Uganda Martyrs' Shrine, Namugongo
JEAN-MARIE MUZEEYI
Uganda Martyrs' Shrine, Namugongo

Muzeeyi’s life before converting to Catholicism
Muzeeyi’s conversion and religious vows
How Muzeeyi lived up to his virtues
Muzeeyi evangelises after holocaust
John Mary Muzeeyi goes in hiding to escape death
Muzeeyi gets out of hiding to meet his death
Fr. Lourdel's Comments on Muzeeyi's intellect and devotion to Christianity

Muzeeyi’s life before converting to Catholicism
Muzeeyi, a member of the Buffalo (Mbogo) Clan, was born in the hamlet of Kisomberwa, near Minziiro, in Buddu County, between the years 1852 and 1857. Muzeeyi's father, Bunyaga, held a royal appointment as Shoulder-Bearer to the Kabaka for the County of Buddu. His duty was to carry the Kabaka on his shoulders when necessary during a royal progress through the county-a task that, in a country as abundantly blessed with swamps as Buganda, can have been no sinecure.
Muzeeyi's mother, a member of the Monkey (Nkima) Clan, was known as Mukatunzi or Nnamalayo.
Muzeeyi himself seems to have been blessed with a whole series of different names. Originally called Musoke, he became known at court as Muddembuga, meaning, one is told, someone-has-refused-to-obey-you-so-go-to-the-chief-to-settle-the-matter. Later, because of his prudence and maturity of judgment, and because an eye affliction, probably trachoma, made him look older than his years, his friends called him Muzeeyi, a name derived from the Swahili word mzee, old man, grandfather.
He was 30-35 years of age at the time of his martyrdom. He was given the name MUZEEYI because he was exceptionally genius and an excellent adviser. His advice was like that of an experienced old man of about 60 years of age.
When he became a Muslim, he was known as Jamari (Good Luck). One wonders whether he himself hailed with relief the touch of genius shown by Pere Lourdel in christening him Jean-Marie, so that the sound, if not the spelling, of his name might remain unchanged.
When Muzeeyi was still quite young, a sub-chief named Kabega, proceeding on transfer from Ggomba to a new post at Seguku, saw him herding cattle and promptly kidnapped him. On arriving at the capital, he sold the boy to an acquaintance named Bigomba who in turn sold him to the Kabaka for a piece of cloth and a gourd of beer.
'Still too young to become a page, the lad was entrusted to Ttamiro, the royal fence-maker, in whose household he lived, probably for some time, since many believed Ttamiro to be his father. When he was considered old enough, he became one of the royal pages and, probably at the time when his royal master was showing leanings towards that religion, a Muslim.
When the plague epidemic broke out in 1881, Muzeeyi was granted leave of absence from the Court and went to stay at Mutundwe where he got to know some Christians or catechumens who gave him his first lessons in the Catholic faith.
It was probably on his return from this spell of leave that he joined the group of pages under Joseph Mukasa and quickly endeared himself to that young leader by his thirst for knowledge of the faith. He soon became Joseph's right-hand man, both in attendance on the sick Kabaka and in the spread¬ing of Christian knowledge amongst the pages.

Muzeeyi’s conversion and religious vows
Kiwanuka Muzeeyi was baptized on Sunday November 1st 1885 and given the name John Mary. Fr. Lourdel gives the following remark on Muzeeyi soon after his baptism as reported in "EDDINI MU UGANDA VOLUME III" by Rev. Fr. J. L. Ddiba pages 180-182, "God's Grace today has done wonders in Muzeeyi," Fr. Lourdel was referring to St. Muzeeyi's religious vows.
John Kiwanuka Muzeeyi, like Charles Lwanga, practiced virtue of perpetual chastity. But, in addition, Muzeeyi made religious vows.
Matthew Kirevu, one of Muzeeyi's fellow believers and intimate friends said that he never heard any indecent word from or witnessed a shameful act by Muzeeyi. One day when Muzeeyi was conversing with his friend Kirevu said: "If the missionaries allow me, I would like to be and to serve God like Bro. Amans (a religious)."
After Mass in which 22 catechumens Muzeeyi inclusive, were baptized and given the sacrament of confirmation, John Mary took Father Lourdel aside. He begged the Father to agree to be a witness of his vows he was going to make to God and the Father agreed.
John Mary Kiwanuka Muzeeyi knelt down and made the following four vows to God before the Father:
1. Perpetual Chastity: Never to marry for the whole of his life
2. Perpetual Obedience: He vowed never to do anything substantial without the
permission of his superiors (the Catholic Missionaries).

3. The Vow of Perpetual Poverty: He vowed to give all the property he could possibly
get for the teaching of Christianity-conversion of spirituality and to rescue slaves
from the Arabs and chiefs that had enslaved them by paying ransom.

4. The vow Caring for the sick

How Muzeeyi lived up to his virtues
1. Chastity: There was nothing said against his virtue of chastity by anybody that lived with him until his death. It is believed that Muzeeyi like Lwanga, practiced an undefiled chastity (Yafa akyali nteeka).

2. Obedience: John Mary Muzeeyi was eager to die a martyr for Christ. On learning that his fellow Christians were arrested and condemned to death for Christ, he decided to rush to the scene to join them. But when he remembered that he had made a vow to God never to do anything substantial without first getting permission from his superiors, instead of going to the scene of Execution, he rushed to the mission to seek permission to go and die for Christ.
His superiors (the missionaries) prevented him from joining the condemned. This refusal hurt Muzeeyi very much. To make the situation worse, they persuaded him to hide. Because of the vow of obedience, Muzeeyi willingly agreed to go into hiding.
But before departing, he begged to be allowed to seek his hideout a bit near the mission so that he could be able to attend the mid-night Masses which the missionaries used to say at that time for security's sake. While in hiding, Muzeeyi was met with some other Christians, also sent there by the missionaries for fear of exterminating the Christians.

3. Poverty: John Mary Muzeeyi had no property of his own. All his property was spent and distributed to the sick, the poor and to the work of evangelization. Up to the time of his death, Muzeeyi never defiled his vow of poverty.

4. Work for the Sick: For the whole of his life, particularly from the time he made his vows, Muzeeyi dedicated his life to the good of others. He gave up his life without fear of death or contagious and dangerous diseases like plague, small pox, sleeping sickness etc.
In 1881 a very contagious disease broke out in King Muteesa's palace at Lubaga and the king fell victim to the disease. He was forced to abandon Lubaga palace and flee to Kasubi-Nabulagala palace. Many people in the area were affected and several victims died of the plague. Under such situation Muzeeyi offered himself wholeheartedly to treat the sick, to go round teaching catechism and preparing the sick for good death, and finally to bury those who had died of the disease. Many people rejected the dying people in fear of the contagious disease.

Muzeeyi evangelises after holocaust
Soon after his baptism and confirmation Muzeeyi was forced by the Missionaries to go into hiding. He had to flee for his life from King Mwanga's rage of killing the Christians. Muzeeyi, with other fugitive Christians, wandered from place to place through forests, marshes, thick jungle etc. They generally suffered from the extremely hot sun, the chilly weather, the heavy rains, hunger, thirst, fatigue, constant fevers and other diseases, cuts and wounds etc without proper medication, and above all, they were always worried that the worst was yet to come.
Muzeeyi collected the former slaves he had rescued by paying a ransom to the Arabs and Muslim chiefs who had enslaved them and went with him into hiding because their lives were not safe either. Muzeeyi's main aim in taking the boys with him was to teach them religion and to save their lives.
In spite of the hiding atmosphere, Muzeeyi managed to give religious instructions to some children and catechumens. He had some assistants in the persons of Matthew Kirevu, Joseph Kaddu, Matthew Kisuule, Cyprian Kamya and others.
They occasionally used to sneak into the Catholic Mission and were able to attend the mid-night Masses. During that time of the Christian persecution Masses were generally said at mid-night for security purposes on their person.
When they learnt that Bishop Livinhac, the first Catholic Bishop of Victoria Nyanza Vicariate (comprising Uganda, part of Northern Tanzania, part of western Kenya and part of Eastern Congo) had come to Nalukolongo mission, Muzeeyi took his catechism class to the mission for the newly consecrated Bishop's blessings. During the Christian persecution when the bishop was in Uganda, he confirmed 97 Bamasia (Catholics).

John Mary Muzeeyi goes in hiding to escape death
John Mary Muzeeyi was eager to die a martyr for Christ. On learning that his fellow Christians were arrested and condemned to death for Christ, he decided to rush to the scene to join them. But when he remembered that he had made a vow to God never to do anything substantial without first getting permission from his superiors, instead of going to the scene of Execution, he rushed to the mission to seek permission to go and die for Christ.
His superiors (the missionaries) prevented him from joining the condemned. This refusal hurt Muzeeyi very much. To make the situation worse, they persuaded him to hide. Because of the vow of obedience, Muzeeyi willingly agreed to go into hiding.
But before departing, he begged to be allowed to seek his hideout a bit near the mission so that he could be able to attend the mid-night Masses which the missionaries used to say at that time for security's sake. While in hiding, Muzeeyi was met with some other Christians, also sent there by the missionaries for fear of exterminating the Christians. They were mainly children and some catechumens as shown in the photo in which Muzeeyi was taken. In the hiding place, Muzeeyi, assisted by Joseph Kaddu, Matthew Kirevu and Cyprian Kamya seriously continued to give religious instructions.
King Mwanga learnt of some Christians in hiding, Muzeeyi in particular. The king was bent on eliminating them so that he could stamp out Christianity in his kingdom. But how to get them out of hiding was his problem. However, he soon hit upon a plan to accomplish his wish: The king deceitfully sent out this announcement: "I have forgiven all the Christians, let them come out of hiding, return to me so that we all live in harmony and enjoy the prosperity of the kingdom" But his intention was to round them up and eliminate all the Christians. Although Muzeeyi foresaw the king's trick, he decided to come out of hiding and test King Mwanga's sincerity.
“If the king kills me,” he said, “the other Christians would stay in hiding; but if he is true to his word, then the other Christians would come out of hiding.
The King was not sincere because the moment he set his eyes on Muzeeyi, he ordered his men to slaughter the martyr.

Muzeeyi gets out of hiding to meet his death
Later in January 1887, King Mwanga II deceitfully announced that he had forgiven the Christians. He begged them to return from hiding and enjoy the prosperity of their kingdom.
He made special mention of John Mary Muzeeyi, Joseph Kaddu, Cyprian Kamya, Matthew Kirevu and others.
At the same time the king knew that Kalungi, one of the pages, was an intimate friend of Muzeeyi. He was sure, therefore, that Kalungi knew very well the whereabouts of Muzeeyi. King Mwanga then called the page and, pretending to be kind to him and expressing special love for Muzeeyi, sent him to find John Mary, the beloved and faithful servant of his late father, and ask him to come out of hiding and enjoy the prosperity of his country. Once again, on account of his vow of obedience, before going to the king, Muzeeyi went to the mission seeking permission from his superiors. This time they allowed him to go and find out whether the King was sincere to his word or not. Inwardly, Muzeeyi felt very happy because he thought that could be his chance of dying a martyr for Christ. '.
John Mary Kiwanuka Muzeeyi went to the King through (Prime Minister) Mukasa's office. As it turned out, the King was not sincere; Muzeeyi was arrested and killed on Thursday morning 27th January 1887 inside the Prime Minister's enclosure.
His body was wrapped in leaves of bitembe (wild banana) and thrown into Jugula River. This ended his life in obedience.
On hearing about the death of Muzeeyi, his fellow Christians remained in hiding. John Mary Kiwanuka Muzeeyi was the last of the twenty-two Catholic Martyrs to be killed

Fr. Lourdel's Comments on Muzeeyi's intellect and devotion to Christianity
Fr. Lourdel, when speaking of Muzeeyi, said that he had never met an African who was so intelligent like Muzeeyi. Mapeera (Fr. Lourdel) continued to tell us that it took Muzeeyi only 3 days to learn all the prayers and catechism that used to take an average student three months to master.
John Mary was an excellent and famous Traditional Healer (herbalist). At the same time he was gifted and talented at teaching the catechism. He had a special zeal for saving and working for the souls and for bodily needs of others without caring for himself.
In a very short time in 1881 Muzeeyi had mastered catechism lessons. But although he knew very well all that was required for one to receive Baptism, he was not baptized forthwith because a longer time for assessment was required before one was allowed to receive the baptism. During that very year, a very contagious disease broke out in King Muteesa's palace at Lubaga and the king fell victim to the disease. He was forced to abandon Lubaga palace and flee to Kasubi-Nabulagala palace. Many people in the area were affected and several victims died of the plague. Under such situation Muzeeyi offered himself wholeheartedly to treat the sick, to go round teaching catechism and preparing the sick for good death, and finally to bury those who had died of the disease. Many people rejected the dying people in fear of the contagious disease.
Pere Lourdel has left on record his own impressions of this young man who was to be the last of the martyrs. He writes:
Jean-Marie received baptism on 1st November 1885. He continued to be a model to his companions ... It was he who solved for them their small questions of conscience. When they disagreed, they sub¬mitted the case unreservedly to his arbitration with complete con¬fidence in his right judgment and in his kindness. Quite un¬affected and simple in manner, he possessed, despite his youth, a gravity such as I have not met within any other negro. In the midst of the laughter, often boisterous, of his companions, one would scarcely detect a smile on his face. His thoughts were constantly con¬cerned with religious matters. Of a rare delicacy of conscience, he received the sacraments as frequently as he could. During the plague, he showed a heroic devotion to those stricken, exhorting them and baptizing those at the point of death. His small savings were used on the redemption from slavery of young children whom he then instructed.
Jean-Marie was always seeking an opportunity to give us pleasure.
Learning that we wished to redeem a young slave who was a Christian, and that the child's master refused to let us have him, he went in search of the man and by sheer persistence and importunity got him to give way and accept the purchase price, which he him¬self paid. Full of joy, he then brought the child and offered him to us, without the slightest desire for anything in return.
Of marriageable age and in a position to marry advantageously, Jean-Marie chose to remain celibate.
On the death of Kabaka Muteesa, Muzeeyi left the Court and was appointed to help tend the tomb of his late royal master at Kasubi. Finding the pagan rites performed at the tomb incompatible with Christianity, Muzeeyi left this post and went to live with Matthew Kirevu, a fellow Christian who held a small sub-chieftainship near Bbuye. He still maintained contact with his friends who remained in the royal enclosure, visiting them and taking part in their discus¬sions of the best method of approaching the new Kabaka about recalling the Catholic missionaries to Buganda.
There is a considerable divergence of opinion about Jean-Marie's age. Pere Lourdel thought that he was twenty at the time of his baptism in 1885, and Denis Kamyuka estimated his age at between thirty and thirty-five at the time of his martyrdom in 1887.

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