Drum Beats Buseesa, Uganda Volume 3 Issue 1 March 2006
Sister Mary Colette
A Visit from the King
New Head Teacher At St. Julie School
Royalty Visits Buseesa
The scholastic year at St. Julie’s began in early February under the leadership of Sr. Mary Colette of the California Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame. Sister replaced Sr. Jane Marie who served as foundress and head teacher for nine years at St. Julie’s. Sr. Mary Colette took time right in the midst of beginning-of-school-year chaos to respond to our emailed questions in order that we might get acquainted with her.
Tell us about your family and educational background. I am the second of six children. Both of my parents are still living in Simi Valley, California. All my siblings are married and have varying numbers of children. I have 12 nieces and nephews in all. I went to public school through university. I received my BA and teaching credentials from California State University, Northridge. After teaching one year in public school, I entered the Sisters of Notre Dame. Some years later, I went to the University of San Francisco where I received a Masters in Private School Administration. This past year, I completed a certificate program at the Institute of Religious Formation at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Describe your activities as a Sister of Notre Dame prior to coming to Buseesa. I entered the community in 1983 in Thousand Oaks. My first profession was in 1986. I taught in various parochial elementary schools , including seven years at our communityowned school, Notre Dame Academy Elementary. It was there that I first became a principal. I served as principal of two parochial elementary schools, including St. Lawrence Brindisi, an inner-city school in Watts, California. What were your first impressions of Buseesa? Having always lived in or around the large urban Los Angeles area, I Continued on Page 3 column 1
We were informed that the Bunyoro King and Queen were coming to our area and they wanted to visit our place. This was no simple matter! First, we received notice of this only a few days before the event. We were told we were expected to provide lunch for them plus their entourage of about 100 people. The king and queen were to be served chicken, millet (a cereal grain, used for making bread), plus beer and soda were to be served to all the guests. Imagine what this means in the bush with no supermarkets or places to buy these supplies, especially on such short notice. We also needed to entertain the guests. Everyone pitched in: Children helped with the peeling and some of the food preparation; teachers and children prepared a program of songs and dance. Costumes were pulled out of storage. A “throne” was prepared for the royal couple. The school schedule was rearranged and the HRH Solomon Gafabusa Iguru I children had lunch early Bunyoro King so they could be out of the dining room when the guests arrived.
We Think We’re Ready At 1:30 pm on the special day, the royal couple still had not arrived. In a short time, the king’s secretary, riding on a motorcycle, arrived to check on arrangements. Sr. Mary Janet took him to the dining room. The main table was set with tablecloths and good dishes. The secretary said, “You know, the king can’t eat in the presence of his subjects. Do you have another room where the royal couple can eat?” Sister couldn’t believe her ears! She suggested they sit on the other side of the table and face away from the people. No, this wouldn’t do. Sister offered the staff room. Everyone then had to hustle to get everything rearranged for the royal Continued on Page 3 couple to eat in the staff dining room. column 2
Sr. Maria Francine Visits Her Twin, Sr. Anita Marie, in Buseesa water sparingly, to become accustomed to the dark nights and to be patient with myself in understanding a different accent in English. However, I was surprised, in a culture not so dominated by time, to find that the pace of life seemed just as quick as what I had left behind.
Sr. Maria Francine enjoys visiting with her twin, Sr. Anita Marie, in Buseesa. Here they are pictured with on of the S4 girls.
“Remember the importance of the word ‘flexible,’” Sister Mary Rita exhorted the S4 girls as they embarked on the new scholastic year. The girls arrived a week earlier to begin their “revising” or their preparation for a year that would climax in the first sitting of a Notre Dame Academy Secondary School (Uganda) for their state exams. But her advice, to be flexible, seems to be the key to successful - and even, sane - living in Buseesa. Grateful to the community, my family and friends who made this trip possible, I was able to visit my twin sister, Sr. Anita Marie, in our mission at Buseesa from January 20 to February 10. Arriving a few days before the S4 girls, I was able to learn the schedule of the day, the routine of convent-living, and the terrain of the beautiful land. Since my sister had informed me about her life and I listened intently as visiting Sisters returned, I didn’t find many surprises. I was ready to use the Returning students get ready for another term at St. Julie Primary School in Buseesa.
After Sunday liturgy, visitors streamed to the door, some to pay a visit because they were in the area with family members and others to check on school business. I had arrived at the busiest time of the year, since only one week remained before classes would begin. So, anxious girls came to inquire if they were still on the S1 waiting list or if they had advanced to entrance level. Management of the farm, in addition to the supervision of two boarding schools, tests the patience, skill and collaboration of each Sister. Of course, my greatest joy was being with my twin sister, her community and her students. Although their life is
S4 girls (Sr. Anita Marie, center) arriving for their final year at NDA. They will be the first class to sit for Ugandan state secondary exams.
demanding, the Sisters enjoy themselves by recreating together in the evenings and laughing over the exploits of the day. The students are sincere and friendly. Indeed, they all agreed that my sister and I “resemble.” I was able to occupy myself with many tasks as there are plenty to go around! Within less than three weeks, I cooked and laundered regularly (and not in our normal sense of the terms!) I burned trash, helped a little with the payroll account, led prayers, and most fun of all, taught a few English classes. Both the charm and the demand of the mission struck me. The history of the mission and the sacrifice of the early pioneers have established a precious foundation. Above all, in all of this, God is moving, encouraging and blessing us. Sr. Maria Francine
U gandan I mmersion Trip Filled The immersion trip to Uganda advertised in the last issue of Drum Beats filled in three days. Since there is a great deal of interest in such a trip, we hope to be able to offer another trip in the near future. Thank you for your interest.
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was struck by the quiet and simplicity of Buseesa. It is quite beautiful with its lush, green landscape and rocky hills. The people made (and continue to make) a deep impression on me. There is a dignity, hopefulness and power about them despite many hardships, such as sickness, poverty and death. The community of Sisters is a real blessing. From the very beginning I have felt supported, loved and appreciated by the larger Notre Dame community of Sisters, especially in the California and Covington provinces, and by all of our friends, family and benefactors. Though Buseesa is so remote, I do not feel isolated! What do you see as the major differences between schools in Uganda and in the United States? Children in Uganda are very used to memorizing. Books and other materials are rare or even non-existent in many schools, so generally teachers lecture and students take detailed notes and study from these notes. On the whole, students are very eager to learn and succeed. Formal assessment (“leaving exams”) at the end of P7 and S4 is the driving force of the curriculum. Teachers and textbook companies design the curriculum so that students will pass the Ugandan tests. As a newcomer, this is very difficult for me, because there is so much more to the curriculum than such tests. We, of course, do try our best to prepare the students for these exams, but we also try to go beyond the curriculum so that children can problem-solve and be moral leaders for the future of Uganda. As is evident in her comments, Sr. Mary Colette already feels at home in Buseesa and has a heart for its people. She is experiencing the wonderful support our many friends worldwide provide for the mission. We are all very grateful for her willingness to undertake the major responsibility of educating God’s children in this remote area of Uganda.
Children of Buseesa Meet Charles, already trying to help out. Charles comes to work each day with his mother, who works at the school. Since there are no stores or markets in the area to purchase food, the school boasts a large farm, growing crops and raising animals, to feed the ever increasing student population. The farm also has an added benefit of employing some of the villagers to work the farm. Many children come each day while their parents work, so a day-care has also been added. Here Charles is trying to pound millet for bread-making.
You Can’t Leave!
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At 1:50 pm, they had hardly finished when the royal motorcade came noisily down the Buseesa road and whizzed into the school compound. There were pickup trucks with official drummers, security guards, and the personal guards of the royal couple. They drove right up to the dining room door, jumped out and started into the room. The man in charge announced, Children peeling potatoes in preparation for the visit “The king will have to leave at from the king. 2:00 pm.” By this time Sister was so upset that she said, “You can’t leave! We prepared a meal and entertainment and we have been waiting.” The men pulled up our mats for the king’s throne and replaced them with barkcloth and a leopard skin. The royal couple took their places and the guards sat on the floor near them. Some speeches were given and then we were told to cut the program short. We did only a traditional Bunyoro dance. The royal couple loved the dance. Next was lunch. The king and queen made their way to the staff room. When the students returned to their classrooms, Sister tried in vain to keep the students from staring at the staff room windows. The meal turned out to be a great hit. After eating, the royal entourage quickly prepared to leave. When we reflected on the events of the past few days, we all gave a huge sigh of relief! Sister Mary Janet
Primary Leaving Exams Another round of PLE’S (Primary Leaving Exams) was completed on November 3 and 4. These cumulative tests determine whether a student may enter a Ugandan secondary school. The whole country prays for the examinees as they undertake the two-plus hour exam in four subjects. Students are patted down and searched as they enter the testing rooms. Congratulations are due all primary teachers and students. The ten boys and fourteen girls in St. Julie’s P7 continued the tradition of passing all the national tests. The release of the results in early February showed that twenty-two of the students passed at the Division 2 level. Six of the ten boys will continue their education at St. John Bosco seminary in Hoima, and nine of the girls will enter Notre Dame Academy Senior Secondary School at the Buseesa site. The remaining four boys and five girls are expected to attend other private secondary schools.
Sisters of Notre Dame Mission Office 1601 Dixie Highway Covington, KY 41011
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Ten Years of Gratitude The Sisters of Notre Dame have been in Buseesa, Uganda for over 10 years. Many of us are amazed at all that has been accomplished: a convent and house for new members; two schools with classrooms, a library, and dining room; teacher housing and a large farm. As the sisters there have repeatedly said, they have relied on the good God and have done what they could, but they have always expressed deep appreciation for the many people who have been so generous in their financial support. Without this financial backing, much of what was accomplished would not have been possible. The Sisters of Notre Dame in Buseesa and those of us at home thank you for your interest and support for this mission of proclaiming Godâ€™s goodness and care in Uganda. May our good God bestow upon each of you special blessings and peace in your life.
Remembering July 1995 While the four sisters were preparing to go to Buseesa, Uganda, the Hoima Construction Company was busy in Buseesa building the convent. When the sisters first arrived in Uganda, they stayed with the Dominican sisters. When they moved into their home, the bedroom area was not even begun. Sisters Mary Janet and Margaret Mary occupied the guest rooms, Sisters Mary Delrita and Jane Marie the storage rooms, and a storage room served as the chapel. The sisters were delighted to find a gas stove in their kitchen, a refrigerator run by paraffin, and
(Above) Srs. Mary Janet and Delrita getting ready to move into the partially completed convent. The Sistersâ€™ first bedroom was the storage room. (Right) Sister Mary Janet serving a drink to the construction workers during the building of the convent and school.
even water coming from the taps! However, the refrigerator was very slow in cooling and the water lasted only one day when the well was dry. They had only two full days in their home and had so many visitors that they still had much to unpack. The sisters received a young tough chicken. The creature met its fate in Sr. Jane Marieâ€™s killing cone. The water situation grew desperate and the village priest drove the sisters to the Dominicans to get 5 gerry cans of rain water (100 liters). Travel was complicated by the fact that the sisters had no vehicle. A vehicle had been ordered the year before but it was months before the sisters were able to take possession of it. Therefore they relied on others to take them to Hoima or to Kampala for their needs. Vehicles in the Buseesa area were very rare which made trips a real challenge.
Visit from Bunyoro King and Queen Sr. Maria Francine Visits her Twin Sr. Anita Marie Children of Buseesa