My Kinda Christian: Sr. Linda Fuselier and 300 Chickens

my-kinda-christian-logoI thought I’d start an irregular series of posts called “My Kinda Christian.” These posts will probably consist of folks and groups that I think represent the best tradition of the Church. Who knows who might show up?

I was prompted in this direction by an email update I got recently from my first-grade teacher – not “a” first- grade teacher, but MY first-grade teacher. Sr. Linda Fuselier, SNJM, taught me first grade at St. Ignatius School in Sacramento in 1969 (or there abouts).

For the last 20 or so years Sr. Linda has been very involved in HIV/AIDS work. She worked in Washington, D.C., for a little while with crack-addicted babies who were also HIV positive. She was a member of the Catholic Network on HIV/AIDS Awareness. She worked on this issue at the United Nations. She worked in the rural South with men with AIDS who were not getting healthcare because the stigma was too great.

Now, Sr. Linda is in southwest Uganda. Through the Volunteer Missionary Movement,  she is working with a school and an orphanage where many babies are infected with HIV. She’s living at the Yesu Ahuriire Community – a Catholic charismatic renewal community in Kamara, outside of Mbarara.

Below is an excerpt from one of Sr. Linda’s letters. (I’ll run more excerpts in the future.) For now, let me just say, Sr. Linda Fuselier is MY KINDA CHRISTIAN.

On May 10 I moved to my new home in Karama. It is about 8 miles into the country from where I lived last year! It is a charismatic renewal center.  On the grounds there is a community of about 30+ members who are mostly in their 20’s with a few 30 or 40 year olds and 3 children aged 2 and under!   This community takes care of hospitality, maintenance and daily prayers! Maintenance includes gardening and caring for the banana plantations.  I think we also have 15 cows and 30+ goats as well as 300 hens laying eggs!!! I think there are hired workers for the animals.

On the farm is a second community of 4 Koreans from The Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus of Kottengnae who do marvelous ministry in Korea as well as around the world.  At our place they have 24 HIV orphans.  In time I hope to be working with them.
Also, we have a school called Ahuriire: Ugandan School for All whether they are of any race, sex, creed, tribe etc. Here I am helping to create a resource room and counseling room of which I will be engaged in.  There are about 80 students in the school. Some of our students are boarders in a girls’ dormitory and a boys’ dormitory. Others walk from the nearby villages. We are in our second term as of May 23rd when the children began returning to school. Registration takes about a week before all return with their supplies, mattresses and uniforms as well as tuition.

Last week I was engaged in posters that need to be displayed for school officials and parents as well as visitors. Basically, the posters tell of class assignments, credentials, heads of departments, prefects, extracurricular responsibilities of teachers, class timetables etc. I thanked God each moment in knowing how to print!

There is no computer, copy machine, pencil sharpeners (razors are in sight everwhere). I also spent time making learning materials.  My favorite project was the slide film for the television box made with cardboard and branches of a tree that role with “film,” handmade pictures created of ball, book, girl, boy, etc, at least 50  identifiable objects for the children to name in English. All students are expected to speak English. The baby class are children of a pre-school level ranging from 3-7 years old. They still are transitioning from local language!

There are no texts, or teachers manuals, crayons or paper. All students copy examples and exercises from black board to copy books. There is a copy book for each of the  subjects. In the baby class, all work for the student is drawn in by the teacher! In the other classes all copy from the board. There is a lot of rote memory work.

There are no learning centers in the classroom as there are no stores for teachers to buy learning materials.  In the capital city there is a book store on par of Barnes and Noble or Borders. The cost of materials and books seem to be higher than what I would pay in the States.

I bought a suitcase and filled it with learning materials and books for the resource room that I am creating for the school. The resources are both for the teachers and the children.  It is a place where I am helping the children who fall behind or just need extra help and encouragement.

My latest purchase was a “floor bear” that holds 3 children to s it and read. I am in the process of getting supplies for my sand tray and art therapy counseling room. It is exciting to createnew opportunities for the children and teachers.

Pope Uses “C”-Word

popeafricaThere’s been a bit of a tempest about the comments made by Pope Benedict XVI to the press pool on Shepherd One (the Pope Plane) while en route to Cameroon. Apparently, he used the C-word (ahem … “condom”).

That’s a first for a pope. Despite plenty of rulings eschewing birth control and promoting the sanctity of the family, it appears no pope has actually ever said the word publicly before. Wow? What next?

It also appears that the Pope’s comment about “French letters” (so quaint!), was then cleaned up by the papal translators. All this has caused a storm–and rightly so. With the devastating prevalence of AIDS in Africa, religious leaders–especially one as prominent as the Pope–absolutely need to be part of the solution.

The Pope has legitimate moral and theological issues with anything that he thinks is an attack on human dignity and on the culture of the family and the culture of life. I don’t agree with all of them, but they are reasoned. At the same time, he needs to be very careful about overemphasizing ideals that are not possible in the present situation–especially when lives are at stake.

So … what did the Pope actually say? Here’s the original quote–before the papal fixers got a hold of it. The question’s premise was “The Catholic Church’s position on the way to fight against AIDS is often considered unrealistic and ineffective,” and the pope responded:

“I would say the opposite. I think that the reality that is most effective, the most present and the strongest in the fight against AIDS, is precisely that of the Catholic Church, with its programs and its diversity. I think of the Sant’Egidio Community, which does so much visibly and invisibly in the fight against AIDS … and of all the sisters at the service of the sick.

“I would say that one cannot overcome this problem of AIDS only with money — which is important, but if there is no soul, no people who know how to use it, (money) doesn’t help.

“One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem.

“The solution can only be a double one: first, a humanization of sexuality, that is, a spiritual human renewal that brings with it a new way of behaving with one another; second, a true friendship even and especially with those who suffer, and a willingness to make personal sacrifices and to be with the suffering. And these are factors that help and that result in real and visible progress.

“Therefore I would say this is our double strength — to renew the human being from the inside, to give him spiritual human strength for proper behavior regarding one’s own body and toward the other person, and the capacity to suffer with the suffering. … I think this is the proper response and the church is doing this, and so it offers a great and important contribution. I thank all those who are doing this.”