New Vision (Kampala)

12 November 2012

Uganda: Called to Preach to the Deaf

After doing his S6 examinations at Kisubi Seminary in 2002, Simon Peter Semakula went to stay with his aunt, Rev. Sr. Immaculate Rose Namakula. Namakula was a special needs educationist, who then manned a school for the deaf at Bwanda convent.

Inspite of his immense passion for children, Ssemakula could not communicate with the deaf kids, since he did not know sign language. In order to prevail over the communication barrier, Ssemakula started to have informal training in sign language

He would get lessons from the deaf pupils, with whom he communicated through writing. A sign language manual, which his aunt provided him, made him a fast learner.

Within two weeks, Ssemakula could communicate well with the pupils. Even when he joined Katigondo Major Seminary, Ssemakula never lost interest in furthering his skills. By the time he was ordained a priest in 2011, Fr. Ssemakula could communicate comfortably using sign language.

God always has good plans for his people and He will always fi nd ways of equipping his ministers, whom He calls to deliver His plans to the people.

Today, Fr. Semakula is being used by God to minister to deaf children. From Old Kampala Catholic Parish, where he serves as a curate, Ssemakula has reached out to the deaf children in institutions like Mulago School for the Deaf, St. Mark's School for the Deaf (Bwanda), Namirembe School for the Deaf and Wakiso Secondary School for the Deaf. He also interprets homilies during big church functions.

"I am happy that my bishops are supportive of this ministry. Truly, we have so many deaf children. For example, Bwanda alone has over 200 children. Interestingly, many of these children like their faith.

In fact when I fi rst went to Namirembe, the children there challenged me! They put me to task, to tell them why the Catholic priests were not visiting them, yet the evangelical pastors and priests of Church of Uganda were their frequent visitors," Fr. Ssemakula said.

"I was also touched when some children visited me and expressed their discontent towards us. They claimed that we had neglected them, which turned them into mere spectators in the Church."

Ssemakula also acknowledged the need for the Church to have ministers skilled in sign language. He nonetheless thanked Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga and Bishop Christopher Kakooza for supporting the deaf children's pastoral ministry.

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