Archbishop Wokorach: 2024 Martyrs’ Day Main celebrant

The Archbishop-elect of Gulu Ecclesiastical Province, Raphael Wokorach, celebrates Palm Sunday with Christians in March 2024. PHOTO/PATRICK OKABA

What you need to know:

  • Wokorach grew up as a humble boy who regularly prayed for his spiritual growth in Arua District. 

An amiable man of God and Comboni missionary is set to preside over the Uganda Martyrs Day Mass at Namugongo on June 3.

That man, who cannot be ignored, is Raphael p’Mony Wokorach. His zeal and astute leadership has lifted him up from being a priest to a bishop and now Archbishop-elect of Gulu Ecclesiastical Province, all within a short time. 

The former Bishop of Nebbi Catholic Diocese spent most of his priestly life trekking the jungles of war-torn DR Congo and other African countries for years.  

He lived among the poor and offered love and hope for peace to return to their homes and also preached the Gospel that transformed the lives of millions of people across the globe. 

Wokorach too, in childhood, lived among the poor and grew up in a mud-wattle and grass thatched house. 

Born on January 21, 1961, in Ragem village in Ewuata in Arua District, Wokorach grew up as a humble boy who regularly prayed for his spiritual growth at St Mary Assumpta Ragem, Arua Diocese. 

His family also helped nurture him spiritually till he completed his primary education and joined St Peter and Paul Pokea Minor Seminary to achieve his dream of becoming a priest. 

March 31, 2021, was the day the Apostolic Nunciature announced his appointment as the new bishop of Nebbi Catholic Diocese. 
Martyrs Day preparations
This is the second time that Nebbi Catholic Diocese is animating the annual Uganda Martyrs Day celebrations at Namugongo on June 3. The first was in 2007. 

The leadership of Archbishop-elect Wokorach comes in handy, and at a time he is to preside over the Namugongo Martyrs Day celebrations, and later, his own installation as Archbishop of Gulu Ecclesiastical Province on July 12. He will then head he will head Dioceses of Gulu, Arua, Nebbi, and Lira (GANAL). 
“Our preparation is not any other celebration but a spiritual journey, a pilgrimage we are making. You know, sentiments come with high expectations. They come with so many visions and those need to be guided. But I took all those opportunities to serve them, to give them direction,” he said. 
When the Uganda Episcopal Conference announced the news in August 2023, the Christians received it with jubilation. 
“Some people said why are you launching it so early? Those questions came; ‘will people not get tired at the end of it?’” 
“In my heart, I was also saying well, we move with the spirit. But we should do and refine the things without much pressure because some suggested why not launch it in January or February 2024. So, I thought starting it at that time would put us under too much pressure.” 

Heroic life
He said celebrating the Uganda Martyrs Day is an honour to their heroic life as Christians. 
“We honour their faith and it is my wish that we go and celebrate their faith, not anything else. This will impact us and we take the process to the journey of faith,” he said. 
“In fact, even now, we are moving to the Deaneries, we came from one Deanery –Ullepi – to talk about the theme. It is like the day of recollection with the whole Denary. This has been the second one. Tomorrow, we shall have another and so forth. People should be prepared like that. Yes, we also need other preparations materially whatever it is but the most fundamental I think is the spiritual and we want to take that value.”
The making of an Archbishop
“I am the fourth of 11 children. I learnt how to say prayers, learnt to say sorry and we worked together as children. Ours was like a school because it was a big family, especially in a rural area. So, I learnt how to live with people, trying to help others because they would call us for food and we would all gather for it. This helped me a lot,” he said during an interview recently. 
“I started my journey to join priesthood when I was an altar boy and there was a Comboni Priest, John Troy, who was very eloquent in the local language. He preached about eternal life. In my mind, it was like priests don’t die. So, it attracted me to join the seminary. So, the initial trigger was shallow but in seminary my thinking deepened and I got inspired by the good examples of the work of the Comboni missionaries in our area,” he added. 
Archbishop Wokorach said people needed to be guided in their choices. 
“Since my ordination as a priest 28 years ago, I was never given the chance to work in Uganda. So, I am coming back as a bishop and it is like Abraham who went to a place he didn’t know; like Mother Mary, who accepted the task in a surprise. And wherever I worked like in DR Congo, Togo, Kenya, USA, and Rome, there were a lot of challenges of security, poverty with sadness in the face of people. This built my conviction,” he said. 

Wokorach was nicknamed the Ninja by his fellow priests and seminarians because he could push them to do work and succeed in life. Whenever he is riding his bicycle, the friends could call and say; Ninja is passing. 
“I enjoy the company of large communities,” he said.

Facts on Nebbi Catholic Diocese

•  Number of Catholics - 528,178
• Parishes- 20
• Diocesan priests -  69
• Catechists- 997
• Major seminarians- 41
• Minor seminarians- 20
Source: Nebbi Catholic diocese as at 2021