Bridgewater parish supports Ugandan Catholic school project
EAST BRIDGEWATER -- At St. Benedict Secondary School in Kasambya, Uganda, class starts promptly at 7:30 a.m.
However, students tend to arrive closer to 9 a.m., because they must walk anywhere from four to seven miles to get to school each day.
Kasambya is a small rural town in a remote part of southwest Uganda. Children are at risk of being recruited by gangs or kidnapped on the way to school. Girls are forced into sexual slavery, while boys are forced to fight in local militias. Their parents, largely peasant farmers, often struggle to afford St. Benedict's $600 annual tuition fee. Adults on the side of the road wait for kids to walk by, convincing them to take up odd jobs to support their families rather than continue their education. Those who do make it to school are exhausted and in no condition to learn -- and they will have to repeat their trek at the end of the day.
Father Stephen Lusiba of the Diocese of Kiyinda-Mityana in Uganda has spent the last four summers at the Together in Christ Collaborative in Bridgewater. He has spent the last two summers raising funds to build a boys dormitory at St. Benedict, which will keep students close to school and safe from outside threats. A girls dormitory has existed at St. Benedict since 2020.
"Our students love studies," Father Lusiba told The Pilot. "They like to go to school. They like dormitories. The challenge is the poverty."
The boys dormitory, which will house 350 students with electricity and running water, is scheduled for completion at the end of 2026. It will cost over $195,000 to build. So far, only $20,000 has been raised, half from Uganda and half from "some good people" in Bridgewater.
Father Lusiba first came to Massachusetts in 2006, to raise funds for the school's construction. That's when he met Father Paul Ring, then a priest at St. Mark-St. Ambrose Parish in Dorchester. Father Lusiba spent the following summers in parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Boston, eventually following Father Ring to Bridgewater.
"I think assisting Father Stephen and St. Benedict in this way helps my people to understand that we're a universal Church," Father Ring said. "That our brotherhood and sisterhood with our fellow Catholics extends beyond the walls of the church and beyond the borders of the parish."
Every time Father Lusiba visits Bridgewater, Father Ring takes up a special collection to raise money for the school. When he celebrates Mass, Father Lusiba speaks about the challenges that the school and its students face.
"I thank them," Father Lusiba said of those who donated. "I thank Father Paul, that he connects me to the people. I'm appealing to the generosity of the people."
Father Lusiba has seen firsthand how a quality education can make or break the future of young Ugandans.
"We have so many drop-outs," he said. "They tried, they didn't make it, they can't afford it... Some of them are thieves, drunkards. Some of them do petty jobs. They are just living very simple lives."
Those who do make it through school, however, go on to become teachers, nurses, and accountants, among other careers.
Father Ring told the Pilot that donating to the school is a way for parishioners to "see beyond their own needs."
"I really do think that we have a generous spirit in the parishes," he said, "and not just in money... It helps them to see the folks of Uganda as their brothers and sisters in Christ."
Those interested in learning more about the dormitory project can email Father Lusiba at email@example.com.