RELIGIOUS TOURISM: Bukalasa is a village located deep in Kalungu district, Villa Maria Parish in Masaka diocese, along Villa Maria- Ssembabule road, approximately 10km from Masaka town.
The Village is commonly known for hosting a special place in the educational history of Uganda and in the annals of the Catholic Church in sub-Saharan Africa called Bukalasa Minor Seminary.
Bukalasa Minor Seminary became the initial school of formation of indigenous candidates into lineage of priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church in the Saharan Africa
Established in 1893 (130 years ago) by Bishop Heinrich Streicher, Bukalasa as one of the oldest seminaries in Africa has produced thousands of Priests including the first two Ugandans ; Rev Fr Basil Lumu and Msgr. Victor Mukasa Womeraka
Despite its rich history in operating an integrated secondary school curriculum of both secular and theological studies, Bukalasa Minor Seminary hosts what I would term as another religious tourism feature and one of the biggest cemeteries in the region.
Immediately after branching off from the Villa Maria- Ssembabule highway while entering Bukalasa Seminary, What is more visible is the well-tended cemetery outside the mausoleum, with a message at its entrance that reads: Memento Mori, Latin for ‘Remember you must die.’
Its the grave yard where all Priests from all the 56 parishes of Masaka Diocese are laid to rest. Masaka Diocese comprises of the Present Districts of Kalungu, Bukomasimbi, Ssembalule, Lwengo, Lyantonde, Kyotera, Rakai, Kalangala, Masaka and Masaka City.
Our efforts to find out from the Diocesan Social Communications office on why Bukalasa was chosen to be the official grave yard for prelates and the actual number priests eternally resting here were futile but it might have been established before or after the inception of the seminary in 1893.
The Chapel of Committo
Apart from Priests, the Cemetery also houses a Chapel of Committo, a mausoleum where Masaka bishops are laid to rest as resolved by the Diocese, according to Rev. Fr. Edward Ssekabanja the Diocesan Chancellor quoted from the Observer February 8, 2021.
“As a diocese, we resolved that that should be the burial place for all bishops of Masaka and other bishops from outside the diocese that wish to be buried in Masaka,” Fr Ssekabanja said.
Bishop Anthony Guillermain’s body became the first to be buried in the mausoleum on March 9, 1915. Since then, it had not attracted much attention until August 2015, upon the death of the former bishop of Fort Portal diocese, Paul Kalanda.
Many Catholics actually didn’t know that the chapel has existed for more than a century until the Late Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa prompted to cause for the expansion of this mausoleum to double its capacity from eight to 16 pre-constructed graves.
A mausoleum by definition, is an external free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased person or people.
The graves are already dug. If anyone is to be buried there, they just remove the slab, bury and seal the grave
The former Bishop of Moroto diocese, Henry Ssentongo was also buried in the chapel and Bishop Kaggwa became the fourth bishop to be buried in the chapel, in line with the diocese’s plan to bury its bishops at Bukalasa.
Bishop Henri Streicher (commonly known as Stenseera) and Bishop Adrian Kivumbi Ddungu also the former Episcopates were buried inside Villa Maria cathedral.
Despite of the huge number of priests laid in the place, Up to date, Bukalasa Cemetery remains a place where Masaka Diocesan Bishops and Priests eternally go to rest.
One may think that tourism attractions are majorly found in game reserves, parks and other geographical features, Bukalasa Cemetery is another tourism spot in Masaka you shouldn’t miss out to visit and see where hundreds of our prelates with thick biographies in theological studies are eternally resting and also pray for their souls to continue resting in Christ.