February 10, 2014
“Ask Jesus what he wants from you and be brave!”
Four years ago I did just that!
In January 2010, a friend of Fr. Lappe’s, Fr. Justus Kiiza, the Financial Administrator of Kabale Diocese in Uganda, visited Our Lady Star of the Sea for the first time. Shortly after his arrival, I was at a Journey to Justice Day, sponsored by the Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center in Seattle. The panel of speakers was wonderful, but what piqued my interest even more was the mention of a Sister Parish relationship by one of the conference attendees. During the lunch hour, I would share my idea with the group of nine others that I had attended the conference with. Interestingly, however, before I had the opportunity to bring my idea to the Parish Office, in fact not a week or two after this conference, Deacon Bill had placed an announcement in the Sunday Bulletin asking for volunteers to form a Sister Parish Committee. He had been talking with Fr. Justus over breakfast one day and asked what we as a Parish could do to help our brothers and sisters in Christ in Uganda and a Sister Parish relationship was one of the ideas that they had discussed. I guess this is what people mean when they talk about the workings of the Holy Spirit! Our Sister Parish Ministry—and a few other development projects in Uganda--has been my passion ever since.
In three days I leave for my second visit to our Sister Parish, Mary, Mother of the Church, Nyakishenyi Parish. It will take me nearly three full days to reach our Sister Parish.
I am anxious about my packing list. But I remind myself, “Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave.” (Matthew 10:9-11)
My dear friend Evelyne Ninsiima, founder of Green Environment Promotion, a registered community organization focused on sustainable development in the Mafuga Forest Area, which encompasses several villages in our Sister Parish, and Director of St. Elizabeth Nursery and Primary School in Bushure, a school that Fr. Justus Kiiza Kabale Education Fund raised the funds to build, will pick me up at the airport. I will arrive in Entebbe about 12:40 p.m. (Uganda time) on Saturday, February 15. (Uganda time means that for everyone here it will be about 1:40 a.m. on Sunday morning!)
Evelyne will drive me to our Sister Parish, which will take us about 8 hours to reach. In Entebbe, we will pass through highly congested roads filled with pedestrians, bicycles, cars, and boda-bodas (from English “border to border”), motorcycle taxis. The first 6 hours will be on one of the main highways through Uganda, a two-lane paved (in most places anyway) road. We will then travel for the last two hours on compact dirt roads, the condition of which varies greatly depending on the weather. We will share the road with many pedestrians, including people coming and going from the market carrying goods and children tending goats and fetching water. We will pass many bicycles, some being ridden by more passengers than you can imagine.
Woman and Young Girl Walking Home From Trading Center, Mukagaana, Uganda
Boys Heading Home From Mass at a Sub-Parish Near Amukura, Kenya
While I am in our Nyakishenyi Parish, I will be staying at the Rectory with Fr. Reuben Mubangizi, the pastor of Mary, Mother of the Church, Nyakishenyi Parish. Fr. Justus will pick me up from Bushure and take me to Bwanda Convent in Masaka, where Sr. Justine Tumushabe, a Bannabikira (Daughters of Mary) Sister, will assume responsibility for my lodging and transportation to visit several friends and development projects in that area.
Fr. Thomas (reassigned) and Fr. Reuben Mubangizi,
pastor of Mary, Mother of the Church, Nyakishenyi Parish
A recent picture of the Rectory as viewed from the direction
of the church at Parish Center.
Although I have a list of people that I would like to visit, projects that I would like to see, and questions that I would like to ask, I do not have a set itinerary while I am visiting our Sister Parish. A “programme” will be planned out for me and the trip will unfold with each new day.
I do plan to attend Mass with our brothers and sisters and Christ and other liturgies as frequently as possible. And this time, when asked if I would like to say a few words, I will follow the instruction of Pope Francis and “be brave.” When Jesus commissioned his disciples, he said, “…do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19-20.)
I do plan to visit each of the sites of the recently installed rainwater storage tanks and hope to tour the schools where they are installed. I do plan to meet with several women’s groups and learn about their development projects. I do plan to tour the Health Centre and learn about how we might be able to partner with our brothers and sisters in Christ, sharing our skills and bringing much-needed supplies and equipment to the area.
But most importantly, I plan to follow the advice of a little girl from Ethiopia who told her uncle who works for Catholic Relief Services, who said to him, “When you go to Ethiopia, sit down on a bench and let the people come to you and teach you; when you try the food, say that you like it even if you do not like it; and learn the language so that you can talk to people and learn.”
The most important way that I can show our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ is through my presence, just as Jesus himself showed his love for us in the incarnation. St. Paul tells us, “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8). And so too I will accompany our brothers and sisters in Christ. I will be with. I will listen. I will learn. In this way we can live in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ, seeing what it is like to walk in their shoes. Only up close can we can share in their joy and in their sorrows. Until we can empty ourselves, humble ourselves, we will not understand the wisdom of Pope Francis who says, ““I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”
Throughout the Bible we are told, “Be not afraid” In Matthew, we are instructed, as we are after each Mass, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20.)
Sister Parish Ministry Chairperson