WhatsApp runs church

At 10am, the drums were paraded. Microphones checked and the choir in yellow and black attire stood neatly with their song sheets. The keyboard player struck every soothing chord to mark the beginning of mass at Kitante Primary School last Sunday. Young energetic children led by an elder threw their arms gracefully in the air as they blended in with Turi bamwe omu ri Kristu, a Runyakitara hymn which tells of the history of Catholic faith in Uganda.

The congregation comprised children, the youth and elders. One could mistake it for Christmas Day.
It was Archdiocese of Mbarara Development Association(Amda) Whatsapp Family, a group of Catholics from Mbarara archdiocese living in Kampala and other parts of central region who had gathered for mass. “This mass takes place every end of month. However, today is unique because it is animated by Amda Whatsapp and thanksgiving as well,” said Catherine Bekunda Tumwebaze, one of the organisers.
Emmy Mbareebaki created Amda WhatsApp forum to ease conversation for Catholics hailing from greater Ankole on March 19, 2014.

“It is a fast world and we need to keep in touch while we are far apart. Social media is a tool to help with more than entertainment, says Mbareebaki. “Those who joined invited their friends and currently, it is has evolved into six forums each comprising about 100 members,” he says of its evolution.
The medium has brought Catholics closer to priests who exhaustively answer questions related to the Bible. There are priests who send daily devotions and, in addition to getting tips on diet, herbs, finance and medical prescriptions from experts.

Amda started praying at Naguru, later moved to Nsambya then shifted to Avemar Shopping Centre and now go to Kitante Primary School.
With increasing numbers of active members, the association hatched an idea of having its own home. The memorandum of understanding was signed with administrators of the archdiocese’s land in Rubaga, Kampala and now members are collecting funds for building a multipurpose hall comprising a priests’house.
The project is expected to Shs4b but with the enthusiasm the members have, this dream will be achieved soon.

At this time, the members have collected approximately Shs200m in cash and pledges.
On Sunday after mass which was led by Fr Dunstan Asiimwe, vocations director, Mbarara Archdiocese, the members raised Shs2.5m. In his sermon, he urged Christians to be courteous and charitable. “Amda members should always pay tithe and share the little they have with the needy. Constructing a home is a good gesture by Catholics.” Besides church matters, the association has a sacco from which members get affordable financial loans.
Other than chatting for leisure, members organise get togethers where they meet new members, discuss their challenges.

What members say
Maureen Rugyendo, says through Amda WhatsApp, she has got more involved and interested in church activities. She has also got to know more people and her network is expanding.
Caroline Owashaba, a social worker says the network has helped to connect her with fellow parishioners from Nyamitanga Cathedral in Mbarara District.

Silver Aguba, former Amda Chairman who also plans to take part in politics in Rubirizi District, says Amda has given him courage to go for his long-time dream of being a political leader. “I was never interested in social media until Amda WhatsApp forum was created and I am now an addict.”

Dr Clet Kakuru applauds the association for helping him meet people from his home district who he says he has learnt a lot from. “The association has improved my socialisation skills including prayer life.”

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