While Fr John Baptist Bashobora carries a reputation for miraculous healings and philanthropy, he shies away from media interviews.
He is scheduled to lead a retreat of more than 40,000 people in War Saw National Stadium in Poland next week. “His preaching and healing prayers have attracted followers from all faiths,” Alex Kibirige, a representative of the marriage ministry at Parish Service Team of charismatic at Uganda Martyrs Church in Mbarara District, says.
Fr Bashobora heads the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Mbarara Archdiocese, where he has become renowned for extra ordinary acts such as miracle crusades.
Ailed people who have attended the crusades have been fully healed of their infirmities. Besides that, the cleric has extended a hand of compassion to sponsor students’ education.
In a world where human affliction is endless, especially caused by disease and mortality, the tales that abound about Fr Bashobora create a mysterious air around the man.
They take the form of a sense of wonderment at how his prayers manage to loosen the healing graces from above and deliver ailing people from their bondages below, even when other people can pray to God too.
The fact that he refuses to talk to the press, therefore, only compounds this sense of mystery, even the more. His handlers, employees and associates say the cleric believes that such publicity would be misconstrued as showing off. “He does not like to publicise his life story. He says he is just doing the work of God,” says Dr Godfrey Mugyenyi Rwambuka, one of the managers of his several projects in the archdiocese. “He said he should be written about after he has died. He has turned down all press interviews,” Dr Rwambuka adds.
The archdiocese social and communications officer, Sr Jeremina Keneema, last week said Fr Bashobora was the only qualified person to tell his life story. However, his relatives, friends and beneficiaries gift speak out. Those who have benefitted from his healing speak with a gripping conviction that his prayers deliver miracles.
The Catholic priest’s assignment as the head of charismatic renewal in the archdiocese springs from his gift of preaching, healing and commitment to serve the vulnerable.
This is where his persona wells into the mysterious.
Mr Kibirigye never misses Fr Bashobora’s crusades, especially the one at Yesu Ahurire Karama, which takes place every year in January. The week-long praising and praying crusade at the seat of the Charismatic Renewal attracts many people.
“People believe that what he prays for happens. He has healed the sick and prayed for the barren that have produced. That is why he has a following of the rich and the poor,” Mr Kibirige says.
Mr Kibirige says he was healed by the priest’s prayers. He says he had chronic backache that had tormented him for a week in 2009. But when he attended one of the priest’s crusades in Nyamitobora, Kakoba Division, Kibirige says he was prayed for and the rest is history. “When he was praying, he said, ‘there are people being troubled by backache, you are healed. There are women who are barren and have been looking for babies, you will produce’, Mr Kibirige says.
“Those women were there, five raised their arms. When I went back home, the next day I did not have any backache. From then, I believed in his prayers,” he adds.
Mr Nkwatagye Benon of Kishami Ruhaama County, says: “A daughter of my relative was battling with goiter for over 10 years. We took her for prayer to Father Bashobora at Yesu Ahureire Karama. The thing that had expanded on the neck ceased to exist and the girl is living now.”
According to supporters, Fr Bashobora’s mobilises funds locally and from foreign donors to support the needy. He has established a babies home, secondary and primary schools, hospitals and technical schools across the region.
“He does not support only the Catholics but any person who is vulnerable. In some cases, he supports established schools by building them classrooms and asks them to take care of a certain number of poor students until they finish school,” Mr Otushabire Tibyangye, a journalist, who was taught by the cleric.
Mr Frank Katubeho, a graduate from Makerere University and beneficiary of Fr Bashobora, says he has changed the face of Catholic Church. “He reinforced the charismatic movement in the Catholic Church at a time when it was being resisted. But when the church leadership saw the benefits, he was allowed and his way of doing things was accepted,” Mr Katubeho says.
While in Senior Three at Sacred Heart Mushanga in Sheema District, Mr Katubeho was picked by Fr Bashobora who paid his school fees and other necessities until he finished his university education.
He is now a programme facilitator with Compassion International.
In a world where spiritual abilities to deliver healing have been assumed by miracle merchants who sell their gifts, real or fake, to the highest bidder, the mystery about how Fr Bashobora manages to deliver his miracle laden prayers is likely to still hold, especially now that he refuses to speak openly about it.
His followers only attribute it to Supreme being. “I don’t know where he gets the healing powers from. I believe it is the Holy Spirit that works through him,” Mr Kibirige says.
“He was the youngest priest in the archdiocese. At Kitabi he taught us RE (Religious Education) in Senior Three and Senior Four. Before he came, there was a gap between students and priests. He, however, would come to class, listen to students’ views,” says Mr Tibyangye,
Fr Bashobora discouraged chasing away of students from school over alleged or proven misconduct. “Chasing a student in a seminary is not a big deal. Even if they suspect that you went out of the school, they can chase you. He discouraged that practice,” Mr Otushabire says.
In 1977, he is said to have saved a student, the son of the Internal Affairs minister in the Obote I government, Basil Bataringaya, from being killed by President Idi Amin’s government agents.
The school administrators had learnt that Kenneth Bataringaya was wanted. They closed the school and sent all students home on the pretext that it did not have food and water.
“The night we left, Fr Bashobora kept the boy at school with a few friends. The following day, he drove him to Kampala and hid him. When Amin agents arrived at the school they found it closed and were told the reasons,” Tibyangye says.
Who is Fr Bashobora?
The cleric is said to have been born in Bushenyi, District on December 5, 1946, to Matyansi Mabara and Veronica Kangobe. He grew up as an orphan because his father died when he was two years old. He was taken to his paternal uncle, Sypriano Waruhitsi, where he was raised under the close supervision of his sister Purikiseda Bakanyihaho.
It is said Fr Bashobora did not know that Waruhitsi was not his father until later in life. He studied at Kitabi Seminary, the only school around at that time.
“He was a very disciplined child. He never used to indulge in bad behaviour, like drinking alcohol and smoking,” Ms Bakanyihaho says in an interview she gave to the Orumuri, newspaper, on June 3, 2013.
After school, Fr Bashobora would walk home without loitering anywhere. He would get busy with household chores and would wake up early to arrive at school in time. He liked school and church. He would at times lead prayers at home,” she says.
His classmates say he was a very brilliant student, which sometimes earned him envy from people.
At Kitabi, he chose priesthood. His relatives had discouraged him on the grounds that it was a tough calling that required a lot of dedication.
“Some people fail to live up to this calling,” his relatives are said to have argued. They later endorsed his choice because he had proved a very disciplined character in his childhood.
Fr Bashobora then went to Katigondo Seminary where he studied a degree in theology and laterwent to Gaba National Seminary to study philosophy.
In 1972, he was ordained a priest at the age of 27 and was deployed at Kitabi.
Additional reporting by by Paul Aruho & Perez Rumanzi.