Many times, we believe the power of the gospel and what it has done in our lives. Actually, even now, there is someone preaching the gospel at a church, home or even along the busy streets of Kampala. But when it comes to those that relentlessly deliver and interpret the gospel as their calling in our daily life, we tend to take them for granted or even for formality.
But to Fr Emmanuel Ssekamanya, a priest, change must prevail. Even when the subject to be discussed from the gospel does not rely on the youth or students, in his Mass and dialogue, Fr Ssekamanya is the man to speak about them.
As he opens his office at Kimannya Parish in Masaka on a hot Monday afternoon, against the white-painted wall hangs portraits of saints and art. He smiles ear-to-ear and is adorned in a modestly black cassock; a formal clothing for priests.
“Topics about the youth and students are dear to my heart,” he starts. “It is my now and my tomorrow. I have spent a lot of time finding answers to a lot of questions in this field. A healthy future, a healthy nation for our children and their children has always been my concern,” he shares.
Most of the time, he says, he advises students on the dangers of underage marriages, dropping out of school and joining groups that add no value to their future.
As a teen, he was encouraged by Sister Yvonne Nasamula of Kitovu Coventry although Rev Fr Damulira, Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga and Bishop Mathias Ssekamanya are the names that kept on pushing his passion.
“Personally, I grew up admiring clerical clothing. Their collar shirt, cassock and clerical waistcoat or rabat attracted me to priesthood. When I graduated, I realised that there was still more work to be done in God’s vineyard, so I decided to focus my teachings more on students and the youth,” a softly-spoken Ssekamanya, shares.
“Whenever I touch or are able to cause change in someone’s life, my heart is always relieved,” he adds.
The love, care and passion he executes while delivering mass, clearly shows why Ssekamanya is the controller of education and youth at Kimanya Parish, Masaka Diocese. Born to Mr Bernard Samula and Sarah Nakimbugwe, Ssekamanya, 33, says he is the only priest in a family of 10 children and was ordained in 2012.
His love for serving the community from the grassroot, academics and talent development dates back from his youthful days at Katigondo Seminary where he did pastoral work and was in-charge of liturgy. He was also in-charge of organising talent shows in the seminary. “At Katigondo Seminary (2004), it was multi-tasking that kept me motivated. I kept a good record because I was involved in community service,” he recollects. At 27, he started preaching the gospel and although he was criticised by some believers who thought he was too young, he has been able to walk the talk and claim himself a leading preacher of the gospel among the youth.
“It was challenging. I did not have the resources but somehow God always provides,” he says.
Fr Ssekamanya says as he contemplated how to reach Christians deep in the villages, a one Josephine Nalongo gave him a bicycle. He adds that because of this he was able to get his first calling to serve at Lwamagwa Parish where he served for four years.
When he was sent to Kimanya Parish by Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa of Masaka Diocese, he was appointed the deputy to the parish priest. Here, he also counsels the youth and those that seek his services in Masaka.
“As a leader, you have to give direction to the society, so I try to talk to people and listen to their problems and then give advice,” he says.
Among the channels through which he meets the youth and shares experience is through advocacy meetings of The Roots Association in Masaka. “We meet during holidays after the 5pm evening Mass and during this time they share their experience, problems, and whenever there is a need, we help one another,” he says.
Through the Roots Association, many youth have been able to champion a saving culture with the hope of creating a profitable project such as a savings society. However, because of proximity, Fr Ssekamanya says the association’s leadership is always changing as some members migrate to different places because of job transfer and other obligations.
Fr Ssekamanya has also been able to spearhead the formation of One Heart Foundation, a community charity organisation that mobilises resources (material and financial) to help develop health centres and schools around Greater Masaka.
With the help of Rev Fr Joseph Matovu, Ferdinand Tomo, and Victor Zintulatire, they have mobilised well-wishers to donate books, clothes, and other scholastic materials that could be sent to nearby schools to help needy students starting from May.
This month, they have also organised a motivational speech at Kimanya Parish as one of the projects that will help youth and students gain self-esteem. It’s also an initiative that will see them creating a networking team that will help students link with their future employers as a way of creating a platform for employment opportunities for them.
In December, they will also have an exhibition aimed at marketing talents among youth within Greater Masaka at Kimannya Parish. On this, Fr Ssekamanya says once someone realises his or her talent at a tender age, it gives him or her room to expose it and earn a living as they chase for other jobs to make ends meet.
“I am happy that through my calling, I have been able to touch many people’s lives and I hope that through me, many youth learn to serve and also impact the world,” he says.
“Topics about the youth and students are dear to my heart. It is my now and my tomorrow. I have spent a lot of time finding answers to a lot of questions in this field. A health future, a healthy nation for our children and their children has always been my concern.”
Fr Emmanuel Ssekamanya
What others say
I first met Fr Emmanuel Ssekamanya when he came to St Paul’s National Seminary, Kinyamasika, to do his theological studies as a seminarian from 2008-2012. I found him a simple, reliable, respectful and dutiful seminarian.
This has followed him in the Lord’s vineyard. When he was appointed to Lwamaggwa Parish, he served to his best. He never let down God’s people. More of the roads in this parish were impassable, especially when it rains but Emmanuel never complained.
Though he knew that those who preach the Gospel are sustained by Gospel (Mathew 10:10 and 1 Corinthians 9:13-14) he did not use that prerogative following in his footsteps of St Paul (1 Corinthians 9:15-18). He grew food both for home consumption and sale. He not only preached the Gospel but he was also an example to Christians that hard work pays.
In Kimanya Parish he has engaged the youth, bringing them nearer to Christ. He has been resilient and steadfast in proclaiming the gospel and carrying out his pastoral work to the satisfaction of all. His amiability, dutifulness, love and respect for everyone have endeared him to many.
Fr Lawrence Mudduse, lecturer and formator at St Paul’s National Seminary, Kinyamasika- Fort portal)
Personally, I regard Fr Emmanuel, as a go-getter and we are blessed to have him. He is hardworking and good at advising youth. Many times, moving with him has opened doors for me. He encouraged me to start up a popcorn business in Masaka, and today, I am seeing harvests. I have been with him for three years, but as a youth, I could say he has done everything for us here in his short tenure.
He has empowered us through introducing church music competition and sports which all help in talent development. He is very innovative, and all the time, he speaks his mind.
George William Ssentongo, youth leader, Mutuba sub-parish, also head of sports in Kimanya parish