For the 14th year, the Feast of the Ugandan Martyrs will be celebrated in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee with a special Mass.

Dr. Antoinette Mensah, Director of World Mission Ministries and the Office for World Mission and Society for the Propagation of the Faith, described the Mass as “a celebration of perseverance, a celebration of faith, and a celebration of commitment” that offers a message to people from all cultural backgrounds.

“It reminds people that our faith is universal. It reminds people that commitment to the faith knows no boundaries,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for people across cultures to come together in fellowship and worship together and pray for people who are being persecuted. It speaks to the universality of who we are.”

This year’s Feast of the Ugandan Martyrs Mass will be held at 2 p.m. June 3 at St. Martin de Porres in Milwaukee. The Sacred Voices of Africa choir will sing for the Mass, and portions of the readings will be delivered in Acholi. A meal and fellowship will follow the Mass.

Twinning relationships between Archdiocese of Milwaukee parishes and parishes in Uganda will be celebrated at the Mass as well. Four parishes in the Archdiocese have ongoing twinning relationships with Ugandan congregations: St. Francis Borgia in Cedarburg, Immaculate Conception of Mary in Burlington, St. Eugene in Fox Point and Three Holy Women in Milwaukee.

The Ugandan Martyrs, also known as St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, were converts to Christianity in the Boganda kingdom of Uganda who were executed for their faith on the order of the king, Mwanga, in the late 1880s. In all, Mwanga executed 45 Catholics and Anglicans between 1885 and 1887; the 22 Catholics were canonized in 1964 by Pope Paul VI.

The Mass is a collaboration between World Mission Ministries, Society for the Propagation of the Faith and the Black Catholic Ministry Commission African Catholic Task Force. The presider will be Fr. Anthony Okore, who is from Nigeria and initially came to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee several years ago to study but was called back to his local diocese to provide spiritual support in the midst of the ongoing persecution by the terrorist group Boko Haram. Beginning in June, Fr. Okore will serve as an associate pastor at St. Martin de Porres, All Saints, St. Rose and St. Michael parishes in Milwaukee.

The story of the Ugandan martyrs reminds Catholics that persecution and martyrdom is not a relic of history or a fate suffered only by a few, said Dr. Mensah. Rather, it is a reality that faces people of faith from every race, every nation and every era.

“This celebration brings forth the reality that there is still persecution for our faith. It speaks to the fact that martyrs are still present,” she said. “The freedom to believe and celebrate our faith is something we have to stand up for.”

Charles Lwanga was the head page in the court of King Mwanga, who forbade the practice of Christianity in his people. He and his fellow martyrs were all young people who faced particularly gruesome deaths, but who did so with a courage modeled on that of Christ.

“As hard as it seems to be for people to stand for the faith, these are individuals who had no other reason to stand up for the faith. Most of them were children, but they were strong in their conviction, and I think more than anything, (the Feast of the Ugandan Martyrs teaches us) about being strong in our conviction around our faith — to really own it, to celebrate it, to encourage people to be strong in their convictions as well,” said Dr. Mensah.

As he was being burned alive, Lwanga is said to have cried out: “You are burning me, but it is as if you are pouring water over my body.”

“This is a celebration of perseverance. It’s a celebration of faith. It’s a celebration of commitment,” said Dr. Mensah. “And while it appears as a tragic end, it’s not tragic when we remember them and what they died for and ask ourselves: How do I demonstrate and live out my faith in times of trial?”

St. Martin de Porres is located at 128 W. Burleigh St., Milwaukee. To RSVP for the Mass, visit