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Sister Nancy Gunderson to teach AIDS orphans in Uganda
“You would be the first one…”
Sister Nancy Gunderson, a Benedictine Sister of Annunciation Monastery, Bismarck, pondered those words from words from Pam Kossan, a University of Mary alum and nurse who is leading the Mary Mission Team to Uganda. Sister Nancy was taken totally by surprise and didn’t think it could be possible, but the words burned in her soul.
“Will you come to Uganda with our mission team and teach for a week in July at St. Philomena Primary School? The school serves five villages with over 800 AIDS orphans. We want a sister to come. They have never experienced a sister. You would be the first one.”
“If we can make it happen, will you come?” Kossan repeated. Sister Nancy explained, “Something in me whispered “yes” not even knowing where that came from or what I was committing to or what could make it possible. I only knew the days and weeks ahead would confirm if that was a real call from the Spirit.”
Sister Nancy brought the request before the Annunciation Monastery prioress and council. It would be the first step in discernment. “Not expecting their affirmative response, I was again surprised by their “yes” and even their encouragement,” she said. As plans and funds began falling into place, Sister Nancy was reassured that this is where God is leading her.
The school where Sister Nancy will teach in Uganda is named after St. Philomena so she contacted The Universal Living Rosary Association, who take St. Philomena as their patroness to see if they would be willing to donate 350 medals of St. Philomena and 500 rosaries for the children. The Association responded with a “yes,” and surprised Sister Nancy with a 27.1# box of everything she requested and more. The local bishop in Uganda will bless they school when Sister Nancy and the mission group are there to dedicate the new church that is currently being built.
“We needed to collect toothbrushes and toothpaste to take to Africa, and it just so happened that a bag of 150 of them were left over from a charity project the Sisters of Annunciation Monastery donated to,” explained Sister Nancy.
The children at St. Philomena’s need black Oxford-style shoes, with ties, as part of their school uniform so they can trudge through the rough terrain to get from their villages to school. Sister Nancy’s family in Minneapolis took her to Once Upon a Child when she was visiting and purchased eight pair of black tie shoes to bring to the children. More shoes are being collected for children ages four through the teens.
Sister Nancy, who is also a professor at the University of Mary, is engaging students with this project so they can use their skills to fundraise, apply for grants, and make a difference in the lives of the orphans. While in Uganda, she will teach the children about the Blessed Virgin Mary. Sister Nancy is amazed about how the spirit is working as plans fall into place for this new call in her life. She says, “My heart is being converted as I say ‘Yes’ to each step.’”
Sister Nancy, a gifted artist, is in the process of making a story art quilt about St. Philomena and the school and church in Uganda, which she will present to the children. The quilt tells the story about St. Philomena and includes the names of the children who will attend the school where Sister Nancy will teach.