The Bishop Emeritus of Mbarara, Bishop John Baptist Kakubi died today 11 February 2016 at Kampala International Hospital in Kampala. Burial announcements will be announced later.
Rt. Rev. John Baptist Kakubi is the Bishop Emeritus of Mbarara which he led from 1969 to 1991. He is the third ordinary and first indigenous African bishop of Mbarara who took over from Bishop Jean Marie Ogez who succeeded Bishop Lacoursiere F.X. first Bishop of Mbarara.
Kakubi was born on 23rd September 1929 at Birunduma, Bukanga, in Mbarara District. He was baptized on 25th December 1929 and confirmed in the Catholic Faith on 12th June 1939.
Kakubi attended Primary School at Birunduma from 1939 to 1941, and Nyamitanga Primary School from 1942 to 1943.
He, then joined St. Francis Xavier Kitabi Minor Seminary in 1944 to 1950. “We started 24 in 1944, and ended our seven years only four of us”, he recounts. He then joined Katigondo Major Seminary in 1951 to 1956. He was then 22 years of age. “I had made a resolution in my preparatory at Kitabi that even if all my 23 classmates leave, I shall become a priest.” Bishop Kakubi, narrates in his book.
He had his probation year at Nyakibale and Rushoroza in 1957 to 1958. Bishop Jean Marie Ogez sent John Baptist Kakubi and Hilary Tibanyenda to England in 1958 to continue their studies at Allen Hall St. Edmund’s College, Ware Hertfordhire.
According to Bishop Kakubi, Bishop Ogez had two reasons to send them to London. He wanted to train his seminarians in some other ways other than routine Seminary and to have priests who could return to teach in the Seminary and Church founded schools to uplift the standard of education in Mbarara.
He was ordained sub deacon at St. Edmund’s College in London on 20th May 1959 and deacon in the same college on 23rd September 1959 together with Hilary Tibanyenda. Going to England, delayed his ordination instead of being ordained in Seven years, he was ordained after Nine years. On 11th June 1960, he was ordained priest, by William Cardinal Godfrey of Westminster Archdiocese at Westminister Cathedral in London. He had his first Mass at St. Patrick London University Church in Soho Square.
The night after his ordination, Bishop Kakubi recalls, “At night, I remained alone contemplating over what I had become – a ministerial priest of the Catholic Church forever. Priesthood is not a career; actually priesthood is not even a reward…. I wrote to my mother, that my priesthood was her priesthood;… I enclosed the linen that the ordaining prelate bound my hands together after anointing them, a very significant symbol; and I wrote at the end of the letter that my mother should keep the cloth as we lived; if by any misfortune she would hear that I have betrayed my priestly promises in any way whatsoever, she should produce that cloth and the letter. Actually she kept the letter until her final sickness. When she felt her life was getting to the end, she returned it to me.” Bishop Kakubi narrates in his book A Day to Remember.
After his ordination, he remained in London and attended a course in Catholic Social Studies at St. Peter Clever Institute from 1960 to 1961.
When he returned to Uganda in September 1961, he was appointed Curate at Nyamitanga Parish at the same time Chaplain and Teacher at Ntare School, and Director of Social Catholic Action in Mbarara Diocese. He was a teacher at Katigondo Major Seminary from 1963 to 1964 after which he worked as Diocesan Secretary for Education for Mbarara and Kabale from 1964 to 1966. “As a Diocesan Secretary, I saw to it that our Catholic schools were at a good standard both materially, academically and spiritually. Around 1965, I had covered the 45 Catholic founded and granted schools. There were about 100 private Catholic Schools in Ankole called by then Church Schools.” Bishop Kakubi said. He served as priest of Nyamitanga Parish in 1966 and then Rector of Kitabi Seminary from 1967 to 1969.
On 5th July 1969, he was appointed Bishop of Mbarara and consecrated on 1st August 1969 by Pope Paul VI at Kololo Airstrip together with other eight bishops. His motto is “Lord you are my shield” Psalm 3:3.
When Bishop Kakubi took over the Diocese, the population of great Ankole was 633,933, out of which 223,687 were Catholics dispersed in ten Parishes. There were Sixteen African Priests and Fourty nine expatriate missionaries. There were also religious men and women.
His focus of work was to keep up the standards of his predecessors, unity in the diocese based on Christian love, develop self reliance schemes and education at all levels, develop health care services for all pastoral agents, and improve pastoral structures among others.
The important land marks in his time as bishop were: establishment of schools and seminaries to mention a few: St. Joseph’s Vocational School at Nyamitanga and St. Cecilia Vocational Secondary School to train leaders. He was instrumental in the revival of the Congregation of our Lady of Good Counsel. He ordained many priests and two new bishops were appointed, namely: Bishop Paul K. Bakyenga and Bishop Egidio Nkaijanabwo of Kasese on the same day, 1st April 1989. Health centers increased from three to nine and two hospitals were built and new parishes were created.
From March 1992 to the time of his dead, Bishop Kakubi has lived in Ibanda Priest’s House which he renovated and expanded the priests’ house for priest’ rest and those that are retired and sick. He also worked as chaplain for Ibanda Hospital and convent for the old and sick Sisters of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Rwengiri.
Bishop Kakubi was devoted to the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary and endeavored to attract other to love Jesus in the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary. In an effort to make the Blessed Virgin known and loved, from June to December 1994, Bishop Kakubi went through all the parishes of the Archdiocese of Mbarara with a Statue of Our Lady preaching on her role in life of Christians and the importance of the Holy Eucharist. He, together with four other people, had a human size wooden Statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On many occasions, Bishop Kakubi was invited to give spiritual talks and retreats to priests and religious both in the diocese of Mbarara and other dioceses. “I have enjoyed my life as a priest, a bishop and retired bishop. I always had good communities to enable me to live my priestly life well. But what I have found most helpful, is the Eucharist, Jesus in the Eucharist daily Mass.” he said. Rest in Eternal peace.