African Missionary: The Family Is Indispensable to the Church’s Mission

SIDEBAR Comboni Missionary Father John Mungereza highlights the state of marriage in his Ugandan suburb.

Family in a Kampala market
Family in a Kampala market (photo: Public domain/ Wikipedia Commons)

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KAMPALA, Uganda — In Africa, similar to other regions around the globe, some couples get married for the wrong reasons.

Comboni Missionary Father John Mungereza, serving in Mbuya parish, in a Kampala, Uganda, suburb, says, “Some marriages are based on materialism, and such marriages crumble as soon as the rich partner loses his or her job.”

In his parish, where nearly 120 couples receive the sacrament of matrimony annually, a former pastor confessed that one of the marriages he blessed ended in divorce just one week after the wedding.

Father Mungereza says, however, the Church has been taking the preparation of couples for the sacrament of marriage seriously. He explained that, as part of marriage preparation (which is held over several weeks), they often invite stable married couples to share their experiences with those who are preparing to receive the sacrament.

“They don’t have to share only the good things in their relationship, but also the challenges they face in their marriage. This helps to prepare them psychologically,” he said.

Additionally, Father Mungereza said the Church reminds spouses of their responsibilities. Often, spouses initially embrace these responsibilities; as time passes, however, many of them relax. “We tell them to provide for their families, with both spouses playing their roles,” he said. Yet he noted that some women, when they have money, abandon the family responsibilities to their housemaids, thus abdicating their own responsibility.

While the Church does her part by preparing couples for marriage, the challenge is that some couples are not attentive because they are more concerned with preparing their wedding party. Unfortunately, in such cases, when problems arise soon after their wedding, the family crumbles.

Another challenge that Father Mungereza identified is domestic violence, which in some cases is culturally conditioned. He said some men believe they must beat their wives, while some women simply accept being beaten. More often than not, however, he explained it is some spouses’ inability to provide for their families that results in domestic violence. “It is clear that issues of poverty can cripple marriage,” he said.

The Ugandan Comboni Missionary singled out mixed/interfaith marriages as another major challenge facing marriage and the family. He was, however, quick to note that those who enter such unions are often people who are not serious about their faith. He said when they are reminded about the challenges arising from such unions, they frequently offer platitudes like, “God is everywhere.” Yet when children come along, questions of where they pray or which faith to raise their children inevitably surface.

Father Mungereza believes the role families play in society is irreplaceable. He says issues like development, values and the growth of the Church begins with the family.

He said, “Even when we talk about vocations to the priesthood and religious life, the family becomes the starting point. Good and holy vocations come from good families, and without this, the Church’s ministry would come to nothing.”

Register correspondent Sister Grace Candiru,

of the Missionary Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church,

writes from Kampala, Uganda.