Beatification of Comboni Priest to Fire Up Evangelization in Northern Uganda: Postulator

Fr. Giuseppe Ambrosoli, a Comboni Missionary Priest who ministered in Uganda’s Archdiocese of Gulu as a beloved minister of the Eucharist, surgeon, philanthropist, and educator. Credit: Comboni Uganda

The envisioned beatification of Fr. Giuseppe Ambrosoli, a Comboni Priest who ministered in Uganda’s Archdiocese of Gulu is “a mission event”, the Postulator guiding the course of the Italian-born Missionary Priest has said, and exuded confidence that the event will “keep the missionary flame alive and burning” in the Comboni Family working in the East African country.

In a reflection shared with ACI Africa Monday, November 7, Fr. Arnaldo Baritussio, the Postulator in Fr. Ambrosoli’s beatification says that the event slated for November 20 in Kalongo, where the Comboni Missionary Priest ran a hospital, is significant and memorable for the Comboni Family and for the Church in Northern Uganda.

“We may already say that this beatification in itself constitutes a significant event for the Comboni Family and certainly a memorable occasion for the Church of Northern Uganda, born from the tireless dedication of a large group of Comboni Nuns and Missionaries. It is a mission event because the beatification has to do with the totally significant figure of Fr. Ambrosoli for the clarity and complexity of his vocational choice in favor of evangelisation,” Fr. Baritussio says.

He adds, “It will be nice, therefore, to live this 20 November 2022, in communion with the whole Comboni Family and ask the new Blessed Giuseppe Ambrosoli to keep the missionary flame alive and burning within us.”

Fr. Baritussio expresses optimism that the Missionary Congregation will live on, adhering to Fr. Ambrosoli’s admonition to “always look for perfection”.


He remembers the late Italian Priest’s words, “Try to do things perfectly, but if you manage just to do them well, do not undo them to make them perfect, you would ruin them; be satisfied with having done them well. But always look for perfection.”

Fr Ambrosoli is also known to have said, “When you don't know which way to choose, always take the one that costs you the most: it's the right way.”

In his reflection shared with ACI Africa, Fr. Baritussio says he is looking forward to Fr. Ambrosoli’s beautification, an event he says will “add flavor” to the November 20 Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe.

“The Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe is now close and this year should have a particular flavor for every Combonian: the Church has chosen this date to honor Fr. Giuseppe Ambrosoli,” Fr. Baritussio says.

He further says, in reference to Fr. Ambrosoli who lived in Uganda for decades, having founded the Kalongo Hospital that is said to have served people, especially the poor with love, “We want to raise him up a little higher, without however detaching him from us, with the intention of illuminating the field of mission and certifying the goodness of the event of missionary holiness, which always aims to bring people, in some way touched by the proclamation of salvation, to the full maturity of Christ.”

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“In Uganda, everything is being prepared so that the ceremony of the beatification of Fr. Giuseppe can take place in a spiritual atmosphere as befits the person being celebrated whose spiritual stature is equal to his great simplicity and humility as well as to his multifaceted preparation and experience in the fields of surgery and obstetrics,” the Postulator says.

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

While in Gulu, he relocated to Kalongo, a town in Northern Uganda that is served by the Catholic Archdiocese of Gulu, where he founded 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.

The Kalongo Hospital, which was recently renamed the Dr. Ambrosoli Memorial Hospital, is a 350-bed facility that treats nearly 60,000 patients every year.


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 returned to Kalongo seven years later.

In an interview with ACI Africa in September, Fr. Egidio Tocalli who ministered alongside Fr. Ambrosoli, and thereafter, took over the management of Kalongo hospital, said that Fr. Amrosoli converted Kalongo into a full-fledged hospital that performed the most complicated surgeries in the East African nation, sometimes attracting patients from neighboring Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia.

Fr Egidio said that Fr. Ambrosoli is a good example to medics, and explained, “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.”

In his reflection shared with ACI Africa, Fr. Baritussio lauds his medic confrere who he says chose to be a missionary and doctor in such a way that his medical service, precisely in its “most rigorous and competent professionalism”, was lived and expressed by him as “a priestly exercise”.

Fr. Baritussio recalled that upon entering the Institute of the Comboni, in 1949, Fr. Ambrosoli presented a desire to immediately combine the pastoral ministry and the medical service in Africa.

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He says that the dispensary that Fr. Ambrosoli converted into a state-of-the art facility was not a simple hospital but a structure that could prepare other doctors for other hospitals.

The Midwifery School at the medical facility, he says, did not churn out “simple nurses” but “specialized midwives who could fit into public structures.”

This way, Fr. Baritussio says, the missionary medic passed on Christian skills and values “beyond the modest enclosure of Kalongo.”

“In what he did, Fr. Giuseppe was never commonplace, but somehow always made choices aimed at favoring the common good, typical of people who, as Pope Francis affirms in Evangelii Gaudium, believe that ‘time is worth more than space’ and that ‘reality always surpasses the idea’. Fr. Giuseppe, as a missionary, always made time prevail in relationships with people and realism in dealing with situations of any kind,” the Postulator says.

He shares the testimony of Sr. Caterina Marchetti who, after serving alongside Fr. Ambrosoli from 1963 to 1983, says, “Operations numbered about 1200-1700 'year. One year, there were over 1900. That is as far as I can remember.”

Sr. Caterina further recalls, “The administration of the hospital was then carried out by him (Fr. Ambrosoli), during the little free time he had, in the evening or during the night. I assure you that he had everything in order and everything was written down. One wonders how he did it, also because he devoted a lot of time in the evening to prayer.”

Fr. Baritussio admits that Fr. Ambrosoli set a bar that was quite high that was, however, “not meant to deter but to stimulate us.”

“The life of our brother Fr. Giuseppe is truly one of those ‘Talking Lives’ which the mission and the Church are in dire need of. It is worth listening to him and admiring him as ‘Joseph, a gift of God’, the opening words of the song with which they welcomed him when his mortal remains were brought back to Kalongo on the afternoon of April 8, 1994,” he says.

Giving the details of the beatification, the Comboni Missionary Priest says that the Congregation let the local Church choose the small town of Kalongo. He says, “Gulu would have been easier, perhaps even more prestigious, but the 31 years spent in Kalongo by Fr. Giuseppe prevailed, which well represents the radical choice of the ‘mission in the peripheries.’”

“The Lord also chose who should represent the Holy Father to preside over the ceremony, namely the Cardinal of Como, Oscar Cantoni, who is the bishop of the diocese where Fr. Ambrosoli received that splendid spiritual and professional formation that allowed him to engage in complete and effective missionary action,” he says, adding that the beatification in Kalongo will be broadcast in Italy via streaming by the non-profit association "Lights in the world" of Verona.

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.