Father Germano Serra a comboni missionary from Portugal. He has spent more than 25 years in Karamoja in the northeast of Uganda. We talked with him.
In his early childhood, Fr. Germano always dreamt of becoming a missionary working in Africa; a dream his mother and Parish Priest back home in Portugal did not support. Despite the fact that his mother and Parish Priest did not agree to his childhood dream, God had everything planned out for him. His Parish Priest wanted him to work as a Diocesan Priest; something his mother wanted for him too.
After his vows with the Comboni Missionaries in July 1992, he was assigned to Uganda. When Fr. Germano arrived in Uganda, he was immediately told by the Uganda Province that he was going to work in Karamoja with Namalu as his duty station. He recalls his first experience in Namalu as a tough one especially because he could not speak or understand the language.One thing he likes about Namalu is the politeness the people showed him. He worked as a Curate there until 1996 when he was moved to Matany where he would work until 2005. Unlike in Namalu, life in Matany was easier for this young missionary who was already experiencing some human maturity. He could now speak the language, and quite easily understood the people, which made life easier.
Despite the fact that there was a lot of insecurity in Karamoja at that time, Fr. Germano said he was not scared and he loved it there. He thanks God that the warriors did not touch or try to harm him then. “I never felt the fear of death although some missionaries were killed during that time,” commented Fr. Germano. His biggest challenge in Karamoja was understanding the people of the region. He revealed that the people always challenged him because he could not speak the language but, when he learnt the language, he fell in love with the region and he cannot exchange it for any place you would want to take him.
Despite surviving the brutality of the warriors in Karamoja, Fr. Germano nearly lost his life in Kampala when he got involved in a nasty accident in Nakawa in 2005. This all happened when he was riding a motorcycle from Matany to Kampala to buy spare parts for a mill. He had hoped to get a lift from one of the priests who was coming to Kampala but unfortunately, at the last minute, plans changed and he missed the lift so he decided to ride his motorcycle. With a broken leg and a complicated heart, his treatment could not be effected in Uganda; he was flown to Italy because his situation was very delicate. In Italy, he had two surgeries, an open heart surgery and a surgery in his leg to fix the 9cm bone that was totally broken. The doctors had to implant a horse’s bone in his marrow for six months to allow the bone in his leg grow and fortunately, after six months, the bone grew back.
Even with all this misfortune, Fr. Aparaluka like he was known in Matany never regretted any single day why he had to leave his home in Portugal to become a missionary. He stayed in Italy for 16 months after the accident undergoing treatment. After which, he went back to Portugal where he was made chaplain in one of the prisons. He noted that the experience was a nice one and he learnt so many things but his heart was in Karamoja.
Six months after the open heart surgery, the Church project that he left pending in Karamoja was making him restless. He thought he could not stay any longer away from the people he loved serving so much and the thought of the stalled project made him request the doctors to allow him come back to Uganda. The doctors could not convince him to stay in Italy any longer, so, he was allowed to return. When Fr. Germano returned, he was taken to the Comboni Provincial house for two years where he underwent a lot of therapy. After that, he was assigned back to Karamoja this time in Moroto where he was head of Culture and Language. He developed love for karimojong culture and language.
After two years, it was time for him to move elsewhere; he was assigned outside Moroto which did not amuse him. Being a missionary, he obeyed the order and moved to his new home in Losilang where he is still working to date. Here, in the beginning, Fr. Germano was supposed to take care of the workers and gardens and he was back to what he loved most; Language and Culture. He said the Bishop of Kotido asked him to help in writing akarimojong dictionary. He is also building an on-line library for the Language and culture of the karimojong. Fr. Germano says the project has taken him 3 years and he hopes to complete it by 2020. This project he says he will monitor even from Portugal after completion, although he thinks that could be his last project in Karamoja. He has a big dream for Karamoja; he dreams of writing an English-akarimojong dictionary too.
Fr. Germano’s love for akarimojong language is revealed when the outspoken priest tries to correct a mistake everyone tends to make pronouncing Karamoja. His biggest fear at the moment is that when he leaves Karamoja, the language and Culture project will die out. He speaks about it with a heavy heart because he wants this baby of his to be carried on for the next generation.
Though Fr. Germano is in Africa doing missionary work, one would think that his dream has been fulfilled. But, to him, it is a process he undergoes everyday of his life. (Irene Lamunu)