No Private Property for Missionaries of the Poor

Brother Josephat Katushabe, a humble and gentle man, did something on May 31 that led him on a path different from the one ordinary people tread.

Katushabe belongs to the religious group Missionaries of the poor (MOP). And at a ceremony presided over by Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala, he took the perpetual or final vows of the MOP. These vows mandate him to live a life of poverty, chastity, obedience and free service to fellow man.

It is curious to find a person willing to spend a lifetime of poverty, especially the type that MOP religious vow to. Fr Allan Borais, the superior of the MOP monastery in Mutundwe, says that MOP brothers do not own private property, bank accounts and have no health insurance.

“We also own only two shirts and cassocks. We only wear sandals because they are what Jesus wore they are also the footwear for the poor,” he says.

They also sleep in dormitories. I remember a trip organized by UWA that degenerated into complaints because editors had had to sleep in dormitories.

“For us we are old men. These sleeping arrangements aren’t for us,” one peeved editor said.

But the 80 Kampala brothers happily make do with these arrangements.

Performing menial tasks:

They also have to perform menial tasks, however superior in rank they are. They mop floors, do laundry, cook and wash dishes. They run two homes for the disaantaged, in Busega and Kisenyi, and at these homes, the brothers do all the donkey work. While happily sweeping the yard at the Kisenyi home, one brother urged me to pay the home another visit and do some laundry.

“Don’t only donate money, you come and wash clothes and cook,” he said.

“Oh dear, wash all those clothes? [The home has more than 60 residents.] Why wouldn’t we pay someone to wash?” I asked.

“Something happens when you use your hands to help these children,” the brother told me.

I was not up to the task. Some of the children at the homes are terribly mentally and physically incapacitated. They have to be fed and have their diapers changed. But the brothers are up to it. And on that May 31 ceremony, two brothers took temporary or first vows while eight, including Katushabe, took perpetual ones.

Perpetual vows mean one intends to be a lifelong MOP brother while temporary ones mean one may leave the brotherhood after three years. If they don’t leave, vows are renewed for another three years. Following six years of temporary vows, a brother takes perpetual vows, if they want to.

Borais says it could take ten to 12 years before one takes perpetual vows. During these years, candidates (called so during the first two weeks of professing interest in brotherhood), aspirants (one is an aspirant for six months), postulants (one is a postulant for one to two years) and novitiates (one is a novitiate for two years), are introduced to the poor, menial life of the MOP and are exposed to the MOP apostolate.

They are also taught church history, the MOP constitution and scripture. During the final year, they learn canonical law and 40 days to taking temporary vows, they enter a retreat where they remain in silence and pray.

It is a tough journey to brotherhood and I ask Katushabe why he chose it.

“This is a calling. I find it comfortable,” Katushabe says.

Humble servants:

His peers echo his sentiments. They are an interesting group because they are so humble and servile, the way Christ calls Christians to be. They act like I am a queen, quickly dropping their tasks to help me.

“Sorry my hands are like this, I was cutting vegetables,” says one brother, who dropped his cooking to help me.

On being told that I need him, Borais, the superior, sits down and puts himself at my service. The MOP, found in several countries, were founded by Fr Richard Ho Lung, a Jamaican. They mostly rely on donations to run their homes.

Source : The Observer

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