By Alex Gahima
Retired but not tired, 72 year old, Gisoro Catholic Parish Priest Rev. Fr. John Bazimenyera said to me, as we set up for an interview earlier this week, “make sure they remember me not as their priest, but only as a man, whose wish was to turn their hearts back to God”
Bazimenyera, like King David in bible were both shepherds, though from different times, the two individuals made a decision to live by similar principles, prayer and seeking after God’s own heart.
The Dean of Mutolere and (BwanaMukuru) Parish Priest of Gisoro Catholic Parish, will this week say his final good byes to the people of Kisoro after serving more than 17 years at the helm of the Catholic Church matters in the district.
Rev. Fr. John Bazimenyera, who has been in active church duty for more than 40 years was ordained back in 1980 on Pentecost day at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Mutolere where he would later return to serve the people of Kisoro for more 12 years.
Rev. Fr. Bazimenyera who has been transferred to St. Charles Lwanga Seminary, Nyakibale Rukungiri for a brief stint had served 5 years and a few months at St. Peter’s Gisoro Catholic Parish, coming in at a critical time when Christians had fallen out with Rev. Fr. John Mary Vianney Mbonigaba (RIP)
His replacements, Rev. Fr. Mbabazi Alphonse and his curator, Rev. Fr. Deogratias Mwebembezi are expected to lead their first mass at St. Peter’s Gisoro, this weekend, January 9th 2022.
How it all started
Born to Festo Nyandagazi and Ferezia Fashashi, in Kagera village, Nyakabande Sub County, Kisoro district, Bazimenyera says his family never missed mass, not once, at St. Mary’s Mutolere Catholic Church.
“I was completely taken up by the way the priests coordinated the mass, the way they behaved and how people truly believed and trusted in them, I knew that this was what I wanted to be when I grew up, Bazimenyera explained.
Despite coming from humble beginnings, Bazimenyera says he managed study widely, attaining a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and a Masters’ degree in biblical theology from Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) in Nairobi, Kenya, along the way.
Rev. Fr. Bazimenyera says after Kabale diocese Bishop Rt. Rev. Barnabas Rugwizangonga Halem ‘Imana ordained him on the 25th of May, 1980, he served as the chaplain of St Paul Mutolere Secondary school for one year.
He says, from 1981, he was transferred to St. Paul’s Seminary Rushoroza, Kabale where served as a classroom teacher for five years, teaching Mathematics and Geography after which he became Bishop’s secretary and Chancellor to Rt. Rev. Barnabas Rugwizangonga Halem ‘Imana for three years.
Bazimenyera says it was after serving under the Bishop that he got the opportunity to pursue his Masters in Biblical theology in Nairobi.
He says after three years of studying he was asked by Bishop Halem ‘Imana to go and serve Burundi after it was realized that there was a shortage of priests in the country, at the time.
“After 1992, I spent close to three years serving as a Parish Priest of Muyinga and Giteranyi where I learnt to draw closer to God and to pray his people, Bazimenyera explained.
How I became a trainer of Priests.
Bazimenyera says he was initiated as one of the four pioneer priests, under a national program called Priests ongoing formation in Uganda, which was organized by the Uganda Episcopal Conference.
The essence of the program was aimed at reorienting Priests through refresher courses.
“It had become evident that, once Priests had been educated and ordained and deployed to serve a certain community, Priests would remain there without adding on any new knowledge, Bazimenyera explained.
The program soon yielded the creation of St. Augustine Institute Uganda where Bishops, Priests and the general public can go to be enlightened.
Rev. Fr. Bazimenyera says after being a trainer of Priests for six years, he was called back to Kabale by the new Bishop Robert Marie Gay, a Canadian-born Ugandan Roman Catholic prelate who asked him to serve as the rector of St. Paul’s minor seminary.
Bishop Robert Gay became the second bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kabale from 1996 to 2003 after embattled Rt. Rev. Barnabas Rugwizangonga Halem ‘Imana retired.
Bazimenyera says during his tenure as Rector at St. Paul’s Seminary in the six years he served, the school managed to get the four best students in the country during the Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE)
Bazimenyera returns home after Bishop Callistus Rubaramira takes over
In 2003, the tides quickly turned and would see Bazimenyera return home to Kisoro.
Bishop Emeritus of Kabale, Bishop Robert Marie Gay, assisted by Bishop Barnabas Rugwizangonga Halem ’Imana consecrated Callistus Rubaramira, on the 15 March 2003 and appointed him bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kabale.
It was during that time that long serving German Priest of 46 years, Rev. Fr. Shindra of St. Mary’s Catholic Church Mutolere requested Bishop Callistus to retire from his home in Germany.
Rev.Fr. Bazimenyera says he struggled at first to fit into the shoes of a great and affluent German priest but he managed to serve the people of Mutolere for 17 years.
During that time, he boasts education at St. George Primary school which is now one of the best primary schools in Kisoro district.
Rev. Fr. John Bazimenyera says he was a good actor while he was doing his A ‘levels at St. Mary’s College Kisubi.
He recalls playing diverse roles in a single sex school, making him the darling of both students and teachers.
He says preaching on Voice of Muhabura radio every Sunday morning from 2005 up to late 2021 will forever be one of his greatest joy because he used to reach many people.
Favorite Bible Verse
Rev. Fr. John Bazimenyera says the bible is rich with so much wisdom and corrections meant to make all human beings better however his favorite verse is John 3:16 ” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”
According to Bazimenyera, God does not hurt human beings during difficult times but it is our sinful nature that yields negative consequences, instead God loves human beings so much, he will never abandon them.