Parish of St. Thomas More Manalapan, New Jersey

September 16, 2004

Education is focus of partnership between parishes

Students in grade “Primary 2” celebrate having new desks in their classroom. The desks were purchased with the help of St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan.

By Mary Stadnyk
MANALAPAN – Almost two years ago, participants who had gathered for a Diocesan Pastoral Council conference heard Bishop John M. Smith’s electrifying presentation on the partnership that the Diocese of Trenton had formed with the Diocese of Kasana-Luweero, Uganda.

Bishop Smith was “on fire” as he talked about the meaning of the partnership that evolved through the Catholic Relief Services’ Global Solidarity Partnership program, what it would entail and how its ultimate goal, most important of all, was not meant to be a short-term, one-shot deal, but one that was a longstanding, two-way street.

All who heard Bishop Smith’s talk that day could not but help to be warmed by his presentation. But the two delegates from St. Thomas More Parish who attended the conference, Marianne Sarcone and Jim Brady, were not only inspired by the bishop’s talk, it lit a spark in them in wanting to do more.

When Brady and Sarcone broached the subject of the Global Solidarity Partnership at a subsequent parish pastoral council meeting, their pastor and fellow council members became equally enthralled.

Although the Global Solidarity Partnership between the two dioceses at the time had been presented as a diocese-to-diocese partnership, the plan the St. Thomas More parish council members had was to establish a parish-to-parish relationship between their parish and a parish in Kasana-Luweero.

“Bishop Smith had been talking about Uganda for a long time and people were fired up about it,” recalled Father John Bambrick, pastor. “Although the partnership was diocese to diocese, when the question came up about twinning on a parish level and helping a parish in need, I thought it was something that could be done.”

Seizing the initiative, Father Bambrick began an exchange of correspondences with Kasana-Luweero’s Bishop Cyprian Lwanga, who suggested that Father Bambrick contact Father Lazarus Luyinda, diocesan Chancellor and pastor of St. Joseph Katikamu Parish, a parish in dire need of assistance.

Through postal mail, facsimile and e-mail, the two pastors began making arrangements to form a parish partnership. The partnership was solidified last summer when Father Bambrick invited Father Luyinda to spend several weeks at St. Thomas More Parish where he could meet the parishioners, experience parish life, tour the Trenton Diocese and hopefully, finalize the details so the partnership could begin.

In researching Uganda, Father Bambrick said it was amazing to learn that while receiving an education was very important to the country’s people, it was also something that a lot of people could not afford.

“About 66 percent of the population is illiterate and are not able to read or write,” he said. “Father Lazarus talked a lot about education and that’s when it was decided that we would help St. Joseph Katikamu Parish in the area of education.”

During his visit last year, Father Luyinda had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C. with Father Bambrick where they toured many historical sites. The two major attractions for Father Luyinda, however, were attending a bill-signing on Africa by President Bush and visiting the Jefferson Memorial.

“Father Lazarus was most impressed with the Jefferson Memorial because it had a special exhibit underneath the museum called Education – The Light and Key of Liberty,” and in reading the late president’s words, he remarked on how “brilliant Jefferson must have been and how education is the key to transforming society,” said Father Bambrick, adding that “all the things that Father Lazarus saw in our country was due to” people receiving a good education.”

“I thought it would be a very good gift for my people” to have an opportunity to educate their children,” said Father Luyinda. “I thought if my people could be helped to educate their children this would be a long-term benefit. It would be something for life, because once you have it, no one can take it away.”

The Ugandan Education Sponsorship Program that the St. Thomas More Parish Council developed allows for parishioners to sponsor a child’s education. Under the meticulous coordination of Barbara Bucciaglia and Linda Andrew, the parish has had periodic sign-up Sundays in which families were given information about the child they chose to sponsor, including the child’s tribal name and Christian name, gender and grade level, and received a photograph and address.

While the families may correspond directly with their sponsored child, all pertinent information about the children’s backgrounds is provided by Father Luyinda, who sends it to Father Bambrick, who then passes it on to Bucciaglia and Andrew for processing. All financial transactions are handled through the two pastors.

The Ugandan Education Sponsorship Program was soon bursting at the seams. To date, St. Thomas More Parish has sponsored more than 325 children in primary and secondary grades.
“It was all fun in the beginning,” Bucciaglia said, “but the response of the parish has been great. It’s been very heartening and humbling in a way. The people in Uganda are so appreciative. We are just doing what God wants us to do – to help our brothers and sisters.”

“In the beginning, I was a little worried because there were so many children in need and our parish had never done anything like this,” Andrew admitted. “But after seeing the response, I realized that nothing is impossible. People have come together and have taken the initiative.”

Having a motorcycle certainly helps making easier to get around the village for Father Luyinda and Tony Ssennoga, executive secretary at St. Joseph Katikamu Parish, shown here.

St. Joseph Katikamu is a heavily populated parish with 15 substations, Father Luyinda said of his parish territory. Some of the substations are relatively close in mileage to the main church building, and the furthest is about 13 miles away. But he, along with a committee, see to it that people from all the substations have the opportunity to benefit from the education sponsorship program.

Of the educational structure, Father Luyinda said that unlike the United States where typically an eighth grade student is about 13 years old and a high school senior is about 18, the ages of the students in Uganda vary.

There could be a 20-year-old in a primary school with a group of six-year-olds because that might be the only opportunity that the 20-year-old had to go to school. The ages of students in the secondary school may be as high as 26.

Noting that there are about 650 students in the primary grade school and between 350 and 380 in the secondary grade school and since it costs about $300 a year to educate a student, Father Luyinda said that the primary goal of the Ugandan Education Sponsorship Program is to cover students’ tuitions. Any remaining money can be used to purchase desks, books and other school supplies.

“We want to make sure our kids are in school,” he said, but unfortunately the number of actual students attending school continues to decrease because so many simply cannot afford it.
While Father Bambrick reflects on having his parish twin with St. Joseph Katikamu Parish as having been a “marvelous experience,” he was quite frank when he said that in all honesty, “no one cares about Africa.”

There is a universal attitude that “if (the continent) were to be completely cut off, no one would shed a tear or miss it,” he said. “That is a place where the Church should have its focus very strongly. The Pentecostals have noticed that no one is there and they are flooding the place trying to help. Our Church should be working there also.”

Then pointing out how Cardinal Francis Arinze is regarded worldwide as a “leader in the Universal Church,” Father Bambrick said that, “people forget where he comes from.”

“There’s an example,” he said. “Africa produced a great cardinal for the Church. Let the Church do the same for Africa.”
For Father Luyinda, the question he often asks himself is “How could I have found myself here if it was not for Christ?”

“The Gospel says you have to change the world for the Kingdom of God is at hand,” he said. “People in my parish know what an education can mean. They know that we may educate a person who may one day find a cure for AIDS.”

“So much Christian brotherhood has been expressed in this cooperation” and for that we are very grateful,” he said. “Imagine having people who had never seen you or known you who are now calling you and loving you.

“This partnership, he said, “is about God working in the lives of my people.”

Manalapan parish seeks to help sister parish in many ways

Through assistance from St. Thomas More Parish, Father Luyinda was able to provide 15 cows for people in need. Here, Tony Ssennoga presents a cow to parishioner Allen Lubega

By Mary Stadnyk
MANALAPAN – As education is the main reason why St. Thomas More Parish elected to form a partnership with St. Joseph Katikamu Parish in the Diocese of Kasana-Luweero, the two pastors are pleased to say that St. Thomas More Parish has been able as well to help its sister parish in various other ways in the past year.

Thanks to the parishioners of St. Thomas More, Father Lazarus Luyinda, pastor of St. Joseph Katikamu, said he was able to provide 15 cows for people in need, but this year, the livestock has expanded to include cows, chickens, pigs and piglets. St. Joseph Katikamu has also been “blessed” to receive a computer with Internet access that was donated by the Englishtown Knights of Columbus Council.

Father Bambrick is privileged to be a sponsor for Rev. Mr. Charles Ntume, who will be ordained a priest next summer. Here, Bishop John M. Smith imposes hands on the head of Rev. Mr. Ntume during his diaconate ordination last month.

Because people in his parish are not familiar with how technology works, they are “fascinated” to see a letter coming out of a printer, Father John P. Bambrick, pastor of St. Thomas More Parish, said. “They think it’s magic.” Father Bambrick also shared that people in Father Luyinda’s parish are mesmerized when they see their pastor using a “palm pilot.” “They just can’t understand how the palm works,” he said. “They see him using a wand, which they think is a pen. But the wand does not write. They ask him why he is scratching that machine.”

For Father Bambrick, it has been his personal privilege to sponsor Charles Ntume who was ordained a transitional deacon for the Kasana-Luweero Diocese by Bishop John M. Smith in August, and next summer, Father Bambrick said he looks forward to traveling to Uganda to witness Rev. Mr. Ntume’s ordination to the priesthood.

“When priests are ordained, the bishop says, ‘May God who has begun this work in you see it through to its completion,” said Father Bambrick. “I think the Lord is working in this partnership between St. Joseph Katikamu and St. Thomas More Parishes to help bring about the Kingdom of God.”

© 2013 Parish of St. Thomas More Manalapan, NJ