Advertisement

Children’s Year of St. Joseph Initiative in Uganda Attracts Countrywide Participation

Dorothy Atuhaire Ssonko, animating Children's liturgy on the Uganda Catholic Television

An initiative by children at Namugongo Catholic Parish of Uganda’s Kampala Archdiocese to mark the Year of St Joseph has spread to other Parishes across the East African country, attracting other children who are eager to learn about the Saint.

The Pontifical Mission Society (PMS) Children animator at the Ugandan Parish, Dorothy Atuhaire Ssonko, who started the initiative in which children are invited to share weekly reflections on St. Joseph, envisions young Catholics whose relationship with St. Joseph will grow immensely during the year-long celebrations.

“I envision a child whose relationship with St. Joseph and Jesus will grow immensely, a child who will have Jesus as their closest friends through the intercession of St. Joseph. I envision a loving child who is able to testify that their whole being is about the Catholic Church,” Ms. Dorothy shared with ACI Africa Tuesday, February 2.

The children animator also wants to instill in the children the love of St. Joseph, who Pope Francis has described as “the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father” and “a man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence.”

“We wish that as they grow, the children learn to love St. Joseph and to look at him as a father just like we so dearly love the Blessed Virgin Mary as our mother,” she says, and adds, “The children should be able to go to St. Joseph carrying their joys, their frustrations, their worries and anything that troubles them believing that he will surely listen to them with a fatherly concern.”

Advertisement

The children’s celebrations of the Year of St. Joseph in a program that is aired every Sunday on the Uganda Catholic Television (UCTV) was born at the onset of COVID-19 lockdown in the East African nation.

According to Dorothy, the brains behind the program, the idea was to engage the children who were left out in programmes that were adopted to make up for the absence of physical religious gatherings.

“While adults were able to follow Holy Mass on television, we didn’t have much of the children’s programmes being aired. I started a newsletter, which carried Children content to bridge this gap in the diocese,” she told ACI Africa.

The newsletter, which covered Children’s Easter celebrations was impressive, the Kampala-based PMS official says, adding that she was encouraged by many Catholics who read it, to take it to the next level.

More in Africa

In May last year, an editor at UCTV also approached her with the idea that she convert the newsletter into a television programme and in July the same year, the programme that allowed children to animate Holy Mass was born.

When Pope Francis proclaimed the “Year of Saint Joseph” from 8 December 2020 to 8 December this year, it was easier for the children to focus their attention on reflecting about the Saint in a National TV programme.

Today, Children animators in Ugandan parishes help children to make short clips of prayers, mediations, songs and poems about St. Joseph which are aired every Sunday in the children’s programmes.

As the animator of the Children’s Liturgy programme, Dorothy reaches out to her colleagues in various parishes to ensure that the children are prepared in good time ahead of the animation.

The children have also been engaged in a tree planting campaign to celebrate St. Joseph who was a carpenter and who taught his son, Jesus, the skill.

Advertisement

“We have combined the celebration of St. Joseph who was a carpenter with the call in Laudato Si where we are all encouraged to take care of the environment. Children from all over the parishes share short clips of their tree planting activities as individuals and in groups,” she told ACI Africa February 2.

And to adhere to the Pope Francis’ call concerning taking care of the elderly, the children are encouraged to spend time with their grandparents and to share their interactions with older members of the society through video clips.

The children must, however, adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols to ensure that the elderly are not exposed to infection with the virus, Dorothy clarified.

The celebration of the Year of St. Joseph at Namugongo Catholic Parish has spread to other Parishes in the Archdiocese and to other Ugandan Dioceses including Lugazi, Kiyinda-Mityana, Masaka, Nebbi and the Archdiocese of Mbarara.

Children are encouraged to record their prayers, poems, songs and other forms of reflections on St. Joseph and to share with their animators through WhatsApp. The recordings are then broadcast on the National Catholic television.

(Story continues below)

Dorothy says that it is important for parents and guardians to bring up their children in the example of St. Joseph “especially at a time when most families are facing a father crisis.”

“Our generation is riddled with many challenges that are brought about by the growing father crisis. Today, most families grapple with the situation of absentee fathers and the increasing number of single mothers who bring up their children without a father in their lives,” Dorothy told ACI Africa.

She added, “We need St. Joseph in our families. Single mothers need the Saint to help them in the difficult journey of bringing up their children single-handedly.”

The society also needs St. Joseph to address the “boy child crisis”, according to the Liturgy teacher who notes that the disillusionment of boys in families is causing societal problems including violence.

“Over time, girls have been empowered more than boys. We are thus ending up with boys who grow up with low self-esteem and this is not good for those who are expected to be heads of families. The result is usually domestic violence,” she explains, adding, “Sometimes, it is an unending cycle of violence.”

Dorothy thanks the Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC) for the opportunity to evangelize on national TV and invites children across the continent to creatively participate in the Year of St. Joseph celebrations.

“I invite all children in Africa to enjoy their space in the Church and to feel the love of St. Joseph as protector of the Church and of families. I invite them to take part in communal initiatives to preserve the environment. Let them plant trees to cover the face of the earth which is turning into a desert,” Dorothy told ACI Africa February 2.