After his Aug. 22 jubilee Mass, Fr. Frederick Nkwasibwe greets Bridgette Forsman, a nurse supervisor at Providence Portland Medical Center. Fr. Nkwasibwe is a chaplain at the hospital. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
After his Aug. 22 jubilee Mass, Fr. Frederick Nkwasibwe greets Bridgette Forsman, a nurse supervisor at Providence Portland Medical Center. Fr. Nkwasibwe is a chaplain at the hospital. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
Three missionary priests from Uganda who are hospital chaplains in Oregon were feted Aug. 22 during a Mass and reception at St. Philip Neri Parish in Southeast Portland.

The liturgy was an eruption of African music and dance that reflected the exuberance of Fathers Frederick Nkwasibwe, Cornelius Ssekitto and

Freddy Ocun, who belong to the Apostles of Jesus religious community. The three are noting the silver jubilee of their ordinations.

“They bring such a sense of joy,” said Kelly Schmidt, chief mission officer at Providence Portland Medical Center.

“Father Fred is always very happy and kind and compassionate,” Bridgette Forsman, a nurse supervisor at Providence Portland, said of Father Nkwasibwe. “He is very supportive and always there for us.”

Elizabeth McCabe, chief mission integration officer for Providence in Oregon, summed it up: The chaplains are experts helping transform hurt into hope.

Father Ocun, who spoke on behalf of the missionaries, said the Apostles of Jesus are indeed supposed to be men of hope. “We pray for you all every day,” Father Ocun told worshippers, thanking them for making the missionaries feel so welcome in Oregon.

Priests, women religious, friends and coworkers from Providence Health and Services came for the day.

Celebrant for the Mass was Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith, a native of South Africa. He called it his “lucky day” to be at a Mass full of African tradition.

The Holy Spirit Sisters, most of whom are from Tanzania, led song and danced in ways that are typical of Masses in Africa. Often, they ululated — high trilling sounds of joy from the throat.

Africa is still the growth center for Christianity, Bishop Smith said, explaining that at one time the European and American churches sent priests and nuns to Africa and now it is the other way around.

“Thank you for the witness of your lives, your faith, your ministry,” Bishop Smith told the three silver jubilarians. “We celebrate what God has done in you.”

Hospital chaplains meet many people, those with strong faith, wavering faith and no faith. Coworkers say the men’s joy is good medicine and good evangelization, especially during the pandemic. Bishop Smith said the chaplains’ ministry hearkens back to the earliest days of the church when Christians amazed Roman citizens by caring for the sick amid plagues.

The three jubilarians wore vestments embroidered with the Apostles of Jesus logo — a map of the globe showing a cross centered in the African continent.

The Apostles of Jesus were founded in Uganda 53 years ago. There are 10 of the community’s priests serving in Oregon in hospital and parish ministry.

Father Augustine Idra, the Pennsylvania-based superior of the Apostles of Jesus throughout the United States, thanked western Oregon for making the priests feel at home. After Mass, all the Apostles of Jesus priests lined up at the altar and sang the anthem of their community. Then a large feast followed in the parish hall.