Interrupted by war, Fr. Ambrosoli was reportedly forced to move all the hospital staff, 150 patients and 1,500 soldiers and civilians to Lira, still in Northern Uganda, in 1987 on military orders. It is in Lira that the Comboni Missionary died, though his body was exhumed and relocated to Kalongo seven years later.
Following Fr. Ambrosoli’s death, Fr. Egidio, who had also served the poor patients in Northern Uganda for years, also struggling amid the civil war, was asked to take over the management of Kalongo hospital.
He admits to having been hesitant to go back to the hospital and midwifery school that had remained abandoned for years, as the LRA fighters wreaked havoc in the region.
“I remained in Kampala for nearly a year after the death of Fr. Ambrosoli. I was in a Parish trying to learn Luganda but one day, in 1990, my superior told me to go back to reopen the school in Kalongo, assuring me that the situation in the area had calmed down a little. I was very hesitant at first, and recounted the suffering I had gone through at the other hospital still in Northern Uganda,” Fr. Egidio narrated during the September 21 interview with ACI Africa.
He recounted the “magic words” that his superior told him, assuring him of his late confrere’s protection, saying, “My superior reassured me that Fr. Ambrosoli was there, waiting for me. These were the magic words that convinced me to go.”
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“I remained in Kalongo through the civil war for 20 years, struggling to perform medical operations on women day and night,” he said, adding that by 2010, having prepared some locals to run the hospital and midwifery school, he asked for permission to return to his native country, Italy.
The Comboni missionary recalled the difficulties he endured in Kalongo that forced him to go back to Italy.
Dr. Erik Domini (on the front row) poses for a photo with staff and midwifery students at Kalongo hospital in Northern Uganda. Erick is the doctor who asked to pray seeking the intercession of Fr. Ambrosoli for a woman who was in a comma. Credit: Fr. Egidio Tocalli/ Comboni Missionaries
“I was living in constant fear of the rebels and I couldn’t sleep. There was shooting day and night and I realized I was no longer able to sleep at all and before becoming sick, I was advised to stay in Italy to treat my confreres in our houses,” the Comboni Missionary Priest recalled.
He added, “Today, I am here in a community of 22 in Como and I help them when they are sick and also help in celebrating Mass and hearing confessions in the Parishes here.”
The Italian Priest expressed optimism that Fr. Ambrosoli’s beautification will finally happen after being postponed for two years owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have been postponing the feast for two years because of the COVID-19 but now we hope that God will help us on November 20 to finish the proclamation of Fr. Ambrosoli being a Blessed Holy man in Heaven,” he said, adding that Fr. Ambrosoli is “a very good example for the Church in Africa, in Italy and all over the world.”
Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.