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Ohio and Uganda: Liberty Township Parish Forms Relationship with African Parish & School

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Mary Jo Suer in Uganda

by Regan Meyer

Liberty Township, OH, and Soroti, Uganda, are worlds apart, but a twinning ministry between St. Maximilian Kolbe parish in Ohio and St. Patrick parish in Uganda has shown that distance and language are hardly barriers when it comes to the love of Christ.

It all started when Dan Suer met Father Simon Peter Wakanya when he was on assignment at St. Max. As Suer and Father Wakanya grew closer, Father told Suer stories about his home in Uganda.

“I had been getting to know him. And I could tell that most of the people are living for the basic needs of life every day. All I wanted to do was help,” Suer said.

After pinpointing the most urgent need, Suer joined with other parishioners to donate funds and build a girls’ dormitory at the Ugandan parochial school, Holy Angels College. As other needs began to surface, one of the staff members at St. Max suggested a twinning ministry – a bonding relationship between two Catholic churches. While financial aid is an aspect of the ministry, it focuses on forming personal and spiritual relationships between the two parishes.

“I just wanted to help Father’s people,” Suer said. After much prayer and discernment, Suer agreed to lead the ministry and introduced it to St. Max in Feb. 2019. He shared with his fellow parishioners about the twinning ministry and the positive effects it could have on the parish. A few months later, in Aug. 2019, the parishioners of St. Max and St. Patrick signed a covenant to work together. Since the beginning of the twinning ministry, St. Max has built a boys’ dormitory for Holy Angels, started pen pal relationships with the 161 deacons at St. Patrick, and almost finished construction on a science building for the school, as well.

“The goal was prayer, praying together, comforting each other,” Father Henry Hagit of St. Patrick said. “It materialized into supporting each other. We really appreciate the effort of St. Max.”

One of the biggest projects that St. Max has undertaken is the Lenten Ox Plow Project. In March 2020, the parish raised $81,000 to provide the family of each deacon with a set of oxen, a yoke and a plow. David Okwii of the Ox Plow Project in Uganda said the project is already bringing positive changes to the lives of the deacons.

“They have already benefited from the bulls which they got,” Okwii said. “Manual labor has been addressed. They no longer use their hands. They now have a revenue stream.”

While St. Max has helped change the lives of St. Patrick’s parishioners through monetary support, the bigger impact has been through personal and spiritual relationships. Suer and his team participate in What’s App calls with those in Uganda to maintain relationships. And the parishes have had virtual gatherings.

“The relationship has continued to grow,” Suer said. “My heart is just overjoyed and has overflowed. I’ve seen that happening in St. Max, too.”

Father Wakanya, who is currently in Soroti, said that the people’s faith has been strengthened because of the twinning relationship.

“It is not common to have friends who are willing to go with you an extra mile and who are like God sent to uplift your faith and accept you as family and, above all, a child of God. May God help us to trust one another, to love beyond borders and broaden our families by opening our doors so that more may come into our homes and hearts,” said Father Wakanya.

Ask anyone involved in the ministry and they’ll tell you that it’s all been a gift from God.

“We really appreciate that this is the grace of God,” said Father Michael Omaria, a priest at St. Patrick. “There are so many things that you can teach to us. There are so many things that we can also teach to you. They are able to help us to appreciate our faith. That is fundamental. It is faith that has brought us together.”

This article appeared in the October edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.



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