In January 2012 the province of Uganda-Kenya celebrated 50 years since its foundation. Several European, Australian and North American RSCJ who have served there were able to return to join in the celebrations. One was England-Wales's Frances Lynch (pictured below in the procession of RSCJ), who served in Uganda-Kenya for a total of 23 years, mostly in Karamoja (Uganda) and Chekalini (Kenya), as well as short periods in Kampala and Tach Asis.
From the beginning I was greatly impressed by the generosity of our Ugandan sisters, meeting us at Entebbe very late on successive nights up to the last days before the celebration. The ones who didn't come to the airport stayed up to greet us in their nighties! We had a very prayerful preparatory triduum, followed by two free days when visitors either went out or were employed in various ploys. The elderly had the more sedentary jobs, such as checking books, which gave me the chance to spend time catching up with an old friend.
The highlights of the great Jubilee Day were, for me, people, such as meeting two of the lovely Comboni sisters who had cared for my sisters in hospital 30 years ago, as well as bishops and priests who are old friends. I was asked to carry up a small banana plant at the offertory, while others took huge baskets of fruit and chickens, handing them to Cardinal Wamala. After Mass there were speeches, followed by entertainment with dances from the students from each of our schools while we had drinks and lunch. Then we had a “march past” of representatives from our schools, including wee Kevin, the head boy of St Madeleine Sophie Home for the Disabled – a triumph. Everyone seemed so happy and contented with the celebration.
Next morning most of the visitors left in different directions; I was lucky to get a lift to Kenya with Jennifer, our first Kenyan rscj. We left at 9am, arrived at Chekalini at 9pm then on to Eldoret - and straight to bed! I spent a couple of days in Eldoret, visited the parish and heard from Margaret Mwarili, who was also staying there, about her work with the Jesuit Refugee Service. I then went to Chekalini with the two Margots, swopping places with the three visitors there. In the morning I attended a parish Mass which included baptisms and First Communions; then, that afternoon an old boyfriend, now in his 20s, took me to his home to show me his plans to build a house nearby for his disabled brothers. From there I went to see Patrick the ambulance driver’s family. On Monday morning I went to the St Madeleine Sophie Home: Hadigah’s smile was still there, and I had the great joy of meeting other old friends too and seeing our dream of a home and school for the disabled come to life. We also went to see Hadigah’s mother, who is so happy about her daughter at school.
After this I visited our communities in Nairobi and Karen (a very nice house which I had never seen). I went to Mass in Kibera for the opening of the school year, and spent some time having photos taken! Then, all too soon, it was time to return home, and be warmly welcomed back by my community...
(Since this was written Frances has died, in October 2015 - RIP)