Mission priest: The Church is a big family, leading people to Christ together

Diocesan Missions Special Collection, July 20-21, 2024 — Envelope inserted in this edition of The Catholic Missourian


Only through God’s work in past missionaries did it become possible for Father Joseph Luzindana to serve as a missionary priest in the Diocese of Jefferson City.

This makes him part of a great worldwide circle of mission that dates back to Jesus’s command to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

“I never dreamt that I would be out of Africa and in America,” said Fr. Luzindana, a priest of the Archdiocese of Kampala, Uganda.

He is associate pastor of Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish in Jefferson City and moderator for youth and young adult ministry for this diocese.

“In fact, I never even dreamt that I would study and go into seminary. I was such a poor kid,” he said.

“But now, because of the seeds of mission which were sown on fertile ground in Africa, here we are, serving you today,” he said.

He spoke in anticipation of this year’s diocesan Missions Special Collection, to be taken up in parishes throughout the diocese July 20-21, 2024.

Donations can also be made securely online by visiting: diojeffcity.org/donate-missions.

The collection is the main source of revenue for the Missions Office, which supports mission and humanitarian partnerships with other dioceses in countries with developing economies, including Fr. Luzindana’s home diocese.

“What a wonderful thing!” he said. “I’m very excited to be in America and to say, ‘Yes, we can do great things together.’” 

Thanks to donations from the Jefferson City diocese, classrooms have been built for children in Fr. Luzindana’s home diocese, which is also home to several other mission priests serving here.

“The Church is one family,” said Fr. Luzindana. “We are like a body. So, we help one other, depending on each other’s need.

“Today, in Africa, the need we have is money to build schools, seminaries, to help schools and seminaries to do expensive things which we do not have the resources to do.

“Here, what you find is that there is a shortage of priests,” he stated. “And what happens? We find that we can help each other!”

His archbishop is allowing him to serve here for a time, sharing his gifts as a priest and adept evangelizer while gaining valuable experience he’ll eventually put to use back home.

“This loving, caring and sharing of the gifts God has given us: what a wonderful thing!” said Fr. Luzindana. “This shows we are one.”

A fiery yes

Fr. Luzindana lauded the European and American missionaries who gave up the comforts of their homelands so they could share with his ancestors the Good News of Jesus Christ.  

“People volunteered and came to Africa in very harsh conditions and brought the love of Jesus to us, and they sowed Christianity and the love of God into us,” he said.

He called to mind a Jesuit missionary who ministered and led retreats for the young people in his hometown.

“Basically, he would tell us to ‘Say YES to Jesus Christ!’” Fr. Luzindana recalled. “It really challenged me to want to serve God more. And that’s why I’m a priest.”

And once he became a priest, he wanted to follow in that charismatic Jesuit’s footsteps and continue leading young people to Christ. 

“So I began the Y.E.S. Center, which stands for ‘Youth Encounter the Savior,’” he said.

The Y.E.S. Center (yescenterug.org) is a place for young Catholics in Uganda’s largest city to have their faith life, social life and education strengthened.

Preparing young people to share the Gospel with each other is a need Fr. Luzindana still sees at home and even more so in his current mission field.

“What I see being done here and what I wish you all could be doing more is to tap the young generation — to set them on fire,” he said.

He’s concerned about young people seeming to be able to find time for everything but God.

“I want Jesus to be like chocolate to them — something they really want,” he said.

“I think we need to find a way — the language, the style — to attract young people to check out the Church,” he stated. “And once they’re on fire, they will take that fire to others.”

Toward that end, he sees an urgency for Catholics of all ages to be re-evangelized and have that fire rekindled.

“We need this in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our schools and in the entire Church,” he said.

“The suffering Jesus”

Fr. Luzindana spoke of the Missions Special Collection as a way to help people in tremendous need.

“It’s very important, with great urgency, to touch the suffering Jesus, the needy Jesus,” he said.

“There are many people who really need our help,” he said. “They have no water, they have no shelter, they have no education, they have no medication.

“There are things we are all going to leave behind here when we go to heaven,” he said. “God will give us heaven. So, please be generous and give.” 

Fr. Luzindana recalled the first parish where he served after his ordination.

There was no electricity, indoor plumbing or flushing toilets.

“I was the only person there who had a car, and my car was also working as an ambulance,” he noted.

The people had to walk up to 10 miles to get fresh water. Children had to walk seven miles to get to school.

Addressing those needs by helping pay to drill wells and build schools changes lives dramatically and prompts entire communities to turn to God in gratitude.

The priest talked about how people of the Jefferson City diocese donated a corn mill to a community in the Kampala archdiocese. People now come from miles away to have their harvested maize processed into flour they can bake with.

“It’s so great!” he said. “We can’t say enough words of thanks for the generosity of the people here, that they can think of others God has created who are need.”

“Do something”

Fr. Luzindana said mission is the primary goal for Christians.

“Jesus told us to go to the entire world and ‘make them my disciples,’” he noted. “The mission did not stop in the Holy Land where Jesus was. He wanted to reach everyone, and he sent us!”

Jesus provided three means for people to draw others to himself:

  • By proclaiming the Good News of Jesus offering freedom from sin;
  • By putting that Good News into action like Jesus, who could have set salvation into motion with merely a word from heaven “but chose to come and act to the point of giving up his own life”;
  • By praying for one another, specifically for their souls to be saved.

“It has got to be about action,” Fr. Luzindana emphasized. “It’s not about talking to God and talking about God and then not doing anything. We’ve got to do something!

“Whatever words we say, people should know there is Christ in us,” the priest stated. “But we must also continue doing these things until everyone feels the mercy of God.”

He called to mind the group of young adults from this diocese who went to visit his home diocese over Holy Week of this year.

“People from here have gone to Uganda to pray with the people, to eat with them, to pray with their kids, physically to see where these kids live and where they learn,” he said.

“They went on mission by going there and trying to see and experience and to show their love,” he said. “What a beautiful thing!”

“Beautiful family”

Fr. Luzindana spoke of the whole Catholic Church as “a big family” and “a wonderful community.”

“What a beautiful family of God!” he said. “There are no distinctions, there are no divisions, but we all share the one cup of Jesus and the one Body of Christ.”

Fr. Luzindana asked for prayers for him and all of his fellow priests to remain faithful, obedient and humble and to serve with all their energy, and for the people of his homeland who are poor and suffering to overcome the effects of bad leadership.

“More importantly, please pray that the fire of Jesus Christ may burn in every heart — in Africa, in America, in Asia, everywhere,” he said.

“And may God help us  turn to him and be good stewards of his vineyard and be received into heaven!”