Bishop Damiano Guzzetti: Fr Ambrosoli’s great legacy

It was in Matany hospital that the miracle that led to Father Ambrosoli being beatified took place. Mons Damiano Guzzetti, Bishop of Moroto, underlines what beatification means for the Karimojong people.

I was fortunate enough to meet the Blessed Priest and Doctor Joseph Ambrosoli when I was a student in Kampala a few months before his last Easter in this world. We used to invite passing missionaries who visited our residence to celebrate Mass and so help us combine theory and practice and, on that occasion, we invited Fr Ambrosoli to celebrate Holy Mass for us.

Fr. Joseph involved us in the Rite because we could see a priest “Celebrating” and not “saying Mass”. He had reached such a high degree of humility that he let the Lord of the celebration shine through. We also saw something of a prophetic sign of what would happen a few months later. When he returned to the altar of the small chapel after the exchange of peace, he inadvertently hit the chalice and a few drops of the Precious Blood were spilt on the altar. He stayed for dinner with us and continued to share his life in Kalongo among the sick in his care.

The miracle that happened at Matany hospital is certainly another great sign that his missionary testimony goes beyond the narrow confines of Kalongo. It is known that the Karimojong have always been cattle raiders who, during the dry season, migrate in search of pasture and water for their cattle. Some of the shepherds move south towards Lake Kyoga and the other part, in the north of Karamoja, move west where Kalongo is located, in the lands of the Acholi tribe.

The harassment and raids that the armed shepherds of Karamoja have inflicted in the past on the Acholi and the other settled tribes that host them during the dry season are historic. Through the miracle for the benefit of a Karimojong woman, Fr Ambrosoli reminds us of two fundamental aspects of the Gospel: First Forgiveness. An explosion of rancour and revenge is the usual reaction when people are unfairly attacked.

Yet Fr. Joseph always provided care for people no matter who they were. He was criticised for treating even the wounded of the invading enemies and Karimojong shepherds who showed no respect for those who hosted them. Secondly, he taught us respect for the dignity of women and for life.

It is well known that, in Africa, distinctions and accentuated gender differences generally result in the loss of women’s dignity, making them the object of exploitation in all possible ways. The miracle that benefitted Lucia Lomokol took place in Matany at Karamoja hospital and is the challenging response of God not only to Karamoja but also to all humanity.

Matany is a symbol of health service in a periphery of the world and the fact that a Karimojong woman benefits is intertwined with the aspects of respect for a suburban woman and the sacred value of life for all people on the planet. For the inhabitants of Kalongo, Lucia is part the enemy tribe. This miracle spurs us to take the great step of forgiveness and to seek the physical and spiritual good of others, even our enemies.

The two missionary hospitals of Kalongo and Matany are now twinned by this extraordinary event and are the tangible proof from Heaven that respect, dignity and personal care go hand in hand with forgiveness and hospitality beyond any social considerations. Will we accept this challenge? We will certainly succeed if only we invoke Blessed Joseph Ambrosoli and make his inheritance our own. (Mons. Damiano Guzzetti, Bishop of Moroto, Uganda)