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Drum Beats Buseesa, Uganda Volume 12 Issue 3 September 2006

M I S S I O N TRIP TO UGANDA In November 2005 Mike Gable, director of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Mission Office, Comboni Mission Office Director Father Joe Bragotti, and the Sisters of Notre Dame Mission Office floated an announcement of a potential immersion experience in Central and South Uganda (including the SND Buseesa mission) in summer 2006. A December 5 meeting to determine if there was enough interest to proceed resulted in a waiting list within days and the plans for the trip were on in earnest.

the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Each night we assembled for prayer and reflection on the experiences of the day.



Fr. Joe Bragotti

Sr. Mary Ethel, the SND leader, converses with a Ugandan woman

Father Joe Bragotti, a veteran Uganda missionary even from the war years, organized and led the trip. Fr. Joe made very clear from the first session that this was not vacation, but would prove educational and very enriching. Acquaintances of the fifteen of us who could be accommodated have noted our capacity to talk non-stop about our experiences. For most of our trip, we were accompanied by a Ugandan Apostle of JeFathers “Yahoo Joe� and Joe Bragotti sus, Father Joseph Sserugo, pastor of Ibanda who later came to the States to give Comboni mission talks. We knew him as Yahoo Joe, but we were able to see a whole other dimension when he so naturally moved into his role as pastor during our days in Ibanda. We stayed several nights at missions in Mbuya, Kyamuhunga, Ibanda, and finally Buseesa. The group sandwiched other short visits at various sites in between, and was incredibly fortunate in spotting wildlife during a one-day safari at

Our trip to Buseesa included witnessing how efficiently a flat tire could be changed. We had looked forward to the opportunity to listen to American-spoken English. Sister Anita Marie and Sister Colette led us on an introductory tour of the schools and we soon met all the sisters at the convent. The next day Fr. Patrick

provided parish background and Musama Peter and Mbaga showed us the farm. A major afternoon welcoming ceremony for the many visitors on site took place. In the course of the creative, humorous, and energetic acts, a plaque of appreciation to the archdiocese of Cincinnati was presented to Mike Gable. In the free time that followed the students and visitors taught one another dances and games. We departed next morning, after the wonderful surprise of a coffee cake and corn bread the sisters had prepared.



Fr. Joe Bragotti

The mission trip Kathryn Lawrence, principal of was probably St. Martin, Cheviot Ohio has made a new friend more rewarding, challenging, and even life-changing than most of us had anticipated. It left us much more aware of the implications of being citizens of the ONE WORLD.

Buseesa Farm HISTORY It may come as a surprise to know that most of the land on which St. Julie’s is located is farmland. The original dream for the farm was the production of enough food to feed all the students and work-

Julie’s for a number of years, works full time in management, focusing on animal care. At any given time, thirty or so workers are employed in various capacities on the farm. This hiring of farm workers makes St. Julie’s the largest employer in the area and most people’s sole source of income. A large majority of the workers are women who work the fields, digging, hoeing and planting. Babies can be seen on the backs of their mothers or sitting passively on a scrap of cloth nearby as the women do this backbreaking labor. Since, in the Banyoro tribe, it is considered a woman’s responsibility to grow food for the family, fieldwork on St. Julie farm is viewed as an extension of this task. Secondary students also help with farm chores, such as feeding the chickens and rabbits, as part of the work-study program of tuition assistance.


Martin Hilgers

ers on the property. Since the location is so isolated, all students are boarders and so are teachers. At any one time, upwards of 350 bodies are on the property and need to be nourished. Any food purchased comes from a distance, usually from Kampala, which is a three-hour land rover ride away. So, growing food on site is an attractive goal. The rich soil and tropical climate, with its alternating rainy and dry seasons (two of each per year) is capable of yielding two or even three crops annually. When Martin Hilgers, a young German volunteer, came to Buseesa several years ago, he assumed management of the farm and was largely responsible for its enlargement and advancement. Martin has since returned to his home country to complete his studies and to use the farm improvements he initiated as the basis for his doctoral project. The farm is now under the management of Musama Peter, a Ugandan man who is viewing this job as his “second career,” after working as a civil servant for many years.

WORKERS Musama Peter (pictured far right, in photo at right) oversees the entire farm operation. He lives about two miles down the road and walks or cycles to work each day. In addition, Mbaga, a young man who has been at St.



Kathy Aerni

The mainstay of the Buseesan diet is poscho, a paste-like porridge made from boiled corn (maize). Since this is almost completely composed of starch, it is typically served covered with bean sauce or peanut sauce to add some protein. This fundamental combination (carbohydrate base supplemented by a simple protein source) comprises the poor person’s diet throughout Uganda. Since maize needs to be ground up before cooking, and no mill exists close to Buseesa, it must be purchased rather than grown. Plantain bananas, however, which can be made into matooke, another starch-paste dish, are a major crop. Likewise, cassava (bottom right picture), yams and Irish potatoes are cultivated and serve a similar purpose in the kitchen. Starchy foods are rather easy to come by, but protein is a challenge to obtain and protein deficiency is common. The beans and peanuts needed for sauce are mostly purchased rather than grown, since this is more economical at present. (To supplement the supply, one of the “requirements” on the school supply list for students to bring on the first day of classes is five cups of beans; some students pay their entire tuition in beans.) A novel crop on the farm is maringa, a shrub whose leaves are rich in protein and vitamins. These are used as greens that can be spooned over poscho or matooke. In addition to these staples, supplementary crops like popcorn, papaya and pineapples are grown. Popcorn (top right picture) is a favorite among kids and adults alike.

ANIMALS Animals abound on St. Julie farm. Although populations go up and down in good times and in bad, chickens, rabbits, pigs and goats are steady occupants. The main purpose of all these animals is to provide animal protein in the form of meat that is served only on special o cc asions. W h e n they exist in surplus, however, they can be sold and the profit used to purchase food that cannot be produced on site. About 350 chickens occupy the chicken house behind the convent compound and provide eggs for student breakfasts twice a week. Once past reproductive age, the chickens are slaughtered and form the basis of a real meat-based feast. Rabbits likewise are present in numbers too many to count. The ten or so adult pigs have proved very fertile, producing at present 94 piglets, many of which will be sold. The goats provide mainly meat, but some milk can be used for cooking. The most recent addition to the animal population is bees. After a shaky start when numerous problems beset the hives (the most notable being lizards taking up residence inside them), bees now thrive at many sites throughout the property. The yield of honey is much prized and serves as a sweet treat for young and old as well.

CHALLENGES Lest this description seem to paint St. Julie farm in idyllic light, it must be noted that hard work is the basis of it all. As in any third world country, consistency and reliability of the labor force is problematic. The organization and management of the numerous aspects of the farm’s operation is a continual challenge. Efforts to protect crops and livestock from disease and theft must be constantly made. The weather is not always cooperative and drought can be devastating. But, by and large, the good God has blessed the farming efforts and will surely continue to do so.

VOLUNTEERS This August, two young German women, Julia Moellerherm and Christine Rolf, will complete a year of service in Buseesa. Julia is from Dortmund, and Christine Rolf from Vechta where the Sisters of Notre Dame have a province. Christine went to our Liebfrauenshule (the equivalent of Notre Dame Academy). Participants in the mission trip (see Mission Trip to Uganda, front page) met Christine, Julia, and Julia’s parents and sister. They can attest to the extent to which faculty, staff and students love and value Julia and Christine. Among many other services, both assisted with math instruction in

the secondary school. Teacher Joseph directed the two in a loudly applauded performance on the native Ugandan instruments during a welcome program while the mission trip was at Buseesa. Christine and Julia are the latest of twelve young German volunteers who have assisted in the mission, starting with Teresa Schlummer in 2002. Most have been part of the MaZ (Missionaries auf Zeit, or Missionaries for a Time) program. The program gives young people, usually just out of secondary school, a missionary and intercultural experience with a community of religious sisters. Over the course of a year, the volunteers become bridge-builders between continents and cultures, and are often spokespersons for the people with whom they have served. Sister Janet reports that almost all past volunteers have stayed in touch and have a lasting bond with the mission and continue to promote and support it. Besides MaZ volunteers, several other young Germans have participated in the SND Buseesa mission. Most notable was Martin Hilgers, who added another year to his intended six months after falling in love with the mission. Martin then offered to stay a little longer if the Sisters would hire him as farm manager. Martin returned to his studies in Germany last September after handing over the farm management to Musama Peter (see Buseesa Farm, page 2). Besides Christine and Julia, two young women from MaZ are currently volunteers in the SND mission in Tanzania, administered by the Sisters of Notre Dame in India. Another is participating in mission with the Sisters of Notre Dame in Passo Fundo, Brazil. The Missionaries for a Time in Buseesa have brought great energy to any number of services, from teaching to recreation and work supervision to managing the canteen and assisting in the dispensary. Additional information on the MaZ program can be accessed at www.snd1.org/NewInitVechta%20missionaries.html.

Sisters of Notre Dame Mission Office 1601 Dixie Highway Covington, KY 41011

Non Profit Org. U.S. Postage Paid Covington, KY Permit No. 781

New Ministry for Sister Mary Judith

OnSeptember18,SisterMaryJudithAverbeck, abiologyteacheratNotreDameAcademyin Park Hills, Kentucky, for 38 years, will leave for Buseesa to begin a new phase of her life. SisterwilljointheothersevenSisters of Notre Dame at St. Julie mission and continueteachingscienceatthehigh school. SisterJudithspentasemesterat the school in 2003 as part of a sabbatical and fell in love withthepeopleofBuseesa. We wish her many blessings in her new ministry.

Leisure Time in Buseesa When the sisters began St. Julie’s Primary ten years ago, they had to teach their students how to play. At recess and during free time, games did not arise spontaneously, much to the surprise of their teachers. (This may Photo by Kathy Aerni be because there are very few toys or diversions found in the huts from which the students come. Mud walls, a dirt floor, a sleeping mat and a few crude items of furniture comprise the home environment. Also, extensive interaction with parents, which we Westerners take for granted, is lacking.) Whatever the cause, things have changed quite a bit since St. Julie Primary opened. Nowadays at St. Julie’s, children play on swings and jungle gyms, while hopscotch and four-square grids are a common sight. Checkers made from bottle caps are a favorite dorm game. The best-loved game of all is soccer – played barefoot and with ferocity by girls and boys of all ages. In addition to these “western” diversions injected into the lives of the students are the enjoyments that arise from the very souls of Ugandans: singing and dancing. Music and response to it are

sway and circle in response.

an integral part of life, whether as part of worship, tribal ritual, welcome and goodbye, Saturday night social hour or just plain fun. Without exception, it seems, the kids all have good voices and all have rhythm inborn in their bones. Drumming, clapping, swaying, dancing – these all come naturally and joyously. Boys traditionally wear wooden rattles strapped to their legs as they hop and strut for unbelievably long times, while girls wrap bright colored cloth around their waists as they

St. Julie’s student choral groups have excelled year after year in regional music competitions, the success due in part to Sr. Bernarde’s expertise in instruction and in part to native talent. Acting ability also seems to go with being Ugandan. Students love to participate in public speaking, debates and plays. They express themselves well, even in a second language, and consider engaging in these activities great fun. Leisure time activities are beginning to flourish in Buseesa, but still have a way to go.

Profile for Sisters of Notre Dame KY

Drumbeats | September 2006  

Mission Trip To Uganda Buseesa Farm Leisure Time in Buseesa

Drumbeats | September 2006  

Mission Trip To Uganda Buseesa Farm Leisure Time in Buseesa