by Gordon Nary
Gordon: When you received your vocation, with whom did you first discuss it and what was their advice?
Father Lawrence: I had always looked up to my father (RIP) for guidance. This necessitated my sharing with him my vocation at the time I felt it. It was in the year 1994 when I felt the call and ultimately, sharing it with my father. He was very impressed. Accordingly, he encouraged me to take on the call. I, immediately started the required process as demanded by the church. As early as 1998, I set foot on the seminary ground to begin the journey of my sprouting vocation which came to end in the year 2012.
Gordon: Where did you attend seminary and what was the most challenging course that you took, add why was it so challenging?
Father Lawrence: My seminary life started from Aboke minor seminary found within the diocese of Lira in Uganda. This took me six years after which I joined Katigondo National major seminary for another three years, studying philosophy. This led me to another level of the seminary formation; Kinyamasika National theological seminary, taking four years. This is also the last stage of seminary formation before ordination to priesthood. The most challenging course that troubled me was that of mathematics. All course units that were related to mathematics always gave me a challenge reasons being that from my early stages of studies, I was never grounded well in mathematics little knowing that this would pose a challenge to me throughout my studies.
Gordon: To what parish were you assigned, and what are some of the challenges of being a pastor in Uganda?
Father Lawrence: Parishes that I have been assigned to included; Aduku Catholic parish, Dokolo Parish, Bala Parish and the cathedral parish. I was also assigned to work in the minor seminary of the diocese as the vice Rector. From my experience, some of the challenges of being a pastor in Uganda includes; bad infrastructures like roads that make it very difficult to access outstations for apostolate besides the poor means of transport. Owing to the fact that my diocese is in the northern part of the country- Uganda, the most challenging thing here is insecurity that has diseased the region for almost 40 years. Hence, bringing in the aspect of poverty. It is very difficult to preach to a hungry man but the grace of God continues to work.
Gordon: What impact has the Covid-19 pandemic had upon your parish?
Father Lawrence: like in most of the places, Covid-19 has added another bite of poverty to already a struggling Christian community hence making them poorer and vulnerable. This has led to an increment in the number of school dropouts and criminal rate in the whole region.
Above all, as a result of Covid-19, a good number of Christians lost interest in prayer especially after the long period of lockdown and this has become increasingly difficult to bring them back to church.
Positively, Covid-19 has widened our pastoral approaches. Initially, we used to employ the only well-known approach of waiting for Christians to come to church and preach to them. With the continuous lockdown, we had to explore new strategies including streaming live masses online for our Christians to pray with us online.
Gordon: Approximately how many people are in your parish?
Father Lawrence: In my current parish where I am working, the number of Christians are approximately ten thousand (10,000) Christians in the parish. This number does not include those who are not Catholics.
Gordon: There is extreme poverty in many areas of Uganda, is poverty impacting some of your parishioners? If so, please provide some examples.
Father Lawrence: Like I said before, poverty is one of the greatest challenges in Uganda and especially in the northern part of the country where I stay. A greater number of my parishioners are poor and hardly afford three meals a day. Some of them wake up with no idea where their next meal will come from.
Furthermore, the church in Africa has been encouraged to be self-supporting. But, with this level of poverty, church projects can hardly progress because people who are supposed to furnish it are also poor, hence making it all hard.
Gordon: If God would grant you one wish, what would your wish be?
Father Lawrence: If God would grant me one wish, I would wish that the world should be ruled by the peace of Christ and people should live in love with one another. Am sure this would reduce on the suffering of humanity especially those in Ukraine and Russia.
Gordon: Thank you for a powerful interview.