Left to right: Holy Cross Sisters Mary Louise Wahler, Janet Nantumbwe and Mary De Nardis in Uganda

On a firm foundation

50th anniversary of ministry in Uganda celebrates the sisters’ mission—past, present and future
(part 1 of 3)

Sister Jacinta Katusabe, CSC, knows the hopes and needs of the people she works with in Kirinda, Uganda. Together, they share their daily life, and their past. Sister Jacinta grew up in neighboring Fort Portal and recalls her country’s history of strife, as well as the hardships she and her family endured. She also recognizes her country’s progress and continuing cultural challenges. “I know who they are, and what they go through,” she said.

In her role as headmistress of the Congregation’s Moreau Primary School in Kirinda, she feels she and her fellow sisters are helping the community build a brighter future by teaching children and adults “how to be better for the next generation.” Key to that formative process, she said, is promoting an understanding of the value of women in society. “We empower [women and girls] in our ministry, we encourage them to take on leadership roles, and we impart the value of faith in their lives.”

Her work follows a clearly-marked trail, well worn by the presence and influence of Holy Cross sisters who ministered to the country and its people decades before. February 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Holy Cross sisters’ ministry in Uganda. The benchmark occasion invites opportunities to reflect on the past as it helps sharpen the focus on things to come. 

An auspicious beginning

Holy Cross Sisters M. Catherine de Ricci (Bartels) and Patricia Gantz arrived in the East Africa nation at the request of Bishop Vincent McCauley, CSC, of the Diocese of Fort Portal, in 1967. His intention for them was to establish a new Holy Cross mission focused on educating local diocesan sisters, many of whom had not received secondary schooling. Sister Mary Louise Wahler, CSC, who currently serves as Area of Africa councilor, soon followed, and together the three founded and led teaching at Saint Maria Goretti School in Fort Portal. The ministry experienced swift success, and expanded its work to include instruction for local girls and sisters from other congregations.

Sister Catherine, who was appointed superior and headmistress of the school, also started an outreach catechetical program. Every Sunday, students carried their lessons out to the village churches to teach catechism to primary school children. The Congregation further developed its ministry with the provision of health care. In 1968, Sisters Patricia Burke, CSC, and Mary De Nardis, CSC, came to the country to serve as nurses in a Bundibugyo government hospital. Sisters of the Holy Cross would remain in Bundibugyo until 1987, even through the dangers and hardships of government upheaval and civil war.

Watch for the next part of this inspiring story. 

Read more about the Congregation’s ministries in Uganda.

© 2016 Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. All rights reserved.