Gabriel Therese Kigozi was born in Kyanika, Uganda on 1 June 1956. His father was Basilio Kaweesa, a farmer and his mother was Salome Nankya who died in August 2008.
Following his ordination to the priesthood on 26 July 1987, Gabriel worked as a missionary in Rwanda. When the genocide broke out he was of the wrong tribal background in the wrong place. With other priests he was placed under a death threat and had to flee for his life. Through Monsignor Joseph Boyd, Bishop Maurice Taylor was asked to give them shelter which he willingly did and Gabriel came to Scotland in 1999. Gabriel only wanted to work as a priest and he did so in Kilmarnock, Dumfries, Ayr and the Benedictine Convent in Largs for the last nine years. He readily 'filled in' for other priests whenever he was asked. Father Gabriel became a British citizen in 2006.
In early 2010, Gabriel was diagnosed with cancer. His Ugandan friends in Glasgow gave him accommodation, companionship and care. At the end of his treatment, Gabriel wanted to resume his priestly ministry. He asked if he could stay in Saint Peter's while he sought a parish of his own. Bishop John Cunningham treated Gabriel with great kindness, visited him regularly and persuaded him to accept a temporary appointment to Saint Peter's so that his salary, dignity and self-respect could be maintained.
Gabriel Kigozi died in Saint Peter's Presbytery on 12 April 2011.
The Right Reverend Alexis Habiyambere, Bishop of Nyundo and Apostolic Administrator of Ruhengeri Diocese sent a letter of condolence to Bishop Cunningham. It read 'It is with deep sorrow that we have learnt of the death of our beloved priest, Father Gabriel Therese Kigozi after many days of illness. On behalf of his Diocese of Ruhengeri and indeed, on my own behalf, I would like to most sincerely thank you and your Diocese for having welcomed him and taken care of him especially during the time of his illness from cancer until he breathed his last. We have been informed that his funeral will be held on Tuesday 19 April 2011. It will not be possible for us to be physically present at that event but be assured that we shall be spiritually united to you in prayer. May he now rest in God's eternal peace.'.
six hundred people filled Saint Peter's Church to capacity for
Father Gabriel's Requiem Mass which was concelebrated by two
bishops and twenty-three priests.
Canon Matt McManus started his eulogy by saying "Father Gabriel died peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of Tuesday morning. His disease was a particularly severe one and in its later stages took a great toll on him. His death was merciful and followed one of the best days he has had in recent weeks. His breathing was easier, his mood a little lighter and his appetite slightly better. He went to bed early, just to lie quietly on top of the bed and he fell asleep. He was sleeping soundly but peacefully when Father Martin Poland and I covered him with a blanket and he was still peaceful when I anointed him in the Sacrament of the Sick and then went to bed. I expected him to call me during the night as he sometimes did if he needed help or reassurance. He didn't and at about 7.00 am I found him still in the same relaxed position. Gabriel died without struggle or anxiety. God simply took him.".
Canon Matt added that "Because of distance and cost, Father Gabriel's family - except Vincent who lives in London - are unable to be here but they are celebrating a Mass at exactly this time in his home parish. His friends Jacqueline, Grace, Maria, Jacqui, Doctor Awsi Kavuma of his Oncology team and others of the Ugandan community in and around Glasgow are here. We thank them for giving us the privilege of knowing their son, brother and friend.".
Canon Matt said that "Gabriel had many great friends in this country. They loved him and he loved them. Bishop Cunningham, Monsignor Boyd and some of the priests of the diocese visited him regularly and phoned often. I feel I have to thank Father Martin Poland and Father Graeme Bell, the other two thirds of the Three Towns parishes, for their attention to Gabriel and me over the last few difficult months. The convent tea ladies and Gabriel's friends in Largs, Saltcoats, Ardrossan and Millport - especially those who were always willing to drive him to hospital at short notice and personal inconvenience, to the bank and for phone cards - were very important to him. The treatment Father Gabriel received from the medical staff in the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre in Glasgow, Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Greenock, the general practitioners in Largs and Ardrossan, the Community and Hospice Nursing Service and the local Community Pharmacy in Glasgow Street were a credit to their professions and made his life as gentle as the disease permitted.".
With humour, Canon Matt said "Father Gabriel was no saint. Saints don't hog the remote control or choose Deal Or No Deal over football! Nor do they prefer to listen to Radio Maria from Kampala or read the daily edition of New Vision, a Ugandan newspaper available on the internet over Panorama - or even prefer the same cup for their tea, especially if it is the one I really like!".
Canon Matt concluded by saying "Father Gabriel was a priest, a very human faithful servant of God and God's people. Every penny he received from his friends he sent to Africa. I have no idea how to access his bank account but it won't give bankers any bonuses, I'm sure. Visits home meant gathering what he could to take with him to pay funeral expenses for his mother, hospital treatment for family members, school fees for nephews and nieces - things we generally take for granted. Here at Saint Peter's, we tried to treat Father Gabriel as we were brought up to treat priests. He will be grateful to us for enabling him to die in his own bed, in his own room, in his own home - rather than as a guest somewhere else. May our friend be wakened from his rest by the Lord as Lazarus was.".
Mass, Father Gabriel was buried in Ardrossan Cemetery among other priests who
served locally. May he rest in peace.
Father Gabriel's family in Uganda asked to have photographs of his funeral. An album was created and sent to his relatives. Some of the photos can be seen from the Pictures link in the left frame.
The two bishops were Bishop John Cunningham and Bishop Emeritus Maurice Taylor. The twenty-three priests were Father Graeme Bell, Father Joseph Boland, Father David Borland, Monsignor Joseph Canon Boyd. Father William Boyd, Canon Archibald Brown, Father Martin Chambers, Father Gerald Donnelly, Father Eamonn Flynn, Father Patrick Lawson, Father James Hayes, Father Edward Higgins, Father John Kinsler, Father Gerard Magee, Canon Alexander McGarry, Father Edward McGhee, Canon John McGee, Father Stephen McGrattan, Father John McLean, Canon Matt McManus, Father Martin Poland, Canon Denis Quinlan and Father Jeremiah Sheehy (-2012).
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