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Pipe organ music to Ugandan priest’s ears

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With only two pipe organs being 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.

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Fr Denis, who taught himself the keyboard and also plays the piano to improve his speed, described the Cathedral’s pipe organ as a real “treasure”.

“In my culture music is part and parcel of life,” he said.

“When I hear melodies almost like the ones I hear in Uganda, I rejoice, dance and 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 them. The pipe organ in the Cathedral is a treasure, which I think the people in Adelaide should not 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 Uganda’s capital, 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 where 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 ministering with the ageing people and the youth; we interact and learn together. Evangelisation is better enriched if it is two-way,” he said.

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