PONTIFICIUM OPUS A SANCTA INFANTIA
DAUDI OKELO AND JILDO IRWA
Uganda’s Martyr Catechists
|Daudi 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 hunters.
“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 Uganda.”
(Pope 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.”
(Pope 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 the UN
and now president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace).