WHO TOUCHED ME? (An Article by Father Lagoro from Gulu, Uganda)
By Rev. Fr. Matthew Okun-Lagoro
I am a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Gulu in Northern Uganda. My name is Fr. Matthew Okun-Lagoro. Since September 2014 I minister to the nuns of the congregation of the Little Sisters of Mary Immaculate of Gulu in Northern Uganda. I am also Chairman of the Association of Diocesan priests in Uganda (UNDIPA) since 2010.
Like the woman in the gospel of Mark who touched Jesus and got healed from her infirmity, I was also touched by Jesus who made me a priest. I also believe that every one of us has at one time or other touched someone in the name of God or in the name of humanity and healed them.
On Saturday 6th February 2016 I was presiding over the Holy Mass to mark the graduation party of Dr. Grace Atim (not real name) in a village called mon bunyu, literally meaning, women are smiling.
Dr. Atim, a woman of integrity, today has a cause to smile because, as a former abductee of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), God’s hand touched her. On the 10th of October 1996, the day after the 36th anniversary of Uganda’s independence she was abducted from her school in Northern Uganda called St. Mary’s College Aboke. She was among 110 girls who were abducted.
Upon the intervention of the head teacher of the College, Rev. Sr. Rachele, a Comboni Missionary nun, eighty girls (80) were released by the rebels but Atim was not lucky together with her other 29 companions. They were taken into captivity by the LRA to South Sudan for 8 years and served as child soldiers and “wives” of the top commander of the group.
As she narrates, Atim, now in her mid-twenties, escaped from the LRA during a skirmish with the Uganda Army (UPDF) in which her “husband” was killed. Together, with her baby son strapped on her back, she handed herself over to the military after two days of trekking in the wilderness. The military kept her in their camp for a couple of weeks and then handed her over to the Catholic Church at a charity reception center for rehabilitation, counseling and reintegration with her family.
To cut the long story short, Dr. Atim graduated from Kampala International University on the 5th of December 2015 as a Surgeon. In her testimonies she recounts that her eight years in captivity in South Sudan in the hands of the rebels and her post-captivity recovery is a journey of great love and protection of God and also of great faith, vision, determination and resilience on her part and the many hands of benevolent persons who touched her life and accompanied her to shake off the shame and hardship of the past and ushered in her life the joy and glory of today as a medical officer.
Dr. Atim who is currently going through her training as an intern doctors in Gulu Regional Referral Hospital is convinced that God wants her to make her new found status to bring smiles and confidence in the life of her former abductees who in general are stigmatized by society because of their past experience with the LRA.
I am gratefully privileged to have met Dr. Atim through her parents who brought her to me because I am a priest. They requested me to journey with her spiritually, counsel her and find for her a connection for a scholarship.
Today as I write this small article I am convinced that God again touched my heart to say yes to the parents of Atim because throughout these years of journeying with Atim all door of philanthropists persons opened to our requests for scholarship support for her.
I also would like to speak about my encounter with the Carol Jamieson Scholarship Fund. Recently, Mr. Akena Oscar , my son in Jesus Christ, introduced me to this scholarship fund. My knowledge of Mr. Akena Oscar goes back to the late 1970’s when he, as a little boy, and together with his friends used to stand by the side of our soccer pitch watching me and other seminarians play soccer in Alokolum National Seminary in Gulu.
It was then that I knew him as the nephew of the late Rev. Fr. Anthony Okello, a famous musician, and Canonist, and Rev. Sr. Nick, his auntie.
When he approached me about this scholarship support to the needy children in Northern Uganda my answer was ” WITH THE TOUCH OF GOD’S GRACE WE CAN”.
I wish to conclude this small article by adding that during my years of priesthood God has enabled me to touch the lives of many children like Dr. Atim and I have been most privileged to connect many children to sources of scholarship funds and many of them have become success stories in their own right, e.g.:
- Eight girls became nuns.
- Two girls became lawyers.
- Two girls became school teachers.
- One boy became a prominent national politician.
- One boy became a priest.
- One boy is training for the priesthood.
- Many boys and girls gained their foothold in society.
My gratitude and the gratitude of all the prospective beneficiaries of the scholarship fund go to the Carol Jamieson Scholarship Fund and Mr. Akena Oscar for your availability to the needy children in Northern Uganda and we wish all of you God Blessings.
Rev. Fr. Matthew Okun-Lagoro with Pope Francis during the Pope’s pilgrimage to Uganda in 2015.
” WITH THE TOUCH OF GOD’S GRACE WE CAN”.