One-on-One with Fr. Francis Plato: A Tale of Faith, Education, and Community
“I am happy here with our community and they are happy with me. I do visit chapels and centers for pastoral care and the needs of sacraments. I go twice a month to Ibba Girls Boarding School for Holy Eucharistic Celebration and for penance. This month is dedicated to Our Lady of Holy Rosary, I distribute the Holy Rosaries to the Christians who come regularly for Holy Mass and to children who come to clean around church and house. I do teach in school. We have a good number of pupils who are under our care learning both education and discipline with good morals. They are happy with some changes in infrastructure. Still hoping and praying for a good infrastructure school.
Praying for PEACE in PMC, Israel, and in the world.
Bless us and pray for us.”
Sr. Henriette Anne, FSSA
The update above from Fr. Francis Plato, from Ibba Parish shows that the community of Ibba is thriving under his care. His dedication to pastoral work and education is truly commendable and the positive impact he is making in the lives of the people and students there. His efforts at the Ibba Girls Boarding School and his involvement in the community reflect his deep commitment to nurturing both the spiritual and educational growth of those around him.
Fr. Francis Plato shares his experience in an inclusive interview with Rurugene Online on how is balancing his pastoral work and teaching in school.
Rurugene Online: Can you share more about your experiences visiting the chapels and centers for pastoral care? What are the most rewarding aspects of this work?
Fr. Francis: Pastoral Care is fulfilling the needs of spiritual and socio aspects to grow in faith and morals. It draws many people to pray and to value the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. In pastoral Care one does not have to expect rewards but instead a fulfillment of my commitment to Evangelization to God’s people. I avail myself of the sacrament of penance and reconciliation every week and whenever faithful requests. Once a month I send the charismatic group on Friday to Sunday to pray and on Saturday visit chapels/centers to give penitential and on Sunday to celebrate Holy Eucharistic and give sacraments. The fruit of the Gospel is witnessed by the faithful through active participation and joyful celebrations.
The most rewarding aspect of this work is the Joy of celebrating Holy Eucharistic with Christians who are unaware of Christ and His values in a simple way is to bring Christ to the abandoned.
Rurugene Online: Tell us about your role in Ibba Girls Boarding School. What changes have you witnessed, especially concerning the students’ educational and moral development?
Fr. Francis: I am one of the board members along with Fr. Babu. Ibba boarding school is another possibility where we used to get a chance to go and give some guidelines to the girls in faith-based teachings and moral values. Morally I feel it’s a great opportunity to visit now and then especially in their hygiene and sanitary sections girls need a lot of our support in guiding them even in their MHM. So, I advise them to help their parents when they go home and maintain distance from their opponents. When they go home, I advise them to maintain a good relationship with everybody. Spiritually, I visit every alternative Sunday to Celebrate Holy Eucharistic with them and once a month I give penitential. Whenever they seek some counseling, I listen and guide them. I speak about their vocation and faith formation.
Rurugene Online: You mentioned improvements in infrastructure at the school. Could you elaborate on these?
Fr. Francis: At the time I came to Ibba Fr. Babu appointed me to serve as Head Teacher of St. Charles Lwanga Nursery and Primary School in Ibba. We have nine classes, among them the three classes’ pupils are in decent shelters sitting on benches, three classes’ pupils are sitting on bricks, broken trees as branches under a mango tree, and, another three classes are under the grass roofing. They don’t have proper classrooms and benches and teaching aids, even a latrine outside the classrooms and an infrastructure to conduct exams there is no computer system and printing system, and qualified teachers who can teach with teaching materials and are passionate about teaching. The prayers and blessings of Our Beloved Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala encouraged me to do something for the school. Fr. Babu supported me in making roofing for five classes and made benches for two classrooms. We brought some qualified teachers as part-timers to come and teach. Since the roofing was made and brought some teachers this gave hope to the community to send their children to school. The pupils increased in numbers. There will be the building of a hygienic latrine and hoping for some more development in the school. Here and there I have tried to put things in place. I teach them to Work hard rather than wait for anyone to do work for them. I Work Hand in Hand with them, building our Common place of learning, keeping the place clean, gardening, and promoting physical fitness by affording sports time where they can keep fit. I’m very proud of our school children in that they have so far learned to be responsible young adults.
Rurugene Online: In your message, you expressed the importance of peace and mentioned praying for it in PMC, Israel, and the world. Why do you believe peace is crucial, and what role do you see your community playing in promoting peace?
Fr. Francis: As a Christian, I strongly believe and live to the end of life- Peace – which Christ left. So, in our community, I instill the importance of peace through the apt examples of severe consequences of extremism and violence in the world and help the people to value the peace obtained through freedom with the help of the Word of God We pray for Peace, in various countries eg. in Israel, Ukraine, and other suffering countries too. Peace is important because God wants His children to live in peace because Jesus by redeeming the world (us). Peace alone helps us to experience God. He meant us to live in Peace and in freedom. My community prays for Peace and tries to live in harmony with each other. A day is observed to fast and pray for peace. Being a member of PMC peace is important and to be preached and practiced and lived in Peace.
Rurugene Online: You mentioned teaching in school. What subjects do you teach, and what teaching methods have you found most effective in your classroom?
Fr. Francis: I would like to teach all subjects in fact I take all subjects when I lack sufficient teachers while they take leave in our school. I specifically teach English and Christian Religious Studies and Social Studies. I teach the importance of English as the foundation for all subjects since the language of the subject is English. Every week three times we call pupils for an assembly and ask pupils to come volunteer to translate into the local language and deliver a message, in such a way, I train the pupils. Every week pupils have topics for debates, and eloquent speeches prepared will be delivered. Topics will be given on the spot to deliver a talk at a specific time. They will be given gifts and prizes. The pupils who score first, second, and third marks in the exam will be rewarded.
Rurugene Online: How do you balance your pastoral duties, teaching responsibilities, and community involvement? Are there specific challenges you face, and how do you overcome them?
Fr. Francis: The very life of a priest is the profound call to live to the needs of the souls. So, the need arises in every realm of life either in pastoral ministry or education or in community life, and of course, the challenges are there as Jesus Himself faced a lot. As a follower, I too have a few, specifically the lack of expertise to train and accommodate any efforts in concern. I find my strength to overcome any such challenge with prayer and meditation having the example of Mother Mary’s contemplations in her heart about anything befalls in the life stream. The specific challenge I face in my mission is a lack of understanding of communications.
Rurugene Online: Looking forward, what are your hopes and aspirations for your community and the school? Are there specific goals or projects you are working on to further enhance the well-being and education of the people you serve?
Fr. Francis: my goal for now is to reform the Pius movements and renovate chapels and centers. And for the school, upgrade trained teachers, build latrine and bring more benches for leaners.