The annual celebration of the Feast of Ugandan Martyrs will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 1, at St. Martin de Porres Parish, Milwaukee. (Submitted photo)

To commemorate the sacrifice of 22 men known as the Ugandan Martyrs, the Black Catholic Ministry Commission and the World Mission Ministries of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee are hosting the 16th annual celebration of the Feast of Ugandan Martyrs at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 1, at St. Martin de Porres Parish, Milwaukee.

Fr. Anthony Okore, Associate Pastor at All Saints and St. Martin de Porres parishes, will serve as the celebrant for the Mass.

According to Lucca Kenyon — Administrative and Events Assistant, Office for World Mission, Society for the Propagation of the Faith — the Sacred Voices of Africa will provide music during the Mass.

“African cuisine will be served directly afterward, and we will have time for fellowship,” Kenyon said. “The event should wrap up by around 7 p.m.”

Kenyon hopes the Mass and fellowship will be well-attended as this feast day is important to Africans and all Catholics who stand up for Christ.

“Living out our faith requires sacrifice and courage, especially in the face of controversy and in the presence of those who don’t understand our faith,” she said. “The Feast of Ugandan Martyrs Mass provides an opportunity for attendees to center themselves and reflect on the ultimate sacrifice of these men.”

Kenyon added that it is natural to compare the courage and bravery of others to us.

“By reflecting on this feast day, we cannot help but look at our own lives and wonder what ways we are called to stand up for our faith amid difficult situations,” she said.

Between 1885 and 1887, 22 African men were executed when they refused to relinquish their belief in Jesus Christ after being ordered to do so by King Mwanga II.  Known as the Ugandan Martyrs, the men were killed during the first decade of Christian presence in Uganda and played a huge role in Ugandan Catholic life.  Among the martyrs were St. Charles Lwanga, St. Andrew Kaggwa and St. Kizto.

St. Charles and his companions were beatified in 1920 and canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1964. Their feast day is June 3.

In 1879, Catholicism began increasing in Uganda when the White Fathers, a congregation of priests founded by Cardinal Lavigerie, were peacefully received by King Mutesa of Uganda.

The priests began preparing catechumens for Baptism and many of the young pages in the king’s court became Catholic. After Mutesa died, his son, Mwanga, a corrupt man and pedophile, assumed the throne. He murdered an Anglican bishop and beheaded his chief page as he protected the younger boys from the king’s lust. Then 25-year-old Charles Lwanga became chief page and protected the younger boys from the king’s advances.  He and 21 other Catholic companions were murdered by King Mwanga.