Coming and Going: Trusting God’s Path for Sisters

African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC)

ASEC Sisters are pictured walking during a HESA Reflective Learning workshop in Uganda, 2022.

Working in a collaborative network of sisters from various congregations, countries and continents demonstrates the value of each individual's footprint on the organization.

When sisters decide to take their vows, they are vowing to chastity, obedience and poverty, the three evangelical counsels of perfection in Christianity. In vowing obedience, a sister is taking a step to live as Jesus did and rely on God’s will. Explained well in this article, this particular vow means sisters will go where the need is greatest based on their superiors and the church:

The vow of obedience is another way the nuns live their lives as Jesus did, relying on God’s will. Nuns need to obey their mother superior of their convent in day-to-day tasks as well as larger projects and assignments on behalf of the convent. Not only does a nun have to obey the orders of her convent, she needs to obey the church’s rules as well as God’s.

As a result, we have come to understand the coming and going nature of ASEC Sisters in the way of their congregations and positions. While some ASEC Sisters remain in their positions for long periods of time, sometimes others need to leave to complete work elsewhere on behalf of their congregation. 

Upon my own arrival at ASEC, I asked my supervisor, Sr. Nancy Kamau, Director of Development, what it must feel like to be placed in areas you never expected while having to learn new customs and traditions. Well, that, and also practice the Catholic traditions and uphold vows. Her answer astounded me. She said that it is part of the nature of their vows and so she does her best to recognize she is in a new place to learn and to serve others. She seemed to embrace the idea of learning about others and completing her work harmoniously, which is something more than admirable. 

Our Executive Director, Sr. Draru Mary Cecilia, LSMIG, has a theme she brings up often in her special talks with us. Her way of speaking truly does find a way into one’s heart. She said that we should always strive to leave our particular footprint on the organization, to make it a better place, and to stay and part on friendly terms with one another. This goal is, I believe, embedded in the organization in such a way that it provides motivation and inspiration even on the rainiest of days. 

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Sr. Draru Mary Cecilia, ASEC's Executive Director, teaches the value of leaving one's unique footprint on the organization.

Sr. Draru Mary Cecilia, ASEC's Executive Director, teaches the value of leaving one's unique footprint on the organization.

With collaborations between ten countries and Africa and four partner universities in the United States, navigating cultural differences can be a challenge. During the times it feels a little tough, I remember the wisdom of both Sr. Draru and Sr. Nancy – and of all the ASEC Sisters for that matter. We are all here to learn about the traditions and cultures of others and when we shift the focus from viewing it as a challenge we start to view it more as an opportunity to grow and learn, even in difficult moments. Remembering the structure exemplified by Sr. Draru, it becomes an ideal default to understand that we are responsible for our own footprint, and we should strive to make it a positive one. 

It can be challenging to see a member of the team go and, especially with the recent pandemic, we have all had to learn to be flexible in ways we never had before. As a person who tends to get attached to those around me, I wondered how we could all keep our hearts open with all of the coming and going. 

Then I started seeing some really eye-opening things from ASEC Sisters and the paths they follow. It interests me to think about how even when a good-bye is the saddest thing to go through, we never know what plan God has in store for where we will go next. When a sister leaves the organization either as an employee or a student, it can be tough, but now I am learning to see it more as an opportunity to pave paths on behalf of God.

In Uganda, the lower secondary (S1-S4) completion rate for girls is only 24.9%. Sr. Lilian’s efforts to build the Boni Consilii School in Mbarara is making a difference in the lives of hundreds of girls who attend the school.

In Uganda, the lower secondary (S1-S4) completion rate for girls is only 24.9%. Sr. Lilian’s efforts to build the Boni Consilii School in Mbarara is making a difference in the lives of hundreds of girls who attend the school.

The results are pretty amazing. For example, let’s look at the amazing work of Sr. Mary Lilian Baitwakakye, who is a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel (OLGC), a religious congregation based in Mbarara, Uganda and an alumna of the Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI). Sr. Mary started her training in SLDI and learned grant writing skills, which she used in her congregation to build classrooms, dormitories, laboratories and more. From there, she started a farm nearby as a part of the school. But that was just the start of her journey. Since then she has founded the HIV/AIDS Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Project, also in Uganda, which focuses on providing educational opportunities to orphaned children with HIV/AIDS. 

With those transitions, there must have been a time when Sr. Mary needed to take a step back from her role as headmistress which much have been a challenge to let go of after putting so much time and effort into it. However, if she had never followed the path unfolding for her, and instead stayed at the school, the HIV/AIDs project may not have taken off. It seems that the vow sisters take to go where the need is most teaches us the value of coming and going. 

Now, at the Boni Consilii school, Sr. Lucia Nyamwija, OLGC, is headmistress who is leaving her footprint on the school by taking extra time to tutor at-risk girls and keep them in school. She has also advocated and improved the school’s water system. 

Each sister has an important job to do when they join a congregation and a cause, and they also have an important job to do when their vocation takes them to other parts of the world. The magic of sisters is the way they can add a unique and valuable footprint and then allow a different sister to come and do the same. That in itself is its own form of transformation.

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This article is addressing the following UN Sustainable Development Goal(s):

Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies
Sr. Mary Lilian Baitwakakye, OLGC

Sr. Mary Lilian Baitwakakye, OLGC
Profiled in article
SLDI Alumna - Uganda  

Sr. Lucia Nyamwija, OLGC
Profiled in article
HESA Participant - Uganda  

Monica Simon

Monica Simon
Former Web Content Manager - USA  

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