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A holy order, the gift of beekeeping

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Equipped with new knowledge about the value of bees, the Holy Cross sisters in Uganda pay the hives a visit during their country assembly in late 2020.

Beekeeping grows sister’s appreciation for natural world, her place in it

With smoke from burning sweet grass floating about her face, Sister Rose Kyomukama, CSC, carefully pries open the end of a weathered wood box and peers inside. She likes what she sees—the humming activity of hundreds of bees and the construction of a comb. Beekeeping has truly become a gift.

In this forested area of rural Kyarusozi, western Uganda, Sister Rose’s apiary of 25 active beehives is accomplishing her plan and its purpose. The hives protect the bees, which benefit the region’s ecosystem, which contributes to the health of the planet. “It’s amazing to see the work inside the hives,” she says, expressing gratitude for the progress of her beekeeping project and her marvel at the bees’ handiwork. “Taking care of God’s creatures is very enriching.”

Sister Rose checks on the health of a hive in her bee yard.

A beekeeping ministry

It was during her visits to the forest for times of repose and prayer that Sister Rose heard the buzzing of bees and the call to create the bee yard. The bees were “just wandering all over, and they needed a home,” she says.

In her neighborhood, she had often seen whole colonies of bees on doors, windows or trees wiped out in seconds with one shot of bug spray. It concerned her that people were killing so many bees and other insects, and contaminating the air with chemicals, without giving any thought to their actions or the repercussions. After bringing her conviction before God and her local community of Holy Cross sisters, Sister Rose sought and received support from the Congregation’s Carbon Footprint Reduction Fund to create the apiary.

Sister Rose uses a smoker and grass to create smoke that will allow her to safely check on the bees and hives.

To attract bees to her hives, Sister Rose rolled out her hospitality. She smeared the hives with beeswax, smoked them with lemon grass to give them an enticing aroma, and sprinkled them with cassava flour, a delicacy for a great bee feast. “I didn’t order any queen bees,” Sister Rose says. “I made my hives attractive, and the next day, I found a new colony had already occupied one of them.”

Any fear she once had of bees has been dispelled with her education about them and the knowledge and skills she’s gained in managing the bee farm and learning how to extract the honey, without harming any bees. But the long-term success of her project, she realized, required sensitizing others to the value of caring for them as well.

The gifts of bees

Around the community, she extolls bees’ virtues, relaying facts from local bee expert Steven Kunihira, whom she called in to lead a workshop about bees for all the Holy Cross sisters in Uganda. He shared about the many tangible gifts bees give: honey, royal jelly, propolis (used for medicinal purposes), candle wax and venom. But better still, he drew out how bees contribute to healthy biomes. He explained that bees, as well as other pollinators and insects, help keep insect species in check and support the life and diversity of native plants, which reciprocate by sustaining the insects. One small relationship helping to fulfill nature’s grand order—a testimony for the ages.

Beekeeping in Uganda with Sister Rose Kyomukama_4
Beehive inside a constructed wooden box.

Every three weeks Sister Rose travels from Fort Portal to inspect the hives, gauge the colonies’ productivity, and look for any invasive insects that might eat the honey or endanger the bees. Locally, Sisters Catherine Magoba and Lillian Nyakaisiki visit the bee yard every evening to make sure all is well with the bees and the hives.

“I feel so grateful to God for inspiring me to care for bees in this way. I’m also happy that the beekeeping project has inspired the sisters to love bees,” shares Sister Rose. They are co-contributors in this effort to help preserve nature’s balance, the sisters doing their part, the bees theirs. “They are my friends now, and they are very welcoming,” Sister Rose says. When observing the activity in the hives, Sister Rose also sees a model of life pleasing to God. “There are millions of bees living, working and sharing a common life, and they are peaceful.” The relationship she shares with them brings her joy and a perspective that she carries out into the larger world. “I am so thankful to God for this beautiful creation; it is for everyone and every creature to enjoy.”

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