“Mwebale Inho!” That’s Lusoga for “thank you all very much!”
I arrived in Busoga (the eastern region of Uganda) last July and was so warmly welcomed by the Basoga (the people who live here). They shared with me their language (Lusoga) and their culture, their food and their music, their joys and their sorrows, and our journey together toward God. As my time here comes to a close, I am profoundly grateful for this year of grace.
I’ve learned to wash my clothes by hand and how to slaughter and prepare chickens, turkeys and goats. I’ve learned how to bargain for a ride on a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) and also how to drive – “keeping left” (driving on the left side of the road) while “driving right” (sitting on the right side of the vehicle). I’ve learned to teach chemistry and biology (with nothing more than a chalkboard) to classrooms of 60 or 70 students and learned how to sing the local songs and to play them on the keyboard and guitar.
I’ve traveled to cities and villages in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania; I’ve rafted the River Nile and even climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. And, I’ve sat under the darkest, starriest sky I’ve ever seen and heard the voice of God speaking to my heart.
The beautiful, slow, free way of life here has begun to soak into my soul. I’ve learned to sit in the stillness and listen for God’s presence, invitation, and activity in my midst. My spirit has gentled, my prayer has been transformed and, somehow, I’ve learned a bit better how to love. My journey toward God will be forever bound up with the people of East Africa.
The Holy Cross community here has welcomed me too. Veteran missionaries have shared their experiences of life in East Africa, listening to my struggles and offering me wise counsel. Native African religious have welcomed me into their lives, hosting me in their villages and in their homes. Local Holy Cross communities have welcomed me as I have traveled throughout the District. And, the three Holy Cross brothers at Dujarie House (the community residence at Holy Cross Lake View Senior Secondary School in Jinja) have welcomed me as their brother. I will always be at home in this place.
A few weeks ago, I asked to profess vows again in the Congregation of Holy Cross – this time, to profess vows forever. My petition reflected on my journey of faith and my journey with Holy Cross, and concluded: “Having lived into this decision for some time, I finally want to say ‘yes’ – to our Church, to the family of Holy Cross, to the ministerial priesthood, to a life of service to God’s people, and to the ongoing challenge of surrender to the unknown.”
God willing, with the approval of the General Administration, I anticipate celebrating my final profession and ordination to the diaconate with my class at Notre Dame’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart in late August, to be followed by ordination as a priest next spring. Trusting that God’s grace will sustain me, I want to respond to God’s invitation to share the gift of my life in our Church.
I am excited about the prospect of serving as a parish priest. I would love to be an educator in one of our high schools, colleges or universities. And, my heart will always be drawn to our work as missionaries. Crossing borders is a transformative experience. It is a proclamation that our capacity to dwell with God – our salvation – is bound up together. It is a belief that we belong to one another. And, it is a sharing in the moment of the Incarnation, when God crossed so profoundly – so humanly – into our lives and brought us to the Cross, that we might realize our salvation.
Thanks be to the people of East Africa and to the Holy Cross community here. And thanks be to God!
Mr. Mark DeMott, C.S.C., is a temporarily professed seminarian spending a ministry year in East Africa teaching at Holy Cross Lake View Senior Secondary School in Jinja, Uganda.This post is the last in Mark's series for us reflecting on seminary life in Holy Cross for the Spes Unica Blog. Learn more about seminary formation for priesthood and religious life in the Congregation. Also learn more about the work of Holy Cross in mission in East Africa.