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JPIC Spotlight: Sr. Anita Marie Stacy

Posted on: February 5, 2021 9:00 am
Tags: Jpic, Spotlight,

Sister Anita Marie Stacy grading entrance exams at Notre Dame Academy in Buseesa, Uganda

Sr. Anita Marie Stacy, SND, served at St. Julie Mission in Buseesa, Uganda at Notre Dame Academy for 17 years. Here she shares about her experiences and offers her insights. 

Featured in the February 2021 JPIC Newsletter

It was a very enriching experience to go over to Uganda in October of 2002 and start the secondary school by February 2003 (the beginning of their school year). We had to get together supplies and interview students to enroll, and we started with no buildings finished. We had to use a dormitory and classroom at St. Julie Primary School. 

But all of that was totally secondary to the real obstacle: learning the culture of the students we would be teaching in just four months. So, of course, we would make many mistakes and, most challenging, we would be stretched beyond our comfort zone. To underestimate the importance of culture in the reality of who a person is, is bound to lead to some surprises and again CHALLENGES! I truly believe that this is where some of the racial problems stem today. We expect everyone to behave from our perception of “how people should act, feel, and think.” We all come from different experiences, and we really cannot understand another until we “get into that person’s skin” or “walk a mile in their shoes.” 

We learned the hard way that first year. The important thing is that we were pliable and able to learn. We decided we would conference with the students, maybe about a month after their coming to NDA. The students would not respond to our questions as we talked to them one on one. We learned that we had to have established a rapport with them before we could attempt such a personal approach. Not apparent to a “wear my feelings on my sleeve” Westerner. During our first week of opening the school we worried when only about seven students showed up on the first day. We wondered what happened to the other 15 or so we had recruited. People told us that is the way it is here. So (and every other beginning of term verified this) the students took one to two weeks before ALMOST all of them had arrived. Some were still looking for school fees, meager as they were, and others…well, they were in no hurry to leave home and come to a boarding school and sleep in dorms with 20 other students, eat posho every day, and be in the discipline of a rigorous “timetable.” 

There were SO many other cultural traditions to learn as well, but those that related to the African personality were the hardest to pick up on. But we really have these same things happening in the USA. Different cultures having even different moral priorities and yet we think all should march to the same drummer – ours… NOT THEIRS. We don’t mean to be that way, we are often not aware of such different norms. Oh, Uganda taught me so much that I cherish. Precious lessons that could not have easily been learned without this immersion experience. 

I never felt as a minority because of my skin color. I felt a minority because of what I had: a pretty elite life as a middle class American, good educational background, etc. The students and faculty and parents would sometimes voice their disbelief that we could leave all the comforts of rich America: piped in water, clean water, HOT water, lights in the evening, private cars, washing machines, and so many others things we did not have there. They really could not understand that our love for them was so much greater than these “niceties” we had left behind. 

I seldom talk about my experience in Uganda because most people do not seem interested. They can’t imagine the people, the life and culture that I experienced there. I don’t feel a need to talk about it, although on occasion I would like to, but after 17 years there, the experience is deeper and so much a part of who I am. I am content to let it be who I have become.

Karen Towle Hulefeld
Date: 3 weeks ago

Dear SisterThank you for making me aware of the difference in even American cultures. I needed that!

MaryGorret Tumugonze
Date: 3 weeks ago

Ohhh sister am so proud of what u molded into Thank you for sharing this beautiful story You are always in my heart... taught mathematics and it became part of me I don't do math at University but whenever I go home, I discuss it with students of my village U built a pearl Am sure most notredameans are so happy of what u brought You sowed a seed of love in us May God fill your days with his love and joy

Joliene (Cummins) Garlich
Date: 3 weeks ago

Thank your for sharing! I found my travel experiences abroad to many different cultures have enlightened me to others’ live experiences in ways you just cannot read about or hear about.

Dorothy Haverbusch
Date: 3 weeks ago

Thank you for sharing your experience with such insight and humility. Your so well intuitively transferred your immediate experience into wisdom for all of us. I was interested in your experience and believe others will be also.(See also my Facebook comments on your post.)

Susan (Neltner) Brake (BBHS 2001)
Date: 3 weeks ago

I feel like you could write a book about your experience Sister! Thank you for your wise words.

Jason Kilmer (BBHS 2000)
Date: on February 5, 2021

Thank you, Sister Anita Marie!

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