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Father John Mary

I was born and raised in a small village in southwestern Uganda. Growing up in a family of seven kids, family became an important value in my life. It is the family element of the Benedictines, besides the balance between prayer and work, which I have come to treasure so much. It was in this staunch Catholic family that the seeds of my vocation were sown.

I don’t remember my parents ever saying anything to me about becoming a priest. I suppose it was the environment and religious atmosphere they cultivated around the home that shaped the path I was to choose later in life. Daily family prayers and Rosary, Sunday Masses, volunteering at church events were big traditions in my family. Being a subsistence farming family, manual labor was a means of sustenance and the rough life of poverty reinforced in me a work ethic and resilience that have later become an instrumental force fueling my passion and dedication to service and hard work.

When I was young, I had no idea I would end up spending my life time at Mary Mother of the Church Abbey in a distant land. However, my only conviction early in life was that I felt a strong calling to do something special in the world for God. Since I was a small boy I desired to become a priest. As I became familiar with different modes of priesthood, I developed an attraction to religious life and missionary service – to bring the Good News of the Kingdom to people of all nations.

All I know is that, I really dreamt big about my life. My deepest desire was to serve as a priest. However, that was not the only thing that fascinated me; if religious life was not to work out, I also had a love for law and science. So, my dream encompassed three things: becoming a priest, or a lawyer, or an engineer.

When my parents could not afford to send me to a high school seminary, I ended up at a small village school. I was heartbroken but trusted the Lord has a plan for me. I did my best, and when I finished advanced high school, I was accepted to law school at Makerere University in Uganda. I was enjoying my legal education but God had not given a deaf ear to the prayers of my heart’s deepest desire.

While at law school, my older brother who was a seminarian in Richmond introduced me to the Benedictines. I became attracted to monastic life and that was the turning point in my life. The decision of leaving law school for a monastery was not an easy one. Some friends were supportive and others not. My family has always supported my choices though. They were happy with the move. But ultimately the decision was mine. I prayed and prayed and consulted people I trusted for guidance.

I joined the Abbey in July 2001. I struggled with the adjustment to a new culture, language, way of life and leaving family behind thousands of miles away. However, the Lord had opened doors to a new family for me where I felt accepted and loved. God’s hand has always been at the center of this affair. It’s by his pure grace that I persevered, made first vows, then final vows and eventually after nearly eleven years, I was ordained a priest in 2012.

In between professions and ordination, I have been blessed to pursue various academic disciplines. While at Saint John’s University in Minnesota, I studied Philosophy and Computer Science. During seminary at Saint Vincent in Pennsylvania, I was awarded an S.T.B and M.A (Monastic History) degrees. I also attend a short course on Leadership in Rome. Currently, I am enrolled part-time in the JCL program at the Catholic University of America studying canon law.

A small community provides a close-knit family atmosphere. Each monk’s talents are utilized to the optimum and there is so much potential to grow, not only spiritually but also gain substantial practical skills and experience. I feel privileged to be here at this moment in the history of this community. God has sustained me here for a purpose.

It’s a blessing to be called upon to serve in various roles: high school teacher, chaplain, confessor, vocation director, oblates director, and currently as Acting Prior.

I have also been privileged to engage with a ministry helping orphan children and youth in Africa through education, health care, clean water, and shelter. The fruits are evident in the lives being transformed every day at the Hope school educating more than 340 children.

Looking back, I really think I made the right decision to follow my innermost desire – to seek, to love, and to serve God as a Benedictine monk. I feel so much joy and privileged to be available to pray and serve others following in the footsteps of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We are all called to do something beautiful for God every day, however small, to make our world a better place for all – through prayer, love, compassion and acts of charity.

I feel blessed to be a monk and part of this Abbey family. My heart is filled with immense joy — a joy derived from a life of prayer, love, and service which the Lord has chosen me for and continues to sustain me in this beautiful place. God is indeed awesome! He has done amazing things in my life. I am eternally grateful and my gratitude can only be expressed in dedicating my life back to him in service.

Will you consider being part of this beautiful of monastic family?

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