“God is good.” “All the time.”
Countless youth and parishioners across the Phoenix Diocese and likely the country can finish that call and response by repeating it with the phrases inverted. For Fr. Bob Binta, it wasn’t just words to quiet down a crowd. They were words his 56 years of life — essentially half of that as a priest — had seen in action.
Fr. Bob Binta
Born: April 14, 1962
Ordained: Aug. 31, 1991, for the Diocese of Fort Portal, Uganda
Incardinated: May 16, 2012 in the Diocese of Phoenix
Service in the Diocese of Phoenix:
*Parochial vicar and interim parochial administrator, St. Paul, Phoenix (2007-2013)
*Parochial administrator and pastor, St. Benedict, Phoenix, which also oversees St. John Bosco School (2013-2018)
Died: Aug. 20, 2018
Visitation: 5-7 p.m. Aug. 23 at St. Benedict in Ahwatukee
Funeral Mass: 10 a.m. Aug. 24 at St. Francis Xavier in Phoenix
Supporting St. Benedict’s “Living Our Faith Building Our Home” building fund
Growing up in Uganda, he knew well of his country’s 22 martyrs in the late 19th century. They inspired him to imitate their zeal for the faith.
It was a faith that first emerged as a child. The future priest had no problem leaving his family behind, including a twin sister and 10 other siblings, in order to run five miles toward the cathedral to serve as an altar boy. Joining priests for a rural village Mass was not uncommon either.
Fr. Binta’s zeal landed him in a minor seminary where it took him a few years to mature, according to the man himself. He especially credited his vocation to priests who saw promise in him. A Pastoral Spiritual Year alongside Holy Cross priests assisted Fr. Binta in fully responding to God’s call to become a priest, the former pastor wrote in his own biography, knowing his pending death.
Fr. Binta’s 20-month battle with Stage 4 lung cancer ended Aug. 20. He would have marked 28 years of priesthood Aug. 31. His was a ministry that greatly impacted two Phoenix parishes, that minor seminary — this time on staff — the financial stability of his native diocese and that of the Uganada Bishops Conference.
Business and ministry efforts aside, the faithful remember Fr. Binta for something else: his Irish “heritage.” After Fr. Binta’s work with the seminary formation team, he continued his own studies earning a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame. His “Silver Jubilee Roast” at St. Benedict in Ahwatukee started off with two announcements: Notre Dame didn’t play that day and the team didn’t lose either.
Four years prior, while serving at St. Paul Parish, the staff decided that instead of the traditional simple gift exchange, everyone pitched in to purchase his own portion of the Notre Dame stadium bench.
“The bench holds a prominent place in his room,” said Fr. Greg Schlarb, diocesan vicar of stewardship. He and Fr. Binta served together for two years at St. Paul, but knew each other since the latter’s 2007 Arizona arrival. Fr. Schlarb described the priest as one who was “quick to get to know parishioners, and whether it was the best or worse of circumstances, Fr. Bob would be present with families as a spiritual father and friend.”
Comments and photos that poured into social media feeds after his death shared similar sentiments. The first three on St. Benedict’s page — after words of gratitude from one of his sisters — depict a baptism, reference an anointing of the sick and show a wedding. One commenter admitted to never knowing the priest, but had just attended his Masses and correctly noted his contagious smile and refreshing, comical spirit.
Heather Mooney, coordinator of children’s formation for two years, but a parishioner a year before Fr. Binta’s 2013 arrival, called him “a true shepherd in word and deed.”
“His unwavering faith and love for Jesus and his acceptance of God’s will was an inspiration. He had a way of making every single person who walked into our parish feel welcome. He lit up the room with his contagious smile and booming personality,” Mooney said.
Fr. Binta was incardinated into the Diocese of Phoenix in 2012 and in February 2015, became a U.S. citizen. He also had the honor of concelebrating Mass with Pope Francis in his private chapel in Rome during his priestly jubilee year followed by a one-on-one conversation. A jubilee celebration in Uganda gathered more than 700 faithful.
“Fr. Bob taught me the meaning of being a joyful priest,” said Fr. Schlarb, who was among the clergy who visited with him in his final days. “I’m a better priest for knowing Fr. Bob.”
Rev. Robert Isingoma Binta Amooti laid to rest at Bishop House Cemetery. Fort Portal Diocese. 20 September 2018 pic.twitter.com/UXbV7YWzj4
— Sue Moravec (@MoravecSue) September 16, 2018