Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Looking Back

It's been an amazing year, and I can't believe that it's already time to come home!  This photo says it all...  I will arrive in South Bend, Indiana on the afternoon of Thursday, May 3.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Starring: Our Students

Experience life at Holy Cross Lake View Senior Secondary School with our newly-released promotional video...

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Living the Dream

With just a month more in Uganda, I've got to enjoy every minute...

Overlooking Kampala
Playing my drum on the steps of Rubaga Cathedral, Kampala
Playing the organ before a wedding
at the Cathedral

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Happy Anniversary

This past Sunday, we celebrated Holy Cross Lake View's 19th anniversary.  The school that began in 1993 in a single classroom now serves more than seven hundred students.  In 2011, we were ranked 44th among more than 1200 secondary schools nationwide.  The day began with praise and worship songs, led by the students.  They have thoroughly enjoyed the new keyboard and guitar, and they sang beautifully.

Then, we celebrated Mass, with a homily by Brother Alan Harrod, C.S.C., who chairs the schools' Board of Governors.  Many board members were present for the celebration.  Following Mass, we blessed the new generator and the new generator house -- giving thanks to God for this generous gift that has stabilized our school schedule by providing reliable electricity.  Then, we also blessed the new classrooms that were completed in February, reducing second-year class sizes from ninety to sixty.  As the second-year biology teacher, I am tremendously grateful!

Father Lucius Atwine, C.S.C. blesses crucifixes
to be placed in the new classrooms.

Students join in blessing their classrooms.

An energetic blessing that reached the rooftop!
Finally, there were speeches -- many alums (here we call them "Old Boys" and "Old Girls") came back to share their experiences with current students -- and awards given to retiring board members and departing faculty.  The day concluded with a special lunch, a traditional dance performance, and a more contemporary dance party that continued all afternoon.

In the Village

Mulinge Sebastian, CSC outside his family home.
I spent the last week at Holy Cross' house of formation in Nairobi, Kenya -- meeting with other Holy Cross seminarians who have been assigned to pastoral work in East Africa this year.  At the end of the week, I had the opportunity to join one of them -- Mulinge Sebastian -- for a visit to his village.  We drove to Kangundo, in the Machakos Diocese, where we met his family, toured his primary school, visited his parish church -- and even took a photo with the local chief.

Holy Cross seminarian Mukabane Agapitus, CSC (left) joins me
for a  "snap" with the tribal chief of Kangundo (centre).
The garden waits patiently for the rainy season.
At least 80% of East Africans live in rural areas -- "in the village" or "upcountry" as they say here.  The pace of life is slow, and people are of utmost importance.  Even those who have moved to cities and towns return to their villages frequently.  At Christmastime, urban churches are almost empty -- everyone has gone "upcountry".   Village economy is based on subsistence farming -- growing crops on relatively small plots of land and raising a few chickens, goats, cows or pigs.  Access to education and healthcare has long been limited, but is now improving.  

For lunch, they served "local chicken".
At Mulinge's home, we enjoyed traditional foods of the Kamba people (his tribe) and spent the day visitng people and places that had been important in his life. In East Africa, they say that friendship isn't friendship until it reaches the home.  Visiting the homes of my brothers in Holy Cross and my colleagues at Holy Cross Lake View has been a very special opportunity.

Mulinge Sebastian's primary school.

Despit the name, Mulinge claims that his school
has long been co-educational...

The Good Shepherd?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Out of Darkness

 In Uganda, we frequently experience "load-shedding" or "power rationing" -- as the electricity available does not meet demand.  Holy Cross Lake View is no exception.  When power is off, a generator makes it possible for us to light classrooms, use computers and other technological equipment and even to ring the school bell.  In November, our generator failed beyond repair, and the school program began to suffer.  Students would miss morning or evening preps (study time in their classrooms), the computer lab was unusable -- and we even struggled to get final exams copied.  Students and teachers alike have tried to be patient, but everyone has been frustrated.  Now, finally, we are out of darkness.  Through a generous donation, we have a new generator -- it arrived last Friday.  This has been a significant morale boost for everyone at the school.

Looking forward, the school has so many needs.  Scholarship money assists students struggle to pay school fees.  Only $600 US educates a child for an entire year!  And, donations help us with capital projects, like the purchase of the generator.  Presently, we are constructing a boys' dormitory and designing a new computer laboratory.  We also need to construct a small wastewater treatment system.  Gifts also help us to offer opportunities to our students.  This year, I have been able to purchase an electronic keyboard and an electric-acoustic guitar -- which has helped me to start a music program for the students.

During my time here, so many generous donors have helped to make our work possible.  Some gifts come from individuals, others are from organizations (churches, schools), and some are foundation grants.  Without them, the school would not be able to continue!  Gifts to Holy Cross Lake View are received through the Holy Cross Mission Center at Notre Dame, Indiana and then transferred to Uganda.  For more information on making a gift, please contact me at

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Visitation Day

Most students at Holy Cross Lake View are boarding students, which is typical of Ugandan schools.  Once each term, we host parents and family members for "Visitation Day".  Parents have the opportunity to meet teachers and administrators (think parent - teacher conferences) and to check on their students.  Most students receive some pocket money, which gives the day a bit of a celebratory flavour.  The canteen will be teeming with students all week, purchasing mandazi, chapati, samosas and jackfruit.

Khainza Jane and her father
meet with one of her teachers.
Of my 175 students, I met with the parents, aunts and uncles, or siblings of 115 of them.  It was wonderful to see their interest in their children and their commitment to their education.  It's also fun to see how some of the students resemble their parents.  Of course, some parents aren't able to make the trip.  And, some of our students are orphans.  We teachers try to look out for these students in their place.

Mr. Omodo Anthony meets with a student
whose parents were not able to attend.
Conferences take place in the "tree shade" on the school compound.  Much better than a high school gymnasium, I think.  The kitchen staff even served tea!  Students come with their parents to the conferences, which works very well.  During each conference, I make comments about both the student's academic performance (including giving a midterm mark) and also about the student's discipline.  This gives me a chance to affirm, challenge and motivate each student individually.

I can't believe how fast the term is passing.  End-of-term examinations begin on Wednesday, March 28th!  I will be returning to the United States after the term is finished.  I'm really going to miss these students...