Many urged her to flee into exile after her husband was murdered in 1977 at the height of Idi Amin’s rule. She instead stayed behind and looked after her children as a single mother, giving hope to them when they thought all was lost.
“She was a hardworking, strong, resilient and down to earth woman. I admired her a lot. I know a lot of women are like that but you know the saying about the strength of a woman… is that I saw in her,” her daughter, Ms Phoebe Aber Luwum, told Daily Monitor in a telephone interview yesterday.
That is the life of Mary Luwum, the widow of former archbishop of Church of Uganda, Rwanda and Boga Zaire (DR Congo), Janani Luwum.
Born in 1926 at Bura Village, Mucwini Sub-county, Kitgum District, Mama Luwum succumbed to adrenal cancer (a cancer that begins in one or both of the small, adrenal glands) at International Hospital Kampala (IHK) at 3pm on Tuesday, where she had been admitted for some time. She was 93 years old at the time of her demise.
Not much is said about her childhood and parents. Ms Aber said she cannot remember the names of her grandparents.
Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, while announcing her death on Tuesday, described the deceased as a woman of virtue, who like her late husband, stood true to her faith.
“Mama Mary has been a faithful witness to her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ for many years. Like her husband, her testimony has inspired many and will live on. We commend her to her Lord and pray for their family and all who grieve her passing,” Archbishop Ntagali said is a statement on Tuesday.
He said Mama Luwum will be remembered as not being ashamed of the Gospel and that as she continued to battle the cancer, she never forgot her faith.
“She supported her husband’s decision not to flee Uganda when threatened by president Idi Amin. That decision ultimately led to his martyrdom on February 16, 1977. In the 42 years following her husband’s assassination, she continued to dedicate her life to preaching the Gospel and supporting the socio-economic growth of the Church of Uganda,” Archbishop Ntagali said.
The Church of Uganda’s recently dedicated Janani Luwum Church House commercial building on Kampala Road in Kampala named after her husband. They shared a common vision for a self-sustaining and spiritually vibrant church.
Ms Aber, the second last born in the family, described her late mother as a strong woman who gave them a sense of motherhood. She said her late mother’s strength and resilience made her to continue giving them hope even after the death of their father.
“I would say her strength and her resilience is what I admired most. We went through some hard times. For me, I was eight when my dad was killed, so basically, I have fewer memories of my dad as a father and more memories of my late mom as a mother and a father after the death of my father,” she said.
Ms Aber said despite her mother being a housewife, and not having a formal employment to derive a livelihood from, she ensured that her children had all what they needed.
“She was a housewife, she didn’t have any paying job so it was not easy for her to raise us singled-handedly. I remember how shocked she was when our father died, how she would cry at night, talk to herself, wondering how she would raise the children without their dad. But then as she cried, every day, we ate, we went to school, we had the things we needed,” Ms Aber said.
Her memorable time was when she reported to a boarding school with hand-knit clothes and bed sheets made by her late mother.
“I remember she took her own bed sheets and gave them to me. She cut one of these huge double bed sheets and made for me a nice pair of bed sheets. She made for me beautiful dresses by hand.”
“By the time she died, she still had her gardens of maize, okra and vegetables.”
Back home, the prime minister of Acholi Cultural Institution, Mr Ambrose Olaa, said Archbishop Luwum’s family means a lot to the people of Acholi and the Anglican Church.
“The testimonies of Mary Luwum have been very great to us who are still living. We mourn with the family and the Church. She will always be remembered,’’ Mr Olaa told Daily Monitor yesterday.
Ms Betty Aol Ocan, the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament, also the Gulu Woman MP, lauded Ms Luwum for the courage she exhibited and how she cared for the children when her husband was murdered.
“She will always be remembered for being strong, we celebrate the life she lived,’’ she told Daily Monitor in a telephone interview yesterday.
Kitgum Bishop Emeritus Macleord Baker Ochola, said the nation has lost a loving wife and a mother to all.
“She went through a lot with Archbishop Janani Luwum, but endured all the pain and even when the husband died, she kept the fire of Luwum’s family burning,” he said.
Emima Luwum is a retired teacher.
Ben Luwum is a certified accountant
Jollie Luwum Adriko. Works with Ministry of Lands
Irene Luwum Ocaya is a practicing nurse and lecturer in USA.
Florence Luwum (deceased)
Eric Luwum (deceased).
Phoebe Aber Luwum is an environmentalist.