Between downpours on Aug. 23, a joyful liturgy was celebrated in Visitation of Mary Church, Akron. Parishioners from that parish and its sister parish, nearby St. John the Baptist, welcomed their new pastor, Father Dismas Byarugaba, AJ. He had been serving as the parishes’ administrator for nearly two years prior to his formal installation as pastor.
The next day – Aug. 24 – was the 20th anniversary of Father Byarugaba’s priestly ordination.
Concelebrating the installation Mass were many members of the Apostles of Jesus who are serving in the Cleveland Diocese and some congregational leadership including Father Augustine Idra, AJ, regional superior; Father Januarius Lyimo, AJ, zonal superior; Father Richard O’Nyamwaro, AJ, mission director; Father Speratus Kamanzi, AJ, councilor and former superior general; Father Paul Rosing, who served as Visitation of Mary pastor 39 years ago; and several other diocesan priests, including pastors of Akron area parishes.
“I have a long association with the Apostles of Jesus,” Bishop Malesic said, noting he ministered with them in the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he spent much of his priesthood before his episcopal ordination. “I am grateful for the Apostles of Jesus and the work they do.”
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“This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it,” Father Byarugaba said as he began his homily. He credited three groups of people for their help in his ministry: his parents, his superiors in the Apostles of Jesus and the bishop for making his appointment. Unfortunately, Father Byarugaba’s mother was in poor health and was unable to travel and attend the installation Mass. Father Jonathan Zingales, pastor emeritus, also was unable to attend.
Father Byarugaba served in parish ministry in his native Uganda where, he said, “I learned to be a priest,” before he came to Cleveland. He spent a dozen years in hospital ministry as chaplain at Akron City Hospital. In addition to his religious credentials, he has a master’s in business administration in health care management and other certifications and awards.
He is the ninth pastor for Visitation of Mary (the former Annunciation Parish) and the 13th pastor for St. John’s.
“I am the beneficiary of the good work of former pastors, including Father Rosing, and many other good people. I was not ordained for myself; I was ordained for you, the people of God, to serve you,” Father Byarugaba said. “I know God is with us. Being appointed to serve as pastor is a privilege and a big responsibility. I have a favor to ask of you – including the bishop,” he said. “Please pray for me.”
Father Byarugaba said he received the great commission, to go and preach the good news to all the people. It’s a source of great encouragement for me. I know the Lord will be with me today and as I go on. Pray for me and pray for us.”
Prior to Mass, he and the bishop signed the paperwork making the appointments valid. Father Byarugaba also took an oath of fidelity to the Church, the beliefs and teachings, the authority of the pope and he promised obedience to the bishop. The new pastor also greeted the staff, parish and finance councils of the parishes and promised to seek their input and guidance.
After Mass, the bishop noted he likes to have the new pastor be the homilist at his installation Mass. “I like to know what I’m giving you and I need to hear God’s word, too,” he added.
The job of a pastor isn’t easy, Bishop Malesic told the congregation. “But Jesus told us one thing to do, ‘Know your sheep.’ He’s been with you a long time. It’s not an easy job so don’t break him,” he said. The bishop also thanked Father Byarugaba for accepting the call to the priesthood and ordination. He reminded the faithful and clergy to “Never lose sight. Take Jesus with you everywhere.” And to the new pastor, he said, “Be the best pastor you can be. Continue to make wherever you serve at the altar the center of worship for God.”
The bishop encouraged the faithful “to be people of joy, people the rest of the work will want to emulate. Don’t be afraid to be like Jesus and to share his word. Don’t be afraid to witness your faith.”
He also reminded Father Byarugaba that he represents the bishop, whose episcopal motto is to “Serve the Lord with gladness. Remember to smile. I see you already do that,” he added.
The bishop also blessed the parish’s new $52,000 Rodgers Inspire organ, which was installed in August.