Father Martin Mwongyera incardinated as a priest of the Diocese of Peoria
While he is from the Diocese of Kabale in Uganda, Father Martin Mwongyera has been a familiar face in the parishes, hospitals and Tribunal of the Diocese of Peoria for a decade. Now he gets to call central Illinois his home on a permanent basis.
With the permission of Bishop Callistus Rubaramira of Kabale and Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, of Peoria, Father Mwongyera has transferred to the Diocese of Peoria. His incardination became official on May 25.
He will continue to serve as judicial vicar and co-director of the Tribunal with Sister Marianne Burkhard, OSB.
“When a deacon or a priest is ordained, they are incardinated into a diocese or religious community. To be incardinated means they are affiliated with that diocese for the life of their service as a priest,” said Msgr. James Kruse, vicar general of the Diocese of Peoria.
“A bond is established between the priest and the diocese and that bond secures rights and obligations between the priest and the diocese,” he explained, noting that the term incardination comes from Latin and translates as “in the heart of, in the flesh.”
“That is literally how deep that bond is,” Msgr. Kruse told The Catholic Post. “It’s trying to capture the idea that that bond is not superficial.”
Father Mwongyera said the process of incardination also demonstrates the universal aspect of priestly ministry.
“It’s a loss for my home diocese and a gain for this diocese, but in the final analysis it’s the universal part of our ministry. It’s a gain for Christ,” he said.
“What is the church for? It is for the salvation of the people of God,” Father Mwongyera said. “If there is more need in one part of the world, the bishops are always generous in allowing priests to move and to serve where there is more pastoral need.”
In this case, Father Mwongyera holds a licentiate in canon law and theology and a doctorate in canon law and can assist Bishop Jenky with a wide range of issues, in addition to his leadership in the Tribunal.
A SECOND HOME
Father Mwongyera came to Peoria in 2006, during his summer break from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. Priests from his home diocese, members of the Apostles of Jesus, were serving as chaplains at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and needed someone to cover for them while they took a break and attended meetings for their community.
That led to ministry as parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception in Monmouth, St. Theresa in Alexis, and St. Andrew in Oquawka, and chaplain at OSF Holy Family Medical Center in Monmouth, and then as parochial vicar at St. Anthony in Spring Valley, and St. Joseph and St. Mary in Peru, and associate chaplain at St. Margaret’s Health in Spring Valley.
When he completed his canon law studies, he received permission to return to the Diocese of Peoria to gain experience in handling marriage cases in the Tribunal.
Father Mwongyera was named parochial vicar of St. Mary’s Cathedral, St. Peter and St. Bernard in Peoria and judge for the Tribunal in 2012, and judicial vicar and co-director of the Tribunal in 2015.
For him, priestly ministry is an extension of the lessons learned at home.
His parents, Philomena and Fabian Okyekoreire, welcomed his cousins and other family members into their home to help them with their education and other needs. Father Mwongyera remembers playing Mass, assigning altar servers and other key roles.
He attended St. Thomas Aquinas National Seminary in Katigondo, Masaka, Uganda, earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1991. He completed his theological studies at St. Mary’s National Seminary, Ggaba, Kampala, Uganda, and was ordained by Bishop Robert M. Gay, M.Afr., on July 28, 1996, in his parish church, Mary Mother of the Church in Nyakishenyi.
After ordination he taught at St. Paul’s Minor Seminary for two years and would later teach at St. Mary’s National Seminary.
In 1997, he was asked to be director of vocations for the Diocese of Kabale because the bishop wanted someone who could relate to the students. He would continue in that role until 2002. From 1998 until 2001, he also served as secretary to the bishop and vice chancellor of the diocese.
He was sent to the Catholic University of Louvain for further study in 2002.
Father Mwongyera still has family and classmates in Uganda and intends to maintain those bonds, but feels at home in the Diocese of Peoria with “the wonderful people, wonderful diocese, wonderful bishop and wonderful priests. It is my second home.”