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Priest's Central Western sojourn a fillip for the faithful

After nearly five weeks touring New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, Father Philip Balikuddembe Amooti is surely looking forward to some familiar faces and food when he returns home to Uganda next week.

The same could be said for the tropical weather of sub-Saharan Africa—a far cry from the wintry mornings of New South Wales’ Central West, where the visiting priest spent some time last week as a guest of Catholic Mission. 

Father Philip (far right) with Catholic Mission Bathurst Director Mike Deasy and St John's Dubbo students Beth Clarke and Jye Wilson. Photo: Belinda Soole (Daily Liberal)

Despite having departed before Lithgow, Bathurst, Dubbo and Mudgee all suffered through their coldest morning in a decade last Saturday, Father Philip was still rugged up as he toured each of the cities, meeting supporters young and old along the way.

After he became one of the few people in history to purchase a one-way ticket from Cairns to Dubbo, on Saturday June 24, Father Philip was Bathurst-bound, trading the North Queensland humidity for the crisp clean air and wide blue skies of Australia’s oldest inland settlement.

There, he met with Bishop Michael McKenna and Catholic Mission’s supporters who were eager to hear about the projects that Father Philip oversees in his role as national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, the international name for Catholic Mission.

He spent the weekend in the Gold Country before heading back out to Dubbo for a Monday morning interview with ABC Western Plains and a visit to St John’s College. He was warmly welcomed by the staff and students, reported the Daily Liberal, who was there to cover the occasion.

‘My arrival has been well received,’ Father Philip told the paper. ‘I’ve been involved in mission work and had a chance to talk to the community.’ His Dubbo visit concluded with Masses at St Brigid’s Catholic Church and St Laurence’s Church.

Almost as quickly as he arrived, Father Philip was back on the highway again—the Golden Highway—to Mudgee, where he visited St Matthew’s Catholic School. The Mudgee Guardian reports that Father Philip’s youngest supporters listened intently as he told them about how different life is in his home country.

Father Philip spoke with the students about areas of rural Uganda, where he said pregnant women have to take significant risks to get to maternity care. “The best transportation is an ambulance, but not everywhere has one, so these women usually travel in utilities and motorbikes,” he said to one of the classes.

He was speaking about the St Luke Health Centre in rural Bujuni, two hours from the capital Kampala, which is the focus of Catholic Mission’s Socktober Appeal in 2017. St Matthew’s is among hundreds of Catholic schools around the country who will raise funds for this and other projects around the world during October.

Father Philip chats with students at St Matthew's Catholic School in Mudgee. Photo: Mudgee Guardian

Another of the initiatives Father Philip oversees is the St Joseph’s Vocational and Technical College in Hoima, a large regional town three hours from the capital Kampala. The school equips young people with the skills and experience to acquire a trade, gain employment and make a valuable contribution to society and the local economy.

Aware of his guest’s special interest, Catholic Mission’s Diocesan Director in Bathurst, Mike Deasy, scheduled an essential final stop before crossing the Blue Mountains and returning to Sydney.

At La Salle Academy in Lithgow, Father Philip keenly toured the Mines District Trade Training Centre, which, he told the Lithgow Mercury, could inspire an exciting partnership. ‘If one instructor or teacher from here will come down to Uganda and be in one of our technical schools, experience what they do, that’s also added value,’ Father Philip said.

‘By so doing, we are supporting the young people to create jobs themselves instead of becoming job-seekers.’

Father Philip with La Salle Academy Principal Ms Joyce Smith and student leaders. Photo: Lithgow Mercury 

Father Philip wraps up his Australian tour in Perth and Bunbury, before returning home on Monday to reflect on some wonderful memories of his first time in the Great Southern Land. 

With thanks to the Daily Liberal, Mudgee Guardian and Lithgow Mercury. 

For media enquiries, please contact Matthew Poynting on 02 9919 7833 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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