacy, including sensitization on Pro-life issues today. I give talks to various leaders; religious leaders, Political and civil leaders; talks in Seminaries, Universities and other institutions of learning. I have a very dedicated team and we have no regrets confronting the forces of death in our country. As a country and a people, we are fully aware that our needs are not abortion, contraception, the radical SexEd, the LGBT…whaterver name they call it, but our greatest needs are good roads, Good Health system, Security, good education system, drugs in hospitals clean water sources and we need our unborn children. Our people have no fear of children, born or unborn. Whatever is going on in almost all African Countries, be it promotion of abortion, gay agenda, contraception etc, are being imposed on our people by rich Western nations; they do it through corruption using tax Dollars; Pounds and Euros, done not in the human face.


Gordon: Thank you for a great interview.

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