A BRIEF HISTORY OF MASAKA DIOCESE
BEGINNINGS, GROWTH AND CONSTANT DEVELOPMENT
Masaka Diocese started as part of a huge Vicariate, then became a Pro – Vicariate, then Vicariate and finally a diocese. The brief history below is meant to show the beginning, growth and development of this famous and historical diocese that emerged as singular in its own right in African Church History of the second and third missionary movements. Singular because it was the only Diocese that emerged as such in the whole period from 1482 to 1939 when a vicariate led by a black bishop eventually became a diocese under an indigenous bishop on 25th March 1953.
APOSTOLIC VICARIATE OF CENTRAL AFRICA (KHARTOUM VICARIATE)
Masaka Diocese grew up from the giant Vicariate known as the Apostolic Vicariate of Central Africa. This Vicariate was created on 26th January 1846 with Fr. Cassolani as head of Mission. On 1st February1846 Pope Gregory XVI enlarged it to include the entire Nile Valley up to the source of the Nile. Future Uganda was also included in this vicariate whose decree of creation came on 3rd April, 1846. It had its base at Khartoum in Sudan from which expansion downwards began.
In 1847 Fr. Cassolani handed over to Fr. Ryllo as Pro-Vicar, unfortunately he died soon. Fr. Ryllo was succeeded by Fr. Ignaz Knoblecher and together with Fr. Pedemonte reached Gondokoro in 1849. They opened a Mission further South at Abu Kalu: Santa Croce on the left bank of the Nile. Malaria was against them killing 44 missionaries in that time. Fr. Daniel Comboni (now Saint) and some missionaries arrived at Santa Croce in 1858. They were forced by the illness to return to Khartoum in 1859. In 1863 Fr. Morlang, the last resident priest at Gondokoro closed the Mission for good. The first attempt to evangelize Uganda failed.
New attempts came with Lavigieri who proposed the creation of four vicariates for the Central African region. Two were to be given to the Vicar Apostolic of Khartoum – Msgr. Daniel Comboni, and two to the White Fathers. This territory was by the decree of September 1880 established as a Pro – Vicariate of Nyanza. Fr. Leo Livinhac was in Charge. It was a giant territory moving into Ethiopia, Mount Kenya, and extreme Southern part of Lake Victoria, Lake Albert, and to the bank of river Congo. In 1883, Nyanza Vicariate was renamed Apostolic Vicariate of Victoria Nyanza.
It was created from the Vicariate of Central Africa in 1880 and Fr. Leo Livinhac was made Pro-Vicar. He had arrived in Uganda with other missionaries like Mapeera on 18th February 1897. The seat of the Vicariate was in Lubaga, Kampala.
VICTORIA NYANZA VICARIATE
Nyanza Vicariate was renamed Victoria Nyanza in 1883. It was created by the decree of 11th June 1883 by Pope Leo XIII. The Vicariate had the same geographical boundaries as the former Nyanza Pro-Vicariate. Fr. Livinhac was appointed as Vicar Apostolic. Msgr. Leo Livinhac was ordained Bishop by Cardinal Lavigierie in Carthage on 14th September 1884. He is the first Bishop of Victoria Nyanza Vicariate and the first Catholic Bishop of Uganda. Bishop Leo Livinhac was elected Superior General of the White Fathers and went to Algiers in 1890 to take on his new responsibilities. He was succeeded by Bishop Jean Hirth who is the second Catholic Bishop of the Vicariate and of Uganda.
DIVISION OF VICTORIA NYANZA VICARIATE
By the Decree of 13th July 1894, Propaganda Fide divided Victoria Nyanza Vicariate into three parts: the Northern Eastern part called Upper Nile – given to the Mill Hill Fathers; the Southern part which was called Southern Nyanza with Msgr. Jean Hirth as Vicar Apostolic and the North and North West which has called North Nyanza with Msgr. Antonin Guillermain as Vicar Apostolic.
NOTHERN NYANZA VICARIATE
It was created on 13th July 1894 from Victoria Nyanza Vicariate with Msgr. Antonin Guillermain its head. His seat was at Rubaga. He is the first bishop of the vicariate but died of black fever nine months after his ordination. Fr. Henry Striecher succeeded him. He is the second bishop of Northern Nyanza. He was ordained bishop in Agust 1897 at Bukumbi. He put his seat at Villa Maria in Masaka. In 1915 on 15th January, the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Victoria Nyanza was renamed as Apostolic Vicariate of Uganda. Msgr. Henry Striecher was named its bishop.
It was created in 1915 on 15th of January. It had the same geographical limits as the Northern Nyanza Vicariate. Msgr. Henry Streicher was its bishop. He retired in 1933 and was succeeded by Bishop Eduardo Michuad. Mgrs. Michaud was the second bishop of the Uganda Vicariate.
It was created in 1934 with Msgr. Mpagi as Pro Vicar. MASAKA VICARIATE
By the degree of 25th May1939, the Apostolic Vicariate of Uganda. Msgr. Joseph Kiwanuka was appointed the Vicar Apostolic. He was ordained by Pope Pius XII on 29th October 1939.
By 1953 Uganda had six vicariates. These were:
- UGANDA VICARIATE
- RWENZORI VICARIATE
- MASAKA VICARIATE
- KAMPALA VICARIATE
- TORORO VICARIATE
- GULU VICARIATE
ESTABLISHING THE HEIRACHY IN 1953
By the Apostolic Constitution Quaem ad Nos Pope Pius XII, on 25th march 1953, established the Hierarchy in East Africa. The text read in part. “We raise to the dignity of dioceses all the Vicariates Apostolic of British East Africa and divide them into four ecclesiastical provinces, Uganda, Kenya, Dar es Salaam and Tabora. So in Uganda all the existing vicariates became dioceses. Therefore the Vicariate of Uganda became the METROPOLITAN ARCHIDIOCESE OF RUBAGA with the present day dioceses of Masaka, Kampala, Tororo, Gulu and Mbarara (which had been the vicariate of Rwenzori).
Thus on 25th March 1953 Uganda got the following Dioceses Masaka inclusive
- The Apostolic Vicariate of Uganda became the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Rubaga. Bishop Cabana the former Vicar Apostolic was transferred from the titular See of Sufetula to the Archbishopric of Rubaga.
- The Apostolic Vicariate of Masaka became the Diocese of Masaka. Bishop Joseph Kiwanuka the former Vicar Apostolic was transferred from the titular see of Thibica to Masaka Diocese.
- The Apostolic Vicariate of Kampala became the Diocese of Kampala. Bishop Billington its former Vicar Apostolic was transferred from the titular See of Avissa to Kampala diocese.
- The Apostolic Vicariate of Tororo became the Diocese of Tororo. Bishop Grief, its former Vicar Apostolic was transferred from the Titular See of Balabitene to the Diocese of Tororo.
- The Apostolic Vicariate of Gulu became the Diocese of Gulu. Bishop Cesana its former Vicar Apostolic was transferred from the titular See of Cerbalitan to the Diocese of Gulu.
- The Apostolic Vicariate of Rwenzori became the Diocese of Mbarara. Bishop Lacoursiere was transferred from the titular See of Vulturia to the Diocese of Mbarara.
It was such a wonderful thing that by the time the hierarchy was established in Uganda, we had among the diocesan bishops, one belonged to the indigenous or local clergy, which is Msgr. Joseph Kiwanuka. He was the only one but he was there, respecting the truth that the future held for the country, within a few years, there will be a few missionaries who would be holding the position of the diocesan bishop. The church then would be moving to self-ministering, one of the diocese of Masaka singularly unique in modern African church history.
This is one of the original dioceses in the country that has not yet been divided. Masaka diocese came into being with the Apostolic Constitution Quaem ad mudum ad Nos of pope Pius XII, ON 25TH March 1953. Bishop Joseph Kiwanuka was transferred from the titular see of Thibica to Masaka Diocese. He was made the Archbishop of Rubaga in 1961 and was succeeded by Bishop Adrian Kivumbi Ddungu. Bishop Ddungu was appointed bishop of Masaka on 11th November 1961and was ordained bishop on 18th march 1962 at Bukalasa Minor Seminary by His Grace Msgr. Joseph Kiwanuka. He retired on 10th January 1998 and was succeeded by Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa. Bishop Baptist Kaggwa was appointed coadjutor bishop of Masaka on 19th December 1994 and ordained on 24th June 1994 by Bishop Adrian Kivumbi Ddungu. He took over the governance of the diocese on 10th January 1998. Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa retired on 16th March 2019. On 16th March 2019 Bishop Serverus Jjumba was appointed Bishop of Masaka Diocese. He was ordained Bishop on 6th July, 2019 by Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa assisted by Bishop Joseph Antony Zziwa (Bishop of Kiyinda Mityana Diocese), Bishop Lambert Bainomugisha (Auxilliary Bishop of Mbarara Archdiocese), Archbishop Luigi Bianco (Apostolic Nincio to Uganda) and Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga (Archbishop of Kampala Archdiocese).