PONTIFICIUM OPUS A SANCTA INFANTIA
DAUDI OKELO AND JILDO IRWA
Uganda’s Martyr Catechists
was born in a small village north east of Kitgum around 1920. His father
and mother were not Christians. He was the first of their children to
come into contact with missionaries who had arrived a short while
earlier in the area. He was baptised on 6 June 1916 and confirmed four
months later at the age of about 14.
Jildo was younger. He was born at Labongo Bar-Kitoba around 1906. He was
baptised when he was not quite 10 years old.
Daudi had a half brother who was a catechist and had died suddenly and he
offered to take his place. Jildo was chosen to accompany Daudi. The Paimol
region where they were to preach the Gospel was situated about 80 kilometres
from Kitgum and it was dangerous because of local rebels, warriors, and slave
“These two young catechists are a
shining example of fidelity to Christ, commitment to Christian living and
selfless dedication to the service of neighbour. With their hope firmly set on
God and with a deep faith in Jesus' promise to be with them always, they set out
to bring the Good News of salvation to their fellow countrymen, fully accepting
the difficulties and dangers that they knew awaited them. May their witness
serve to strengthen you as you seek to bear true Christian witness in every
aspect of your lives. Through their intercession may the Church be an ever more
effective instrument of goodness and peace in Africa and in the world. God bless
John Paul II to Ugandan visitors
21 October 2002)
At first all went well. But later the ousting of the local chief and
his followers provoked a war between the groups whose warriors and other
fanatics tried to incite the sides against the Catholic religion.
The executioners tried to convince the boys to return home to
their village. Daudi said he would not leave. He had been sent by the
Father. He was the first to die. Jildo said to them: “You tortured Daudi,
why do you let me live?” He was murdered too. This happened about 3 or 4
in the morning between the 18 and 20 of October 1918. Daudi was between
16 and 17 years old and Jildo was 12 or 13.
“My thoughts turn first of all to the two young catechists from Uganda,
Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa. These two courageous witnesses were no more
than boys when, with simplicity and faith, they shed their blood for
Christ and his Church. With youthful enthusiasm for their mission of
teaching the faith to their fellow countrymen, they set out in 1918 for
northern Uganda. It was there, as evangelization was just beginning in
that region, that they chose to embrace death rather than abandon the
area and forsake their duties as catechists. Truly, in their lives and
witness we can see that they were "beloved by God and chosen by him" (cf.
I Thes 1,4).
Daudi and Jildo are today raised to the glory of the altar. They are
given to the entire Christian community as examples of holiness and
virtue, and as models and intercessors for catechists throughout the
world, especially in those places where catechists still suffer for the
faith, sometimes facing social marginalization and even personal danger.
May the life and witness of these two dedicated servants of the Gospel
inspire many men and women - in Uganda, in Africa and elsewhere - to
answer with generosity the call to be a catechist, bringing knowledge of
Christ to others and strengthening the faith of those communities that
have recently received the Gospel of salvation.”
John Paul II on World Mission Sunday 20 October 2002)
“To accomplish the mission of promoting and protecting the rights of
children and guarantee their spiritual and material wellbeing has been
the objective of several organisms of the Catholic Church for centuries.
One of these bodies, the Pontifical Mission Society for Missionary
Childhood, has trodden this path for more than 150 years. With no
discrimination with regard to race, culture or religion, Missionary
Childhood members, including children and adolescents, share their bread
and their faith helping millions of children, providing them with food,
clothing, medical care, protection and education. The Society continues
to fund and support about 4000 projects in favour of the least fortunate
children of our planet.”
(Address by Archbishop Renato Martino, former Holy See Observer to
and now president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace).