“The love of God sometimes follows paths one could never have imagined, but it always reaches those who are willing to be found.” So said Pope Benedict XVI at the 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
Henry Bukenya from Uganda is a good example of this. He was willing to be found, yet no one could possibly have foreseen it. For his mother died giving birth to him. “I never knew her”. His father did not want to know him, for he already had three other wives, and seven children. It was his grandmother who took little Henry in, had him baptised and brought him to the school, to the parish. It was there he heard about the Mother of God. “Mary is my Mother.
Whenever I had problems I went to her. And also to say thank you to her. I still do so today. She accompanies me throughout my life.” Henry was introduced to the Rosary club, a group of children with a special love for Our Lady who were taking part in the Rosary campaign “A Million Children praying the Rosary”. Over 10,000 children in Uganda were now meeting twice weekly to pray the Rosary. Henry was one of them, faithful year after year. Blythe Kaufmann, who founded the Rosary club, soon spotted him. Not all the children prayed with quite so much devotion as Henry did. “Mary always leads us to Jesus”, he says, with a smile that says still more. For it was Mary who led him to recognise within his heart the vocation to the priesthood. So he began his philosophy studies, hoping to become a priest. But there are many vocations in Uganda, and the selection process is a strict one. His family situation, his father with his three wives, was what told against him.
He was not admitted to the seminary. But Henry did not give up. Once again he turned to his Mother, and again, and again. He managed to scrape by with casual work, helping out in the parish, and above all in the Rosary club. Blythe sensed his genuine vocation and spoke to Bishop Jaime Fuentes from Uruguay, who was visiting Uganda at the time. The bishop began an intensive correspondence with Henry, a young man by now, and could see that he was serious about it. They decided between them that Henry would travel to Uruguay and study theology in the diocese of Minas. But here too there were problems, for he was the only seminarian; that hardly constitutes a seminary. Once more Mary came to his aid. Henry has found a home with the Holy Family congregation and is studying theology at the university faculty. Within three years he wants to complete his studies and then “serve God for the rest of my life, wherever He may send me. This is my vocation”. Henry was willing to be found and be led to Uruguay. It is a country so heavily secularised that it can almost be described as atheistic or neopagan. Priests have a hard time here, and black priests still more so. Henry knows this; so he prays and studies. The diocese can scarcely afford his university fees and has asked us for a subsidy of €1,270.
Henry merely pleads humbly, “Holy Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for me.”