Ms Helen Akello Oketayot gives a powerful testimonial of Fr Dr Ambrosoli’s final journey

Ms Helen Akello Oketayot gives a powerful testimonial of Fr Dr Ambrosoli’s final journey and the events that led to his death. This a timely reminder of Fr Dr Ambrosoli’s selfless sacrifice and service to the Acholi people even at his deathbed. 


My name is Hellen Akello Oketayot, the daughter of Paul Akera. My father was brought to Kalongo as a catechist by Fr. Gabrietto and Fr. Pioco. In Kalongo rock where there is now the cross at the lower level, it is where my father and Fr. Pioco used to sleep. There were hardly any people here.

My testimony about Dr. Ambrosoli is like this; When Dr. Ambrosoli was being evacuated from here, I had my little child Apio Lillian admitted in the hospital in very critical condition, and consequently, Dr. Ambrosoli decided that she shouldn’t be left behind but should go with them. That day was a Tuesday, though I don’t remember the exact date.

An X ray machine was brought in front of the theater where the current statute of Dr. Ambrosoli is located; that is where it was burnt.

Dr Ambrosoli called me, “Hellen, my heart is bleeding”, I responded, asking why. He said, “you see this equipment, I bought it to help Africans, but Africans themselves are destroying it”.” How much millions is this worth?” he lamented. I the urged him to forgive the wrong doers and reminded him that he is a caring person, then he laughed. At that time, Bishop Cessana was also hospitalized in Comboni house and he was very sick. Dr. Ambrosoli’s mind was simultaneously split between the destruction of the equipment and the sickness of the bishop, he then decided to forgive those who destroyed his equipment.

We then set off from here at around noon time, many people moved on foot alongside the convoy, we reached after Patongo soldiers started misbehaving a we moved along. I was present near Dr. Ambrosoli because my daughter was on blood transfusion and he was monitoring, replacing the blood once it run out.

At some point Dr. Ambrosoli jumped out of the truck and instructed people to come out and lie down. He would personally shoved people to lie down. As he was doing this he said, “What I am I doing?”, “What is God doing?” in Luo, then he switched to English and said “oh my people are dying”, he then shed tears at that moment, and you could see the love Dr. Ambrosoli had for the people. He was just moving around to make sure people lie down unharmed thus exposing his life in the process.

After, we started moving, there was a truck loaded full of drugs, but when we reached Lira, the lorry with the drugs disappeared. F or us we went up, but the majority of the people remained at Ngetta farm. Dr. Ambrosoli asked the commander, “now that you have dumped my people here, what do we do for them?”

There was nothing to do and nothing to eat. As for me and my sick child, we were admitted to Ngetta health center.

The sickness of Dr. Ambrosoli started to manifest; he went to Angal, took the firstlot and came for the 2nd lot, we were packing books in the vehicles, he went to the Driver Labil the second time and the third time, as he loaded, his sickness became more pronounced because we loading from morning till late, I even advised doctor to go and rest as he had been working since morning. He responded that, “Hellen, do you remember my X-Ray Machine?” I told him to let go, after which he said, “Hellen, I am going back to Kalongo, I am not going anywhere, I am only settling the students in Angal, you prepare, we shall go back to Kalongo, If I stay here my heart will continue to bleed”.

I told doctor not to worry, at that time he started to be restless, I asked him, “Doctor what is happening? He said, “Hellen, I am feeling feverish.” When he said that, I got a damp sponge and started to apply on his forehead.

Later we heard a helicopter approaching. Doctor said, “Hellen, you see, Sr. Romilde has telephoned people at home, I did not want them to come here, why should they be disturbed?” I replied to him “How do you know that it is bringing your relatives?”

He said, “just wait and see”.

After a short time, Bishop Asilli, the army commander and Ambrosoli’s brother Francesco arrived, and when the door was opened, I saw the hair on Dr. Ambrosoli all uncurl from his body and that was how he died. The brother on seeing that tried to raise his hands, then kissed him on both cheeks, he saw a piece of note on Ambrosoli’s breast pockets, it was visible since he wore a white shirt.  The brother started shedding tears, he took the piece of paper, read it and placed it back in the pocket and left.

The commander who was there, exclaimed,” Oh!  the war has begun”, he was shaken by what had happened, probably the burning of the X-ray machine was likely to bring problems to them.

The death of Ambrosoli was the heartbreak precipitated by the burning of the x-ray equipment, he did not want to go anywhere, and if it had so happened that he was alive, Dr. Ambrosoli would have probably died trying to return to Kalongo. He was always saying that he was only taking the students to a safe place, but for him, he would return to Kalongo.

Before he died, Dr. Ambrosoli gave me a set of keys for the theatre, Xray, his room, generator house and that for the midwifery school and for the Comboni sisters.

He then instructed me to give the keys to Mr. Jino Owiny. He said, “Hellen, go and give these keys to Jino, tell Jino, I have kept some money somewhere in my room, let him use it to buy drugs to help the people you have seen the drugs we came with has disappeared”. He said, the key to the generator house should be given to Mr. Okeny who works there. I gave the key to Mr. Okeny.

He also instructed me, and repeated this directive before he died that all his properties should be given to the poor, and if anybody takes his properties, that person will not stay alive. Indeed, I listened to him and I never took anything from the mission in my hands. I brought they keys and gave it as instructed.

The last thing is when I came back from Lira, I suffered a terrible sickness. If you see my face, do you see it in its right symmetrical shape? My face and head were all swollen, there was no hospital, there was nothing. What I did, was to take the portrait of Dr. Ambrosoli I had come with from Lira and placed it on my head and prayed. I would sleep holding it to my head. Those who visited me were helpless, only crying, nothing to do.

So, you see the scar here, pus started to exude from here, from my ears, from the different parts of my head pus emanated. All the pus drained on its own until I recovered only with the portrait of Dr. Ambrosoli I used for praying and that is why I ardently attest that Dr. Ambrosoli was indeed a holy man and a blessed person. The act of forgiveness by Dr. Ambrosoli that he showed and that I witnessed, even if somebody does me wrong I forgive. What he did was really great, Ambrosoli welcome all the sick in the hospital regardless of whether from a rebels or government forces. He would treat them all as his children. But the government was not happy with this as they saw it negatively.

This is the brief remarks I can give. God should exult Dr. Ambrosoli to a holy place, I also pray the Virgin Mother Mary who took care of her son, to protect Acholi land, Acholi land is in despair, Ambrosoli in heaven should pray for Acholi people because he said he was an Acholi. That is my last word.

Additional information. From Hellen Akello Oketayot

The will of Dr. Ambrosoli, he said that if he dies he should be brought to Kalongo and buried in Kalongo, and additionally he said that if he dies, he should be buried using a skin in accordance to the Acholi customs because he is an Acholi. Thankyou.

One thought on “Ms Helen Akello Oketayot gives a powerful testimonial of Fr Dr Ambrosoli’s final journey

  1. Dr. Ambrosoli, may the Lord welcome you into His Kingdom and reward you for the love you had for His people especially the suffering. Also pray for my sister Janerose to get healed from DIABETES.

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