Wednesday, April 3, 2024
It does not tell it all. This is just a brief of some remarkable moments and people who have marked my journey of faith, vocation, religious life and priesthood. This is my recognition that in everything that made me who I am today God uniquely prepared me to fulfil his purpose by his grace. I was born on July 29, 1961 and as I rewrite this brief story, it is a summary of my almost 63 years of life. A gift I have received from God and for which I am very grateful.

For I am the least of the Apostles and I am not really fit to be called an apostle…
but what I am now, I am through the grace of God, and the grace which was given to me has not been wasted
.”
(1 Cor 15: 9-10)

I am the 1st born of eight children, five girls and three boys of whom I am the only one who joined religious life and priesthood. The rest are happily married, with their families. The youth movements especially the Exaverian movement that instilled in me the liking, the gusto and desire for things of God. My home parish priests and Christians for the foundation they laid in my life.

A few weeks ago as I sat somewhere in quiet settled mood I decided to make a review of my personal journey of life, and vocation as a consecrated religious priest in the Institute of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus.

I made my 1st Religious profession on April 28, 1990 and this year 2024 it will be 34 years of religious consecrated life. I entered religious life happily and despite experiencing moments of unworthiness and sometimes lukewarm, the good and loving Lord has sustained me with that peace of mind and heart above all with the joy of being a consecrated religious priest.

I have come to realize and continue discovering that this precious gift of consecrated life and priesthood, I carry it in an earthenware jar. I embraced the evangelical counsels of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience with total freedom, awareness and desire to grow in perfection. I voluntarily assumed and embraced them as a path that would lead me to growth in inner freedom to entirely be at the service of the Lord in his mission.

But no sooner, had I professed, did I also realize that religious life cannot be sustained faithfully without that strong bond and union with God in prayer and ministry.

Looking back now at how I have lived this gift of vocation to religious consecrated life between April 1990 and October 23, 1993 when I made my final commitment, I can gratefully say that it has been really a grace filled moment of peace, joy and fulfilment in the Lord. Let Him be Praised!! It has been a beautiful moment that despite my personal limitations, flows and weaknesses, I grew into a better trust in the wisdom of God, close to me making me understand what consecrated life meant for me. I can easily affirm that with the profession of evangelical counsels, as a consecrated person I derived more abundant graces from God: “With the One who gives me strength, there is nothing I cannot master” (Phil 4:13).

A journey of protracted years of Discernment

My consecrated life, vocation and faith journey has been graced by structures, people, companions, friends, Christians in various missions where I have ministered to as a missionary religious priest, as an administrator of the circumscription of Uganda and as a disciple under the good and faithful guidance of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

The communities have been for me a home, a family, a gift and a source of growth both in mission, ministry of formation and administration with a particular social cultural and ecclesial context.

These have been great moments in my life as I name and recall the various steps that have formed me:

Formation Journey and Missons:

St. Paul’s diocesan minor seminary: 1979-1985
Alokolum/Katigondo Major seminaries: 1985-1988
Novitiate Mbuya Kampala: 1988-1990
St. Rose of Lima Scholasticate Peru: 1990-1994
First Missionary Assignment Ethiopia: 1994-2006
Addis Ababa Awasa diocesan major seminary: 1994-1995
Qillenso Mission: for Guji language study: 1995
Harowato Mission Curate & Parish Priest: 1995-2001
London Province St. Anselm formation course: 2000
Addis Ababa Comboni missionaries Postulancy: 2001-2006
Pretoria South Africa Ongoing formation: 2006-2007
Layibi Comboni Brothers Postulancy: 2007-2009
Mbuya –Kampala Provincial administration: 2009-2016
Namugongo Comboni Novitiate: 2017-2020
Uganda Martyrs Scholasticate Nairobi: 2020 - …

Each of these places is a detail in my life journey. It implies people with whom I shared life experience. People who made me grow into the person that I am today. These are peo-ple who gave their best to me and I tried also to give them especially who I am as a person.

The lord has been and is still keeping his protective hand upon me and I am grateful. I can confidently say that I found communities integrated into the life of the Holy People of God for the good of all.

This has been the most gratuitous love of God for me.

I love the Church because it has given birth to me, embraced me as its son in consecrated religious life.

I ask the Lord to help me always grow in love with the Church, to cherish and seek its good as a religious consecrated person for she is my mother.

My wish and desire is that God may create in me that awareness that as a religious priest may aim to bear evangelical fruits only within the Church in that loving communion with the faithful people of God.

The challenges met, experienced, pains lived and regrets in my own life due to lack of prudence: Challenge of constant fidelity to the evangelical councils.

While I have been able to remain moderate in living my vowed life of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience, I have not been immune to the temptations of affluence. The most painful experience of allowing oneself to compromise the values I strongly believed in, giving in to the whims of the flesh, passions for the world that innate gratification, forfeiting my status as a vowed person.

In these last 30 years of my priesthood (June 26, 1994 -June 26, 2024) there have been occasions whereby the call to fidelity to God over unhealthy friendships took precedence. These have not been so easy moments for me. I have come to realize that I carry a treasure in earthenware vessels. “But we hold this treasure in pots of earthenware, so that the immensity of the power is God‟s and not our own” (2 Cor 4: 7).

But I am at peace with my circumstance because I do not rest my hope on anything else other than God and Jesus Christ.

Fr. Sylvester Hategek’Imana,
Comboni missionary from Uganda