wiPolo Martyrs Shrine

The wiPolo shrine for the Paimol Martyrs which is the venue for the Annual celebration of the martyrs feast day was constructed and completed by the October 18th feast day celebration in fall of 2015. Paimol, known by the Acholi people to be the site of the martyrdom of Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa, has been the destination of the annual pilgrimage to celebrate the catechists’ deaths as witnesses to Christ.

With the leadership of Fr. Joseph Okumu, the sponsoring of the Archdiocese of Gulu, the architecture plans of Architect Giuseppe Nicora and the help of ARS Construction led by Engs Francesco Frigerio and Andrew Olal , the Paimol Martyrs Shrine of wiPolo was constructed in the spiritual home of the fallen Ugandan martyrs

 The undying light of martyrs Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa

The martyrs Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa were two young Acholi catechists at the beginning of the 20th century. They belonged to northern Uganda’s Acholi people – a subdivision of the larger Lwo group whose members even today live mostly in North Uganda, but are also present in Southern Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They lived and were martyred in the years immediately following the foundation of the mission station of Kitgum in 1915 by the Comboni Missionaries from Italy.

Okelo and Irwa reached Kitgum mission station to become catechumens. Together with all the other young people, they first received the medals of Our Lady, signs that they were ready to undertake two years instructions in the catechumenate, and they proudly wore them on their necks and committed themselves to learn the catechism of Pius X, translated into Acholi by Fr Pasquale Crazzolara. They took this period of preparation for the sacraments very seriously. Tommaso Alenga , who was their fellow catechumen in Kitgum, was to testify later  that Okelo took the instructions seriously and always showed to pass on to others the Christian faith he so much desired to learn about.

Irwa was an equally determined young lad. His Father Mr. Daniel Okeny nicknamed Tongfur testified that he himself had to take food to the catechumenate in Kitgum because his son was so much taken up in the very first instance that he did not care to return home to eat.

After receiving the sacrament of Confirmation Daudi and Jildo asked to be enlisted as catechists and to receive the required preparation. They returned to their homes in Ogom-payira and Labongo Bar-kituba but remained in direct contact with the missionaries of Kitgum for almost two years. They felt ready to be appointed as catechists themselves. The opportunity came when Antonio the catechist responsible for the village of Paimol and a cousin of Okelo Daudi passed away. Paimol was some is some 80 kms to the east of Kitgum. From the social point of view Paimol was a group of organised villages ruled by Chief Lakidi , his Deputy, Mukungu Ogal lived there on a lovely high plain surrounded by mountains . Ogal’s house was proudly called Palamuku “a place with many villages”. It was on an, olet or a flat grazing ground for cows and goats. It would be on this ground that the blood of the two martyrs would become like a seed for Christianity to germinate, watered, grow and bear abundant fruits. Palamuku would become wi polo (in heaven) as it will be called by the Christians after the sacrifice of Okelo Daudi and Irwa Jildo.

The martyrdom of these two young catechists of northern Uganda is very meaningful for the current events the country is going through. It is a matter, first of all, of two young lay catechists who together carried out and remained faithful to their assignment to spread the Gospel by words and deeds. Secondly, by courageously accepting to go to a place without the confines of their own clan, they have become in their environment a sign of the catholicity and unity of the Church. Thirdly having lived during a period of tribal in fighting, forced colonial administration and still flourishing domestic slavery, they represent the integrity of the Gospel that always protects and safeguards personal dignity and promotes peace and reconciliation among peoples, ethnic groups and cultures. For this, even today they are remembered in their land as Christ’s true “witnesses by blood”

Pope John Paul II now Saint John Paul II beatified the two in Rome in 2002 and the local Church in Uganda celebrates their beatification every year on 20th of October. Beautiful building constructions are springing up in Paimol the place of their martyrdom and multitudes of people from all over the Great Lakes region of Africa come to this place every year to testify to the discipleship of Jesus and apostleship of his Gospel to all mankind.

The Geographic location: Map of wiPolo in Paimol Sub-County of Agago district in North Uganda.

 

Cross the River Nile into north Uganda you find the pilgrimage path to Paimol from Lira and Gulu in north Uganda.

The wiPolo Shrine in Paimol in Agago district is still part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Gulu in the eastern end at the border with Karamoja. wiPolo is easy to find; once in Gulu which is the regional city of northern Uganda you travel the tarmacked road to Kitgum some 100 kilometers to the north east; from there you go straight to Kalongo parish under which is Paimol its outstation. Or once in Lira you again take the Lira – Kitgum road to some 38 kms point at Corner Kilak where you turn east and reach Patongo where at the 28th kilometer stone a slight curve on your left to the north presents the Kalongo mountain ranges in your face. Kalongo is just 25 kilometers from here and wiPolo Shrine in Paimol is about 15 kilometers. Easy.

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