To Reverend Father Deogratias Kiibi Kateregga, 31, [the now celebrity priest who presided over the requiem mass of fallen artiste Mowzey Radio] and his flock, his homily last Friday at Lubaga cathedral was business as usual; nothing was sensational or surprising about it.
That is Kateregga every day, writes Baker Batte Lule.
To the rest of the country, it was unbelievable that a ‘young’ [he detests the description] priest could have the courage to say what he said – his sermon lambasting the celebrity lifestyle with great humour has since gone viral.
Since the Friday preaching, Kateregga has received hundreds of calls from people known to him and total strangers to say, “thank you.”
In just two days, he had received more than 200 Facebook friend requests; he has been hosted by NTV and NBS TV to expound on his message. At Lubaga cathedral where he is based, many people, regardless of their religious denomination, have visited his office to thank him in person.
Even as I interview him, we are continuously interrupted by admirers.
“Frankly speaking, I didn’t say anything new from what I normally preach about,” Kateregga says, occasionally reviewing his sermon on YouTube using the computer in his office. “The only thing maybe is that majority of those who were in church that day hadn’t listened to me before.”
“I now realize what our celebrities go through every day,” he tells me. “Everywhere I’m passing people are saying, ‘Wuuyo Faaza eyabuulidde mu kusabira Mowzey [There goes the priest who preached during Mowzey’s requiem mass].’ It’s a bit uncomfortable, but thank God, our training prepares you to handle such situations,” Kateregga, whom I have known for years and is a personal friend, says.
“Actually that was not my best homily, according to me and those who normally attend my sermons. But whatever I said I was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”
He says despite the renewed attention, he remains the same humble priest he has always been.
“We have been trained not to be proud; we have been taught to take things normally. So, this is not something that can move me to think I’m so great.”
Kateregga says he did not prepare beforehand for his bare-knuckle speech that castigated celebrities for living a wasteful and extravagant lifestyle. He says the cathedral administrator Rev Father John Mary Bbuye chose him at the last minute to be the main celebrant.
“Maybe he saw me fit for the congregation,” he says.
WHO IS KATEREGGA?
Father Kateregga was born on July 8, 1986 in a family of nine children – three girls and six boys – to Dr Augustine Kateregga and Teddy Nabayunga in present-day Kyotera district.
His father is a medical doctor working at Kaliisizo hospital but for 20 years was the head of Kabuwoko health center IV. On the other hand, Nabayunga is a nurse working from her home where she runs a clinic.
Fr Kateregga says he was born in a very staunch Catholic family and it is not surprising that two of his sisters are nuns while one of his younger brothers, Bonny Rogers Muteekanga, is at Kinyamasika Seminary training to become a priest.
“My dad has been the head of the laity in Biikira parish and Biikira deanery for two terms. He also takes readings at Kabuwoko Catholic church,” he says.
The straight-talking priest went to Mbuye primary school, owned by the Catholic Brothers congregation ‘Bannakalooli’, where he sat for his primary leaving exams.
For the rest of his education, he went to one seminary after another. These include, Bukinda Seminary in Kabale, Kisubi Seminary in Entebbe, Katigondo National Major Seminary in Masaka and Ggaba National Major Seminary before joining Pontifical Urban University, Rome in Italy for a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religious studies.
Kateregga also has a master’s degree in Religious and Theological Studies of Makerere University, a diploma in Social and Religious Studies, a diploma in Religious and Philosophical Studies, a certificate in Guidance and Counseling and a certificate in Project Planning and Management.
Currently, he is pursuing a master’s degree in Journalism and Communication at Makerere University. At Makerere where Kateregga and I share lectures, it is the only secular institution he has attended since his primary school. He loves the course, the leacturers and his classmates a lot.
There, it is hard to know that he is actually a priest. Not that he behaves dubiously; he is just that guy that fits in so well.
“I think it is the best class I have ever attended; Makerere also has the best professors I have ever met,” Kateregga says.
When it’s time for arguments on all topics – women, politics, academics, economy, religion – he will be as engaged as the next student. When it’s time for ‘letting our hair down’, he will join classmates in doing so, although the way he carries himself always shows caution only a priest can have.
“Father Deo,” Bashir Mwebe, one of his close friends opines, “is very cooperative and respectful of everybody, irrespective of your religion.”
In fact, Mwebe adds, Kateregga likes the preachings of Sheikh Nooh Muzaata especially those that call for respect of other people’s religions. “He has several such clips in his phone, which he normally listens to.”
As the graduate class finished writing the final paper on December 15 last year, Kateregga was ready with a big cake to say thank you to everybody for the closely-knit relationship the class enjoyed. But outside his classroom, he has an axe to grind with some university students.
He says unlike in church, at Makerere it is normal to see people indecently dressed. But, “I have been prepared to think beyond a miniskirt. I analyze situations and choose the better part”.
Saying he has morning prayers, mid-morning prayers, noontime prayers, evening prayers and night prayers, “These prayers keep me safe; they help me to understand what to do. Girls and women are an issue with all men but for us we are men who are ordained. I can’t say we are perfect, but we do our best.”
LIFE OF A PRIEST
Kateregga says priesthood is not a job but a calling; a sacred gift which God gives to human beings. He says those who are chosen to become priests are those who have shown traits of being shepherds.
“I have enjoyed serving God and the people. We serve in obedience, poverty and chastity,” he says.
Asked about the challenges of priesthood, Kateregga says like any institution, there are challenges although they are normally overcome by someone’s perseverance and prayer.
“After P7, you go for six years in a seminary and then go to a major seminary for eight years. The 14 years are enough for someone to decide whether he will manage to be a priest. You can disengage at any point in those 14 years,” he says.
Kateregga also takes issue with people referring to him as a young priest. He says after one is ordained, he is not young anymore because the church doesn’t ordain young people. Youthful, yes, but not young?
“The church ordains mature men who are capable of being fathers; we are called father because we are there to speak in the name of the Father Himself. We measure maturity by how responsible one is, not by age. There are people who are 80 years old, but what comes out of them you wonder whether they are actually 80.”
ROLES AT LUBAGA
Kateregga was ordained priest by Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga in 2014 and was immediately sent to Ggoli parish in Mpigi district, where he served up to 2015 before his transfer to Lubaga parish. In Ggoli, he headed the youth chaplaincy of the Ggoli Catholic Parish.
It was here that his workaholic traits were spotted, hence transferring him to the seat of the Catholic Church. However, he says, the church has no special parishes.
“Anyone can work anywhere within the boundaries of the archdiocese; where the bishop sends you, is where you go.”
At Lubaga, Kateregga was appointed information coordinator for the archdiocese, a position that influenced his going back to school to acquire a master’s degree in Journalism and Communication. He says in church one cannot head a department without a master’s degree in that field.
The communication office, among other things, publishes a bi-monthly magazine called the Catholic News Report. Kateregga is also working around the clock to resurrect the defunct Catholic Church-owned newspaper, Munno.
Kateregga is an assistant cathedral administrator and also heads the Catholic Charismatic Renewal at the cathedral. He is the chaplain of the choirs, chaplain of all secondary schools in the parish, excluding Lubaga Girls SS and Uganda Martyrs High School that have resident chaplains.
He also acts as the master of ceremonies at the cathedral during big functions. He usually preaches at the Catholic-owned radio stations, Maria and Sapientia.
Once you get to know Deogratias Kiibi Kateregga, you also understand why his is a name you are bound to hear a lot for many years to come, God willing.
HOW HIS FRIDAY SERMON WAS RECEIVED
His boss, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, the archbishop of Kampala, said it had been long since he last heard such a “powerful homily.”
To Pastor Wilson Bugembe, the Holy Spirit descended upon Fr Kateregga to wake up “our sleeping souls”. Bugembe asked those who know the priest to inform him that, “that was my best sermon”.
To President Museveni’s son-in-law Odrek Rwabwogo, Kateregga’s sermon should be widely circulated for every youth in the country.
To renowned economist Ramathan Ggoobi, the priest’s courage epitomizes the need for society to have more of his ilk than politicians.
“Which politician can dare say this daytime truth?” he asked.