New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: God Picked Me From Under a Mango Tree

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In an era where no women served in the Anglican Church, Prudence Kaddu dared to break into the service. She got her call under a mango tree in Kumi on her way to another school. Her journey to the collar was one mapped out in heaven, Gladys Kalibbala writes

The Rev. Canon Prudence Kaddu served the Church of Uganda for 42 years and retired from service in 2010. She is also one of the first three women to become priests in the country in 1967. She says the road to clerical service was not smooth, but with God's love, she had a breakthrough and served Him diligently.

She was born Prudence Nabiryo to Adoram and Evelyn Nadiope of Bugabula-Kamuli in Busoga. Her father served as a lay reader in different Anglican churches in Busoga between 1937 and 1964.

She went to Kamuli Girls' Boarding School and Bukonte Senior Secondary School in Busoga, before joining Bethany Home Craft Training Centre in Soroti and Bishop Tucker Theological College, in Mukono.

Later, she studied at Nsamizi Training Centre and Josephine Butter College of Liverpool University in the UK.

The call takes shape

"As a little girl, I wanted so much to become a nurse and help the sick, but the more I accompanied my dad to funerals and saw how he comforted mourners, the more I became attracted to the Church," Kaddu narrates.

Her father was shocked when his daughter told him of her desire to follow in his footsteps. He discouraged her, saying it was for men only. He explained that as a man, he was suffering and he did not want to see his daughter face the same.

What he did not know was that she had grown stronger in Christ after receiving the call to salvation. Kaddu had became saved on June 2, 1957 during a mission led by the late Rev. Can. Peter Kigozi, accompanied by the late Bishop Misaeri Kawuma and late Bishop Amos Betungura at Kamuli Girl's School.

In 1962, when an opportunity for women to join the Uganda Police came, the adventurous young lady sat the exams and passed. Her plan was to serve in the churches of the forces. However, an uncle stopped her from joining the Police.

Again, a clergyman from Bishop Tucker college Mukono visited her school and said women were welcome to join the ministry and Prudence saw her chance. She sat for the entry exams and passed.

In the meantime, another uncle who was a doctor had obtained an admission for a midwifery course at Ngora Hospital. The admission letters for the two courses arrived on the same day.

"My father, who had discouraged me earlier, had little to offer. He suggested I join midwifery first as we study what happens to the pioneer women priests and then I could join later if things moved well," Kaddu recalls.

God decides

She was undecided at the time she left home to start her studies in February 1964. As she packed her suitcase, she asked God for guidance.

"Ngora was nearer to our home than Mukono and I was already two weeks late for the theology course, so I boarded a bus to Ngora for the midwifery course. At Kumi, the bus stopped for everyone to get lunch.

I sat under a big mango tree and cried while praying. As everyone else boarded the bus after lunch, the conductor saw me and said in Ateso: 'Ijobana obyaberejjo - adol essawa' meaning, 'You girl, come here, let us go, it is time!'

"Although I had paid for a full ticket to Ngora I let the bus leave me there crying out to the Lord under that mango tree in Kumi. A few minutes later, a Ngora Hospital van, stopped, reversed and stopped again near me. One of the tutors who had interviewed me had recognised me.

He called me to take a lift to Ngora, but I refused and continued crying," she says.

Kaddu later jumped into a late bus from Kumi to Mbale, then on to Jinja and reached Mukono at night. She did not know the place well, but says God was on her side as, again, a tutor from the theological college saw her in Mukono and helped her to reach the college.

Later, she was taken to Namirembe Cathedral to meet the Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire, Erica Sabiiti, who wanted to know why she had reported two weeks late. He assured her that God had called her for this ministry and prayed for her, blessing her as a student.

Teased

It was not all roses for Kaddu at the college, she remembers: "I met two girls: Petua Gihanga and Margaret Kizanye, and together we experienced the challenges of being the only females among male students, all of them big men and many of them married.

They teased us that Jesus never had a woman among the 12 disciples and we were only wasting our time because a woman could not stand in front of a congregation to give a sermon," she says.

Against all odds, the three women graduated in November 1966 and were commissioned at Namirembe Cathedral on November 12, 1967 by the Archbishop.

There was no official uniform for clergywomen, so they were given light blue dresses, hats and white belts, which they used for 10 years. The saddest thing for Kaddu was that her father was not alive to witness her big day. He had died just over a month before, on October 12, 1967.

She was posted to Ntinda-Bukoto Church under Rev. Christopher Senyonjo (retired Bishop of West Buganda). Being young and unmarried, she received a lot of questions from the Christians, but she stood by her own motto: Where there is a call, there is power.

In August 1970, she got a chance to go to the UK for further studies. Her return in November 1972 was another occasion for excitement in her village in Kamuli.

"My family stopped the car many miles away and pushed it up to home. It was jubilation all over the place because I was the first girl in my clan to study abroad," Kaddu says.

Marriage

Before leaving for the UK, she had met Samuel Kaddu, a lay member of the congregation, and they had become friends. He proposed soon after she returned and she accepted. They started preparing for the wedding. Many of his relatives wondered why he would marry a clergywoman, but over time, they came round.

"As a bride preparing for my wedding, I got the worst experience when I was poisoned two weeks to our wedding day and admitted to Mengo Hospital unconscious. My husband and I decided to forgive the person who did it and went on with our plans when I got better," she recalls.

Their colourful wedding was held June 2, 1973 at Namirembe Cathedral, presided over by the late Namirembe Bishop Dunstan Nsubuga. They have five children.

Prudence Kaddu continued serving in the church and was ordained as deacon in December 1978 at All Saints Cathedral. It was not until December 16, 1990, that she was ordained as a priest by Archbishop Yona Okoth. She also became a canon in 2000.

"Later in life I learnt something from my calling: Trust and obey the one who called us, for he is ever faithful as he steps in at the right time when one is almost giving up.

I served as a deacon in many parishes for 14 years before being declared a full priest on December 16, 1990 at All Saints Cathedral in Kampala and became a Canon in 2000 at the same church.

The three of us (pioneers) took long to be priested because the mother Church of England had not yet blessed women serving as clergy. I taught at Bishop Tucker Theological College Mukono for 13 years and served many years in Kampala Diocese.

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