An invitation extended from Ursuline’s global department brought 46-year-old Fr. Stephen Lusiba all the way from Uganda to Dallas for the first time.
The friendship with Ursuline’s newest international guest began with a delegation’s visit to Kampala last April and continued to flourish as Fr. Stephen explored both Ursuline and Dallas for 10 days.
After founding his own secondary school in 2008, Fr. Stephen was happy to visit Ursuline and experience the atmosphere of an American school. His passion for education was evident in his expression as he discussed establishing St. Benedict’s School as a solution to challenges in his home diocese.
“I stress giving education to girls,” said Fr. Stephen. In Uganda, girls face the difficulty of a society that emphasizes marrying at a young age. Most parents view their daughter’s education as insignificant compared with the dower of cows or goats she receives upon her marriage.
In beginning St. Benedict’s, Fr. Stephen hoped to prevent girls from marrying at the age of 14 or 15, after they complete primary school. He says that there has been some improvement, but his next mission is to construct a dormitory for the girls who must walk four or five miles to the rural school. These girls face the danger of being harassed by men as they come to school and leave for home each day.
Fr. Stephen was impressed by the number of girls driving to Ursuline every morning, a major difference from his village where few people can even afford a bicycle. On Sundays, only three or four cars can be seen outside his church. Most of his parishioners walk to attend Mass.
The scope of Ursuline amazed Fr. Stephen, because back in Uganda only a university would have as large of a campus. With class sizes in his diocese ranging from 180 to 250 kids, Ursuline’s small classes surprised him as well.
“You can imagine one teacher controlling 250 kids,” he said, “[Ursuline] is so different from home.”
Ursuline does not control phone usage as much as St. Benedict’s, where students are not allowed to bring phones or radios to school. Parents and students sign a paper in agreement with this policy, and if a student is caught with a phone, the device will be destroyed publicly at an assembly.
Although he pointed out the differences in phone discipline, Fr. Stephen was glad to watch an Ursuline theology teacher show her students how to access the Bible with their phones, something he thought was very good.
Technology at Ursuline impressed Fr. Stephen greatly, from the individual laptops to every class having a projector. Only seven laptops are shared among all the students in the school closest to St. Benedict’s, and there is not one projector in his entire diocese, only blackboards.
In Uganda, Fr. Stephen celebrates the education that does go on. He enjoys seeing the children who come to his school growing in knowledge and transforming society in the process. He hopes that his work will contribute to changing the attitude towards education in his community.
Fr. Stephen admired and recognized the blessings and privileges of Ursuline girls, especially American society’s belief in girls’ education.
“Because you have many privileges, you can become important to yourselves and to society, and then you can help to improve other societies,” said Fr. Stephen.
And as he came to Dallas to learn about and experience Ursuline, Fr. Stephen welcomes Ursuline girls to travel to Uganda to encounter his culture and society. “I invite you; come to Uganda,” he said.