“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

So began a brief talk by Dr. Owen Phelps at the first Benefactors Mass & Brunch for the Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute on Saturday, Aug. 10, at St. James Parish in Rockford, IL.

His words echoed those of Dick Kunnert, a Yeshua board member, Senior Fellow and Master Facilitator who served as master of ceremonies at the brunch.

Before the brunch Father Dave Beauvais, also a Yeshua board member, served as celebrant and homilist at the Mass. In addition to leading prayers for all of the Institute’s benefactors, he took the occasion to thank the benefactors too. Two other priest-benefactors, Msgr. Mike Tierney and Msgr. P. William McDonnell, concelebrated with Father Beauvais.

Featured speaker from Uganda

The featured speaker at the brunch, Javis Mugagga, came all the way from Uganda, where he leads several ministries focused around the Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus.

Javis, whose work has been supported by the Yeshua Institute and its benefactors, leads Catholic ministries to high school students, seminarians, priests and -- with his wife Gladys -- to married couples.

He explained how Americans often have a narrow perspective on Africa, often thinking first of safaris and widespread poverty. What is not so well known, Javis explained, is that there is widespread energy and dynamism among the continent’s overwhelming youthful population.

In Uganda, where the overwhelming majority of Christians are Catholic, he said people of all ages are open to learning more about what it means to be a Catholic Christian – but that the Church has to reach to them despite generally meager resources.

Grateful for Mission House

Javis thanked benefactors of the Yeshua Institute for making it possible to build a Mission House in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, which has served hundreds of priests, seminarians and married couples.

Before Javis spoke, Owen had called the history of the Yeshua Institute “a collection of small miracles,” dating back to before his encounter with Javis in Kampala in 2011. One of those miracles was a subsequent invitation from Kampala’s archbishop to return to do a Lead Like Jesus Encounter for the archdiocese’s priests.

Msgr. Raymond Wahl, now deceased, stepped up to underwrite the entire cost of Kunnert and Father Beauvais going to Uganda in early 2012, and that made it possible for them to introduce Javis to the archbishop – a relationship that has since led to a vast series of programs for priests, seminarians and high school students in the ensuing seven years.

Another more recent “small miracle” was the fact that Javis was in the U.S. by virtue of receiving a scholarship to attend another leadership development program, so the Yeshua Institute did not have to underwrite the cost of his travel. “It is yet another occasion for us to be grateful,” Phelps said.  


                      BOARD MEMBERS -- Three Yeshua board members with Javis Mugagga from Uganda

                      are (from left) Father Dave Beauvais, Owen Phelps and Dick Kunnert.