Campus Community

Sisters in Learning and Leading

Written By Seattle U Newsroom

Sisters in Learning and Leading Feature Image

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.

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.

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.”

Sisters in class

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.

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.”