Sister Stella Maris Kunihira, CSC, died on November 12, 2017, in Mulago National Referral Hospital, Kampala, Uganda.
What would you think of a daughter who saved her wages as a certified teacher to replace the roof of her mother’s house? For good reason her devout mother and father, the latter a catechist in the Diocese of Fort Portal, gave her the name Kunihira, meaning “hope,” in addition to her baptismal name Stella Maris--in honor of Mary, Star of the Sea.
Stella entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross when she was 30 years old, having lived through the war years in Uganda during her youth when education was disrupted at all levels. The Sisters of the Holy Cross have ministered in Uganda for over fifty years. Sister Stella Maris belonged to the second generation of Holy Cross in Africa, but the first of the Ugandan founders who made their novitiate in Uganda.
The Congregation encouraged her giftedness as a teacher and her commitment to help reform the educational system in her home country. After several years in Holy Cross primary schools in Fort Portal and Jinja, Sister studied at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana and graduated in 2008, complementing her previous professional development at Kinyamasika Teachers’ College in Fort Portal. She was a fully qualified headmistress (principal) and senior teacher due to her determination and love for children and youth.
There is a lovely picture of her on a poster board at Saint Mary’s in Via Loretto. She is leaning over a truck tire on the playground at Moreau Nursery and Primary School in Kirinda, joining a group of eager children in their outdoor play. Despite chronic health conditions, her natural quiet made her a sympathetic listener and wise counselor to many of the younger sisters.
When Sister died she was serving as Area of Africa Councilor and the Director of the Temporarily Professed. She is the first African, as well as Ugandan, Sister of the Holy Cross to die. When she celebrated her silver jubilee in July 2017 at Saint Mary’s, she said of her 25 years of vowed life as a consecrated religious, “It is not easy.”
She remains a role model for her prayer, simplicity, steadiness, dedication, fidelity and welcoming heart. She did not lay the foundation, but she and others of her generation have put up a good roof over the house the Lord built. She is buried in the dark, rich soil of Mother Africa, our ancestor in Uganda.
Please join us in prayer for Sister as we renew our faith in the resurrected Jesus and strengthen our hope that all the departed will be raised to eternal life. May she rest in peace.