15 Apr 2019

Pipe organ music to Ugandan priest's ears

Fr Denis Ssemuju

Fr Denis Ssemuju.jpg

With only two pipe organs to be played in his home country of 45 million people, Ugandan priest Fr Denis Ssemuju was thrilled to try his hand on the beautiful Canadian Casavant Freres in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral recently.
Self-taught on the keyboard, Fr Denis also plays the piano to improve his speed, and described the Cathedral’s pipe organ as a real “treasure”.

“For my culture music is part and parcel of life,” Fr Denis told The Southern Cross.

“Sometimes when I am touched by melody that is close to the melodies I hear in Uganda you will see me rejoice, dance and I feel like jumping up and down.

“In Uganda we have only two pipe organs – one in a Catholic church and one in an Anglican church so very few people get to hear it. The pipe organ in the Cathedral is a treasure, which I think the people in Adelaide may take for granted.”

Fr Denis, 42, moved to Adelaide in February and is the newest international priest to join the Archdiocese.

Brought up in a “small” family of only nine children in the capital of Kampala, Fr Denis’ father was an ex-seminarian and his mother had at one stage contemplated becoming a nun. He had a strict Catholic upbringing and at the age of 13 he joined the seminary, beginning a 16-year journey to being ordained in 2007.

In accepting an invitation to serve the Archdiocese of Adelaide, Fr Denis said his decision was partly because he wanted to “test” himself out of his comfort zone and also “out of reciprocity”. He recalled how growing up in the war zones of Uganda the priests and Sisters would help the children and nurture their education, and he wanted to be able to “do the same for other people”.

“I love the ministry with the ageing people and then also the youth – with them interacting and learning together. Evangelisation is better enriched if it is
two-way,” he said.

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