Young women who are interested in finding out more about the life of a Sister of Notre Dame are invited to attend a “Come and See” weekend. During this time a young woman will pray, live and recreate with the sisters and learn more specifically what religious life as a Sister of Notre Dame is all about.
After attending several “Come and See” weekends, a young woman who is still interested in religious life begins a discernment process with the Director of Candidates. This may last several months. During this time the Director visits her home and meets her family and the young woman spends time with the sisters.
After the young woman and the community discern that she may have a vocation and she has passed the secondary 6 exams, she may be invited to enter as an aspirant. Aspirants move into the house of formation in Mpala. The time as an aspirant lasts several months. When she is ready to move on in her formation the aspirant becomes a candidate. The candidacy lasts about one year. Next the candidate becomes a postulant and moves to the novitiate in Tanzania where she joins other young African women preparing to be Sisters of Notre Dame. She will live in the novitiate for three years: one as a postulant and two as a novice. At the end of the three years, the novice returns to Uganda where she makes her first vows as a Sister of Notre Dame and begins ministry or pursues further education.
The formation process before final vows lasts at least five years. During this time the young woman receives excellent opportunities to learn about herself, live with others, develop her talents and grow in her spiritual life.
Following is a list of our Ugandan Sisters and when they made their first profession of vows:
first on left, Sr. Christine Marie, third from left: Sister Mary Olive, 5th from left: Sister Mary Teopista
During the month of April, seven young women entered the international novitiate of the Sisters of Notre Dame in East Africa. Our Covington, KY, province and our Thousand Oaks, CA, province sponsors the mission in Uganda; our Patna, India province sponsors the mission in Tanzania; and, our Passo Fundo, Brazil province sponsors the mission in Mozambique.
Three of the women who became novinces are from Uganda and belong to our Covington, KY province. They are Mugume Christine, whose name in religion is now Sister Christine Marie with a feastday on September 15, Our Lady of Sorrows; Katusiime Olive, who name is now Sister Mary Olive with a feastday on August 10, St. Lawrence; and Nabugwawo Teopista, whose name in religion is now Sister Mary Teopista, with a feastday on October 28, St. Jude.
These seven young women entered the novitiate on April 21, 2012. We rejoice with them and promise our prayers.
We join in prayer for four sisters who professed their perpetual vows in Arusha, Tanzania on Sunday, June 3. These are our first African sisters who have professed perpetual vows. The attached picture shows the four sisters (with pink leis around their neck) and our sisters from Uganda who attended (second from left, same row as the Bishop, Sr. Cristina Marie (CA), front row, right in front of the Bishop, Sister Therese Marie, and at the extreme right, Sister Mary Immaculate and next to her, Sister Mary Juliet).
Outreach Opportunities for Future African Sisters
The missions of the Sisters of Notre Dame in Africa have attracted many young African women to deepen their faith and to answer the call to religious life. During their religious formation, novices and postulants from Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda receive initial instruction together at the international formation house in Njiro, Tanzania. This formation experience goes far beyond quiet prayer, contemplation, and study, to include active ministry and outreach to the surrounding communities.
The Holy Childhood Association engages Catholic youth in mission to neighboring youth in dire need. The program is very popular in Africa and can be found in nearly every parish in Tanzania. The Njiro parish has over 70 children participants. The women in formation help strengthen the program by teaching prayers and catechism, assisting the children with works of mercy, encouraging contribution to the poor, and attending the Sunday children’s Mass. Their ministry to children goes beyond the Holy Childhood Association, however. The novices and postulants have also been asked to teach religion classes once a week in the government school.
SND novices and postulants also meet weekly with villagers in small Christian communities. A community can have as many as 18 families, who take turns hosting the gathering. The community shares Scripture and reflections, and prays the rosary. If a family is in special need, the group offers financial assistance. Special classes are given to the children, who are taught prayers, songs and bible stories. The Novices and Postulants do not all speak the local language fluently, and while that is a challenge for them, they find that they are always able to communicate God’s love to the families they serve.
Once a week women in formation visit neighboring families in the village, where they minister to women, children and the sick. The families find relief in sharing their pain and struggles with the novices and postulants. Those in formation share faith experiences, comforting words, and answer questions about the way they live their life. The visit ends with praying together. Although the villagers don’t always understand what it means to be a sister, they are always grateful for the visits.
The ministry and outreach that the SND postulants and novices perform are a foundational part of their spiritual development, and their outreach experiences are opportunities for growth even in challenges. Ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of their neighbors helps prepare these young women for lives lived for Jesus and his mission.
- By Sr. Mary Bernadette Pendola, SND California