Tag Archives: uganda

Life-changing water

Every 21 seconds, a child in East Africa dies from the effects of contaminated water.

Orange Coast Legate Ralph Linzmeier reacts to the children in east-central Uganda during a mission trip last summer (Lou Metzger/Wells of Life photo)

Orange Coast Legate Ralph Linzmeier reacts to the children in east-central Uganda during a mission trip last summer (Lou Metzger/Wells of Life photo)

Even though clean, life-saving water is just a few dozen yards below the surface, about one child in five in the region will die before reaching his fifth birthday because of causes directly attributable to ingesting dirty water.

But thanks to the efforts of members of Legatus’ Orange Coast Chapter, thousands of children — as well as men and women in hundreds of villages in Uganda — are enjoying the benefits of having clean water wells in their small, rural communities.

Life-changing work

“It’s amazing, because these wells are changing lives,” said Ralph Linzmeier, membership chair of the Orange Coast Chapter and a recent member of Legatus’ board of governors.

Linzmeier had the opportunity to see firsthand how clean water is impacting lives in Uganda during a 10-day trip last August to the East African nation with his son, David Linzmeier, and others who are involved with Wells of Life, a nonprofit committed to bringing clean, safe water to Uganda.

For a week and a half, Linzmeier and his companions drove across the country, visiting remote villages and speaking with villagers — many of whom had relatives and children die from drinking and bathing in stagnant pools of contaminated water.

Pete Callahan, David Linzmeier and Ralph Linzmeier (L-R) pose for a photo at a water well in Uganda (Wells of Life photo)

Pete Callahan, David Linzmeier and Ralph Linzmeier (L-R) pose for a photo at a water well in Uganda (Wells of Life photo)

The trip impacted the lives of all who went, including David Linzmeier, a Wells of Life board member.

“It’s remarkable to see it firsthand — how thankful these incredible communities are and how much they appreciate the work that’s being done,” David said. “They are just the happiest people you can ever meet. Providing water is something that will really change their lives forever.”

“We can all learn so much from our children,” Ralph added. “I’ve now witnessed my son David teaching in Haiti immediately following the devastating earthquake and now working to help meet the need for clean drinking water in Uganda.”

Peter Callahan, president of Wells of Life, retired from his law practice years ago to devote his energies full time to the ministry. He also traveled to Uganda last August with the group and described the villagers’ elaborate welcoming ceremonies for the Americans.

“In the places they were expecting us, they would gather the entire village and put on a two-, three-, four-hour show, with kids reciting poetry, the men and women dancing,” said Callahan, who was just as moved by conversations he had with villagers who didn’t know the group of Westerners.

4+“I asked one lady, ‘Do you know who donated this well?’ She said, ‘His name is on the [dedication plaque]. I don’t know anything about the man, but I know he’s a great man with a large heart.’”

Saving the Girls

Several members of Legatus’ Orange Coast Chapter have sponsored a well, which costs about $6,000. The Wells of Life team has set a goal to drill 1,000 wells, which will serve an estimated one million people in Uganda.

To date, Wells of Life has helped drill almost 200 wells. Other partner organizations in Uganda have drilled several hundred more, bringing relief to thousands of villagers who until recently had been forced to send their women and young girls to fetch water dozens of miles away.

Legate Patrick “Paddy” McCullagh, a member of Wells of Life’s board, has been a driving force for the nonprofit organization. McCullagh said his involvement began about 12 years ago when he partnered with Wells of Life founder Nick Jordan to build elementary schools in Uganda.

Through that effort, McCullagh and Jordan learned that many Ugandan girls were unable to attend school because they were out getting water for their families. Those girls were making two- to three-hour trips — sometimes more than twice a day — to get water, and they were vulnerable to attacks from wild animals and would-be rapists if they traveled alone.

By drilling wells in their local villages, Wells of Life not only spared those girls long, dangerous treks for water, but it also enabled them to attend school.

“It really provides them with a normal life, and it changes their lives forever,” said David Linzmeier, who recalled being on the road nonstop while in Uganda.

“We were going to places that nobody ever visits,” he said. “You would start off on a dirt road that would get narrower and then suddenly you’re barely able to get your vehicle through. There were times when we couldn’t actually get the drilling rig through, and we had to find another way around.”

God moments

The trip had also had its share of grace-filled moments. One day, the group drove 40 miles south through difficult terrain to visit St. John the Baptist Parish, which was in dire need of clean drinking water. At that moment, the group committed to drilling a well there and in 11 surrounding parishes. The group’s generosity literally answered the prayers of the pastor, who at that same time was visiting California and had been praying with Nick Jordan, Wells of Life’s founder.

wellsoflife-3“There were so many miracles that happened on this trip, just astounding things,” said Ralph Linzmeier, who recalled attending a beautiful Mass in downtown Kampala that was made possible only because a member of the group had missed his flight to Ireland.

The group also visited the Namugongo Martyrs Shrine, which Pope Francis visited last November. The Americans helped the shrine’s pastor purchase the chair that Holy Father used. The shrine’s pastor later emailed the pictures of the chair, which has their names on the back.

“This is a communal effort of people coming together to change the world around clean water in Uganda,” said Ralph Linzmeier, who added that many in the United States and the developed world don’t realize how privileged they are to have something as simple as clean water.

“We went from place to place, and we actually witnessed some of the water holes that were stagnant, covered in algae,” he said. “There was one place where cattle were standing in the water, drinking, and that’s where the people were drinking from.”

The new wells aid villagers’ health and quality of life immensely. They learn how to maintain their wells and keep the water source clean from contaminants. Developers also ask villagers to share their water with anyone who needs it.

“It’s been a tremendous experience that has really changed my life,” Callahan explained. “You realize that you really do have brothers and sisters on the other side of the world, and they are counting on you.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Learn more: wellsoflife.org

A passion for the gospel

Legate Deacon Larry Oney fosters evangelization and entrepreneurship in Uganda . . .

Deacon Larry Oney

Deacon Larry Oney

Deacon Larry Oney believes that proclaiming the Gospel shouldn’t be limited to the pulpit — something he backs up with words and actions.

A member of Legatus’ New Orleans Chapter with his wife Andi since 2002, Oney is renowned far beyond Louisiana for his dynamic preaching and fearless defense of the faith.

Humble beginnings

In February, Oney traveled to Africa where he gave a day-long retreat for members of the Ugandan parliament and the president’s cabinet, which was then under fire from President Barack Obama for supporting a bill criminalizing same-sex “marriages” and imposing life imprisonment for repeated homosexual acts. (The bill passed despite Obama’s empty threat of yanking U.S. aid to the impoverished, heavily Catholic country.)

“Evangelization is my passion,” says Oney, 57, father of five. Pursuing this passion in a big way, however, would be impossible without significant personal means: He is chairman and CEO of Hammerman & Gainer, Inc., which provides third-party administrative management, business process outsourcing, and project management services.

“Business can be a tool, arrows in the quiver of the Lord,” says Oney. “We see that in scripture with men of means like Joseph of Arimathea. He used his influence and wealth to help the Lord. This goes straight to the heart of Legatus: Catholics who can support many initiatives, not in a loud, boastful way, but strong and silent — and deepen their own faith through the fellowship and mutual support that Legatus provides.”

oney-1Oney has come a long way from growing up unchurched in Louisiana’s Protestant north, another state altogether compared to the deeply Catholic south, home to five of Legatus’ most vibrant chapters.

“We had 11 kids in my family — Catholic-sized, but not Catholic,”

Oney laughs. He was always a believing Christian, but came into the Church 30 years ago. He was later introduced to Legatus by Danny Abramowicz, the legendary football star and co-host of EWTN’s Crossing the Goal.

Being on fire with the faith eventually enkindled Oney’s vocation as a permanent deacon, which in turn led to many more opportunities to preach and give retreats throughout the country. (He was ordained five years ago.) Realizing the limitations of a one-man show, he recently founded Hope and Purpose Ministries to expand the New Evangelization through a host of media initiatives and collaborations.

Faith and works

Underscoring the fact that the world is small when love is large, Oney attended Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans with a young Ugandan seminarian recruited for priestly service in Louisiana’s Houma-Thibodaux diocese.

When now-Fr. Simon Peter Engurait was about to be ordained in 2012, he mentioned to Oney his consternation that members of his family wanted to attend but were unable to do so because of the cost.

oney-2“Without skipping a beat, he said he would talk to his wife about hosting them, which they did — all five of them, including putting them up in their home,” Fr. Engurait said.

Today, the priest is deeply moved that Oney is focusing so much attention on the needs of his fellow Catholics back home in what he calls “the Pearl of Africa”— needs material as well as spiritual.

“The conviction with which Deacon Oney preaches and shares the Good News is deeply inspirational and transformative,” says Fr. Engurait. But he also draws attention to that famous passage in the Letter of St. James: “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”

When Oney traveled to Uganda earlier this year to speak and preach, he noticed not only the spiritual richness of the people, but their material poverty. Oney moved quickly to establish a bank to give micro-loans to Ugandans whose capacity to evangelize is hampered by economic insecurity.

“Like many developing countries, Uganda has a lot of unexploited or under-exploited economic opportunities,” says Fr. Engurait. “One of the key inhibiting factors is lack of financing — pure lack or prohibitively high lending rates and terms. So this micro- banking initiative to support income-generating activities is a significant effort in meeting people’s needs for a better livelihood.”

Oney has already secured over $50,000 in loans to Ugandans, averaging $1,000. (Given the exchange rate and comparative poverty of Uganda, this would equal about $1.32 million in America.) Most of the recipients are 16 couples associated with the Emmaus Center, a focal point of charismatic Catholicism in Uganda.

The people in this community want to evangelize, Oney notes,  “but they need to feed their families.” Starting small enterprises  with secure outlooks — raising chickens to sell the eggs, for example — presents “a ridiculous return on investment.” Oney is working  on formalizing this loan process, which provides “a leg-up, not a hand-out.”

“Like Legatus, this is faith in action and entrepreneurism. If they’re successful, they can become lenders, too, not just borrowers. The expectation is that these little businesses will grow and they’ll pay the money back.”

Countering materialism

Ralph Martin

Ralph Martin

This summer Oney will visit Uganda a second time, not only to check up on the loan recipients, but to speak at the first International Leaders Conference of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal to be held on the African continent. Others sharing the podium at the June 30- July 12 event include Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Oney describes the meeting’s aim as strengthening participants in their personal faith and spiritual lives while teaching them the leadership skills and techniques necessary to evangelize effectively.

Renewal Ministries, led by its founder Ralph Martin, has worked in Uganda for about 20 years, hosting retreats, meeting with local prelates, and focusing on catechetical training and resources to counteract the challenges of Pentecostals. Renewal Ministries arranged Oney’s February retreat for Ugandan members of parliament — a regular activity enjoyed by the leaders of this strongly Catholic country.

Martin, a member of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter, says Oney’s impact in Africa has been impressive, “partly due to the fact that Africans are perhaps more receptive to an African-American. One of the major challenges we’re encountering there is the mindset of Western materialism that’s trying to conquer the globe. This underscores the necessity to advance and deepen Catholic evangelization efforts.”

As for Deacon Larry Oney, he notes that material concerns can be valid, and if validly addressed, nurture the spiritual life. Materialism, on the other hand, “puts Mammon in the place of God altogether.”

MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

Learn more:




St. Charles Lwanga & companions (died 1886)

St. Charles Lwanga

Feast Day: June 3
Canonized: 1964

In the 1880s, missionaries introduced Christianity into the Ugandan kingdom of Buganda. Fearing for their power, witch doctors persuaded King Mwanga that the new religion would undermine his authority.

The 18-year-old ruler was an alcoholic and addicted to sexual relations with boys. In May 1886, he tried to seduce a page and discovered that another young man was instructing him in the faith. Enraged, he drove a spear through the catechist’s neck. Then he demanded that all the Christian pages renounce their faith or face death.

They chose death. So, on June 3, 1886, he had them executed at Namugongo, a place of ritual sacrifice.

Charles Lwanga, a young leader who had protected the pages, was the first to be martyred. He was laid on a pyre under which the fire was kept low. The flame slowly charred his legs without touching the rest of his body. He prayed quietly while the fire slowly did its work. Just before the end, he cried out, “Katonda wange!” (My God!) and died.

Then the other pages were stripped, wrapped in reed mats, piled on a huge pyre and burnt alive. “We have killed many people,” said one executioner, “but never such as these. Other victims did nothing but moan and weep.

There was not a sigh, not even an angry word. All we heard was a soft murmur on their lips. They prayed until they died.” That day, 13 Catholics, 11 Protestants and eight unbaptized seekers, ranging in age from 13 to 25, offered their lives in the flames.

“A well that has many sources never runs dry,” said one of the martyrs prophetically, “When we are gone, others will come after us.” Within four years, the number of Christians in Buganda was estimated at 10,000.

This column is written for Legatus Magazine by Bert Ghezzi. He writes and speaks frequently about saints. Ghezzi’s books include “Voices of the Saints,” “Mystics and Miracles,” and “Saints at Heart.” Online: bertghezzi.com