On 19th of June 2022, JRS Uganda organized a memorial celebration in honor of the life of Fr. Frido Pflueger SJ who passed on last year. It was at the same time to celebrate the International World Refugee Day which is usually on the 20th of June. Fr. Frido has been Project Director of JRS in Adjumani from 2003 to 2006, Regional Director for the Eastern Africa Region from 2008 to 2012, the Director of JRS in Berlin, Germany from 2012 to 2018 and the Country Director for JRS Uganda since October 2018. According to the testimonies of the refugees, family, friends and JRS staff, he touched the lives of so many people. Hence it was after one year since his passing when JRS Uganda organized a celebration in memory of the life of Fr. Frido.
A group of students and teachers from St. Benno Gymnasium Dresden, Germany, travelled to Uganda to also join this celebration. Fr. Frido was Head Teacher at that school from 1994 until 2003. Since then, a wonderful collaboration between JRS Uganda and St. Benno has been established and several projects supported and implemented. The group of students are part of the school Big Band and they accompanied the whole celebration with wonderful music.
The mass at JRS compound in Kampala was celebrated by Fr. Simon Drasiga, SJ, Jesuit Superior of the Community in Kampala, joined with music from a local choir and the Big Band of St. Benno. After mass JRS Uganda organized various exhibitions in the compound to showcase the different work and activities within the two JRS projects in the country. Arts and Crafts, paintings, tailored clothes, snacks from Catering Class, possibility to have manicure and pedicure or a haircut, presentation of Education, Psychosocial Support, Basic Needs. The second part of the programme was a colorful mix of a number of speeches, music and cultural presentations to remember the tremendous work of Fr. Frido. Speeches were given by Christina Zetlmeisl, current Country Director of JRS in Uganda, John Baptist Ssebalamu, Local Chairman I of the area where JRS is located, Innocent Ndahiriwe, Office of the Prime Minister (OPM Kampala), John Mary Kisembo, Project Director of JRS in Kampala, Jack Mwisa, former JRS beneficiary in Computer Networking, Noelle Fitzpatrick, Country Director of JRS in South Sudan, Mama Hawa Kikuni, JRS beneficiary, Volker Milde, Deputy Head Teacher St. Benno, Madan Bahadur Bam, GBV Unit UNHCR Kampala.
All those speaking shared their personal experience with Fr. Frido and how he touched and impacted the lives of so many.
Madan Bahadur Bam commented:
“Father Frido, you were such a wonderful human being and a true fatherly figure. You were truly inspirational and so full of positivity radiating from your face. I am grateful for the moments shared with you at JRS and you are dearly missed here.”
Noelle Fitzpatrick met Fr. Frido for the first time in 2004 when she started working with JRS as a volunteer in the Regional Office:
“I met a man who was very focused on the mission, he was very honest with what he wanted and what he didn’t want from the Regional Office. Over time I appreciated his honesty, integrity and his focus on the mission. His approach was: What you have in your heart, what you have in your head and what you have in your hands. You start from there. And the rest will come.”
Noelle also shared some testimonies of South Sudanese who were refugees during the first crisis, started their life in Uganda with support of JRS in Adjumani and Kampala and are now in important and decision-making positions, even in the Government. She commented:
“Much of this has been achieved under the leadership of Fr. Frido when he was Regional and Country Director.”
“When I came for the first time to JRS I was 17 years old. I was not able to speak this English you are listening to, it was so broken”, Jack Mwisa shared.
“Reaching JRS’ gate impacted my life in so many ways. I had a student in 2020 and his family had no food. And then Covid came. Things became even more harder for them. They came at JRS gate, and it was closed. But they were lucky and met Fr. Frido. He helped them with food support. The next day more and more people came to JRS. And after a period of time, we were hired as data entrants to register those benefitting from the support of JRS. I alone registered 1,000 families. And all that started with Fr. Frido. This morning before coming I opened my bible and read a verse in the gospel of Matthew which talks of: you are the light of the world. Let your light be known by everyone. I first could not understand but when I reached here, I understood that this light is what we do. The light is what will remain even after we have gone. And this is Fr. Frido’s light.”
Afrique Arts Troupe presented different types of cultural dances from Uganda to show the visitors a small part of the colorful culture of the country. Children from JRS Kampala Day Care Centre, whom Fr. Frido was deeply connected to, presented some dances and made the day joyful.
After the lunch break, a group of JRS staff and visitors walked to the nearby cemetery together
with Fr. Simon Peter Kyambadde, Director of St. Augustine’s Institute, and neighbor of JRS, to hold a prayer at the grave of Fr. Frido.
Fr Frido returned to the Lord on Saturday, 19 June 2021, the eve of World Refugee Day – a testimony of his incredible dedication to each refugee he ever met. His commitment, love, and legacy to accompany the most vulnerable will continue to inspire JRS’s work and mission.