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!”
Next week we will host our annual donor appreciation brunch and open house at Notre Dame Center in Thousand Oaks, California. In the spirit of thanksgiving, Sister Mary Colette Theobald, who is currently serving in Uganda, wrote a letter of appreciation to our many spiritual and monetary supporters.
I want to personally thank you for all the support you give to the Sisters of Notre Dame. I very personally see your spiritual and monetary contributions at work in the Uganda mission. The Sisters of Notre Dame have been in Uganda for 20 years. The primary school began in 1998, formation for young sisters in 2002, the secondary school in 2003, nursery school in 2007 and a second community in 2009. Construction for a new nursery school for Buseesa has started. There are 12 Ugandan Sisters. Ten more are in the novitiate in Tanzania. Hundreds of young people have benefited from a strong Notre Dame education. Those who have completed their studies are beginning to return to their villages to uplift the standard of living of the people there. None of this would have been possible without you! Thank you, thank you! Webale muno! God bless you! Ruhanga asiimwe.
Thank you, too, for all the other ways you help and support the Sisters of Notre Dame: ministry projects, housing support and renovation, and support for our wonderful aged sisters who gave so much to serve God and His people. May God bless each and every one of you with all the graces and blessings you need at this time.
Please be assured of many prayers for yourself and your families from all of us in Uganda!
Sister Antoinette Marie Moon is known for having energy to spare. She can be found bustling around Notre Dame Center preparing for guests or tending to the needs of her sisters at all hours of the day. Listen as she pauses to reflect on her 50 years of ministry as a Sister of Notre Dame.
On growing up around sisters:
On her family’s reaction to her decision to join the convent:
Vision & Challenge is published tri-annually by the Office of Mission Advancement for the Sisters of Notre Dame in California. This issue features an exclusive look at the new projects happening at our mission in Uganda. If you would like to be added to our mailing list, please send an email to email@example.com.
Well, we are on countdown mode over here until the term ends….at least I am! The students are working hard at their studies and teachers are teaching, praise God. Tomorrow, we have the student council induction ceremony for the new officers. Since our P7 students will be in a very serious mode of study for the third term, they relinquish their student council duties at this time and pass on these offices to the next group. The new student council members will shadow the outgoing members for a week or two when we begin the third term and then the new officers take over. So tomorrow we have an assembly for the entire school to witness the “passing of the torch” to the next group. The current president will be introduced and then the new president is announced. They meet in the middle of the stage, give each other a hug and the outgoing president takes the student council tie that she is wearing and puts it on the newly elected president. Each outgoing officer follows the same procedure until all of the new student council members have been introduced and given the student council tie. The newly elected officers even take an oath of office by placing their hand on the Bible and promising to be good role models to others. Pretty impressive, no so?!
Sister Mary Paulynne on the play field
Thursday, August 7, is the Citizenship Honor Roll assembly in our dining hall. The students that have merited good conduct will receive certificates from their teachers in the presence of the entire student body. The students receiving this award will get a sweetie (a piece of candy) from me and then when they come back to begin the third Term of school in September these lovely children will be rewarded with a movie! They LOVE this treat, believe me! After the assembly it will be time to clean the classrooms and the students will remove items from their student desks and lockers. The rest of the morning and early afternoon is spent cleaning their dorms, washing and cleaning their clothes and packing their cases for home.
Friday, August 8, is departure day. After our morning assembly of prayer and flag salute the students proceed to their classrooms, put their cases outside and wait on the veranda or on the grassy section below the classroom block until their parents arrive. The teachers and several classroom helpers are assigned to supervise the students while they are waiting. Many times lorries (large trucks), or taxis (which are the size of a VW van) take children home who live in the same village or nearby neighborhoods. Occasionally, boda-boda drivers (a motorcycle with an extended back seat) take individual students home who live nearby. Transport is expensive here so parents find the most economical and creative ways to get their children home safely for the holiday. While all of this fabulous activity is going on, our administrative team: Sister Bernarde, Teacher John and I are in the staff room greeting the parents and accepting school fee payments from this p previous term and a down payment for term three.
So you can see why I am on a countdown for the holiday to begin! But hey, it is never boring here and it is such a joy for me to see the sparkle in the children’s eyes when their parents arrive! And oh yes, the gleam of happiness when the parents see their children well and happy is an added joy!
So I wish you blessings and thank you again for your prayers for ALL of us! Continue to pray for rain…we only got a drizzle yesterday!
Well, here we are in the middle of July and it’s just about three weeks before the end of this second term of the school year. So I thought I would give you a few updates of what has been happening in the Emerald City, Buseesa. (I refer to St. Julie School and Notre Dame Academy as the Emerald City because when one approaches our site from a distance all you can see are the green roofs!)
First of all, Notre Dame Academy (NDA) recently made history! For the first time since NDA became a secondary school, the net ball team went to the national playoffs. The team had to be the top team in the district then the county and then be invited to the national level of competition. Our team had to travel to Mbale which is a several hours to the east of Buseesa. The girls had to play several games throughout the week. As you may know, net ball is sort of like basketball except it is played on the grass with more passing of the ball than dribbling. Even though they did not qualify for the next stage of competition we are very proud of our young ladies. Our presence at the national level certainly put NDA, Buseesa on the map!
Currently, the students of the primary and secondary schools are taking the MOCK exams, which are tests given in preparation for the leaving exams in November. The results of these MOCKS are useful for both teachers and students. When the papers are returned the students can revise/correct their errors and study the corrected exam papers. It seems like the current P7 class is far more serious than last year’s class so we are hoping for better results and higher scores on the leaving exams in November. So please pray that the students stay focused and keep their interest level piqued during these next few months.
As you may know, we are in the midst of our dry season in Uganda. We certainly would appreciate prayers for some rain as our water tanks are only half full. The students have to carry their jerry cans to the nearby spring every day in order to fetch water. Not a fun activity by any means! We have to do this now because the dry season continues until mid-September. With three weeks to go before the end of this term and the students returning on September 6 we are concerned that we will not have any water in the tanks if we do not begin the water rationing now.
Speaking of rain, we did have a surprise rainstorm this past Sunday right after the 8:00 a.m. Mass. Now of course it was sunny when we came over to church and so no one had umbrellas or other rain gear with them. So picture 300 students in church with pouring rain outside and it is time to leave church to go to school and eat breakfast. Most children would perhaps get very antsy and squirmy waiting for the moment to dash out of church and make a run for it. Well, since the kids had to wait for the rain to subside somewhat before they left, what did they do?They broke into song and sang praise and worship songs! Even a few P4 students got out of their places and danced before the altar. After 15 minutes the rain let up and the children could leave church without getting soaked. I tell you, I learn lessons every day from the childlike and trusting manner these young people live their lives!
Thank you also for your support, love and encouragement. May the Good God bless you and all of the Sisters in Rosa Mystica.
Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) coordinators from each Sisters of Notre Dame US province met in California in June to share their achievements from the past year and set new goals for the future. JPIC initiatives cover a broad range of issues that the Sisters of Notre Dame are passionate about including global conservation and human trafficking.
Sister Mary Lea Paolucci from the Covington, Kentucky province reported that her community held a purse and shoe drive that raised $2,100 to install a water tank in Buseesa, Uganda. Sister Mary Ann Baran from the Chardon, Ohio province discussed her involvement with the nonprofit Water for Life Institute, which “uses a combination of appropriate water technologies, water health education and basic research so that communities can identify and solve their water problems” according to their website. In addition, Sister Joyce Marie Bates filled the group in on her research into micro-financing projects in the US and abroad; and Sister Betty Mae Bienlein stressed the importance of educating other sisters about JPIC.
“Our big goal is to help our sisters understand that our whole vowed life is for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation,” she said “We each have to live so that our Christian presence is a silent witness that shows people that there is hope. The world is not in a hopeless situation.”
This year all four provinces held Awakening the Dreamer symposiums for their communities. Awakening the Dreamer educates and motivates participants to do what they can now to curb climate change. The sisters believe that every small act of respect for the earth and other people is important, and they chose Awakening the Dreamer to communicate that message to a larger group of people. Respect is a key concept in JPIC initiatives.
“Respect for the earth, for the animals, for people and for the whole cosmos is our ministry,” said Sister Betty Mae. She hopes that sisters and others will make an effort to stay aware of JPIC issues via daily news and that they will show hope and joy in the face of those challenges.
Photo from left to right:
Sister Mary Ann Baran (Chardon), Sister Mary Lea Paolucci (Covington), Sister Betty Mae Bienlein (California) and Sister Joyce Marie Bates (Toledo).