Spring Lake students, parishioners make a difference a world away
By EmmaLee Italia | Correspondent“Mission of Mercy Uganda,” the outreach program of St. Catharine School and St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, Spring Lake, has existed as an integral part of the faith community for 16 years.
What began as a diocesan twinning with the Diocese of Kasana-Luweero, Uganda, was continued by St. Catharine’s with annual fundraisers geared toward specific improvements for the African diocese.
Beginning in Lent and ending in May, St. Catharine School students helped the children of a school in the forest of Lwetunga, through their “Step Up with Coins for St. Kizito School” fundraiser.
“Each class received a baby shoe to put coins in each day and we collected the shoes weekly,” said Mercy Sister Carole MacKenthun, St. Catharine’s sixth- and seventh-grade religion teacher and religion chairperson. “We chose the baby shoe because our school and parish are collecting funds for a kindergarten at St. Kizito School. … Some parents sponsor orphaned [and] needy children from St. Kizito School, and our PTA sponsors a child in honor of the faculty.”
The school also recently held a cookie sale, “Cookies for Kizito’s” when Father Pontion Ssonko from Uganda came to visit, Sister Carole said. Additionally the school runs a Uganda store, open Wednesdays during lunch, selling Uganda beads and items to benefit St. Kizito’s. Annually, the school fundraisers add up to approximately $5,000. And the students are well aware of the impact their donations have.
“Each year during the fundraiser, I give a presentation of all the things that we have accomplished at St. Kizito School [that] year,” Sister Carole said. “Each year, we also have a visitor from Uganda – either Father Ssonko or Mary, Mother of the Church MIssionary Sister Faida Kateryeba from the Alanyi Health Clinic in the bush area. They come to thank the children and speak to them about how they have made a difference in Uganda. Sister Faida also teaches the students Liturgical Ugandan dances and hymns for us to use at our First Friday Liturgies.”
Sister Carole – a teacher for 50 years, 24 of them at St. Catharine’s – hopes that students understand their support of the Mission of Mercy Uganda is one way of practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, and that all are called to be the hands, feet and heart of Christ.
“Jesus asks us, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ – and we are all global neighbors who have to reach out and help each other,” she said. “Some younger students even have a desire to be a missionary when I show pictures of former students who have traveled with me. Some are interested in having pen pals.”
In 2002 Sister Carole volunteered to travel to Uganda with the Diocese of Trenton group, as Bishop John Smith and Bishop Cyprian Luwanga began to twin the dioceses – and for five years she continued to make the mission trip with the volunteer group.
“Then I started the ‘Mission of Mercy Uganda,’ and took a separate group of former students with me who desired to go,” she explained. “For 15 years we have been supporting St. Kizito School, because Bishop Cyprian took me there as a request from our former principal, Sister Margo Kavanaugh, to ‘bring home a little school for us to support.’”
For the past 10 years, St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish has assisted Sister Carole with the Uganda projects. The annual parish fundraisers totalling $17,000 help sponsor 75 students and build classrooms.
“When I speak at the parish Masses yearly, or am invited to different groups in the parish, I notice how interested the parishioners are, and proud that we have made such a difference,” she said.
Other improvements to St. Kizito School through St. Catharine School fundraisers have included building a piggery for students to learn how to raise pigs; new school building for grades Pre-K through seventh grade; constructing a well to provide clean water for both students and villagers; a kitchen for school breakfast and lunch program; a latrine and three water tanks.
Though no longer able to travel to Uganda, Sister Carole has been able to send her former student Joy Foley and several other volunteers annually in her stead.
“We are always welcomed with gracious hospitality,” she said.
As much as funds are still needed to continue the good work so many years ago, Sister Carole asks for “prayers – for those traveling and for the people in Uganda.”
To help support Mission of Mercy Uganda, financial donations may be made payable to Mission of Mercy, and mailed to St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, 215 Essex Ave, Spring Lake, NJ 07762
For more information, call the parish office 732-449-5765, ext. 100, or email ContactUs@stcatharine-stmargaret.org