Relationship with the Diocese
Brief history of past exchanges and an introduction to 2015 pilgrimage
1993 The relationship began as Reverend Woodrow Pace spent a year of his seminary discernment in Uganda. It was during that time that Father Pace committed to maintaining a relationship with the people of Uganda. In 1997, Dr. Jean Grade, a veterinarian and St. Mary’s parishioner, began work with the Karamojong, a pastoralist tribe in central western Uganda. These two relationships helped to concretize the parish commitment to the people of Uganda and inspire an ongoing exchange.
June 2001 A pilgrimage was announced in the parish and positively received by its members. As a result, twelve people from St. Mary’s Neillsville traveled to the Diocese of Kiyinda-Mityana (K.M.D.) through the invitation and efforts of Reverend Emmanuel Kiganda, Director of the Diocesan Youth Office. The pilgrims visited parishes and schools in K.M.D. A service project was organized for the pilgrims who helped construct a new home for a family in Naama Parish. At that time the primary focus evolved to include St. Kizito High School, a boarding school for girls administrated by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This first pilgrimage included four High School Sophomores who subsequently witnessed to their faith and the Ugandan experience.
July 2002 Three people from St. Mary’s traveled to Uganda to assist with travelers coming from the Diocese of Kiyinda-Mityana on the first exchange attempt to the United States. In light of the tragedy of September 11, 2001 the task proved more difficult than anticipated. After three visits to the U.S. Embassy, two of nine visas were granted to Sr. Salome Nnambi and Leonard Kavuma. Gratefully, they traveled to Neillsville and the relationship continued to grow.
September 2003 A growing relationship with the US Embassy in Kampala and an increasing trust between people of different cultures finally met success. Nine representatives from K.M.D. applied for visas and each received the necessary passport stamp. Sr. Salome Nnambi accepted to be the leader of the small group, which included several minors. During their stay they visited people of St. Mary’s Neillsville; St. Joseph’s Prescott, Columbus Catholic High School, Marshfield; and St. Charles Borromeo, Genoa expanding relationships and faith. Today, these contacts continue to offer the benefits of such faithful exchanges.
May 30 – June 15, 2004 Two pilgrims, one from St. Mary, Neillsville and on her third journey to Uganda, the other on the teaching faculty and representing Columbus Catholic High School, Marshfield, traveled to the Diocese of Kiyinda-Mityana to further the relationship and establish the “Clean Water Project”. Donated school supplies were also delivered to schools located within K.M.D.
September 2004 Columbus Catholic High School Mission Club helps Ugandan schools by providing uniforms for elementary school and mosquito nets for the dormitory at St. Kizito High School.
December 15, 2005 to January 17, 2006 Sister Salome Nambi and Sister Immaculate Nassuuma travel to United States to continue relationship. Together they visited parishes, communities, schools and homes. It was on this trip that Sr. Immaculate was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. They were forced to cut the trip short and return. Sr. Immaculate passed away less than two weeks after their return. When they are able the pilgrims visit her grave site at the Mother House and to pray.
July 19 – August 4, 2006 10 pilgrims travel to Uganda to continue the “Clean Water Project.”
Pilgrims came from 3 states, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois. Due to the donations of many, six wells were refurbished. Each traveler took a tote of donated items.
July 2 – July 18, 2009 24 pilgrims from four states travel to Uganda to begin the building of the Our Lady of Guadalupe School. The native workers completed the school and it was opened in January of 2011. In five years the hope is to have 1,000 students. Totes were filled with donated items: clothing, medical supplies, shoes, etc.
December 5, 2011 to January 31, 2012 Sister Salome Nambi traveled to United States to continue building the relationship and help raise funds for the library addition to the Our Lady of Guadalupe School.
June 12 – June 28, 2012 27 pilgrims traveled to begin the library addition to the Our Lady of Guadalupe School. The pilgrims include the family of Jesse Parker of Tomah. As a High School sophomore he had a engineering dream and vision of bringing clean water to people of Africa. After his death in car accident on a family vacation, his family and community are carrying out his plan. The School and the Jesse Parker Well will be blessed and dedicated during the pilgrimage. The library construction was completed by Ugandan workers. 27 totes of donated items were transported and distributed locally through the pilgrims help.
Summer 2013 A student of St. Ann Parish in Hamel, Minnesota, Connor Matthews, raised funds and traveled to St. Kizto and Our Lady of Guadalupe High Schools to experience life in Uganda. Acting on his own passion for playing soccer, while at Our Lady of Guadalupe he began work on the construction of a sports field for the new school. This remains an ongoing project between him and the school.
Spring 2014 A group of four women of Tomah travel with Jenny Parker to continue and expand the relationship with the villages surrounds the two schools. Traveling with them are News Anchor Mike Thompson and Photojournalist Travis Kobs from Channel 8, La Crosse. They eventually created the award winning story “Tears to Water” which highlights the impact of Jesse Parker’s legacy and what his family and the Tomah community have created. The travelers also work to continue what has become a substantial relationship and grant connecting Rotary Clubs through Rotary International and the local population in the creation of a Chicken Farm, a Sewing School and a Woods Shop. The efforts seeks to support growth in small business endeavors and area development.
July 14 – July 30, 2014 29 pilgrims traveled for the first time from St. Ann Parish in Hamel, Minnesota. The group was organized and led by Jeff Riether and involved pilgrims from the parish and beyond. The purpose of the pilgrimage was to begin work on the construction of a Science Lab, Sewing Institute and a room for the school guard. During this trip a connection was also made between the Kopp Family of Minnesota and Fr. Pontian Kaweesa. Together they have been developing a local clinic in Fr. Ponce’s home town of Kambaala. For the first time, the mission also included a safari to national parks of the west.
June 11 – June 23, 2015 15 pilgrims journeyed together from four different states, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas and Florida to Uganda. The group continued work on the Science Lab building and blessed 14 new wells established from the friends of Jesse Parker. Friends of the Parker Family, Amy and Marcus, who lost their daughter, Alyssa in her young years after a long battle with illness, were present as they blessed a new well in her name. The group included Katie Danzinger, a parishioner and Shamal Fernando, a friend of St. John the Apostle Parish, Whitehall. The Pilgrims were also privilege to meet and work with the Rubaga Rotary Club continuing the grant work and local developments.