Newsletter from Africa – Sept 2014

Dear Friends of Africa,                                                       September 2014

In 1986, my sister, Kathleen Milliken, a Religious Sister of Mercy, came to Africa during her sabbatical. She remained with us for 6 weeks and accompanied me on all my safaris visiting various mission schools and convents throughout Tanzania. Nothing was too inconvenient for her nor too insignificant for her attention. She spent days in an African village with no running water or electricity. She ate the food with her African hosts out of a clay pot cooked over an open wood fire.

 Sr. Kathie’s African trip came to a close all too soon and the final farewell took place at the airport in Dar es Salaam. Just before going into the departure area, Kathie turned to me and said, “Now what do you want me to do?” Having seen so much I knew that she wanted in some way to be a part of it all. I said simply, ”I want college scholarships for African Sisters.” This was the Fall of 1986.

 In the Spring of 1988 four African Sisters were registered and began studies at Nazareth College of Rochester, NY. Nazareth College provided free tuition for our sisters but there were many other expenses to be met for room and board, health insurance, school fees, books, personal needs, etc which ran into the thousands of dollars each year. Sr. Kathleen and her Sister of St. Joseph counterpart, Maura Wilson, had to find ways to raise the money to cover these expenses over the the next 24 years. It entailed yearly appeals in parishes throughout the Rochester Diocese and  fundraising drives through the mail. My own family of sisters and nieces living in the Rochester area contributed to the success of the program by mentoring and tutoring the African Sisters. They and other family members living in various parts of the Eastern US included the Sisters in family gatherings and gave site seeing tours to help them learn and adapt to the new and sometimes strange American customs and ways.

 By 2012 twelve sisters from the Congregation of Our Lady of Usambara passed through this educational program and received teaching degrees from Nazareth. All of the sisters who participated in the program are now actively working in schools in Tanzania and four of them are principals of highly successful secondary schools for young African women. There are at present some 3000 young Tanzanian women in secondary schools under the care and guidance of of our African Sister graduates of Nazareth College.

 I recall so vividly the day when  the Sisters arrived in New York in the spring of 1988. As we drove through the tenement section of Brooklyn from Kennedy airport they were speechless as we passed the endless acres of storied brick apartment buildings. Finally one of the sisters blurted out, “Who made all these bricks?” Coming from our village environment where every building component is made by hand the task seemed insurmountable. They had a lot to learn and they did it very well.

 On our entrance exam the only criteria we set is the ability and desire to learn. Unfortunately I need hard cash to keep my schools functioning. For those able to pay the school fees we are grateful but for orphans and children of single mothers our doors are also open. Our gratitude goes out to you for helping to keep these doors wide open for these special and precious ones in the sight of the Lord.

                                   May the Good Lord bless you all abundantly,

                                                     Father Damian

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