A little more than a month away from her one-year anniversary of being named Program Coordinator-Uganda for CARITAS For Children’s child sponsorship program, I caught up with Sr. Carolyne Balikuddembe, Little Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi (LSOSF).
“Was there a moment in time when you decided, or felt a calling, to become a sister?”
“I remember very well when I was in Primary Three, we had a sister who taught us Catechism,” Sr. Carolyne says. “She was such a loving and caring sister who used to give us fruits, like ripe bananas, oranges, and mangoes, whenever we went to help the sisters. She was such an open sister who could share her life experiences with us. Through her sharing and words of wisdom, I was fully touched and had the desire to be like her.”
Sr. Carolyne is small in stature, with a warm, welcoming face. The impression her Catechism teacher, that particular sister, made on Sr. Carolyne during her time in Primary Three is clearly evident – her legacy continues in the way Sr. Carolyne seeks to serve and love every child with whom she works.
“Seeing all these sisters, their love, care, and generosity, contributed a lot to my desire of becoming a sister, and so by the grace of God and people of good will, I became a sister,” recalls Sr. Carolyne.
“Why did you choose to become a Little Sister of Saint Francis of Assisi?”
I’m especially curious about this choice—not just to serve, but to live in poverty and give completely to the poor. Though the example of Saint Francis has been followed since before his death in 1226, the path has become no less difficult.
Sr. Carolyne cites the story of Saint Francis as her inspiration, as it is for many.
Born sometime late in 1181 or early in 1182 to a prosperous cloth merchant; it is said that his father paid for knighthood and Francis rode off to war, only to be captured and waste away in prison. When he returned, Francis was a changed man.
It was Francis who rebuilt with his own hands the chapel of San Damiano outside of Assisi, and founded the Franciscan order. His followers dressed in rags and went out to beg, enduring harsh weather and mockery, dedicating their lives to service of the poor and respect for creation. Before his death in 1226, Francis received the stigmata, holy wounds to his hands and feet as if they had been pierced by nails on the cross, just as Jesus suffered. Only two years after he died, he was canonized, and his legacy lives on.
“I too felt the desire to follow Christ more closely and to be entirely dedicated to his service as a Franciscan and to live a life of sharing,” Sr. Carolyne says of her calling to religious life.
“What was the hardest thing you have ever had to do in your ministry as a sister?”
“The most challenging time I have ever experienced in my life was the time I was appointed to take Christ and His ministry to the people East of the Rift Valley in Kenya. It was my first time to leave my home country, [I] had no idea of the language and the food. It was a very hard time because everything was new to me so it was like joining Primary One again.”
“What is your favorite part of working with CARITAS For Children's child sponsorship program?”
Sr. Carolyne’s answer goes back to her roots as a child growing up in the Nkokonjeru area. “My favorite part about working with CARITAS For Children is going deep down in the villages where my people come from and listening to their stories. Oh my God, I enjoy it.”
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Her dreams are not of grandeur but of personal growth allowing for better service to others and the opportunity to give back and make a difference. “I see myself as a qualified sister in the area of social work with all the skills and techniques of reaching out to people of different classes and age.”
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