CANA Uganda is the largest group in the world. As it is at a turning point in its history, the recent visit of the CANA International team was very timely.

Gilles & Véronique CORMIER, sister Audrey JOLICOEUR
CANA International

CANA Uganda, at a turning point in its history

The last time CANA International came to Uganda was in 2019 with the visit of Father Christophe BLIN. Therefore, it was time to come and discover this great country as a team (5-14 October 2021). We wanted to meet the CANA fraternity with its diocesan leaders and visit some dioceses. This was especially important because the CANA Africa 2021 meeting, originally planned in Uganda, had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.

We have found that CANA Uganda is at a turning point in its history. Indeed, the arrival of the Chemin Neuf Community is changing the way CANA is conducted. In the Ugandan society, new issues are appearing that are closer to those encountered in the West and require new responses (for example, it is more difficult for couples to marry). Covid has shaken up practices, the economic crisis has repercussions on families.  It was therefore very useful for us to take the time to meet with couples and bishops to better understand how to accompany the changes that the many couples in this great country are experiencing.

Training of diocesan leaders

Every year in October, at the “Foyer de Charité” in Namugongo, next to the Shrine of the Martyrs of Uganda, the formation of the diocesan leaders of the 11 dioceses where CANA is present takes place. In 2021, it was supposed to take place during the CANA Africa meeting. This meeting having been cancelled, we have decided to relaunch this formation which is so important for the brothers and sisters of this part of Africa. Fortunately, Cyprian GENDIA (unfortunately without Angeline!) who is leading CANA in Kenya was also able to make the trip.

All the brothers and sisters of the Chemin Neuf Community in Mbarara were present with us at the service. This allowed our young brothers (Constantin and Benjamin), just arrived in Mbarara, to dive into the knowledge of the couples of CANA and the challenges of the mission. It was also a great opportunity for the leaders of CANA to get to know the Community.

Mini-retreat around the Joy of Love

Finally and despite the constraints of Covid which still exist (the cost of transportation has doubled), 74 leaders, representing all the dioceses, were able to come. It was a wonderful meeting that allowed us to better understand the expectations and challenges they face. We offered them a mini-retreat to begin with, before teaching them about responsibility as a couple and the Apostolic Letter Amoris Laetitia. On this basis, each team began to build their response to this letter on the Joy of Love as proposed by the Pope. We ended with a beautiful community time.

Meeting the diocesan teams

We first met with the diocesan teams from Uganda who were present at the formation and then we were able to visit some of them on site.

At the end of the training, we left with John-Mary, the CANA Uganda leader, to Fort Portal to meet the CANA diocesan team and Bishop Robert MUHIIRWA who is very enthusiastic. Here is his main message: “Keep up the good work; you are the priority for the family; don’t hesitate to start small (CANA Welcome or CANA Parents).

In this largest diocese in the world with more than 700 couples in CANA, here are the main points that stand out: education (CANA Parents), alcoholism problems, doing 1,2,3 CANA, recontacting “lost” couples after the Covid.

We then met with Francis KIBIRA, bishop of Kasese, with John BAGUMA, Constantin and Benjamin. He too is in favor of a deeper deployment of CANA. His main message: “Continue to spread out in all the parishes, with CANA Welcome in particular.” Then a meeting of the entire CANA diocesan team. A very nice exchange took place with the following main conclusions: to help the fraternities to resume their meetings as a priority, to launch CANA Welcome, to see how to take into account the economic reality of the couples (in particular the farmers).

Departure for Kabale, a small diocese, bordering Rwanda. Meeting with Bishop Callistus RUBARAMIRA who gives us all his support and also asks us to find ways to help the families who are too poor to follow the CANA programme. The meeting that followed with the diocesan team was very rich.

Finally, we returned to Mbarara with a meeting with Archbishop Lambert BAINOMUGISHA where he welcomes the Community. He gives us all his support to continue to develop thanks to the access to radio programmes ; he encourages us to meet with the catechists and all the priests …. Then we were able take more time with the CANA team of the diocese.

The national team

During our visit we finalized the changes in the national team. We were able to thank John & Jane BAGUMA who, after so many years serving CANA, will be focusing on the development of the Chemin Neuf Community, as well as Ana & William who will be leaving the CANA mission at the end of the year to move forward in their community journey and discernment.

Two couples are joining the national team: Vincent & Claire and Aloysius & Olive who will support the team in Mbarara!

A timely mission

This was a very rich mission that has arrived at the right time. There will be a lot to do… Fortunately the teams are solid but will not be able to do more than it is possible to give! The economic question is also central in a country that is suffering so much from the pandemic. How can CANA take more account of this dimension in its proposals? The priority remains to renew the dynamic of the fraternities after the pandemic.