In the Spring of 2008, Sr. Ursula Bugembe, the Provincial of the UGK Province, wrote to Kathy Conan, the US provincial, to ask if it would be possible to invite me to the Uganda/Kenya Province to be an elder sister in community and to offer spiritual accompaniment as well as to serve in one of the Society ministries in the province. When Kathy approached me about this request, I felt very energized! It was one of those moments of clarity that needed little discernment. As a young child at Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Louis, Mo, I remember watching a mission movie about Sisters in Africa. I was touched by the image of several of them holding little babies and thought to myself, “I’d like to do that some day!” That memory came back to me during my time of ministry in Chekalini, Kenya when I had the opportunity to work in the Health Centre and actually assist at times in the birth of a baby in the delivery room of the Centre!
In mid-November of that same year, I found myself in flight to Entebbe, Uganda and one month later, after the Provincial Assembly, I was on my way to Chekalini. From the beginning, I felt very much at home in Chekalini, working at first in the youth polytechnic and a year and a half later at the health centre. My five years in Chekalini, were full of spiritual, relational and financial challenges, but at the same time, I found myself enjoying my community and depending more and more upon the providence of God to provide for the needs of our community and the three ministries in which we served.
When I was asked five years later to move to our novitiate in Mbikko, Uganda, I resisted; but in the end agreed to help with the novices for two years. Again the experience was challenging but also very rewarding. I greatly appreciated the opportunity to reflect with the novices and their director on a whole variety of subjects including our Constitutions, Chapter Documents and the History of the Society.
When that ministry ended I found myself at the Ggaba community, where I have lived for the past three years and have been teaching “Introduction to Spirituality” and “Remedial English” to seminarians at St. Mbaaga’s Major Seminary. Again, it was something I had never thought of doing but this experience has also stretched me beyond my limits and deepened my prayer life. I am now in my tenth year in the UGK Province and during that time have also been available for retreats and spiritual accompaniment, a ministry I have always found life-giving and spiritually enriching.
Living in three different international communities has also been a gift. I have been strengthened through relationships in these different communities and through the times of prayer and sharing we have experienced together. It has also been a gift to serve in the UGK Province and to participate in the annual assemblies and other gatherings. I have felt enriched in so many ways and am not the same person who came here in 2008!
The orientation I received before going to Africa helped me to be alert to differences in culture and mentality and to not impose my way of thinking and acting on those with whom I live and minister. It is important to be flexible and open to other ways of doing things and to relate to others in a mutual way. A person also needs to be willing to “let go” over and over, take the risks needed to say “yes” to the unexpected and above all be open to the surprises of God!