BREMERTON – Arriving in Uganda late at night, Tammi Murray from Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish was greeted by Father Reuben Mubangizi’s booming voice: “Welcome to the glorious darkness!”
The purpose of that first trip in 2010, Murray recalled, was discussing a potential sister parish relationship with Mary, Mother of the Church, Nyakishenyi, in southwestern Uganda, where Father Mubangizi is pastor.
“I didn’t start fundraising for three years,” said Murray, chair of the Bremerton parish’s sister parish ministry.
Now the ministry raises money for a variety of projects, including rainwater collection tanks, Internet access, student sponsorships, and solar power and a maternity ward for the sister parish’s health center.
So far, Bremerton parishioners have raised enough money to install five water tanks in partnership with the Uganda Water Project, providing clean water for 2,000 people living outside cities.
“In rural areas, people usually collect water from low areas and streams, so this will have a big impact,” Murray said.
The Ugandan sister parish, headquartered in Kajumiro, serves a mainly rural population of 50,000, Murray said. The nearest Internet access point is two hours away, so Our Lady Star of the Sea parishioners raised money that the sister parish used to install a 3G antenna atop the parish rectory.
Tammi Murray (left) and Stephanie Stinnett from Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Bremerton are welcomed in March 2015 by the children at St. Elizabeth Primary School in Uganda. The school is operated by the Bremerton parish’s sister parish. Photo: Cody Stinnett
During a visit last March, Murray brought along a donated network switch. The sister parish ministry is raising money for a router and other items needed to provide Internet service; the project is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Once the system goes live, the parish’s priests, health center staff and teachers will have Internet access.
In September, nearly $5,000 was raised for the health center projects during the sister parish ministry’s third annual dessert auction. Most of that money is paying for the solar power system, expected to be completed by the end of October, Murray said. Donations are still being sought for construction of the maternity ward, expected to cost $28,000, she said.
During the dessert auction, Murray and three other parishioners shared stories of their two-week trip to Uganda last spring to visit water tank sites and deliver school supplies they collected from fellow parishioners and friends.
Stephanie Stinnett made the journey with her husband Cody, leaving their 18-month-old son in his grandmother’s care. “I’ve always been an adventurous person,” Stinnett said of the decision to make the trip.
In Uganda, Stinnett said, she learned a lot about generosity and true happiness. “So many of the people there are very poor, but they are some of the happiest and most generous I have known,” she said.
The sister parish ministry continues raising money for more water tanks. Murray is recruiting “tank teams,” an idea suggested by parishioner Ginny Gates. Each team — consisting of parishioners along with families, friends or coworkers — makes a commitment to raise the $3,600 cost of a water tank over the course of a year. The team members will write to the sister parish, asking for prayers to meet their goal. One team signed up at the auction, Murray said.
The next sister parish ministry trip to Uganda is being planned for January, when Murray said she hopes to attend the baptism of her Ugandan goddaughter. “This project has become an integral part of my life,” she said, smiling.
How to help
Donate to Our Lady Star of the Sea’s sister parish ministry by sending a check to the parish office, 1513 6th St., Bremerton, WA 98337. Write “sister parish ministry” in the memo line.
This article has been corrected.