Emily Kitto Mwaka, the First Female Head of Laity for Kampala Archdiocese.

Emily Mwaka Installed as the First Head of Laity for Kampala Archdiocese

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Kampala Archdiocese has installed its first-ever female Head of Laity, breaking the tradition of male dominance in the highest office of lay apostolate within the Archdiocese.

Emily Kitto Mwaka, who was recently elected to the position, was formally presented on Thursday alongside other elected members of the Archdiocesan Council of Lay Apostolate to the Archbishop Paul Ssemogerere during the Chrism Mass.

“This is history in the making. The first female Ssaabakristu,” remarked Jimmy Mukasa, one of the churchgoers, as the new leaders were introduced at Lubaga Cathedral amidst pomp.

After their introduction, they took their vows before the Archbishop, who subsequently blessed them and handed over their instruments of power.

Since Rome elected the Kampala Archdiocese in 1966, females had not been elected to this office, nor were they elected to similar positions in the Kampala Diocese and Rubaga Archdiocese, whose territories later formed the Kampala Archdiocese. This occurred despite the widely acknowledged fact that females participate more actively in church activities than their male counterparts.

Inside information obtained by our reporter reveals that the election of Mwaka in 2023 was not without controversy, as some delegates, who formed the electing college, sought to restrict the position to a male candidate.

“The entire election process faced challenges, but on the final day of electing leaders at the archdiocesan level, there were some individuals opposed to her election. However, she had mobilized supporters, and she emerged victorious. Nevertheless, since the election, more voices have arisen, even from within the clergy, expressing doubts about Mwaka’s suitability for the office,” a source familiar with the matter disclosed.

Mwaka, whose suitability is being questioned, is a professional teacher, currently serving as the headteacher at St. Kizito Secondary School Nakibano, in Mukono District. Additionally, she has been serving as the leader of the women’s guild in the outgoing council. She has also served in various capacities within the church over the years, starting from the sub-parish level.

Amid questions of credibility, Ivan Aloysius Kalanzi, the outgoing head of laity, confirmed to the congregants at Lubaga that he had recognized the potential in Mwaka, who had been serving as the leader of the women’s guild in the archdiocese.

“When I made the decision not to run for office again, there were people I reached out to, encouraging them to vie for the position, and she was among them. I have worked with her and am certain that she has potential,” Kalanzi stated.

The position is heavily male-dominated to the extent that even its local language title is masculine – “Ssaabakristu.” Females have traditionally been relegated to serve as vice, with a feminine title, “Nnaabakristu.”

With the appointment of a female head of laity, Kampala joins other dioceses that have already shattered stereotypes by having females in this position. These include Masaka and Jinja.

This development comes at a time when the Roman Catholic Church is grappling with questions regarding the role of females in ministry. Traditionally, like many other traditional religions, the Church has limited the roles of females within its structure.

However, with increasing voices advocating for breaking these barriers and promoting inclusivity, the Church has been gradually providing females with more prominent roles.

For example, in many dioceses, including those in Uganda, women now serve as readers and altar servers, as well as assisting priests during services or in administering Holy Communion, roles previously reserved for men.  Additionally, females are now being appointed to head departments and assume other top administrative positions within many dioceses.

During the mass, the Archbishop Ssemogerere expressed gratitude to the retiring lay leaders and welcomed the incoming leader, recognizing the invaluable contribution they made to the church. He emphasized the importance of collaboration between lay leaders and the clergy, urging them to work together harmoniously, avoid conflicts, and listen to each other attentively to foster unity within the church.

Kalanzi, also advised the incoming leader to build on the strengths of the outgoing leadership while also addressing any weaknesses to improve the overall effectiveness.  He emphasized that serving in these positions is voluntary and urged the new leaders not to expect payment but to work selflessly for the good of the church.

Kalanzi cautioned that if any of the new leaders harbored ulterior motives, they would be acting against the interests of the church and should be considered enemies of its unity and mission.

In her maiden speech, although she has not fully assumed office pending the handover, Mwaka pledged that she, along with her team, would serve selflessly with the guidance of God, promoting unity among the clergy and faithful in the archdiocese, regardless of the prevailing challenges troubling the church.

She also encouraged the faithful to actively engage in church activities, emphasizing that the cardinal role of faith extends beyond merely attending Mass to participating in all aspects of the church’s endeavors.

*Source – URN*

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