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In 2008 the Sisters of Notre Dame began offering nursery school for impoverished children between the ages of three and six as part of the sisters’ mission in Buseesa, Uganda. Nursery school is so valuable in Buseesa because children there receive little educational preparation at home. These children often live in mud huts with simple openings in the walls for air, usually with a thatched roof and sometimes with galvanized tin. There is no electricity to allow them to study at night. They are fed whatever their parents can cultivate on their small plot of land, if they have one. Many of our nursery school students are fed their first meal of the day at school.

Since 2008 hundreds of children have received loving care and patient instruction from sisters and dedicated lay teachers. Today 100 children are enrolled at the nursery school. It includes three classes, which are all taught in the two-room basement of our former convent building.

In 2015 we set out to raise $125,000 to build a new nursery school on the same property to accommodate for the growth of this program. The design features a free-standing building with three classrooms, office space, and an outdoor gathering area for assemblies, a play area with a swing set, pit latrines, and an outdoor kitchen.

Several generous donors have already contributed to the project, bringing our total raised to $107,000. One of those special donors is the congregation at Saint Julie Billiart Church in Newbury Park, California. Saint Julie’s raised an astounding $21,000 in support of the nursery school. We broke ground on the building in the fall of 2015.

Above are a few photos of the nursery school’s construction. Primer is being applied to all of the buildings at this time. The photos are of the kitchen, the administrative wing and the classroom block. There is also a front gate standing at the entrance to the school. Still to come are electricity and solar panels, and the water tanks and furniture. 

The Sisters of Notre Dame would like to extend thanks to all who have contributed to this project. We ask for your continued prayers for its successful completion!

“I very personally see your spiritual and monetary contributions at work in the Uganda mission. None of this would have been possible without you! Thank you, thank you! Webale muno!”

– Sister Mary Colette Theobald, Uganda Missionary

To learn more about the mission in Uganda or to make a donation, visit our website. 

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Inspiring Catholic school educators with the charism of the Sisters of Notre Dame is one of Sister Marie Paul Grech’s top priorities. Put simply, that charism (or what the sisters believe) is that God is good and provides for us. They strive to look at the world with hope; and what could be more important in a classroom than a positive attitude?

Sister Marie Paul loves this part of her ministry. Her love for teachers and her respect for the role they play in the lives of their students shows in her dedication to faculty and staff retreats.

“These men and women who give of themselves so generously to touch the hearts of the young are always an inspiration to me. It’s a real joy to continue spreading our Notre Dame charism and spirit,” Sister said.

She taught secondary school for more than 30 years in Ventura and LA counties, as well as in the sisters’ mission in Uganda, Africa. Armed with her faith and a lifetime of experience as a sister, Sister Marie Paul shows others how to infuse their classrooms with joy and compassion.

“Teachers continue our mission in our sponsored and affiliate schools where we are no longer physically present. God’s call to teachers in every Catholic school is vibrant and it is my joy to be part of their ongoing response to that call,” she said.

Sister recently led a retreat for 20 teachers from Saint Jude the Apostle School in Westlake, Calif. The retreat began with a morning Mass and breakfast, followed by small group discussions and a video presentation.DSC_0455

“Your job” Sister Marie Paul told the group “is to help children connect the dots- between science and religion, between what they learn on the playground and in the classroom. Your job is to teach them how to learn.”

Deana Herrera (pictured at right in the photo below) has taught at Saint Jude the Apostle School for seven years. She was motivated to apply Sister Marie Paul’s lessons in her fourth-grade classroom.

“Her positive spirit reminds us to see the good in our everyday lives,” Herrera said. “Sometimes when things don’t go as planned, one of my students will say something really funny. Those moments are God saying ‘Lighten up!’”DSC_0470

Sister Marie Paul is the coordinator of Kindred Hearts Ministries (KHM). KHM offers prayer programs, spiritual events, retreats and many other services for local parishioners provided by the Sisters of Notre Dame. To learn more about KHM, visit www.sndca.org/khm or email Sister Marie Paul at mgrech@sndca.org. Click here for the KHM calendar of events.

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At the end of the school year, the Sisters of Notre Dame attended a Many Mansions award ceremony. They watched proudly as 20 students received academic scholarships, four of which were donated by the sisters. Sister Mary Joan Schlotfeldt was moved by ceremony.

“I felt proud to be a Sister of Notre Dame and be able to help those who are pursuing an education,” she said.

Many Mansions is a non-profit that builds and maintains affordable housing complexes for low-income families in Ventura County and the Conejo Valley. According to the Many Mansions website, the organization owns and manages over 500 units, housing about 1,000 adults and 300 children. They also provide on-site services including job training, case management, homework literacy, free summer camp for kids and a scholarship program called Vicky’s Fund.

Sister Mary Lisa Megaffin first became involved with Many Mansions as a board member in 1995. While serving on the board, Sister Mary Lisa met Marty and Eileen Garcia.

“When I first joined the board I had a lot to learn about affordable housing. Whenever we were deliberating a major topic, Marty would always ask ‘How does this relate to our mission?’ Our growing friendship and collaboration gave me opportunities to observe him, his faith and his concern for those in need,” said Sister Mary Lisa.

Sister Mary Lisa Megaffin at Notre Dame Center in May.

Sister Mary Lisa Megaffin at Notre Dame Center in May.

Several years later, the Garcias became Associates with the Sisters of Notre Dame.

“Growing up, my perception of nuns was completely different from the experience I’ve had with the Sisters of Notre Dame,” said Marty. “They’re out in the world, actually living their charism. Sister Lisa has made a huge impact on Many Mansions. She and I go way back, so we’re really able to see the growth that Many Mansions has had.”

The Garcias started Vicky’s Fund three years ago in memory of Marty’s mother, Victoria Garcia. A child of Spanish immigrants to the U.S., Victoria was only able to obtain a 4th grade education before she had to begin working to help her family. As an adult, she volunteered as a bilingual teacher’s aide until she was in her mid-eighties.

“After my mother’s funeral, people came up to me and told me what an impact she had on them. She had an innate ability to recognize that the children in her classes couldn’t focus on their studies because they came from unstable home environments. She set out to make the classroom a safe place and build up their God-given talents and self-esteem. I asked myself what I could do to extend her vision. It dawned on me to start a scholarship within Many Mansions,” said Marty.

In three years, 48 students have received a total of $23,000 in scholarships through Vicky’s Fund and Many Mansions. Scholarship recipients range in age and academic goals. Some are young students preparing for college, and others are adults earning their GED or taking vocational training classes. The main requirement for the scholarship is that the recipient is a resident at a Many Mansions property.

“We want to offer something that will help with their finances and build up their self-esteem,” said Marty. “Seeing their appreciation lets me know I’m doing the right thing. I started the scholarship in honor of my mother, but it’s given me so much more than I could have imagined.”

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