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A graced journey amidst a pandemic

posted in: Uganda, Vocation
After an extended stay at Saint Mary’s and two weeks of quarantine on her return to Uganda, Sister Agnes Atugonza, CSC, front row, fourth from left, who was initially professed in May, was received with a joyous welcome and thanksgiving celebration by her Holy Cross community in Kyarusozi and her family.

by Sister Agnes Atugonza, CSC

Sister Agnes Atugonza, CSC

The day of my joyous initial profession, May 30, 2020, also marked the end of my time in the International Novitiate at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana. I was officially a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. After my profession, I had to prepare to travel back home to Uganda and my new ministry, though, at that time, there were many restrictions regarding travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Unfortunately, my travel plans did not work out. I was transferred into the Solitude Solidarity Community at Saint Mary’s with other newly professed sisters who could not return home and sisters studying remotely after their educational institutions had closed. I had no choice but to wait for the official opening of the airport in Uganda. I enjoyed my stay in the community, where I became aware of new and different things that I had not been aware of before. For instance, I learned how to design paper cards, crochet tablecloths, and create other craft items. But more importantly, I found time for personal reflection, where I discovered more about myself by keeping in touch with my whole being.

My journey home

I was finally able to leave the U.S. for Uganda on August 17, 2020. My flight landed at Entebbe International Airport the following day at around 5 p.m. On my arrival I was a little bit scared and, in fact, felt nervous due to the tight security, strict check-in process and continuous screening, which I had not expected. To make matters worse, incoming travelers’ passports, along with all other travel documents, were retained by government officials, who later transferred them to the embassy. From the airport, we were taken directly to our different places of quarantine, where we were to reside for at least 14 days. Thankfully, the apartment complex where I was housed provided excellent service.

I am so appreciative of the whole Congregation and all my sisters who accompanied me during this terrible time. They really made me feel at home, peaceful and safe. They stayed in continuous communication, regularly checking on me. For sure, I felt their presence and the spirit of sisterhood. I can’t stop thanking all of them for the love, care, and the concern they had for me to be safe and happy. 

During her time in Solitude Solidarity Community at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana, Sister Agnes was introduced to new skills and activities, such as creating cards.

However, it was also a challenging time for me because of the idleness that made me feel lonely and bored. But by the grace of God, these feelings passed as I tried my level best to keep myself up and stay busy. I spent time praying and reflecting, reading books online, watching and reading the news on the internet, especially news about Uganda, and also attending online Masses.

I was tested twice for the coronavirus, at the beginning and end of my quarantine. Thanks to God, both times I tested negative, which meant I was virus free and free to return to society. I was released from quarantine on September 2, 2020, and sent to the embassy for the collection and clearance of my passport before I saw the road to my home.

A joyful celebration

My arrival home was a joyous time for me as I met with all my sisters, family and friends. A month later, my dear Holy Cross sisters organized a special thanksgiving ceremony for me. The occasion commenced with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, led by Father James Burasa, CSC, of St. Jude Thaddeus Parish, Kyarusozi, Uganda, and animated by my Sisters of the Holy Cross. This was really a nice moment for me that will never depart from my mind. During the celebration of Mass, Father Bursa emphasized eight principles to help guide me in the life I have chosen. Some of the eight principles were prayer, principle, persistence, patience and passion. Just before the final blessing, several people shared remarks of appreciation for me and my family, the Congregation and God.

After the Mass a reception took place at the Sister Mary De Nardis Community, Kyarusozi. There, we enjoyed refreshments and entertainment. It was really a joyful day because of the people who came to celebrate with me and my family. Guests included the brothers and priests of Holy Cross, other relatives, friends and my fellow Holy Cross sisters, who crowned it all. At the end of the gathering, we had a short word of prayer followed by a blessing.

Abundant gratitude

I thank almighty God, who has blessed me all my life with his grace, love and mercy. To my parents, relatives, friends and all other people of goodwill, thank you for being with me always. To my beloved Sisters of the Holy Cross, words hardly describe how grateful I am to you. I cannot praise you enough, but I promise to pray for you always. Thank you so much for the love, prayers, care, concern and, above all, for nurturing me into the person I have become and for accepting me into this beautiful and wonderful congregation. May the good Lord continue blessing you in all your ministry. I ask for your continued prayers as I strive to stay close to the Lord, who called me to serve him, and to be committed to my call. May I always recognize God’s love in all circumstances of life.

God is, God was, and God will always be, in all occasions when we are confronted with difficulties of every kind that tend to make us forget His presence in us.