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Late Missionary Cleric in South Sudan, Uganda Remembered for Refugee Apostolate

Late Fr. Jesus Aranda Nava, a Mexican-born Comboni Missionary who succumbed to COVID-19 complications on Wednesday, November 4 at St. Mary’s Lachor Hospital in Uganda’s Gulu Archdiocese.

To the people of South Sudan and Uganda, Mexican-born Comboni Missionary Fr. Jesus Aranda Nava will be remembered most for his dedication to the poor refugees who he served until he met his death in Uganda earlier this week.

Aged 68, Fr. Aranda succumbed to COVID-19 complications on Wednesday, November 4 at St. Mary’s Lachor Hospital in Uganda’s Gulu Archdiocese. The health facility is located towards the country’s border with South Sudan where the Comboni Missionary Cleric had been ministering to South Sudanese refugees.

In an interview with ACI Africa Friday, November 6, the Provincial Superior of the Comboni Missionaries in South Sudan, Fr. Louis Okot said the Cleric had been admitted to the Ugandan Hospital on October 20 with symptoms of malaria and pneumonia.

“Fr. Aranda was later tested and found to have COVID-19. He passed away on the 4th of November,” Fr. Okot told ACI Africa November 6.

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He explained that during South Sudan’s civil war, Fr. Aranda was in February 2017 displaced together with the people of Kajo-Keji about 150 kilometers South of the country’s capital, Juba, and that until his death, he had worked at a refugee camp in Uganda’s Moyo District.

“We buried him today in Gulu, in the mission cemetery of the Archdiocese of Gulu,” the South Sudanese Comboni Missionary Cleric told ACI Africa after the funeral celebration in Uganda’s Gulu Cathedral Friday, November 6.

According to the Provincial Superior of the Comboni Missionaries in South Sudan, Fr. Aranda will be remembered for his passion in the announcement of the Kingdom of God, passion for the gospel, and love for the people of South Sudan.

“He has been working for South Sudanese for many years and his life has been all about going to Mexico and coming back to work in South Sudan,” Fr. Okot recalled.

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The late Fr. Aranda was first assigned to South Sudan mission in 1985. The native of Mexico stayed in the East-Central Africa country up to 1993 before returning to his native country.

The Comboni missionary then returned to South Sudan in 2014 where he has been serving the poorest of the poor in the country, South Sudanese refugees, until his death.

The people of God in South Sudan’s Diocese of Yei, on Friday, November 6 mourned Fr. Aranda who once served as Parish Priest of Sacred Heart Lomin in Kajo-Keji.

“It is very unfortunate that Fr. Jesus died during a difficult time when people are scattered, with many in exile,” Fr. Tom Poru Martin said during a requiem Mass in Yei Diocese.

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He added that the late missionary Priest saved souls by giving spiritual nourishment to South Sudan refugees hosted in the territory of Uganda’s Gulu Archdiocese located in Northern Uganda.

At least 117 people have died from COVID-19 in Uganda as of November 4, with infections of the virus reportedly on the rise in the country, according to COVID alerts.

“COVID-19 is just like any other deadly disease and we know there is no medicine for this sickness and the only medicine is to take precautions by the ministry of health,” Fr. Okot said told ACI Africa November 6.

He went on to assert that the new coronavirus is there in communities, cautioning people not to deny the reality of the global pandemic.