A single glance at this small bodied old woman cannot reveal how courageous she is, but she is jolly, warm and welcoming.She greets me on arrival and was more than ready to share her experience of the jouneys she has made to the Uganda Martyrs Catholic Shrine, Namugongo.
Galdansia Kinojire, 77, is married with six children, with four grandchildren. “This is the sixth time I am walking to Namugongo. I only board a bus when I am travelling back. At first, it was not easy for me to make the decision to walk, given my age. But when I finally did, I now cannot stop walking,” she says.
Kinojire confesses that one of the reasons she treks is the miracles she has witnessed during and after her long walks to Namugongo.
Her decision to walk was also inspired by her neighbour, Catherine Kasande, who started walking in 2008. Her first trek to Namugongo was in 2014 and her prayer then was to pray that the Holy Spirit encourages her village mates who had left church, under unclear circumstance, return and be strengthened in faith.
“My prayer came true because after some time, about 50 people had started attending church and was a great achievement in my life,” she reveals. Kinojire heads a cell (group of Christians) in her village in Kinzinda, Kitooma Sub- County in Bushenyi District.
This year’s journey took Kinojire and other pilgrims from Bushenyi, 12 days.
Preparation for the journey
Kinojire says she saved Shs100, 000 for the journey. She also prepared some light clothes she would use, along the way. “After the announcement about Martyr’s Day was made in church, I started praying, fasting and reciting the rosary as a way of dedicating myself to the Lord.
I particularly prayed for protection during my journey to Namugongo. “This is not something you can do on your own as a human being, it takes the grace of God to walk this long distance.”
Kinojire says she prayed for strength, divine protection against accidents, sickness among other challenges that pilgrims face along the way. A day before she set off for the journey, she attended a mass that dedicated the entire group in the hands of God.
First time to walk
Kinojire says she did not have swollen legs the first time she joined her church group to walk. Over the years, she has made the journey to Namugongo, part of her lifestyle. When we conducted this interview, despite the swollen feet and joint pain, this strong old woman was thrilled to have made it to Namugongo peacefully.
Kinojire says she has not experienced any serious challenges along the way, save for joint pain and fatigue.
Not even the rainy season could stand in her way, during the 12-day walk. “On several occasions, when I got tired, my church members prayed for me. I then gain the energy and the courage to continue walking,” she recalls.
One of the biggest challenges she has faced so far is the loss of her sister. “I received a call on the second day of this year’s walk, that my sister had passed on. It was a very devastating moment for me. I went back home for burrial and later joined the pilgrims along the way,” she sadly narrates.
“Almost all my prayers have been swered.God has given me many healthy years. I have seen all my children get holy matrimony, 56 children in my village, including my grandchildren have been baptised,” she adds.
Kinozire says her son , a habitual drinker, stopped drinking and her family members went back to church and her ailing husband started walking again after many years.
This time, Kinojire’s prayer is that God will strengthen the faith of believers of her church and people around the world. Her earnest prayer is that all the cults will be abolished in Uganda.
Unfortunately for Kinojire, none of her family members has been inspired to walk. She believes the Holy Spirit will inspire them to walk one day.
The journey in brief
On May 9, 2019, we set off at 3pm, from St Kagwa Parish. We made a stopover at Kashaka parish, where we slept. On the second day, I travelled back home for burial. I boarded a taxi to catch up with other, days later.
We made stopovers in Kyazanga parish, Kinoni parish, Goli parish, Bukurura parish, Nkozi parish Katende parish and Nalukongo. On May 21, 2019 at 12pm, we arrived at Namugongo Church.
Kinojire confesses that after walking all these years, her life has never been the same again.