Our last post highlighting our mission in East Africa comes from one of the candidates at Moreau Seminary this year, Joe Wysocki. After graduating from the university of Notre Dame, Joe spent a year and a half serving as an overseas lay missionary in East Africa working with the Holy Cross community there. The OLM program is run by the Holy Cross Mission Center, and has placements in Chile and East Africa for college graduates looking to do service with Holy Cross. Today Joe tells the story of his ministry there and how it led him to join Holy Cross.
Every Tuesday and Thursday morning before starting classes, all 1,000 students at Holy Cross Lakeview Senior Secondary School in Jinja, Uganda, raise their voices in prayerful song. Each classroom is filled with its own harmonies as the class presidents lead their respective classes in that morning's selections. "Marching in the Light of God" rises from one classroom as "Singa Yesu" wafts from another across the way. Students add percussion by clapping, banging on desks and stamping their feet. Walking to the front gate of the school, you can hear the cacophony of these 1,000 voices singing their praises. Voices youthful and excited, enthusiastic and awake even at 7:30 in the morning. For me as a teacher at the school, listening to them was certainly not a bad way to start my day.
My time in Uganda was not easy. I taught English to 80 students crammed into a single classroom; students crowded three and four to a desk. I taught computers to about 350 students in two grades with a computer lab with only fifteen semi-functioning computers. My students' first introduction to the computer was a drawing I made on the blackboard. This was my time in Uganda, and it was the most rewarding time of my life thus far.
Amidst the challenges of day-to-day living in a developing country – the lack of hot water, the unreliable electricity, the beans and rice at nearly every meal – I found much to be thankful for. Seeing the joyful hope and unbounded generosity of my students, their families, the parishioners at the church, and the Holy Cross religious who worked there made me reconsider my own attitudes. In the Holy Cross priests, brothers, sisters and seminarians, I found a community with which I could share the joys and struggles of my life in Uganda.
Seeing how the Holy Cross religious in Uganda worked so joyfully and diligently in such trying conditions was inspiring. It was this inspiration that brought me to be a Holy Cross seminarian. I have come to learn that the sense of hope and determination even when burdened with difficult tasks is a hallmark of Holy Cross religious not just in Uganda, but throughout the world. The strong community that is nurtured within Holy Cross helps to provide the support to continue ministering in trying places and conditions.
I saw this especially clear in Uganda when the local Holy Cross family in Jinja – priests, brothers and sisters – gathered each month to socialize, share stories and simply be family to each other. Young and old, missionaries from the US and indigenous religious from throughout East Africa, they gathered to share a meal and stories about ministry and the old days. Seeing the way these men and women lived out the call to serve others in Holy Cross made me realize this was a family I wanted to be a part of.
For more information on the overseas lay missionary program, including how to apply, see the Holy Cross Mission Center web site.