Dolores Madlener | Staff writer

God opened a new window in his young life

Sunday, January 2, 2011

He is: Father Mark Kalema, pastor of Our Lady of Peace Church in the South Shore community since February 2009. Before that he served as associate pastor at St. Ann’s in Lansing.

Ordained in Uganda in 1986 at age 25. Has bachelors’ degrees in philosophy and theology; a master’s in communication and a master’s in counseling psychology. Studied in Uganda, Rome and Chicago. Worked as a communications intern at the Florida Catholic newspaper in Orlando, before coming to the archdiocese. For the next seven years he taught part time, then full time at Archbishop Quigley Seminary, living at various parishes, and became incardinated here.

Home life: “My father was a farmer. My mother took care of the family. In 1971 when I was 10 years of age, the military of Idi Amin [president of Uganda] came into our village and killed everyone. It was a method they used to intimidate people. Almost our whole village was wiped out, except those who could run away. My father, mother and 12-year-old brother were killed. My older sister and I were in school. We never went home.

We went to live with my uncle and aunt and their 10 children. We all became like brothers and sisters rather than cousins. Even today I call them brothers and sisters. My sister died in 2002 from breast cancer.”

Christmas in Uganda: “As I recall as a youngster growing up, the differences would have been — many, many more people go to church at Christmas in Uganda! Also, in our ordinary diet we didn’t eat meat. So on Christmas we’d look forward to eating beef at a big afternoon dinner. We’d also get new pants or a new dress — clothes for Christmas — no toys or things like that.”

Religious vocation: “When I was in grade school, our catechists and the White Fathers (missionaries in our church) often talked about vocations. Every Friday we would run to the school Mass and the priest would talk about vocations. We became altar boys and after that I became interested in priesthood.”

New country, new friends: “When I was in Rome for four years I stayed at the North American College and lived with American priests. It helped me learn the American culture. That’s how I came to the United States because of their kind invitation. Now I know many, many priests in almost every diocese in the country. They invite me to come and I have visited them, from Florida to North Carolina and from California to New York.”

 “In our archdiocese my mentor and guide in the priestly life, and a day-to-day friend, has been Father Larry Dowling, pastor of St. Agatha’s on the West Side. When foreign priests come to a new diocese they need someone ‘to walk with,’ someone familiar with the territory we find ourselves in.”

Staying in touch: “I keep in touch with my family in Uganda usually by phone. Calling cards are the cheapest way and almost everyone has a cell phone now. I go home for a visit every couple years and I am about to leave for Uganda after Christmas for a couple weeks.”

Reading: “I enjoy books by Matthew Kelly, the motivational speaker, ‘Rediscovering Catholicism’ and others.” He says the books motivate him to motivate others.

Favorite Scripture verse: “It’s from St. Luke, when Mary says, ‘May it be done to me, according to your word.’ I find it very challenging and encouraging, because we all have things happen to us, and we wonder ‘Why did this happen?’ But when I repeat that quotation it reassures me.”