13 November 2012

Uganda: From Church Teacher to Bishop Egesa

When Erimingiyo Living Kowa Egesa died on March 23, 1963, many thought little of his three-day-old son who would later become Rev Canon Samuel George Bogere Egesa, the new bishop of Bukedi diocese.

It has been a long journey for the third bishop of this diocese, a man born in Izira village, Nakavule parish, Kapyanga sub-county in Bugiri district. With his father gone, it was left to his grandfather to guide him on his journey.

"Our grandparents originated from the current Busia district but they later migrated in search of employment in Kampala and, on return, they found idle land, which they occupied, thereby settling in Bugiri" he recalls.

Spiritual journey:

There is pain on his face as he recalls how his mother, Esereda Joyce Bweguyibwa, struggled to send them to school.

"My poor mother had to move with us to her father's home at Bwidhabwangu in Butembe county Jinja district where I studied my primary at Nanfugaki primary school before joining Jinja SS where I completed senior four in 1981," he adds.

The humble background gave way to good discipline instilled in him by his mother. Egesa was active at an early age and started serving as a church teacher at Kayogera church of Uganda in the then Bugiri parish, now Namayemba parish, in 1982.

"I had by then not confessed Jesus as my personal saviour until 1986 when I fully accepted Jesus in my life, " Egesa notes.

At this time, the young church leader married Elizabeth Nafamba Egesa, with whom they have six children. He later attended a lay leader's course in Iganga the following year, qualifying to become a certified lay leader. He was off to Namugongo for a certificate in theology between 1992 and 1994 before Busoga Diocese Bishop Cyprian Bamwoze ordained him to the priesthood in 1997.

He was posted to Muterere parish in current Bugiri archdeaconry, before enrolling for a diploma in theology and a bachelor's degree in divinity at Uganda Christian University Mukono. Although he offered the courses concurrently, Egesa passed both with flying colours in 2003. And the new qualifications did not hurt Egesa one bit as Bamwoze's successor Michael Kyomya appointed the new graduate to head Iganga archdeaconry a year later.

The tireless Egesa was not one to run away from numerous responsibilities at any one time. For instance, around this time he was vice chairperson of the Lusoga Bible translation project under the Uganda Bible Society, apart from his pastoral duties in Iganga. The project will soon publish the complete Lusoga bible. He was also an active member to the inter-religious council.

He would rise to the influential position of diocesan secretary and, in 2007, treasurer. Despite his high-pressure office, Canon Egesa was instrumental in training and guiding the clergy on how to preserve their vocation, a tough calling that endeared him to the house of bishops, which appointed him Bishop on November 9.

"We have missed a committed, dedicated and all-embracing, loving and anointed man of God," Rev Canon Paul Naimanhe, the dean of Christ's cathedral Bugembe, noted. "But we should be proud on the other hand for producing a local missionary capable of serving the whole Anglican Church worldwide."

Egesa will be consecrated and enthroned at St Peter's cathedral, Tororo, the Bukedi diocese headquarters, on February 10, 2013.

Mixed feelings:

At the diocesan headquarters, many were happy that Egesa had got the call, but with joy came the reality of losing a beloved pastor in the retiring Bishop Nicodemus Okile.

"We shall dearly miss his hard work and dedicated services but he has become a missionary going outside the diocese to spread the gospel," Agnes Naida, a secretary at the diocesan office, said of Okile.

"Canon Egesa is intelligent, eloquent and hardworking and would easily be proposed for Bishop even in the two new dioceses of Central Busoga or East Busoga," Nuwa Patrick Mudhasi, a Christian at Nanfugaki church noted.

Despite the misgivings, there was speculation Egesa would replace Bishop Kyomya, who is due to retire in 2014. And Egesa is humbled by the development.

"I will say like one scholar said that I am able to see farther by standing on the shoulders of other giants. You people of God, right from Bishop Kyomya, are my giants," he said to the faithful on the weekend. "But I have to move on as per the call to serve in that higher office which comes with a number of new responsibilities."

Bukedi became a diocese in 1972 with the former Archbishop Yona Okoth as the first Bishop until 1984. After Okoth, Nicodemus Engalas Okile held the fort for 28 years.

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