Used chalices and patens from the U.S. get new life in Uganda
by Dave Wayman, Serra Club of Erie, Penn.
Many parishes in many dioceses across the United States have vocation chalice or vocation cross programs whereby parishioners take a chalice or a cross into their homes for a week and pray each day for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. These programs are a way to indirectly plant the seed and encourage thinking about vocations among our family members and youth. These are worthwhile programs that should be embraced by every parish. With God's grace they will, in time, bear fruit.
This article is about a different vocation chalice program; a program where there is a surplus of vocations to the priesthood. A program that should offer us in the west hope.
I have gotten involved in mission work through Mary Mission, Inc., a 501(c) 3 non-profit that has raised money and established a Catholic school in the Masaka district of Uganda. Each year for Used Chalices get new life in Uganda
the past four years, I've taken mission and medical supplies to Uganda, and worked at St. Philomena Primary and Nursery School in Lwabikere. It is the most fulfilling work I've ever done.
Three years ago, Father Casimir Bogniak, a "retired" priest of the Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania, approached me after morning Mass and asked a favor. Father Caz is in his mid-80's and still actively drives from parish to parish filling in where he is needed to say Mass and offer the sacraments along with proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.
He had heard that I was going to Africa and he had two chalices that he was concerned about disposing of before the executor of his will would be confronted with the problem. He asked me and my wife, Kathy, to take the chalices and patens with us to Uganda and make sure they were given to new priests whose families could not afford to buy good chalices for them.
Father Casimir "Caz" Bogniak
We gave the two chalices to the spiritual director of Mary Mission, Inc., Father Edward Kabanda of the diocese of Kamapala. He was delighted to accept them on behalf of the diocese and assured us that they would be used and cherished by the young priests who would receive them.
Uganda is a very Christian country, approximately 42% Catholic, 42% Protestant (mostly Anglican because they were a former British protectorate), 15% Muslim, and 1% Animist.
The Catholic community in Uganda is strong and growing, and that is reflected in the numbers of young men ordained each year. The Diocese of Kampala has the largest Catholic population, approximately 1.5 million. They have 390 active priests and their ordination numbers are: 2016 - 12 priests; 2017 - 19 priests; 2018 - 16 priests; and 2019 - 18 priests. Each priest ministers to approximately 3,845 Catholic parishioners.
By comparison, the Diocese of Pittsburgh has a Catholic population of about 1 million. They have 209 active priests. Their ordination numbers are: 2016 - 3 priests; 2017 - 5 priests; 2018 - 4 priests; and 2019 - 4 priests. Each priest ministers to approximately 4,716 Catholic parishioners.
Uganda is a third-world country and very poor. Many of the priests come from families that are average or below average on the country's economic scale, which is to say, poor. Many cannot afford a chalice for their Mass kit.
In the U.S., we have more priests retiring than being ordained. Chalices have no practical use once their owner passes away and really should not be used for anything other than Catholic liturgies. Anecdotally, I've been told that many parishes and dioceses have cupboards full of chalices left by priests that have passed away and whose families didn't know what else to do with the chalice.
Kathy and Dave Wayman present Father Caz's chalices to Father Anthony and Father Eddy Kabanda in Kiwamirembe.
So, before my summer 2018 mission trip I approached the Diocese of Erie to see if they had any chalices they would be willing to give to the Diocese of Kampala. They did indeed.
Sister Kathleen Dietz, F.S.O., Vice Chancellor of the diocese of Erie, was able to find six beautiful chalices and patens that had been collecting dust on a shelf. She polished them, restoring their luster and beauty for delivery to Uganda.
In 2019, I approached the Diocese of Erie again and they were able to provide six more chalices. Father Larry Richards of St. Joseph/Bread of Life parish in Erie offered four chalices that had been left at the parish by previous pastors.
Father Eddy Kabanda was absolutely thrilled to receive 10 chalices in November of 2019.
"You have no idea what this means," he said, "to the young priests who are able to have a beautiful chalice for their Mass kits. The gifts are deeply appreciated and will be used reverently to present the Eucharist at Mass in service to God's people."
In reflecting on this different kind of vocation chalice program. I couldn't help but feel like a torch is being passed from the developed West where the largest Father Caz's Chalice is used at a First religious group in America is the "nones," Communion Mass in Lwabikere, Uganda
those who choose not to identify with any
religious group and comprise 34 percent of our population, versus Protestants at 33 percent, Roman Catholics at 21 percent, and the smaller religions that comprise the balance of the population.
Here, some may be abandoning our Christian faith, while it is growing in Africa. In time they will be the missionaries and we will be the mission territories. We need to keep the light of faith burning and support our priests in third-world countries in whatever ways we can. I hope that dioceses throughout the United States would try to give their unused chalices to mission partners that can deliver them to needy dioceses in poor countries.
It is a different kind of vocation chalice program, but one that is essential in order to support and encourage vocations where they are being found today.
Dave Wayman is a past president and current board member of the Serra Club of Erie www.serraerie.org and is a board member of Mary Mission, Inc. www.marymission.com.