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15th July 1923

Ordained Priest:
20th December 1952

Consecrated Bishop:
18th March 1962

10th January 1998

30 December 2009.

He was a Council Father of Vatican Council: Session One, Two, Three and Four. He died Bishop Emeritus of Masaka Diocese.

Adrian Kivumbi Ddungu was the grandson of Musenze Kato, the great-grandson of Miyinda, and the great-great-grandson of Kayoolo of the Ngonge clan. Ddungu was born to Mr. Petero Lugwana and Mrs. Blandina Nakabugo Basanyukira of the monkey clan on July 15, 1923, at Ssango-Gwanga in Narozari Parish, Uganda. On the side of his mother, Ddungu was the grandson of Sepiria Nkolotenyagwa, and the great-grandson of Mbidde. He was the third in a family of twelve children, of whom five died in infancy.

His parents were extraordinarily good people, highly cultured (abantubalamu), zealous, fervent and staunch Catholics who gave young Ddungu a balanced education in human, cultural, and religious values. However, one of the most significant persons in his formative years was his paternal aunt, Nakiwala, who lived at Nkalwe in Nkoni. He was entrusted to her care when he was only four years old.

In 1935, young Ddungu was taken to Nkoni primary school to start his education. He completed primary three there and did primary four at Kyamaganda. In 1939, he entered Bukalasa Minor Seminary and remained there until he entered Katigondo Major Seminary in 1946 to study philosophy and theology.

In 1947, as a seminarian Ddungu was sent to Rome by Bishop Joseph Kiwanuka for further studies, which he carried out with determination, diligence, and hard work. By 1951, he had completed his studies in philosophy and theology, obtaining a Master’s degree in each with first class honors. On November 23, 1951, he was ordained a deacon and on December 21, 1952, he was ordained a priest, subsequently returning to Uganda on December 13, 1953.

After his return, Fr. Ddungu served in various parishes, including Narozari, where he was a curate, and then Matale, where he served as a parish priest from 1956 to 1960. In January of 1960, he was appointed to Katigondo Major Seminary as a professor of theology and as a teacher involved in the training of future priests. What Ddungu says about his study in Katigondo is quite inspiring:

In January 1960, I was appointed at Katigondo Major Seminary to teach. I was assigned to teach philosophy and pastoral theology. At that time I was the only African priest on the staff. Others of course had taught there before me. We taught in Latin. I tried my best to help the students who were weak in Latin especially those few who had not gone through the minor seminary. At Katigondo I found no difficulty with anyone. I loved the students and the staff members and they also loved me. In summary, I did not find any difficulty at Katigondo as a staff member. [1]

In 1961, the See of Masaka became vacant as Bishop Kiwanuka was appointed Archbishop of Rubaga. In November of 1961, Ddungu was appointed bishop of Masaka Diocese and was ordained bishop on Sunday, March 18, 1962 at Bukalasa Minor Seminary by His Grace Archbishop Joseph Kiwanuka.

In 1998, he retired as bishop of Masaka and was succeeded by Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa. Later on, Nkumba University awarded Ddungu an honorary doctorate because of his excellent preaching. In late November of 2009, he experienced a minor stroke, and on December 30, 2009 at 6: 30 a.m. he died at the age of eighty-six, having served as a priest for fifty-seven years and as a bishop for almost forty-eight of those years. He was laid to rest on January 2, 2010, in the ancient cathedral of Villa Maria in Villa Maria Parish, Masaka Diocese, near his great predecessor, Henry Streicher, the apostle of Buddu. This is also near the tomb of Victoro Mukasa Womeraka, one of the first African priests of modern times, who was ordained in 1913. The funeral mass was attended by a very large group of people that included eighteen bishops of the Catholic Church, other bishops from the Anglican Church, and many priests and religious, as well as many Christian faithful and people from all walks of life. Many who attended his burial noted that they had buried a saint. His burial was also blessed with the presence of the head of state, His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, president of the Republic of Uganda.

Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa, the diocesan bishop of Masaka Diocese, called Ddungu “a great man of God, a gallant son of Africa, a courageous and wise citizen of Uganda, a zealous and dedicated son of the church, a Vatican Council II Father, a fervent promoter of the Vatican Council II ideals and an accomplished preacher… an outstanding example for the whole flock to follow, an outstanding African, the successor of the miracle Bishop Kiwanuka, who was the first black African bishop south of the Sahara in modern times.” [2]

His Legacy

Ddungu attended all the sessions of Vatican II. The new spirit and teaching of Vatican II brought fresh and revolutionary thinking to the Catholic Church. It asked the local churches to use local languages in the liturgy more frequently than Latin. It called for the creation of structures of democratic dialogue among all stakeholders in the church; it demanded ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue and cooperation among religions. It demanded empowerment of the laity and their full involvement in the affairs of the church. It called on all Catholics to play a leading role in the political, economic, cultural, social, and professional life of their country. It called upon the church to use the means of social communication to spread the good news. These things were not easy to implement in the church of Masaka. Many Catholics had taken the past as the model. But through his genius, patience and prudence Ddungu managed to push through the ideas of the Council, and at the time of his death, the Catholic Church in Masaka was operating on the principles of, and in the spirit of the Council. Ddungu himself noted:

In caring for God’s people entrusted to me in Masaka Diocese, I put great emphasis on the teaching of Vatican II. When I returned from Rome I tried my best to direct the diocese and run the diocese on fundamental realities I had learned from the Council. They are:

a) Communion that generates co-responsibility and participation.

b) The value of common priesthood. I did my best to catechize the faithful and to make them fully aware of their apostolate as the baptized faithful and to live it actively and concretely.

c) Communion and communication of the Holy See.

d) Dialogical apostolate. I tried to make sure that there was in place a system and structure that would help all the faithful of every level and order to meet and discuss issues concerning their ministry.[3]

The capacity to implement Vatican II came from his many qualities. He was a gentle and wise man with a great sense of history and a love of Scripture, fully grounded in his culture. All these traits helped him to implement the council decisions in a way that did not create tension and rebellion.

Although he was a Christian and studied abroad for some years, he did not alienate himself from his culture. He never even suffered from what is called Negrophobia, the fear of being black. Instead, he treasured his culture and learned all of its history, customs, values, rituals and ceremonies. In particular, he mastered the language in which he found the proper concepts to express the Christ event and the Christian mysteries. This made him appealing to many of his listeners. Ddungu also loved his clan. He took time to do research and collected a lot of material about his clan. He developed a great love for his clansmen, but he did not separate himself from those who did not belong to his clan. His culture taught him that clans worked together for the common good. Along with this love of his clan, he developed a sense of identity and belonging, and he began to see the church along those lines, even defining the local church in terms of the clan system. The diocese was a siga (one cooking stone of the fireplace, second in order of power of the clan) whose Kasolya (pinnacle centre of power in the clan) was in Rome. This helped him to develop a simple and functional ecclesiology that was understood by the faithful under his care. This love for his clan and its members helped him to develop a local ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue using principles that were not lost in the terminology of abstract theology. He saw that he had to work with a Muslim uncle, an Anglican relative, an African religionist who was his aunt, and so on.

Ddungu was admired for his wisdom, a wisdom born from his deep sense of culture and religion. He greatly valued his African heritage, and he gained this wisdom from his deep encounter with God in prayer and meditation, in the fear of God. He also acquired it from observing and interacting with people, from reading the works of great scholars and spiritual giants, and from genuinely living out his culture. Although he came across as a very dignified man, Ddungu was unafraid to seek knowledge and information wherever he could find it, and he did it humbly.

Ddungu was a real gentleman, and this could frequently be seen in his dealings with people as well as in the manner in which he handled sensitive issues on a personal, community, institutional, or even a national level. He could correct errors in a gentle and friendly way. He did not panic or act impulsively, but listened and helped people by using simple jokes, proverbs, similes and parables, without being harsh with the person to be corrected. Many people who had resisted him when he was a young bishop were eventually won over by his by his wisdom and personable qualities.

Ddungu was challenged to enhance the education and the economic and political development in the region. He did his best and maintained the structures he found in the social and economic sectors while starting other initiatives. He was always aided by his great sense of tradition and history, and in many of his discourses and in his preaching, he referred to sources in church history, general history, and the history of his clan. He focused on important personalities that shaped history and major events, using them to inspire faithfulness to the Gospel. He constantly referred to his own predecessors, like Bishop Stenseera and Bishop Kiwanuka. [4]

When he took over the diocese from Bishop Joseph Kiwanuka, there were approximately 250,000 Catholics and about seventy African priests, eighty Bannakolori Brothers, 280 Banabikira Sisters and twenty-two parishes. By the time he handed over the diocese to his successor, Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa, the diocese had forty parishes, over 190 African priests, over 1,000 religious men and women and a vibrant laity. [5]

Ddungu sought to build a solid Catholic faith based on conviction and the elimination of negative aspects of traditional religion and culture. The struggle between Catholicism and traditional beliefs had existed since the evangelization of Uganda, and it was still a significant problem when he became priest and bishop. As a parish priest he struggled with the traditionalists in Matale Parish and as a bishop he had to deal with upsurges in strange practices related to traditional beliefs and religion that were destructive and opposed the Christian faith. Through prayer, preaching, teaching, and education, he managed to eliminate those practices to a great degree. At the time of his death, Masaka was still reckoned the most Catholic diocese in the country and yet the most respectful of African wisdom and heritage.

Ddungu was able to accomplish these things partly thanks to his love for Scripture and how he used it in preaching. In the pre-Vatican II era, when he was studying theology, the use of Scripture was not very welcome. Yet we find that he took a great interest in Scripture, making it the basis of his preaching and teaching. His familiarity with the Bible impressed his audiences so much that many came to love the Scriptures as a source of truth and moral instruction.

His love of Scripture coupled with a lively style of preaching helped him to pass on the good news in a convincing way to his people. He could preach for an hour without making the congregation tired. He did not get emotional, and his style and rich content appealed to all. Because of his thorough training and firm grasp of Catholic doctrine, he was never banal or superficial, but always exposed the Christ event in all its richness to the best of his ability, with great depth and intensity. Even when he departed from Scripture using a proverb or a human situation, he was careful to avoid syncretism by bringing out the Christian message in an enlightened way so that people did not confuse Christian doctrine with secular knowledge.

Ddungu struggle to build strong Christian families during his ministry. The institution of marriage was an important theme during his episcopate. He married couples and attended silver and golden jubilees, affirming the sacrament of marriage. He affirmed the church’s teaching that Christian marriage is viewed as the domestic Church, and that the family is viewed as the basic unit of the church as a whole. It is in those tiny “churches of the family” that the search for salvation is present each day. He often taught that the central role of parents is in the education of their children, and stated the following: “In what might be regarded as a domestic church, the parents, by word and example, are the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children.” [6] He also stated “that the parents who have given life to their children, on them lies the gravest obligation of educating their family. They must therefore be recognized as being primarily and principally responsible for their education.” [7]

Ddungu promoted the missionary spirit in Masaka by regularly sending one or two missionaries to work in other dioceses where there was a shortage of priests. This took place every year at the end of the ordination ceremony. Those sent as missionaries were given the Bible and the cross as the indispensable tools of their missionary activity. Duungu had great empathy for the churches that needed priests. Now and then he would write circulars to his priests asking that those who were ready to give themselves generously to the work of evangelization in needy dioceses come forward. He sent priests to the dioceses of Moroto, Hoima, Jinja, and Tororo. [8] He also sent priests far away, to dioceses in South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, Germany, and Italy. The missionary spirit can be traced to his conviction that the church is missionary by nature, a fact that the Vatican Council declared in Ad Gentes 4.

Ddungu trained many leaders for the church. As he had been trained by Bishop Kiwanuka, he paid great attention to the high quality of training needed for the clergy. He did his best to groom leaders, and by the time of his death he had provided the church with one cardinal, Emmanuel Wamala, (who was for a long time his vicar general), a great missionary bishop, the Rt. Rev. Paul Kalanda (who was also his vicar general), and the Rt. Rev. Henry Ssentongo, bishop of Moroto. [9] He inspired those he mentored and they respected him. He liked humor, was joyful, and loved life. He was able to balance the dignity of his high office with the demands of daily life and ordinary people.

Ddungu was prophetic in dealing with issues of justice, unity and human dignity. In the exercise of this prophetic witness, he did not compromise and never kept quiet in the face of evil. He had the courage to correct dictators like Idi Amin, and he placed the blame on Obote II and his soldiers during the atrocities of 1980, [10] frequently calling for peace, justice and human rights. [11] He listened to all sides before making decisions, in order to avoid favoritism and partiality. [12]

Ddungu quickly became convinced of the integral nature of evangelization, believing that it encompasses all aspects ands needs of the human condition, and it became an integral part of his mission. [13] With the assistance of benefactors, the following projects were undertaken and realized during his episcopate: Narozari Farm; Butende Technical School; Kyamuliibwa Polytechnic; Villa Maria Catechetical Centre; Kitovu Rest House; Biikira Maternity; Ssembabule-Balunzi Farm; Masaka Social Centre; Makukuulu Parish Church, School and Dispensary/Maternity; Lwebitakuli Parish Church and Dispensary; Ssanje Church and presbytery (partly); Villa Maria Nursing School and additional buildings at Villa Maria Hospital; additional buildings at Kitovu Hospital; St. Joseph’s Printery in Kitovu; Transitory Home for Orphans; Bishop Ddungu Primary Boarding School; Buyamba Primary Boarding School; Nakiyaga Hand Craft School, and Kijjukizo Dispensary. Also, with assistance from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and in particular the three pontifical missionary aid societies, Bukalasa Seminary became what it is now, and renovations to the cathedral were made possible. [14]

He loved orphans and cared for the sick, especially during the deadly pandemic of HIV\AIDS that came to the area in the early 1980s. He founded many orphanages and created a development program at Maddo for the education of orphans and the support of widows and the sick. [15]

Ddungu loved the place of his birth, the kingdom of Buganda, his country, and the continent of Africa as a whole. Whenever he travelled abroad he took the time to observe things that might help with development and democracy in his homeland, and reported on them. Because of his patriotism, he was often called on to intervene in situations which were rather complicated. For instance, Kabaka Muteesa II invited him to visit before Milton Obote invaded the palace at Mengo in 1966.

In closing, it would be difficult to give an exhaustive account of Ddungu and of all that he accomplished. He was a great son of Africa who had a deep love for God, for the church and for all people, and for Africans in particular. He left behind a lively and vibrant church, and we can thank God for the gift of this extraordinary and exemplary man.

Benedict Ssettuuma Jr.


  • Quoted in John Mary Waliggo, Ssettuuma Benedict & Leonard Mukwaya, Bishop Adrian K. Dgungu: His Life, Vocation and Legacy, (Kampala: Angel Agencies, 2009), 53-54.
  • John Mary Waliggo and others, Bishop Adrian Kivumbi Ddungu, His Life, Vocation and Legacy, [in foreword by John Maptist Kaggwa] (Kampala: Angel Agencies, 2009).
  • Waliggo and others, 59-60.
  • John Mary Waliggo, “Catholic Church Evangelization in Masaka,” Masaka Diocese Diamond Jubilee Magazine (2001), 14-16.
  • Waliggo, 7-21.
  • Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 21 November 1964: AAS 57 ( 1965) 5-57: 11.
  • Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes, Pastoral Constitution on the church in the Modern World, 7 December 1965 AAS 58 ( 1966) 1025-1115: 3.
  • Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala, while still bishop of Kiyinda Mityana Diocese stressed this point when he wrote: “Bishop Ddungu takomye ku mirimu gya Ssaza lye gyokka, mu lukiiko lw’Abepiskoopi ayolekeddemu nnyo okulumirwa n’okwagala Eklezia yonna mu Uganda. Kino kirabikira ddala bulungi mu kuweereza Abasaserdooti be mu Dioceses endala: Tororo, Lira, Moroto ne Kiyinda Mityana. Okwo saako n’abali mu matendekero ne mu bitongole: CHIEA, Ggaba, Alokolum, Katigondo ne Secretariat.” [Bishop Ddungu has not only dedicated his energies to his diocese but also been instrumental in the Uganda Catholic Episcopal Conference showing his great love as well for the whole church in Uganda. He has been a great missionary bishop sending priests to Dioceses and institutions like Tororo, Lira, Moroto, Kiyinda Mityana, CHIEA, Ggaba, Alokolum, Katigondo and the Secretariate] Cf. Emyaka 25 Nga Musumba, 1962-1987, p.15.
  • Waliggo, 14-16.; interview by author, December 24, 2009, Msgr. Dr. George Sserwanga, Katigondo National Major Seminary.
  • Adrian Kivumbi Ddungu, “Reconstruction,” pastoral letter, Marianum Press Kisubi, 1979, 3-15; Waliggo, 15.; Herman Kituuma, interview by author, January 15, 2010, Katigondo National [Major] Seminary.
  • George Sserwanga, “Okuwumula Kwa Bishop Ddungu.” Agafaayo, Vol. 29/1 (1998), 1-3.
  • Joachim Katoogo, “Masaka Diocese Golden Jubilee and African Episcopate.” manuscript, 1989, 5-6.
  • Adrian Kivumbi Ddungu, “Church and State Cooperation in Promoting Integral Development,” in Church Contribution to Integral Development, J. T. Agbasiere and B. Zabajungu, (eds), Amecea Gaba Publications, 1989, 21-26.
  • Waliggo, 16.
  • Waliggo, 15.