Father Bob Binta, the new priest at St. Benedict’s parish in Ahwatukee Foothills, said he has always felt a call to become a priest, even growing up in a large family in Uganda.

Binta was one of 12 children. He said his dad always pushed his children to enter the medical field, but the religious stories Binta heard as a child really spoke to him.

“In Uganda we have the 22 Uganda martyrs,” Binta said. “The missionaries had just brought the faith to the people. These were very simple people and they embraced the faith. Three years later the king decided to kill all those who embraced the faith. These 22 Uganda martyrs became an inspiration to many of us. They lost their lives for the gospel. They are a source of inspiration to us to be missionaries and priests and take on the example of the Uganda martyrs. That was an inspiration to me.”

Binta grew in his own faith as he got older and came to the U.S. in the ’90s to study business administration. With a degree from Notre Dame he went back to Uganda and worked for years doing finances for his diocese. He was given an assignment to work for the bishop’s conference for all bishops in Uganda for a few years, and eventually he retired from finances and was sent back to the U.S. to do mission work in Arizona.

When he was asked to serve as a priest at St. Benedicts in Ahwatukee, Binta said he had mixed emotions. He was very attached to the people he had been serving in Phoenix and he had no idea where Ahwatukee was.

“As a priest you are with the people in times of happiness and at the same time you celebrate funerals and sad moments,” Binta said. “For six years I was with people in good times and bad and becoming one with them. To be honest with you when the bishop asked me to come I had mixed feelings. When I came, my first weekend was unbelievable. People were so nice and welcoming. Three weeks in and they are still preparing meals for me. I haven’t had to cook. So far it has been very, very good.”

Binta took over the parish July 18. St. Benedicts is a well-established parish with several different ministries and thousands of parishioners, Binta said, but the people have been so welcoming and the staff so easy to work with, the transition has been smooth. The only thing Binta hopes to do as a priest is continue the work already going on.

“The primary role of a priest is to bring people closer to God,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to do as a priest. This is a very established and welcoming parish. They have many ministries in place. They are very active in different groups. My role is to continue animating them and bringing them closer to God.”

Binta has a special passion for helping the less fortunate. Coming from a poor country himself, he said he was inspired by missionaries back home who gave up their lives in first-world countries to live among the poor and help them. He said St. Benedicts already has several ministries that reach out to the homeless, the poor and the needy, but he hopes to add to that.

St. Benedicts is located at 16223 S. 48th St. For more information, or for mass times, call (480) 961-1610.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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