Ugandan priest finds a home among local Catholics

August 01, 2003


Staff Writer

The Rev. Paul Kkonde received the shock of a lifetime when he arrived in Danville June 13 to become temporary priest at SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.

"It was so different here," he said. "For years I had dreamed of visiting the United States, and when I got here, I was overwhelmed, almost culture shock. Things are so very much different here."

Kkonde, 33, is from a small village in Uganda, and his stint at SS. Peter and Paul happened because the church needed a priest to take over for the Rev. Linh Nguyen, who was in Chicago for classes.


The culture shock, he said, was quickly overcome by what he called the graciousness of the people here.

"Danville is a beautiful city with beautiful people," he said. "They have taken me into their homes and shown me their country. I love it here and I hope to come back some day."

One of 10 children, three of whom have died, Kkonde saw his father killed by thieves when he was a small boy.

"My mother is now 76 years old and still lives in the small village where I was born," he said. "As a child, I worked - but I also went to school. Education was very important to my mother. It is a simple village, but it was my home."

Kkonde's journey to Danville began, he said, when he was in school in that small village.

"In 1977, I was in grade one, a small boy and I saw the way people acted when the priest came to our city," he said. "They treated him with so much love, so much respect, and I thought then I would like to have that love and respect. As I grew older, the idea stayed with me - the calling - and the idea I had as a small boy evolved into a serious commitment."

Kkonde said he sees many obvious differences between his home in Uganda and Danville.

"The cars are the most obvious," he said. "Here, everyone has a car. In Uganda, they are very rare. In my parish, all the roads are dirt and very muddy when it rains. It is difficult for a car to travel."

He also said the food is a big change.

"Here, there are so many different things to eat," he said, pointing to his stomach and laughing. "I am getting fat on fried chicken. I think it is my favorite."

Kkonde said his duties differ little from what he would do in his parish at home.

"Here, I say Mass every day, I visit the sick, and I counsel with anyone who requests it," he said. "At home I would do basically the same thing, but there I have other responsibilities as well, such as teaching at the school."

Kkonde has also performed Mass at Northpoint Training Center during his stay here. "I try to do what I can - what I am asked."

In fact, Kkonde said teaching is one of his main duties in Uganda.

"We have good schools, but the structures there aren't the best," he said. "The students cannot afford to pay, so we do with what we have."

During his three-month stay, Kkonde, or Father Paul, as he is known at SS. Peter and Paul, has been able to see some of the local attractions through the guidance of members of his parish and other residents.

"I have been to Perryville, to Fort Harrod, to Shakertown and to Louisville," he said. "These are storybook places, places I would only know of through books if my visit here had not happened."

Kkonde is hoping to become involved in missionary work in the future.

"I am very interested in the young people," he said. "They are our future. We must nurture them, take care of them."

Kkonde said he will take many memories home to Uganda when he leaves, but the one he treasures most comes from the people he has met while here.

"I am a black man from Africa, and people still respect me and love me as a priest and as a man here," he said. "Can there be a better tribute to God than that?"|None***

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