At 90, Msgr Kyabukasa still trains priests

Saturday February 8 2020

Speaking out.  Monsignor Henry Kyabukasa .

Speaking out. Monsignor Henry Kyabukasa . PHOTO BY MICHAEL J SSALI 


Monsignor Henry Kyabukasa, the young brother of Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala, has spent nearly all his life training priests at Bukalasa Minor Seminary in Masaka Diocese.
At 90 years, Msgr Kyabukasa walks with difficulty because of a painful leg that now confines him to his residence.
But Msgr Kyabukasa has chosen to live positively with his physical disability.
He only says: “The bones in the legs have become so old. It is quite painful to walk.”
To gain some relief, Msgr Kyabukasa regularly sees a doctor at the nearby Villa Maria Hospital.
But Msgr Kyabukasa, who has been teaching English, History, and Latin, still coaches seminarians for Advanced Level Latin examinations.
He keenly remembers the various incidences that he has drifted through in his long life. He recalls his early childhood with his parents; Cosma Kyamera and Teresa Namayanja, at Kamaggwa Village, Lwankoni Sub-county, Kyotera District.
Msgr Kyabukasa also reminiscences about his infant and primary school days, priestly training, student’s days at Makerere University and at Exeter College, University of Oxford, and his long teaching career at Holy Family Seminary Bukalasa in Luweero.
Born in 1929, Kyabukasa was taken to attend school at Kalisizo where he learnt reading before the school was burnt down by an arsonist.
Kyabukasa was later taken to Manyama Vernacular School that he attended up to Primary Three.
“All the teaching was conducted in Luganda. Even our teachers did not know English although they had been trained as teachers,” Msgr Kyabukasa explains.
“But taking our lessons in Luganda gave us the opportunity to master its writing and grammar,” he adds with pride.

Priestly journey
A Catholic priest, Fr John Kasozi, from Bikira Parish used to visit Manyama Vernacular School to say Mass and one day little Kyabukasa whispered to him that he wanted to become a priest. Fr Kasozi then advised him to relocate to Kabwoko Primary School, on the premises of Kabwoko Parish.
Here, Kyabukasa was to be better observed and monitored by the Fathers at the parish.
His parents then moved him to Kabwoko Primary School where he did his Primary Four class.
“It meant riding a bicycle or sometimes walking from Kamaggwa through Kyango to Kabwoko and then back, every day. But since I used to walk with other boys, it never was an issue to worry about,” he says.
In 1944, Kyabukasa was admitted to Holy Family Seminary Bukalasa to start his priestly training.
“It is at the seminary and in Primary Five that we were introduced to the English language,” he says.
“It was taught to us by an English man, Fr John Robinson, and an English woman who resided at Bwanda Convent and would drive to the seminary every day. They were perfectionists who insisted on the correct English pronunciation, diction, syntax and grammar. They also made sure we read a lot of books,” he remembers.
“We also had to learn Latin and other subjects normally taught in schools. The challenge was that only after about four months of admission at the seminary; the regulations were that English was to be used by everybody at the school. So after Easter, we went for a retreat at Kasabbaale just a few kilometers from here and when we returned, we were all speaking English.”
Kyabukasa says the training at Bukalasa was tough and student discipline was strict and those unable to cope were advised to leave.
He says those who could not cope left on their own.
“Many of the people who left have turned out quite exemplary Christians and men of strong influence.”
One of his schoolmates at Bukalasa who did not go on to become a priest was former Bank of Uganda governor Joseph Mubiru.
At Bukalasa, the seminarians undertook the Junior Secondary and Senior Secondary classes, and sat the Cambridge School Certificate Exams before joining St Thomas of Aquinas Major Seminary, Katigondo, for more eight years of priestly training.
In 1951, Kyabukasa together with five other seminarians joined Katigondo Major Seminary.
The other four included Joseph Mubiru, Peter Musomero, Charles Mukasa, Chrisanto Ssamula, and Victor Kyeyune.
Four other seminarians from Kitabi Minor Seminary in Bushenyi joined at Katigondo.
They included John Kakubi, Hilary Tibanyendera, Vincent Kanyonza and one other he recalls as only Michael.

What others say
Fr Edward Ssekabanja, now Chancellor of Masaka Diocese and one of the former seminarians at Bukalasa, says: “Monsignor Kyabukasa was quite devoted to his work and we all remember him for his strictness on punctuality and seminarians doing the right things and correctly all the time. He was an example to us. He taught us English and Latin and he always emphasised to us the importance of reading.”
Fr Anthony Kakumba, a fellow priest in Masaka Diocese, says: “Monsignor Kyabukasa is one that would be describe as saintly. There are extremely few priests nowadays like him. He is also a perfectionist. His spoken English is impeccable and I have to be very careful about my pronunciation and grammar when speaking to him.”

The old, the new and Internet
Mentorship. In his long career at Bukalasa, Msgr Kyabukasa has mentored hundreds of priests, with current Bishop of Masaka Diocese Serverus Jumba as one of his former students.
But Msgr Kyabukasa is a little disappointed by the declining interest in reading among the current crop of boys joining the seminary.
“It is a struggle to get them read as much as they should, yet we have lots of books in the library.”
Internet. Msgr Kyabukasa also says the arrival of the Internet has not helped matters.
“When one has to depend on information from the Internet, such a person cannot underline any sentences or make personal notes as is normally done by somebody using a book,” he argues as he draws out a text book from one of the shelves in his office.
“Look at this chit carrying my personal notes stashed in here, see the underlined sentences. Now where does someone using a computer do this?” Although Msgr Kyabukasa has a computer in his office, it is not connected to the Internet.
“I use it to type some letters, but I save the letters on a flash disk and take it to a brother priest around here who emails them.”
Recruitment. Msgr Kyabukasa is also disappointed by the recruitment of boys for the seminary.
“In the past, there was a lot of caution and much enquiry had to be made about a young man wishing to enter the seminary. Care had to be taken to find out the family background of every boy which is no longer commonly done nowadays.”
Communication. Msgr Kyabukasa has a mobile phone whose number is known to only very few people. He says the phone is kept on his desk most of the time and it is mainly used to communicate with his elder brother, Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala.
“Yes, we do communicate often. He knows when my phone is likely to be on and I know the best time to call him,” he says.

Fr Kyabukasa was ordained priest in 1959 and served at Nkoni Parish in Masaka Diocese for about four months before Bishop Joseph Kiwanuka sent him and Fr Peter Musomero for a Diploma in Education at Makerere University, Kampala. They resided at Northcote Hall, then under Hugh Denwidy as hall warden. Fr Kyabukasa says Bishop Kiwanuka would often visit to encourage them.
The course took two years as Fr Kyabukasa studied English, History and Mathematics.
“I did not really enjoy teaching Mathematics, but since we had to do three subjects, I had to take it as my third subject,” he says.
Fr Kyabukasa remembers John A. Bright as one of his best tutors at the university.
In 1962, Fr Kyabukasa was posted to St Henry’s College Kitovu where his elder brother, late Bro Aidan Michael Mulabannaku, of the Brothers of Christian Instruction, was also teaching. Br Mulabannaku was to become the first African head teacher at Kitovu in 1964.
In 1963, Fr Kyabukasa was appointed teacher at The Holy Family Seminary Bukalasa where he has been for the rest of his life.
The only interruption came between 1963 and 1967 where he studied for a degree in English and History at the University of Oxford, UK.
“At Oxford, I was at Exeter College, and quite surprising, I still receive a copy of the periodical Exeter Magazine, which is an entitlement to all former students.” Msgr Kyabukasa proudly displays a recent copy of the magazine, designed to keep former students abreast with events and new developments at the university.