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.
Constructing the plat form of the Open air prayer altar top and down
Roofing the top of the Open air altar with iron sheets.
The shrine now serves as an altar with the same level of grandeur that is celebrated for the martyrs themselves (and has been for nearly one-hundred years)!
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.
Salient points of beatification.
- November 1917 Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa travel in the company of Head Catechists Bonifacio Okot to Paimol.
- October 18th 1918 or there about Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa are killed by spearing (Daudi Okelo was speared by Okedi Lunyomoi and Jildo Irwa speared by Opio Akadamoi two sons of Ogal Lowamoi). The news spread in the areas of Paimol, Omiya paCwaa and up to Kitgum where in 1926 Monsignor Vignato in the company of seminarian Bala Donasiano plans a pastoral visit to Palamuku location of Paimol to collect the remains of the two catechists then left in a dead anthill to give them a decent burial in the parish Church of Kitgum.
- 1933 July the first report on the killing of Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa by Fr Antonio Vignato comes out in Italy (La Nigrizia) entitled: Ricordando due giovani eroi in English, Remembering the two young heroes.
- 1934 the Apostolic Prefecture of Equatorial Nile became Apostolic Vicariate with own first bishop Monsignor Angelo Negri; Monsignor Vignato leaves Uganda and in 1937 becomes the General Superior of the Verona Fathers to serve the institute in this position until 1947.
- 1935 Bishop Angelo Negri officially takes over the new Apostolic Vicariate of equatorial Nile; no bed of roses as the World War II breaks out with Italy on the opposing side of England. Bishop Angelo Negri and all his priests get interned far down south of Uganda in Masaka for eighteen months. They will be released on parole but remain still under surveillance.
- 1940 March Bishop Angelo Negri writes to assure Monsignor Vignato now Superior General in Rome he would take up the matter of instituting the canonical process investigating the asserted martyrdom of David Okelo and Jildo Irwa. In a separate letter to Fr Audisio he regrets that he destroyed the brief notes he received not thinking they would one day be useful. From the notes however, he had written his La tragedia di Paimol romanticized story of the martyrdom. In April of the same year Monsignor Vignato writes to Bishop Angelo Negri he was convinced the death of the two catechists was not political. The Bishop dies in November 1949 while on a pastoral visit to Arua the far western end of the Apostolic Vicariate but his wish to open a canonical process of beatification does not.
- 1951 August 6, Fr Vincenzo Pellegrini writes to the new Bishop Monsignor John Baptist Cesana to tell him Monsignor Angelo Negri had asked him to collect and complete some testimonies he heard from the people of Kitgum under oath. Fr Pellegrini himself finds so well spread among the people of Kitgum the story about the killing of the two catechists. He collects the story into a book that would become an Acholi language composition text Acoli Macon (1951) for all Primary schools.
- 1951 Fr Vittorio Albertini was posted to Gulu to teach in the seminary of the inter vicariate and begins to interrogate witnesses to the killing of the two catechists.
- 1952- 1953 Professor Albertini collects all the existing testimonies including Fr Pellegrini’s collections in his Acholi Macon on the martyrdom of Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa
- 1953 May 5 the collected testimonies, sent to Rome by Monsignor Cesana in all 300 pages and carefully studied by Mr De Heredia who made his own positive observations in in 32 pages favouring the beatification; Sneider the Advocate in the causes of saints in Rome who also analysed carefully the first data collected whispered to Fr Agostino Capovilla Postulator and Procurator General of the Comboni Missionaries that the collected data were very much supportive of credible case of martyrdom.
- 1953 May Fr Capovilla procurator general and postulator who had already been much encouraged by the opinion of Mr De Heredia and Sneider carefully guarded the data collected by Fr Vittorio Albertini and sent it back to Gulu in the hope that it would help institute the informative process of beatification. Unfortunately the canonical informative process could not start for many reasons such as; lack of additional competent personnel, the political independence dust rising just after the World War II. All did not augur well for the beatification process; Missionaries were mainly overtaken by trepidation and zealous territorial conquest.
- 1968 Monsignor Cesana resigns due to ill health and in the following year native Cypriano Kihangire succeeded him. The political situation grew worse and culminated in the expulsion in 1975 by Dictator Idi Amin Dada of some missionaries.
- 1969 -1999: firmly in the hands of indigenous Church, the process of beatification of Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa must survive three military dictatorships one after another.
- 1969 Pope Paul VI visits Uganda and indeed Africa as a whole where he entrusts the catholic Church in Uganda and all its missionary activities including beatification process to the Africans when he said: “Africa, be missionaries to your selves”.
- 1994 twenty six years later Pope Holy Father now St. John Paul II in his Apostolic letter Tertio Millenio Adveniente 37 that opened the door to the third millennium was more explicit: “In our century martyrs have reappeared, often unrecognized, almost ‘unknown soldiers’ of God’s great cause. Insofar as possible their witness must not be lost to the Church. It is necessary that the local Churches do their utmost, by collecting the necessary documentation, not to let the memory of those who underwent martyrdom perish”.
- 1996 held a diocesan synod that saw the reopening of the Paimol case that was somehow shelved in 1953.
- 1997 opened with the new canonical process of beatification of Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa over seen by Monsignor Martin Luluga Ordinary of the Diocese of Gulu. In session 3 of the diocesan process of investigation Bishop Martin Luluga approves the prayer of veneration of the two catechists on the feast of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven:
“O God, you gave the young catechists David and Jildo the courage and fidelity to announce the Gospel in difficult circumstances. Grant also to us an ardent desire to share our faith with other people and the joy of seeing the two catechists glorified in your Church. We ask you this through Christ Our Lord – Amen”
- 1997 by decrees of Bishop Martin Luluga the tribunal and the Historical commission were established to re-examine the testimonies collected way back in 1952 by Professor Vittorio Albertini. Alberini himself was still alive to confirm the testimonies. The commission thought it would have been good to re-examine many more eye witnesses at the time still alive and thus Martina Akulu of Kalongo and Ursula Apio of Paimol Juba to mention but a few gave fresh testimonies that appeared a photocopy of what they had given to Fr. Albertini in 1952.
- 1998 the diocesan process was closed and the acts are sent to Rome and soon in April of the same year a decree was issued on the canonical validity of all the acts.
- 2001 His Grace John Baptist Odama while on ad limina visit to Rome presents the complete investigation turned positio to Pope John Paul II
- 2002 October 20 saw Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa honored by beatifying in Rome.
- 2004 a Church decent place of veneration at wiPolo in Paimol was built by late Bro. Piero Dusi Mccj and P. Paolo Ottolini Mccj in honor of Blessed Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa.
- 2012 Frs. Edoardo Moerlin Visconti and Joseph Okumu became the first resident priests appointed by His Grace Archbishop John Baptist Odama to this place of continuous veneration.wiPolo Martyrs Shrine – the Open air altar
- 2013-2015 the buildings of the presbytery, an Open Air Altar and a two mutually embracing arches of love and mercy were completed for continuous veneration of Blessed Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa in many ways for generations to come.