My name is Fr. Isidore Mbaleeba, the current Chairman-Board of Directors – Emmaus Foundation (EF). I came to be a part of EF and was personally involved after meeting the founder – Fr. John Scalabrini (RIP) when he was serving as an assistant Parish Priest at Bbiina Catholic Church. He was first introduced to me and Fr. Joseph Mary Bbuye by Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala; I was by then chaplain at the Uganda Prisons. When I got to interact with him more, it was evident that Fr. John was ready to assist orphans. I and my colleague spearheaded the project, and giving priority to children who were too needy to afford school fees, the combined efforts came to grow into the enormous entity of EF that you see today: still promoting and upholding Fr. John’s vision: Education, health and charity to the poor.
Fr. John was the kind of man that strived to implement what he deemed vital to human life as a person and as a catholic priest he encouraged the church to promote the initiative i.e. education and health for all. He deserves to be remembered and endlessly celebrated for the man that he was in terms of articulating what he preached. I particularly hail him and so should others especially those whose lives he touched, the charisma and determination to make visible and tangible, what he deemed and held noble to human lives, regardless of background. He crowned this effort through the belief that man must be liberated wholly in body and soul and this he knew that, that vision could only be realized through provision of these basics: education, health and charity.
He also loved to care for those who didn’t have. He never loved to see anyone suffer and he demonstrated it through sharing what he had with those who didn’t. He used to say … we are all children of God and should share what He has given us, however little. He always incorporated this message in his sermons; and as a person who shared in the experience of World War II, and groomed by a mother who taught him the gift of sharing, he shunned wasting of literally anything that can help or save the lives of those who didn’t have.
As we remember and celebrate Fr. John; this is the time, we should look back and thank God first, for the servant that stood for and upheld the values of the church. He was a priest with Gulu Diocese, a vicar general of late Bishop Cipriano Kihangire (to whom he dedicated all the schools he built in Kampala) and later came to serve in Kampala Arch Diocese.
The people of Uganda also need to know that Fr. John particularly touched the lives of people in Northern Uganda, because given the twenty year-long insurgency, there was need to intervene and mitigate the pain of the people; and he saw that after the insurgency, the survivors, though psychologically affected, would have to recuperate and start to live. He started by assisting orphans through education.
I also take the opportunity of call upon all those whose lives he touched and changed, to willingly offer a hand of help as well, so that they continue from where Fr. John stopped.
At this point, my sincere advice to the EF family is that, in the absence of Fr. John, we should embrace others as he embraced us, if his legacy is to live on and have an impact-full meaning; for this is what he would have loved. He left us these words, “just carry-on.” This to my understanding simply means that, all he established must continue to work for all, be cared for by all, from generation to generation.
I extend my sincere gratitude to all our partners. We give special thanks to Italia Uganda and my pledge is that they should continue the spirit, even in Fr. John’s absence. This is the time we need to cement our partnership in order to uphold the foundation he laid and build on it, to finish his unfinished business.
Like St. Padre Pio, Fr. John Scalabrini is saying, ” If they say I did many things while on earth, I can do more when I die.”
May God Bless you all.