St Chrysostom’s is helping host this year’s conference of the Society of Catholic Priests. It’s a privilege to welcome priests from all over the country, and from Wales and Ireland too. One of those who gave a welcome to Manchester to conference participants was Prossy Kakooza, who when she lived closer worshipped with us and helped out at St Chrysostom’s.
Prossy spoke of how she left Uganda and sought asylum, as a young lesbian woman, here in England. The conference was visibly moved by the deeply personal and heart rending story that Prossy told. One priest said she was horrified to hear of ‘the indignity asylum seekers suffer,’ another commented on the ‘crass, horrific’ approach of some of the authorities.
Thankfully Prossy came through it and has been granted asylum. She now works for the Red Cross and helps other asylum seekers. She spoke with a simple beauty and grace which inspired her listeners.
Prossy said that many seeking asylum would seek out churches believing them to be places of acceptance and welcome. In her experience some churches were certainly that, while others were not. She told of attending worship for the first time in one church where the sermon was a strong attack on LGBT people. She left distressed and despairing, feeling she could never return to a church. In other churches she had been made very welcome and their love and care had helped affirm her and build up her life.
What message would she give to the church? Prossy talked of the importance of getting to know people, refugees, asylum seekers, as individuals and hearing their stories, rather than always seeming to talk on the level of ‘issues’. Welcome of the individual was very important, many were very alone having left extended families behind. Knowing and caring on the individual level helped overcome barriers and helped form opinion in a realistic and open way.
Conference participants were immensely grateful for Prossy’s honesty, openness and generosity in sharing her challenging and inspiring story.