Brief History of Marianum Press Ltd. Kisubi
From the earliest years of the Catholic Church in Uganda the missionaries recognised the importance of the press in the apostolate. By mid-December 1879, ten months after his arrival, Fr. Lourdel-Mapera had completed the manuscript of a small catechism which was taken to Algiers for printing by Fr. Barbot on his way back to Europe in February 1880; the catechism came out of the press only in` 1881. Seeing the delay, Fr. Lourdel wrote to Algiers (4/4/1881) asking his superior to obtain for him a “small printing press easy to carry”. However with the repeated exiles of the missionaries, the persecution and the civil war, it was only in 1893 that Bishop Livinhac could send to Bishop Hirth the printing press equipment formerly used at the White Fathers’ scholasticate of Carthage (Tunisia). The press arrived in Uganda a year or so later and was sent to Villa Maria, but lack of space prevented its full use.
It was therefore transferred first to Lubaga and, in 1899, to the Junior Seminary at Kisubi. Sleeping sickness later forced the Vicar Apostolic to transfer the Seminary to Bukalasa together with the printing press. Fr. J. Fouquenet, W.F., managed to put the equipment in working order and it soon could print a little book of geography and other books needed at the Seminary and in the schools: the White Fathers’ Printing Press was born. lt soon became obvious that the primitive equipment could not cope with the needs, and in 1906 Bishop Streicher (Stensera) wrote to Bishop Livinhac in Maison Carree (Algiers) asking for a Brother printer and for better equipment.
Brother Adeodat, W.F., arrived in the same year with a new printing press, a “Disc lnking Platen Press activated by a pedal”. With this “modern” equipment installed, — it could print 4000 pages a day — the Brother could produce more abundant material: Prayer books, Catechisms, school books, and even a 631 pages “Latin-Luganda Dictionary”. A newspaper was now a possibility: the first issue of the monthly MUNNO is dated January 1, 1911. ln 1924, the printing press produced 52,700 copies of books, booklets, etc., in Luganda, Lunyankole, English and other languages. lt also continued to produce MUNNO in Luganda.
In 1937, the “White Fathers’ Printing Press” was transferred from Bukalasa to new premises, near the Technical School at Kisubi, but the idea of joining it to the school was never realized. The second World War (1939-46) prevented new developments until it became possible to import new machines from Europe. The first linotype was then introduced, in 1948. The composers continued to set the types by hand while two men Mr. A.S.K. Muniina (RIP) and Mr. J. Ssemakula were trained by Brother Alphonse de Liguori, W.F., to operate the linotype. The old press had long been replaced by electric machines, but a larger press was direly needed; a “MlEHLE” press was ordered and installed in 1948. New printing endeavours could now be launched: the first book of some extent to be published in English was the 317 page history book, “The Rise of Africa”, printed in 1948. The newspaper MUNNO was now published twice a week; the monthly magazines MUSIZI and KlZlTO, the latter for children, were to follow.
The White Fathers’ Printing Press had given half a century of service to the Catholic Church in Uganda and during those 50 years, millions of copies of different books had been printed in most of the languages used in the country. The year 1955 saw the beginning of a new phase in the history of the printing press. Early in the year the Very Rev. Mother Laetitia Malinowska, Superior General of the Sisters of St. Peter Claver, had visited the White Fathers’ Printing Press, at the invitation of the Most Rev. Louis Joseph Cabana, Archbishop of Lubaga. Evangelization through the printed word was and still is-the specific apostolate of the Congregation and its expansion to Uganda seemed a step in the right direction. Following that visit the Superior General wrote to the Archbishop on March 26th of that same year that her sisters were ready and willing to set up a community in Uganda. The agreement between the Archdiocese and the Congregation was signed by Archbishop Cabana on April 4, 1955.
The first Sisters arrived in Kampala by way of Mombasa on September 18, 1955. They were: Sr. M. Lourdes, Sr. M. Bertilla, Sr. M. Placida, Sr. M. Victoria, Sr. M. Pauline and Sr. M. Isabel. They were welcomed at the train station by Fr. A. St. Pierre, W.F., Vicar General of Lubaga, and Fr. J.P. Demers, WF, Archdiocesan Bursar. The Sisters were first taken to Lubaga Cathedral and then to the convent of Mary Reparatrix at Entebbe, where they were accommodated in the guesthouse (Fatima House). Two days later they were taken to Kisubi, where they set up temporary quarters in one of the new staff houses of the Technical School, while waiting for the completion of their convent.
In later years, other Sisters came from Europe to join the community of Kisubi or to replace some of its members. They are: Sr. M. Patrick, Sr. M. Gaudiosa, Sr. M. Antonina, Sr. M. Lucille, Sr. M. Brendan, Sr. M. Clementine, Sr. M. Anthonia , Sr. M. Beatrice, Sr. M Alice.
In a true missionary spirit, the Sisters of St. Peter Claver soon began to look for indigenous vocations. Several young girls applied over the years, some of these included Sr. Floriana, Sr. Oliva, Sr. Odilia and Sr. Grace.
At the same time, other local religious groups soon became involved in the work of the printing press. In particular the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Reparatrix of Ggogonya joined the press in 1973 and carried the full load of its running from March 1975 to June 1976, when the Sisters of St. Peter Claver had temporarily left Uganda. Also the Bannakaroli Brothers have been working at Marianum in various capacities since 1971.
Already on the 27th of September, 1955, the Sisters started their apostolate at the White Fathers’ Printing Press and for two years they gave their devoted services to that press centre. The plans for the new printing press were approved in March 1956 and shortly afterward the firm of “Sterling-Astaldi” started breaking the ground for the building operation. By the end of the year the new premises were ready for occupation.
Two intertype machines were soon added to the existing linotype; these new machines arrived at Entebbe Pier on December 6, 1956 followed by a “Monarch” printing press which arrived from Germany packed in fourteen huge cases. There arose the serious problem of transportation of such heavy cases from Kampala railway station to Kisubi, but eventually the Sisters found adequate means of transport.
However, the weight of the machines created another problem; when the engineers came to install the press, they found out that the floor could not support such a heavy burden; there was no alternative but to reconstruct the floor of the entire building.
The official handing-over of the White Fathers’ Printing Press to the Sisters of St. Peter Claver by the Archdiocese took place in February 1957. The first task was the transfer to the new premises of the paper stock, shelves, tables, stools and other equipment. This entailed unending trips up and down the hills, to and from the former site; moreover all this material had to be placed in the paper store and other rooms. The first copy of “OMUSlZl” magazine was already printed before the official opening. Since the printing machine was of a new type with which the printer was not yet acquainted, new problems had to be overcome and much patience – was needed before the magazine could come out of the press: it took five days to print 5000 copies!
On March 28, 1957, the big printing and composing machines from the old Printing press were transferred to the new Printing press known as Marianum, together with the remaining furniture. Twenty lorry-loads were needed for the transport of the machinery and furniture. For about a month work was divided between the two presses: some of the Sisters and workers remained behind for cleaning the old premises, while another group was kept busy organizing and putting things at the right places at Marianum. By the end of April everything was ready for the official opening: all the machines had been installed, and 35 Ugandans including the staff of the previous press centre had been officially admitted as employees (17 men and 18 women).
The ceremony of the official opening of Marianum Press took place on April 26, 1957. Among the guests, who started arriving at 4:00 p.m. were, His Grace the Apostolic Delegate to Eastern Africa, Archbishop (now Cardinal) James Knox; His Grace the Archbishop of Lubaga, Archbishop Louis-Joseph Cabana; Bishop Joseph Kiwanuka of Masaka; Bishop Vincent Billington of Kampala and many other distinguished personalities.
Also present were Fr. G. Domon, W.F., one of the Founders of the White Fathers’ Printing Press and Brother Alphonse de Liguori who had trained the first Iinotypists and the first monotypists. The Apostolic Delegate addressed the assembly and Archbishop Cabana presided over the blessing ceremony. Most impressive was the moment, immediately after the blessing, when all the machines started running.
The next big step in the history of Marianum Press took place on April 1, 1973. On that date the Sisters of St. Peter Claver handed over the ownership and the management of the press to the Archdiocese of Kampala. Fr. Joseph Balikuddembe was appointed as the first General Manager. In 1979 he was followed by Fr. F.X. Mayinja, who was followed by Fr. Masembe. In 1993, Fr. Vincent Mulumba became the Managing Director of the press until Jan, 2020 when he was replaced with Fr. John Bosco Ssembatya, who is the current Managing Director. At this point, it is important to notice that, even after the change of ownership, the Sisters of St. Peter Claver have remained part of Marianum Press, where they still offer their invaluable ideas.
Marianum Press has stood the tests of time and production for now 63 years and has gone through a steady process of expansion in machinery, personnel and production. Thanks to God’s blessing and constant good care the machines are still in full operation; the “Monarch” press, blessed 25 years ago is still working and kept in excellent condition.
More wonderful still are the old machines from the White Fathers’ Printing Press that are still giving excellent service today at Marianum. They are the “Miehle” press bought by the Archdiocese (then a Vicariate) and installed by Bro. Alphonse de Liguori in 1948, the “Phoenix Platen” manufactured in Germany in 1920, the “Cundal Folder manufactured in England in 1953, 2 “Brehmers” wire stretchers manufactured in England in 1952, a “Gold” blocking machine, also made in England in 1956.
Thanks to the generosity of benefactors in Europe and America, who donated twenty-six new different types of printing and book-binding machines by 1979. These acquisitions were crowned on December 31, 1979, when His Eminence Emmanuel Cardinal Nsubuga officially blessed the new “Offset SORD Heidelberg, and the Repro-Offset Department” was officially inaugurated. From then, a number of other modern machines have been acquired to match the new technological advances; these include Heidelberg SORS, Heidelberg GTO 52, Heidelberg GTO 46, Speedmaster 70×102 which is a four color machine. In addition, folding machines have been added which include Stahl KZ 76 (folds upto 32 pages), Stahl KC 66 (folds up to 16 pages including parallel folding) and the MBO folder (folds to 16 pages in cross). Other machines acquired are the Gang Stitchers both manual and automatic one of which trims the text to the desired size. The press also has an automatic Perfect -Binding machine HORIZON BQ-470 using hot melt glue which was acquired in 2016. Marianum has also developed a modern computer department for graphics -designing and typesetting.
From the very beginning, the Sisters put great emphasis on the professional training of the employees. Several staff members sat for the trade examination tests and many of them passed successfully. Marianum’s policy is to train its own employees and who meet Marianum values. At present Marianum employs about 60 people.
When the work proved to be going well, three employees were chosen and sent to England for further training in printing especially on lntertype machines. These were: Mr. Felix Nnyanzi, Mr. L. Pereira who was expelled by Amin together with other Asians, Mr. J. Ssemmengo (RIP), Mr. Kikonyogo Godfrey, Mr. Musoke Emmanuel Bro. Agathone of the Bannakaroli Brothers and Mr. Katimbo Richard.
It was not only men employees who were sent abroad, but women too, especially those who joined this congregation of St. Peter Claver, who were sent to Italy for specialization.
It is important to note that besides those who went abroad for further training, there are other employees who were given a chance to make trips abroad and represent Marianum on specific occasions.
The first one was Mr. A.S.K. Muniina (RIP) who visited the Holy Land and then attended the canonization of the Uganda Martyrs on 18/10/64, in Rome.
The next one was Mr. C. Mukasa, who was the Marianum Press representative at the beatification of Mary Theresa Ledochowska in October, 1975.
The third, and so far the last, was Mr. A. Matovu Ssaalongo, who represented workers again at the official opening of the Uganda Martyrs’ Church in Rome, in 1980, built by Pope Paul Vl.
During the first years, production was rather low and there was not enough work to keep all the machines going. lt was only after the 2nd Vatican Council that a greater demand for books started.
Apart from religious books, — catechisms, Bibles, Prayer books, hymn books, doctrinal and liturgical books — general reading material, health and educational books have also been produced. Marianum was a chief printer of newspapers: MUNNO (Your Friend), which had a daily circulation of 6,000 copies; ENYUNYUZI YAITU in Runyoro/Rutooro, printeed monthly with a circulation of 6,000 copies. The Press also printed four monthly magazines: MUSIZI (The Sower) for adults, in Luganda, with a circulation of 20,000 copies; LEADERSHIP, in English, for the Catholic laity, circulation 15.000; KlZlTO (St. Kizito, Martyr), in Luganda, for school children, 15,000 copies; MUMULl (the Torch), in Luganda, for Catechists, 4,000 copies; one diocesan Newsletter in Luganda, for Jinja diocese, circulation 3,000 copies. A new publication for Fort Portal diocese: the ”Rwenzori Echo” which appeared four times a year in both English and Rutooro.
The first book printed at Marianum was “KisumuLuzo”, the Gospel story, in Luganda: 60,000 copies. Since then many different books and booklets have been printed, amounting to millions of copies. Some of the best books printed at Marianum Press from the typographical point of view include “Ganda Art”, by Dr. A. Lugira, “70 Years a Witness” , by Matthew Rukikaire, “Chameleon’s League”, by Katherine Namuddu and “Card. Wamala’s Reflections on the Word of God” by Freddie Ssekitto.
Marianum Press was the chief printer of national examinations of Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE), Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) and Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education from 1990 – 2014, a project it fulfilled with professionalism and integrity until the Ministry of Education acquired its machinery.
Presently, the company is the official printer of the Luganda Missal, Lectionaries, the Kampala Archdiocesan Hymn Book; Mujje Tutendereze Omukama (commonly known as MTO) in addition to the many works produced by the company of different types and sizes.
Marianum Press strives to improve the livelihoods of its employees. In 1968, Sister Bertilla, the then Sister Superior, conceived a nice idea which she revealed to the workers and they too welcomed it. It was to start a loan and thrift co-operative society, which was called: Kisubi Printers’ Thrift & Loan Co-operative Society. Down the years with changes in lifestyle and government regulations, Marianum opened up another SACCO in 2011 known as Marianum