The origin of Soroti Catholic Diocese, which till 1981 was part of Tororo Diocese (now known as Tororo Arch-Diocese), can best be traced from the history of the Catholic Church in Uganda in general and Tororo Diocese in particular. The advent of the first Catholic Missionaries to Uganda in 1879 is seen as the beginning of the local Church in Uganda with the establishment of the Vicariate of the Upper Nile in 1894 and the creation of Tororo Diocese in 1953. Tororo Diocese has evolved in 4 major phases, with Soroti Catholic Diocese being created in the fourth phase.
Phase I (1894 – 1925)
The Mill Hill Missionaries spearheaded the establishment and development of the Church in the Vicariate of the Upper Nile, an area that stretched from the present St. Peter's Nsambya Parish in the Archdiocese of Kampala to St Patrick's in Naivasha Kenya, Bukedi, and Teso. Bishops Henry Hanlon (1894 – 1911)and John Biermans (1912 – 1924) oversaw and laid the foundation of the Church by spreading the Gospel, teaching and establishing parishes. The establishment of the first parishes in Teso (the current Soroti Catholic Diocese) was as follows:
Table 1: Parishes established 1894-1925
St. Joseph's, Ngora
Fr. John Kiggen
St Patrick's, Madera
Fr. Michael Dunne
Our Lady of Assumption, Lwala
Fr. James Minderop
During this period, the local Church is said to have been very generous. The chiefs and tribal leaders often invited the missionaries to their villages and even allocated land for the construction of churches, schools and rectories.
Phase II (1925 – 1950)
Bishops John Campling (1925 – 1937) and John Reesink (1938 – 1950) provided the leadership and far sightedness in erecting parish infrastructure and convents as indicated below:
Table 2: Parishes established 1925-1950
St. Pancras, Toroma
Fr. Theodore Schut
St. Teresa, Bukedea
Fr. Henry Overwater
Our Lady’s Parish, Kidetok
Fr. Joseph Van de Ven
St. Benedict, Amuria
Fr. Raymond Griffin
St. Paul, Kumi
Fr. Thomas Hughes
Table 3: Convents established 1925-1950
Year of establishment
The very first Diocesan Priests, Monsignors John Eneku (Ngora parish)
and Philip Odii (Madera parish), were ordained in 1939.
The missionaries also undertook curative and preventive health services, in which health units were established as follows:
Table 4: Health units established 1925-1950
Grade as at April 2004
Creation of the Apostolic See in Tororo
In 1948, Bishop Reesink divided the Vicariate of the Upper Nile and created an Apostolic See in Tororo, where he became the first Vicar Apostolic of Tororo.
Phase III (1951 – 1981)
Bishop John Greif succeeded Bishop Reesink in 1951 and became the first Bishop of Tororo Diocese when it was created on 25th March 1953. Bishop James Odongo succeeded Bishop Grief in 1968. During this period, the following parishes and convents were created in the now Soroti Catholic Diocese;
Table 5: Parishes created, 1951-1981
St. Anne's, Usuk
St. Karoli Lwanga, Kaberamaido
Fr. James Roberts
St. Peter's, Orungo
Fr. Ferdinand Wiedenhofer
Immaculate Conception, Soroti
Fr. William Galvin
Our Lady of Assumption, Kyere
Fr. Henry Van Dijk
Uganda Martyrs, Kachumbala
Fr. Joseph Mclntyre
St. Michael, Wera
Fr. John Tauber
During this period a total of 9 convents (see annex II), 3 Health units (Usuk, Kachumbala & Kaberamaido) and 2 Catechetical training centers (Bukedea & Kidetok) were established
Phase IV (1981 – 2015)
Establishment of Soroti Catholic Diocese
In 1981, Soroti Catholic Diocese was curved off from Tororo Diocese with the Rt. Rev. Erasmus Desderius Wandera as her first Residential Bishop. At the time of creation, the diocese had only 10 diocesan priests (see annex IA), 15 parishes and a number of other institutions. Most of the priests were from Tororo Diocese and the Mill Hill Missionary Society.
Key achievements (1981-2004)
i) In 1983, St Peter's Minor Seminary Madera was opened, with Fr. Francis
Aseete as its first Rector
ii) In 1982, the Pastoral Team emphasized the Basic Christian
Communities as focal reference for pastoral work. Pastoral Policy hinged around the family.
iii) In 1983, the Sacraments of Christian Initiation was examined and
at the end of it a Baptismal Policy was produced.
iv) In 1984: The Sacrament of Marriage was examined. The years that followed saw a lot of time and resources devoted to the following areas:
(a) Translation of the Sunday Missal into Ateso
(b) Preparation of a Catechism: rites of Christian initiation syllabus.
(c) Composition and production of hymnals for the Diocese.
v) In 1987, Katine Parish (Soroti District) was established with Fr.
Augustine Opolot as its first Parish Priest
vi) In 1989, St. Francis' Acumet Parish (Kapelebyong District) was established by the White Fathers.
vii) On February 9, 1993 the Diocese hosted His Holiness Pope John
Paul II, at Soroti Sports Ground.
viii) In 2000, St. Paul Ocero Parish (Kaberamaido District) was established, with
Fr. Lawrence Oyuru as the first Parish Priest.
ix) In 2001, St. Steven Katakwi Parish was established, with Fr.
Patrick Mumbi (Missionaries of Africa/ White Fathers) as the first
x) In 2004, St. Simon Magoro Parish was created out of Toroma Parish. Fr.
Obelekek Simon Peter was her first Parish Priest.
xi) In 2014, the Parishes of Anyara, Akajikaj, Mukongoro, Obalanga
and Olio were created. The respective Parish Priests were Fr. Ebietu Samuel Echelu, Fr. Angiro Israel, Fr. Okonye Deo Tembo, Fr. Aisu John Paul and Fr. Odeke Alex.
xii) Sixty-seven (90) Diocesan Priests have been ordained since creation of the Diocese.
Other institutions established during the period in reference include the following:
i) The Diocesan procure (1981)
ii) Education Office started in 1981, and acquired its own premises in
iii) St. Joseph's Garage started in 1984, and had its premises
constructed in 1988.
iv) The Development Office became fully fledged in 1990, and constructed its current headquarters in 1996.
v) St. Mary’s Girls S.S, Madera (1990).
vi) Construction of Bishops residence in Soroti Municipality (1990).
vii) Bishop Wandera Girls S.S - Kyere (1995).
viii) Uganda Martyrs Vocational Institute, Aminit (1995).
ix) Ococia Girls S.S, Orungo (2000).
x) Establishment of more schools and institutions. Social unrest
It is important to note that the period 1986-1992 was characterised by civil strife and cattle rustling by the Karimojong that resulted into immense destruction of productive assets and lives of the people and displacement of the population. The impact of these vice was manifested in form of the fall in the general socio-economic standing of the population.
With the return of relative peace from around 1993, the Government and NGOs/CSOs supported the communities to resettle and embark on socio-economic activities. There was remarkable improvement in household living conditions as a result of the various recovery
programmes that contributed to the improvement of community access to social services. This positive development trend was however halted by the invasion of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels into the Diocese on the June 15, 2003.
This rebel incursion that continued for most of the second half of the year 2003 had devastating effects on the population, especially in Orungo, Amuria, Acumet, Wera, Katine, Madera, Lwala and Kaberamaido parishes. Hundreds of lives were lost; a number of people (mainly children) were abducted; there was massive displacement of the population into urban centres and neighbouring Districts, and loss of property. Five (5) Catholic parishes and a number of Government and Non-government institutions were forced to close.