by PETER GRACE
AUCKLAND — A change is as good as a rest for Ugandan priest Fr John Vianney Makanda, in St Mary’s parish, Papakura.
Fr Makanda told NZ Catholic that he was at St Mary’s on a two-year sabbatical from his diocese of Fort Portal in western Uganda. He was ordained in 1995, he said, and since then hadn’t had a break — hence the sabbatical.
He chose New Zealand, he said, for a couple of reasons. First, he had heard many people say New Zealand was a beautiful country. And, second, he was on the Internet one day searching out possible places to go, and the site for Auckland diocese popped up.
After an email exchange in 2010 with the office of the Bishop of Auckland, Bishop Patrick Dunn, his pastoral assistant, Msgr David Tonks, wrote and asked Fr Makanda that if he was to come, when would he like to come?
“And I said 2013.”
Fr Makanda arrived in New Zealand on April 20, so was only just starting to get to know the parish and the people when he talked to NZ Catholic on May 1.
“I am now working on my driving licence,” he said, being booked in to sit the theory test on May 14.
He had a licence in the past, but it had lapsed. And fortunately, Fr Makanda said, vehicles in Uganda also drove on the left.
Fr Makanda said his home diocese had a Catholic population of 800,000 and 98 priests, although some of those priests were serving outside the diocese.
After ordination, he served in a parish for two years, then was sent for further studies in North America. “I was trained in business management, because I was being prepared to come and serve as a financial administrator for the diocese.”
After that he worked in a parish again — although at the same time he worked as an internal auditor.
Then, in 2006, he was appointed diocesan chancellor, a role he performed while also chaplain to a local congregation of religious sisters.
Fr Makanda said he believed the biggest problem for the Ugandan Catholic Church was the activity of Pentecostal churches. Quite a few Catholics were moving to those churches, “which are mushrooming”, and taking young people especially.
Another problem is that people generally are poor, so are unable to give the Church much financial support.
By and large, Fr Makanda said, the Ugandan Church was self-sustaining — no longer needing much in the way of outside missionary support. There are five major seminaries, and vocations are sound.
“My diocese right now has 60 seminarians in the major seminary — so every year we ordain an average of four priests for my diocese.”
by PETER GRACE