Fr. Paul Samasumo, Rome. Bishop Moses Hamungole's sudden death in Zambia on 13 January, of COVID-19, came as a shock. Just before Christmas, on 21 December 2020, he was happily shovelling away dirt at a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new Monze Diocese Cathedral.

 

Cathedral Builder

Born on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, 1 May,  Bishop Moses would have been 54 this year. As Bishop of Monze in Zambia, he had literally just initiated the construction of a new Cathedral, the Holy Trinity Cathedral. It was a mammoth task that he seemed to relish notwithstanding the huge challenge ahead. "There simply is no appetite for building big Churches anymore," he told me on his last visit to Rome on 18 October 2020. Then he added, "But you see, this is a project that has been talked about, in the Diocese for years. Everyone says it is needed, but we were not doing anything about it. I told myself: Someone has to start, and so far, the support has been incredible." That in a way, sums-up Bishop Moses. Just because something was difficult did not mean it could not be done.

SIGNIS Africa President

Many of those who knew Bishop Moses during his SIGNIS days agree that he was never one to shy away from a challenge. In 2005 SIGNIS Africa, as an association, was in total disarray. Painstakingly, Bishop Moses, as the new Africa President, set about reviving meetings and some activities. Working together with then Nigerian priest, now Bishop of Ekiti, Felix Femi Ajakaye and others, they stitched together what was left of SIGNIS Africa. If SIGNIS Africa has made some progress today, it is thanks, in no small part to the foundation laid by Bishop Moses and his team in the Africa executive. Bishop Moses was SIGNIS Africa President from 2005 to 2009.

Between 2012 to 2014, Bishop Moses was the SIGNIS World General Treasurer. It was one of those turbulent periods when SIGNIS was redefining itself. He proved that he was equal to the task.

The SIGNIS tributes

Former SIGNIS World President, Malaysian national, Sir Augustine (Augy) Loorthusamy upon hearing about Bishop Moses' passing was speechless. He remarked, "He was a personal friend and a great supporter of SIGNIS. We must honour him." Former SIGNIS World Secretary-General, Alvito now a Senior Advisor with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, said he was heartbroken. Former Director of SIGNIS Services Rome (SSR), Fr. Bernardo Suate who is now head of the Portuguese Service at Vatican Radio said of Bishop Moses, "For two terms, Bishop Moses was a member of the SIGNIS World Board of Directors. His contributions during those two terms were immense. I think the Church in Africa has lost one of its ardent communicators," he said.

For his part, current SIGNIS World Vice President, Lawrence John Sinniah, also known as eLJay said from Malaysia, "Really sad to hear the news of Bishop Moses. He was always easy to talk to during his SIGNIS days." United States-based SIGNIS World President -Helen Osman, Secretary-General –Ricardo Yáñez and staff in Brussels, Maria Chiara De Lorenzo of SSR in Rome, the staff and many other SIGNIS members have all offered condolences.

SIGNIS Africa President, Professor Father Walter Chikwendu Ihejirika of the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria, said the death of Bishop Moses was "most unfortunate and untimely." Several pending SIGNIS Africa commitments and meetings had Bishop Moses as one of the key contributors, explained Prof. Walter.

Simplicity and accountability

Someone recently asked me how I would describe Bishop Moses.

Bishop Moses and I were initially thrown together by fate because of our work with church communications, especially in Zambia. I will always remember Bishop Moses for his simplicity. What you saw is what you got. Another thing is, if ever there was single-minded determination, then he was it. He was also one of the most accountable people I know. Accountable in everything -money, property, everything. However, he also expected and demanded accountability of others. Bishop Moses was never one moved by material things or flashy gadgets. For the longest time, he was so attached to this little old Nokia phone that we plotted, in vain, to steal and hide. Besides, left to himself, Bishop Moses would eat Fish for 365 days!

Due to the ongoing pandemic in Zambia, Bishop Moses' funeral has been postponed to a later date when the covid-19 situation improves. In your prayers, do remember Bishop Moses' mother who has lost a son.