Why Comboni Missionary Set for Beatification in Uganda is a Good Example for Medics

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

Through the example of Fr. Giuseppe Joseph Ambrosoli, a member of the Comboni Missionaries who treated patients from poor backgrounds at a hospital in Uganda, doctors and nurses appreciate their God-given gift to perform miracles by loving the sick.

According to Fr. Egidio Tocalli who worked with Fr. Ambrosoli, physicians also learn the invaluable gift of prioritizing service over money in their profession, following the example of Dr. Fr. Ambrosoli who worked for decades at Kalongo Hospital in Northern Uganda where he is set to be beatified on November 20.

“People should emulate Fr. Ambrosoli’s faith in God, humility and love for the poor. Jesus says in the Gospel that whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you have done to me. People of God should therefore be humble and treat the poor with kindness because it is in the poor that Jesus lives,” Fr. Egidio told ACI Africa.

The Italian-born Comboni Priest added during the Wednesday, September 21 interview, “Fr. Joseph Ambrosoli is a good example for Christians and especially for doctors and nurses. Doctors and nurses should learn from his respect for the sick; his love and tenderness. They should learn not to prioritize money but to cure people. God gave them a great gift to cure the sick.”

Fr. Egidio Tocalli and Fr. Giuseppe Ambrosoli in an undated photo. Credit: Fr. Egidio Tocalli/ Comboni Missionaries


“Where saints have done miracles, doctors too can perform miracles through their love and compassion for the patients,” Fr. Egidio, a trained surgeon who worked in Uganda for over 20 years said.

Born in 1923 in the Province of Como, Italy, Fr. Ambrosoli, also known as Joseph, arrived in Uganda in February 1956.

While in Gulu, he relocated to Kalongo, a town in Northern Uganda that is served by the Archdiocese of Gulu, where he devoted his energy, skills and medical expertise to the growth of the Kalongo Hospital.

The facility reportedly gained a reputation for excellence, growing only from a dispensary to a full-fledged hospital, which started delivering babies and attending to medical and pediatric patients.

In a recently released video to provide insight into the envisioned beatification of Fr. Ambrosoli, the Comboni Missionary and doctor has been described as a selfless and humble servant of God who used his intelligence and professionalism to bring hope and healing to the people of God in Uganda.

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Fr. Egidio recalled having ministered alongside Fr. Ambrosoli for one year, and having seen his “marvelous hands as a surgeon” at work, sometimes performing very difficult surgeries.

Describing Fr. Ambrosoli as a “very talented doctor”, Fr. Egidio explained during the September 21 interview, “First, he became doctor then Priest. But God gave him the talent of surgery. He had marvelous hands as a surgeon, able to perform the most difficult operations, so that little by little his name spread all over Uganda, and even across the borders, reaching Kenya, Sudan and even Ethiopia.”

“People from all over these countries were coming to Kalongo to have surgeries on certain cancers, asthma and other very complicated surgeries done. He was a man of God and a man of the sick,” Fr. Egidio recounted about his confrere.

He said that Fr. Ambrosoli was drawn to the plight of the poor women in Northern Uganda who lost their lives in pregnancy related complications, and started a midwifery school to train as many physicians as possible to help the women.

Fr. Ambrosoli went to Kampala to further his studies, obtained permission to start the school and started admitting hundreds of young women who became midwives.


Fr. Egidio Tocalli poses for a photo with a lay missionary near the Tomb of Fr. Giuseppe Ambrosoli. Credit: Fr. Egidio Tocalli/ Comboni Missionaries

The Comboni Missionary also had great love for the lepers and he was the first to admit lepers in his hospital, Fr. Egidio recounted, adding, “He explained to other patients that the lepers were like every other person even without fingers, feet and other body parts that had been damaged. He explained that since they were cured, it was okay for them to interact with others in the hospital.”

Fr. Egidio recalled that his confrere was “such a pious and good man” who he said would never have been beatified without a miracle.

He recalled a miracle in 2008, when a woman named Lucia arrived at the hospital in need of an emergency cesarean section.

The woman, Fr. Egidio said, was going to die because of a septic cesarean section. “The baby had been dead for three days in the woman’s womb because the woman lived in the bush and when she reached the hospital, she was already in a very terrible condition,” he said.

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“The available doctor tried his best to perform a cesarean section quickly and closed the abdomen. At that moment the woman entered septicemia, which is a very generalized bad infection of the body leading to death. Being in a rural hospital, there was no hope, humanly speaking,” Fr. Egidio narrated.

He said the doctor brought an image of Fr. Ambrosoli holding a child, and with some of Lucia’s relatives and some nurses who had gathered around, they prayed for the woman who was in a coma and left her to spend the rest of the night with the image of the Italian Priest.

At 6 a.m. the following day, the doctor rushed to the hospital and found the woman in a good condition and she recovered within very few days, Fr. Egidio recalled, and added, “A commission of five doctors in Rome examined all the medical papers and concluded that the healing was inexplicable humanly speaking. The Pope in 2009 declared this a miracle.”

Away from his medical profession, Fr. Ambrosoli was a very humble and pious man who was always praying during his free time.

“What struck me most about Fr. Ambrosoli was (his being) humble. He was always smiling, talking softly, never shouting, and he was so good even in correcting people who made mistakes. He never humiliated the wrongdoers,” Fr. Egidio said.

He added, “Fr. Ambrosoli was a man of prayer. Walking 200 meters from his house to the hospital, Fr. Ambrosoli used to say the Rosary in silence. And in the evening when everybody went to bed, he would walk in the garden say the Rosary. In the Church, he was so humble, kneeling down, closing his eyes; you would feel he was a man deeply adoring Jesus.”

Lucia Lamokol, the woman who received healing at Kalongo hospital, leading to a probe into the possibility of Fr. Giuseppe Ambrosoli's intercession. The probe was performed by a team of medical doctors in Rome.

“From a tender age, he loved Jesus and he went to Mass every day. And when he was in university, he used a motorcycle to go to different villages to teach the youth Catechism. He was a man of God from a very young age,” the Italian-born Comboni Priest who spoke to ACI Africa from Como where he tends to the medical needs of his 21 confreres said.

He said that Fr. Ambrosoli’s mother, Palmira Valli, was also a very religious woman who contributed so much to the character and to the sanctity of his son.

“Palmira was a woman of prayer, of faith and when Joseph was two years old, he got enteritis, a very bad disease, and he was going to die. His mother ran to the Church and, raising Joseph to the Virgin Mary’s statue, she said ‘Dear Mother Mary, my son is dying. If you were to save him, I consecrate him to you. You can do whatever you like with him’. This means that the vocation of Fr. Joseph Ambrosoli started at that very moment,” Fr. Egidio told ACI Africa. 

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.