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“Serving as an altar boy shaped my passion to serve God as a Priest”: Ugandan Bishop-elect

Screenshot of Msgr. Raphael Wokorach during the interview with Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC) in conjunction with Uganda Episcopal Youth Apostolate and Uganda Catholics Online published 09 June 2021/ Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Bishop-elect for Uganda’s Nebbi Diocese has, in an interview, traced his vocation to serve God as a Catholic Priest to his childhood days as an altar boy.

In the interview by the Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC) in conjunction with Uganda Episcopal Youth Apostolate and Uganda Catholics Online published Wednesday, June 9, Msgr. Raphael Wokorach, a member of the Comboni Missionaries (MCCJ), also speaks about his missionary experiences.

“I started serving as an altar boy when I was still young. This shaped my passion to serve God as a Priest. I also attended St. Peter’s Junior Seminary in Arua for my secondary education,” Msgr. Wokorach says.

The Ugandan-born Cleric who was appointed Bishop for Nebbi Diocese on March 31 adds that his missionary experiences and the accompanying hardships have served to strengthen his Priestly ministry.

“I have worked in many places that proved challenging to me as a priest. I worked in DR Congo at a time when the country had serious insecurity and poverty issues and this strengthened me,” says Msgr. Wokorach.

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He adds that as a Comboni missionary, “I have never been given a chance to work in Uganda all my missionary life. I worked in Democratic Republic of Congo from 1993 to 2000, and then went to Togo.”

“I also went to serve in Italy for some courses before I moved to the US.  I later came to Kenya where I served in Nairobi as a formatter in Nairobi-based Comboni International Theologate,” said the Bishop-elect.  

In an interview with ACI Africa the day his episcopal appointment was made public, Msgr. Wokorach said that the decision to appoint him a Bishop was a sign that God is guiding his Priestly ministry, reminding “me of what I should do to make people access God.”

“In the Priesthood of Christ, I see one thing: being closer to the people because we work hard to bridge the gaps, the separation, which may be a reality in the Church or the ministry,” the Bishop-elect told ACI Africa March 31.

He added, “The Priesthood also requires discipline, which transforms this life so that we may day by day be worthy to offer the sacrifice and make the people accessible to God. By being closer to God, we also make people access God.”

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In the interview by the UEC in conjunction with Uganda Episcopal Youth Apostolate and Uganda Catholics Online, the native of Uganda’s Arua Diocese speaks about the people he has impacted in his Priestly service by guiding them to God’s service.

“When I was in DR Congo, I mentored a lot of young people who went ahead to become Priests and Nuns,” he recalls his missionary experience in DR Congo’s Kisangani Archdiocese.

He adds in reference to those he has inspired to join the Priesthood and Religious Life, “When I was appointed as the Bishop of Nebbi Diocese, a lot of them called in congratulating me. This gives me energy to move on,” said the Bishop elect who served in DR Congo’s Kisangani Archdiocese.

He says he put the youth under his pastoral care in formation groups used Bible figures as examples to teach them, thus learning human and Christian values at the Parish, a formation they could not get in their respective schools.

“God wants us to be human in the right way. We need good soil, which plants will grow from. This is a big challenge today,” he said, and added, “I believe in life we need to be guided in our choices. We cannot be right in everything we do and we need the right people to guide us. I treasure guidance.”

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“We should learn to listen to the right voices which can help us grow. This is fundamental and it is what I have always believed in my mission,” he further says in the interview posted June 9.

Born in January 1961 in the Catholic Diocese of Arua, the Bishop-elect was ordained a Priest in September 1993 by the then Bishop of Nebbi Diocese, Martin Luluga.

The Comboni missionary who has served as formator in multiple countries in Africa including Kenya and Togo has also served as lecturer at Kenya-based Tangaza University College, member of the Provincial Council of Kenya and Vice Provincial, and Apostolic Visitor of the Religious Missionary Institute of the Apostles of Jesus (AJ) – from 2015-2018.

On 21 June 2018, Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) appointed him the Pontifical Commissary of the Kenya-based AJ, a role he handed over to Fr. Angelo Bettelli, a member of Canossian Sons of Charity (FDCC) on May 31.

Plans are underway to have him ordained a Bishop on Saturday, June 26.