The anniversary celebration was well attended and graced by religious leaders;  the Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda, Most Rev. Luigi Bianco, The Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Gulu, His Grace John Baptist Odama, Bishop of Nebbi diocese, Rt. Rev. Raphael p’ Mony Wokorach, Bishop of Kotido diocese, Rt. Rev. Dominic Eibu. There were many Priests, the  Religious (missionaries, nuns,brothers).  

President Yoweri Museveni was represented by the minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Hon. Betty Amongi. Many Members of Parliament from the region attended.

Who is Rt. Rev. Sabino Ocan Odoki? 

His Lordship Bishop Sabino Ocan Odoki was born on August 8, 1957 in Layibi, Gulu to Mr. Donasiano Okello (RIP) and Mrs. (Mego) Georgina Awoo. He grew up in a lovely family with four sisters and three brothers. While studying at Holy Rosary Primary school, he loved serving as altar boy during Mass at Holy Rosary Church. He always went for Mass in the mornings and took part actively. After completing primary school in 1971, he was admitted to the Minor Seminary of Aboke and then Lacor Minor Seminary from 1974-76. He joined Katigondo National Major Seminary for Philosophical studies from 1976-1979 and Ggaba National Major Seminary for Theological studies from 1980-1983.

– Ordination photo

On September 10, 1983, at the St. Joseph’s Cathedral Parish, Gulu diocese, Rt. Rev. Sabino Ocan Odoki, then a Deacon was ordained Priest by Bishop Cipriano Dr. Kihangire. His Brother Priests ordained together with him are; Fr. Christopher Ocan (RIP), Fr. Emmanuel Akumu-Okot, Fr. Matthew Okun-Lagoro, Fr. Mattew Ojara, Fr. Vincent Ojok Adot (Msgr.) Bishop Kihangire then sent him to Kitgum Mission where he served as Curate of Christ the King Church, parish and Omiya Anyima sub-parish as well from 1983-5. In 1985 he was appointed private Secretary of Bishop Kihangire, and at the same time Chaplain of Christ the King Primary Teachers’ College and Sacred Heart Secondary School in Gulu.

– Early days of Priesthood! Fr. Sabino, Mrs. Ogwaro, and  Mrs. Aol Betty Ocan, staff of St. Joseph’s College, Layibi.

On October 11, 1985, Fr. Sabino was sent for further studies at the Catholic Institute of Eastern Africa in Nairobi (CHIEA), now known as Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). He graduated with a degree in Licentiate degree in Theology in 1987, and obtained a Doctorate in Sacred Theology in January 1992. His thesis was on “Death Rituals among the Lwos in Uganda; Their significance for the Theology of Death”. Rev. Fr. Sabino returned to teach at Alokolum National Major Seminary. He established a Pastoral Centre, St. Mauritz, Obiya Palaro Rajab. It now a vibrant St. Mauritz Parish with a Health Centre.

– He founded St. Mauritz Pastoral Centre, now a Parish, and Health Centre

The visit of Pope John Paul II, now Saint John Paul to Gulu in February 1993 remains the greatest event for Christians in the region. The Commentator for the occasion for the Papal visit was on February 6, 1993 was Rev. Fr. Dr. Sabino Ocan Odoki. He welcomed His Holiness Pope John Paul II in a unique, and unforgettable way saying; “Wa mari Papa, wamari mada! Wajoli Papa, wajoli mada” translated as “We love you Pope and warmheartedly welcome you!” The theme of the visit was; LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE (Mt. 5:16). It was an immense responsibility which he accomplished very well.

In October 1996, Fr. Sabino succeeded Msgr. John Baptist Odama as the Rector of Alokolum National Major Seminary. It was a period intense insecurity at the time, and it made it very difficult for the seminarians, staff and support staff. In 1998, twenty five years of the existence of the seminary (Silver Jubilee) was celebrated. Fr. Sabino and staff of the seminary worked very hard to ensure that it was a success by engaging the media, foster parents and the community to be involved. “At the helm of the institution as Rector, seminarians, support staff found Fr. Sabino very approachable, kind, and always available to help” says David Acire who has been working as a Plumber at the Seminary since 1996. Peter Owot who previously worked as a driver at the seminary and now at St. Mary’s hospital, Lacor concurs with Acire. Around 2004, Alokolum Seminary was relocated to Bukalasa Seminary in Masaka due to the LRA war in northern Uganda. That period in ‘exile’ mean the Rector had to work extra hard for effective functioning of the institution, being away from home. Rev. Fr. Sabino was Rector of Alokolum National Major Seminary until his appointment by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI as Auxiliary Bishop of Gulu Archdiocese on October 21, 2006. 

As the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Gulu, Rt. Rev. Sabino Odoki worked very hard. He played a key role in the second diocesan synod convoked by the Archbishop, His Grace, John Baptist Odama.  In 2009, at the Uganda Episcopal Conference, he was elected to reorganize the Uganda National Diocesan Priests’ Association (UNDIPA) and was its liaison Bishop for six years. Bishop Sabino heads the Commission for Doctrine at the Uganda Episcopal Conference. In October, 2009 he was transferred to Arua diocese as Apostolic Administrator for one year and subsequently appointed Bishop of Arua diocese from 2010 –to date. As Bishop of Arua diocese, Rt. Rev. Sabino Ocan Odoki chose the motto; Rooted in Christ’s love for his pastoral work.

Happy 40th Priestly Ordination Anniversary! May God continue to bless you, and your Pastoral ministry.   

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Written by Odoki Jimmy (1)

Jimmy Odoki Acellam is Coordinator of Heartsounds Uganda and a Mental Health Advocate.

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