Categories: Apostolate

Making a Connection

I hesitated for a moment and then I emailed Tammi a quick reply, “We can donate $5,”

My name is Joanna Cichy and I am a parishioner here at Our Lady Star of the Sea with my husband and 6 children (soon to be 7!). Our family started sponsoring Judith Amutuheire in Uganda with a meager $5. I received an email from Tammi Murray, head of the Sister Parish Ministry at Star, stating she was looking for folks to sponsor a young woman from our sister parish in Uganda who wanted to go to medical school and become a doctor. I wanted to help but felt that we were limited in what we could offer. As a family of 8 we were on a very tight budget.

My husband had just opened his own business, and our take home pay was much lower than what we were used to. I remember our bank account was down to just a few dollars and I had a $5 bill in my wallet. We were obviously not rolling in money, but we weren’t starving or lacking in necessities either. Our cupboards were full of food, there was gas in the van, our bills were paid, and we had the security of knowing that payday would be in about a week or so. Our brothers and sisters in Uganda are not as fortunate.

City Family 2011
The Cichy Family 2011

I hesitated for a moment and then I emailed Tammi a quick reply, “We can donate $5,” a little embarrassed at the small amount. But I was surprised to see Tammi respond enthusiastically, “Thank you!” She was grateful for anything anyone could give. I realized then that it wasn’t the amount that we donated, but the love and generosity that was behind it that mattered.

Judith and I have written a few letters to each other. I tell her about the seasons here, homeschooling my kids, and our attempt at growing a garden. She tells me about helping with the family’s millet crops and the challenges of her studies. I am struck by the gratefulness in her words and her great faith and love of God when she wrote, “I am greatly indebted (to you) for loving and caring for me. I have no good words to express my gratitude. Only God can really reward you and I pray that He may continue to bestow you with his blessing.” She also has beautiful handwriting! I think about the paper she wrote on, the pen she used; objects that are easy to come by and that most of us take for granted in our country. But for Judith they are treasured tools.

Sponsoring Judith has given our family an opportunity to look outside ourselves, our wants and frivolous desires, and focused on someone else’s needs. For those in our community who are in times of need our parish family has always extended help and support, through prayers or tangible gifts of charity. I am glad that we are also able to extend that help across borders, across oceans, to those in our sister parish in Uganda. It has connected us as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, His Body, His Church.

ayebale-the-chickenI have a photo of Judith and Tammi on my refrigerator from one of Tammi’s visits to Uganda. Judith is giving Tammi a chicken as a welcoming gift. It’s a simple gesture of welcome, of thanks, and of love. It’s a humble gift. A gift from her family’s resources. It’s what she had to offer. That first $5 is what our family had to offer. So when I look at that picture of Tammi holding that chicken, I think of it as a symbol of Judith’s “thank you” to my family and anyone else who has helped her, her family, and her community in any way. It is my wordless postcard from her.

There are no words that can truly describe the feeling one gets when giving to another when it is given out of love. Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” I hope you all will consider this, whether it is by your prayers, sacrifices, support of this auction here tonight, or by sponsoring one of the many children in our sister parish. If you can do great things, by all means, do great things! Give big! But, at the very least, we can all do small things with great love.

-Talk given by Joanna Cichy to the people who attended the Postcards from Africa:Dessert & Silent Auction, December 17, 2016