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The Daughters of Mary Sisters in Uganda, the first women religious community south of the Sahara, have been coming to Seattle University since 1960 to participate in an educational partnership with the Sisters of Providence that originated as part of a worldwide movement in 1959 to sponsor the education of sisters in developing countries.
From a Seattle U classroom to service in Uganda, these sisters are bringing about meaningful and systemic change in their home country.
Sister Mary Namutebi, DM, '20, '22, left and Sister Paskazia Ampronia Nakitende, DM, '19 with The Daughters of Mary Sisters in Uganda share a moment together while reviewing a selfie photography they took on their cell phone in the garden at their St. Joseph's Residence in West Seattle.
Sister Namutebi takes a moment to reflect while in the chapel at the Administration building on campus. Namutebi is pursuing degrees in theology and religious studies at Seattle U.
The St. Joseph's Residence in West Seattle houses Namutebi and Nakitende while they are attending Seattle U.
They are recognizable on Seattle University’s campus by their brilliant blue habits that are at once cheerful and reverent. The Daughters of Mary Sisters in Uganda, the first women religious community south of the Sahara, have been coming to Seattle University since 1960 as part of an educational partnership with the Sisters of Providence. Its 59-year history, disrupted for 16 of those years owing to political and social turmoil in Uganda, has produced 18 Seattle U graduates, many with master’s degrees. The alumnae have returned to their Ugandan institute—the term they use to refer to their religious community—where they assumed positions of leadership and responsibility that have had broad societal impact. In Uganda, they are called Bannabikira Sisters, which translated means Daughters of Mary.
The latest members to make the 8,807-mile journey are Sister Paskazia Ampronia Nakitende, DM, ’19, and Sister Mary Namutebi, DM, ’20, ’22, both of whom are pursuing degrees in theology and religious studies. Like many of their sisters before them, Nakitende and Namutebi ultimately plan to earn master’s degrees in their areas of professional focus.
Sister Nakitende, right, and Sister Namutebi, walk along the lower mall as they head to class after studying in the library.
Receiving a Seattle U education is foundational to the sisters’ goals. Equally valuable, the sisters say, are the cultural experiences and exchange of ideas on Seattle U’s diverse, international campus that have broadened their way of thinking.
“Experiencing different norms and working with different people is a great opportunity,” Namutebi says. “In our country, we have different tribes, but we believe the same way. I love working with other people. When you get out of your country, you see the other ways of people. … It’s like a breakthrough.”
Namutebi, who wants to teach children, is considering a master’s degree in education once she completes her undergraduate work. She says Seattle U’s many and varied community outreach programs have inspired her. “Seeing people here, they are so dedicated to working with other people. So, if they can do it, why not me?”
Nakitende, who wants to be a catechist like her father, will pursue a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies. “I value the sense of community that Seattle University provides. I’ve taken many classes that opened my mind. I’m seeing God in every person among the people in the margins. I love the way the university is striving for a just and humane world.”
Sister Nakitende, left, and Sister Namutebi, go over some homework for class while studying in the library.
Sister Nakitende gestures to Sister Namutebi while showing her a container of grape juice.
The Sister's have their own kitchen at the residence where they can prepare meals. They often cook comfort food that reminds them of home when they do not want to eat at the dining hall at the residence. They said that being in Seattle though can make it a bit tricky to find all the right ingridents and spices they are use to in their Ugandan cooking.
Ugandan Daughter's of Mary at St. Joseph's Residence in West Seattle.
Sister Paskazia Ampronia Nakitende
The university covers the cost for education and commits to always having two sisters enrolled. The Sisters of Providence provide room and board at their West Seattle home while the sisters are matriculating.
“One of things I am proudest about is that Seattle University and the Sisters of Providence have made it possible to provide university education to the Daughters of Mary of Uganda, supporting much of their leadership in their work in that country and beyond,” says SU President Stephen Sundborg, S.J. “The Sisters have been some of the best friends of our students, faculty and staff and have given as much to our university as we have given to them.”
Like those before them, Namutebi and Nakitende did not compete for the opportunity to attend Seattle University or even know it was a possibility. Before taking vows, they and their sister candidates were assigned jobs within the institute’s service areas—teaching, giving catechism lessons, doing social work and serving in health centers and hospitals—throughout Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.
Sister Paskazia Ampronia Nakitende, DM, '19 and Sister Mary Namutebi, DM, '20, '22, with The Daughters of Mary Sisters in Uganda are pursuing degrees in theology and religious studies at Seattle University.
Among the Daughters of Mary Sisters who attended Seattle U, several became Superior Generals, including today’s presiding leader, Noelina Namusoke, ’02. Their ranks also include members of the institute’s leadership council, public school head mistresses and nurses, Nakitende says. Two recent graduates have gone on to earn doctorate degrees. One is studying spirituality in Chicago. The other, Maria Nassali Gorreth, DM, ’15, will receive her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the College of Education.
“The sisters are happy to have this opportunity,” Nakitende says. “They value it a lot because they can see the impact. The knowledge we get here helps us to be aware of the needs of different people where our institute is working.”
Sister Nakitende, left and Sister Namutebi share a laugh while relaxing in a lounge at The St. Joseph's Residence in West Seattle on a recent Sunday morning.
Sister Mary Namutebi
The Daughters of Mary Sisters have undertaken a capital project in Uganda to build a hospital that will reverse the plight of women, girls and children in a country where a woman dies in childbirth every day, says Sister Noelina Namusoke, DM, ’02, the institute’s mother general. In 2010, the sisters began building the Kyengera Women’s Hospital that will serve more than 100,000 women, girls and children each year. The hospital’s exterior is complete, but the construction stopped when funding ran out. The sisters need roughly $1.28 million to build out and equip the facility. Anyone interested in donating or learning more can contact J.L. Drouhard, director of the Missions Office at the Archdiocese of Seattle, at 206-382-4869 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sister Namutebi, right, and Sister Nakitende go over some homework for class while studying in the library.
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