Sharing new voices of sisters in Uganda

This article appears in the Writing Workshops feature series. View the full series.
Global Sisters Report Middle East/Africa Correspondent Melanie Lidman leads a writing workshop in Kampala, Uganda, with sisters participating in a basic accounting course in October. (Sr. Germina Keneema)

Kampala, Uganda — When sisters around the world hear about Global Sisters Report, they’re excited. They’re passionate about the work they do and want their ministries to reach as wide an audience as possible. But here at GSR, we don’t just write about sisters. The other aspect of GSR is providing a place for sisters themselves to speak: about their challenges, success, dreams, hopes and fears.

As in Nigeria, most of the sisters I met in Uganda politely declined when I asked them if they’d be interested in writing. “I’m not a journalist, I have no idea what to write,” they told me. I was staying at the Association of Religious Uganda in Kampala, where two dozen sisters were in the midst of a month-long basic finance course from the Sisters Leadership Development Institute.

“Accountants never like to write,” I told them. “But we all have stories to tell.”

Toward the end of my stay, I led another writing workshop to help the sisters put their stories on paper. We studied the story of Jesus and Simon casting out the net on the Sea of Galilee as a literary guide to understand what makes a good story. And then the sisters put pen to paper, to bring the voices of sisters from across rural Uganda to Global Sisters Report readers and the wider world.

Theology that inspires me:

I am inspired by John 12:23-24, when Jesus says, “I must fall and die like a kernel of wheat that falls into the furrows of the earth. Unless I die I will be alone – a single seed. But my death will produce many new wheat kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives.”

This passage has helped me realize my potential to be a useful part of society, how to leave the self and live for others, to improve our communities and our institutions. This passage inspires me to do this despite the difficulties I encounter on the way.

Wheat must be bruised in order for it to be made into bread to feed the hungry world; grapes must be crushed for there to be wine to drink. The jar must be broken so that what is in it may flow, just like sometimes we have to be broken so that the goodness may flow from within us.

This is the parable of life, that unbroken and unbruised people are of little use. Life is one of constant battle in which the good triumphs over the spirit of the flesh.

- Sr. Mary Lucy Wairimu, Little Sisters of St Francis of Assisi, Kenya

Sr. Fedrick Komugisha, Daughters of Divine Charity. (Melanie Lidman)

Why I became a sister:

There are many things that inspired me to be a sister, but the biggest inspiration was my mother, Clare Nyabutono, who is such a prayerful and committed woman.

When we were young, she used to tell us how she wanted to become a sister, but her father would not allow it because in those days the girls were important for their family’s finances. They did not value the life of sisterhood.

When she got married, my mother kept talking about her vocation to sisterhood and what she liked about sisters, like caring for the poor and prayer. She inspired me to become a sister, and I looked for a charism with those values, to bring God to all and especially to the poor people.

- Sr. Fedrick Komugisha, Daughters of Divine Charity (FDC)

Sr. Josephine Bada, Sacred Heart Sister, Sudan. (Melanie Lidman)

A challenge I overcame:

I am originally from Juba, Sudan, and was sent to work among the Sudanese refugees in Uganda in the Adjumani District, in a large health clinic. In my second year at the clinic, many of the refugees were repatriated to Sudan, and the number of the patients fell to very low levels. I talked to my management at a committee meeting and told them that since there were so few patients at the clinic I would not be able to raise funds to buy drugs or continue running the clinic.

Then I called a community meeting to inform them that I was leaving. They said to me, “No, don’t go. We will continue together, this is the only place where poor people can afford to pay. This health center belongs to all of us.”

I listened to them and decided to run it as a trial for one year. In the second year, I started to see more patients coming from farther away because they appreciated the good quality care that we offered. A few years later, the war in southern Sudan broke out again and the refugees were brought back. Because we had maintained the clinic, we were quickly able to increase to handle 20-30 patients per day. Now we are also able to buy sufficient drugs, unlike those difficult moments when I was unable to support the clinic.

I thank God for the courage and the patience to endure challenges.

- Sr. Josephine Bada, Sacred Heart Sister, Sudan

Why I became a sister:

When I was a very young girl, a sister came to visit my home. When I saw how she was dressed, I was so excited! I thought she must be an angel, because they told me that angels dressed in white garments. When she came up to me and greeted me, I was overcome with joy and love and gave her a chair so she could sit.

I went to call my mummy and said, “Mummy, come quick! There is an angel outside!”

When my mother came, she addressed the angel as “sister.” I asked my mother, what is the difference between an angel and a sister? That was the first time I considered becoming a sister. I begged the visiting sister to take me with her, but she told me that I was still too young, that I needed to grow and go to school first and I could become a sister after that.

I kept that desire to become a sister in my heart as I grew up. I will never forget her love and patience with me, a child reaching for her white dress with dirty hands.

- Sr. Sephronia Tumwine, Missionary Sisters of Mary Mother of the Church

Sr. Genevieve D’Silva, Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross. (Melanie Lidman)

A challenge on my path to becoming a sister:

I knew ever since I was a small child that I wanted to be a sister. My parents were very prayerful and had deep faith, and they encouraged me to choose whatever path of life I wanted. When I was 15, I told my parents that I wanted to become a sister, and my first challenge was to get permission and a letter from the parish priest.

My father immediately went to inform the priest of my decision and arranged a time to meet him. When we finally met, the priest challenged me on many points. “You are too young,” he told me, “you have not experienced life. You have never left your home, you are very quiet. You don’t know any other languages. You have never seen the world, never lived with others. Do you really think you can be a sister? I am sure you’ll be back here within three months.”

These discussions went on for a month. I gave him simple answers, confident I had faithfully and truthfully responded to his questions. I never got discouraged. I was filled with courage, enthusiasm and determination. This challenge deepened my faith in God.

I am originally from India but now serve in Uganda. I have been a sister for the past 38 years and I have never once regretted the choice I made in life.

- Sr. Genevieve D’Silva, Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross

[Melanie Lidman is Middle East and Africa correspondent for Global Sisters Report based in Israel.]

If you’d like to run a writing workshop for your congregation, go to this copy of the lesson plan here or email Melanie (melanie.lidman@gmail.com) for more information.

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