RSCJ Uganda/Kenya Province | Sharing my story

The Story of Josephine Adibo

Josephine AdiboI am the third born in a polygamous family of seven. I have been blessed to be born in a family of very strong bonds in the North Eastern part of Uganda. I have a step mother who lives with my mum but the bonds we have for each other as a family make this reality completely invisible. It is one of those areas as family we always giggle about. Everyone who comes to our family thinks my step mother is our eldest sister. My step mum and my mum enjoy laughing at this fact. This reality, normal though in the Teso culture built in me the ability to live inclusively with any person beyond space or time; all of which have helped me in living internationality in my vocation and in mission. I was baptized and brought up a Catholic and have always felt tremendously loved by God, my family and our extended family.

It was when I was a student in Trinity College Nabbingo that my dad introduced me to old Kampala parish church where we used to go for Mass as a family. I belonged to the youth group of the parish every holiday I was home. It was during this time that the life of Sr. Doreen Boland touched me profoundly for there was something about her that drew all the Christians in the parish close to her. She was busier than the parish priest because everyone wanted to see her and share with her their life journeys. I was one of them. I was so touched by her love for people, her ability to empower people, the big wide space of her heart that included everyone irrespective of their status. I shared with her about my desire to be a religious. As a matter of fact I was already in communication with the vocation directress of the Little sisters of St. Francis of Assisi most of whom are in my home diocese. Doreen gave me many books on different religious congregations to read. However, what she least expected was that I wanted to know who she was since I had not seen a religious sister without a habit; and that I would even ask her to meet members of her own congregation. She took me one Sunday to Gaba community for lunch. There wasn’t a single African in the community that Sunday. I was so touched by the way the Sisters listened to each other with interest and shared stories that spoke to me of a family like my own “see how they love one another”. I was convinced they were from the same country; only to be told by Doreen that they were not. There and then I knew in the depth of my heart that that is where I wanted to be for I felt so much at home within myself; and I still do since then despite our differences that I do know now. That encounter brought home to me a strong sense of our internationality and the prophetic dimension of our spirituality in these women’s’ way of living that did not leave any room for differences but brought out the strong fact of unity in diversity.

I entered the Society in 1990 as a postulant and made my first vows in 1993. I made my final vows in 2001 with a wonderful probation group whom I treasure very much to date. Our group was given the name that pretty much explains my childhood experience and the way I have lived my life as a religious “Interculturality lived deeply” This formed and predisposed me to live freely and make a home wherever I am sent.

I have served with dedication in the two home countries of our province and for six years was on the Provincial Council. Serving on the Provincial Council then taught me a lot of the reality of the Society and the province. I was happy to have contributed a bit of myself to the building of the Society here in East Africa. This I continue to do. Right now I am in the middle of my first year in charge of the young professed in the Province. I see a lot of potential in our young professed since I started walking the journey of life with them in January. My service with the young professed is more of being the hands of support for them as they unfold into all they can be. It is to affirm and encourage them as they each continue to be strengthened each day to fly with their own wings; and since I am getting older, that a little bit of their youthfulness may sustain the child within me.

As a young professed and part of my finally professed years I taught in Kangole Girls Secondary School – Karamoja; and worked concurrently with the Diocesan Education office as facilitator for the training of primary school teachers in the Diocese, on the updating of the teaching of Christian Religious Education in Moroto Diocese. I also facilitated seminars on Human development to the student nurses of Matany hospital most of who were my students in Kangole. I learnt a lot during these years of the value of planning, resilience, steadfastness of purpose and keeping to the essentials. These years of my life were formative, intellectually and spiritually in terms of multi-tasking given the fact that I already had a full time job in Kangole. They prepared me for the future ahead of me especially in my present mission. They were years of constantly delving into the hands of God calling me forth into my innermost space to discover the inexhaustible possibilities born of faith within me that I did not even know that I had. I give thanks and reverence to the people and experiences in Karamoja for the valuable formation they gave me.

Presently, I am a lecturer of Psychology at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi. I am also the University Counseling psychologist and the overall administrator of the counseling services in the University including its campuses. I am as well pursuing PhD studies in Counseling Psychology at the University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa.

The Catholic University of Eastern Africa where I work presently is a multicultural university of different congregations of religious men and women, of married women and men, of single men and women and an ecumenical community. I am happy working here as it brings out humanizing spaces of unity in diversity so much needed in our world. Relationships in CUEA are rich and varied stretching our students and staff to widen their tents. It is like one big banquet of life.

I have been so much energized in my work of education with young people when I see the way they unfold in confidence, handling their lives with a sense of purpose into the future. In my service of Counseling I have been elated when I see my clients “pick up their mat and walk” when they thought all was lost. In these points of my life I cannot but thank God for His Spirit working within me and among us. Indeed he releases all the possibilities within us to carry out his mission because he frees our spirit to trust completely in his inner workings and miracles through us. Indeed God will never take us where his grace will not sustain us. I am so grateful to the Society of the Sacred Heart for having enabled me study psychology because it has helped me so much in keeping to what is essential and it has built my inner person from within in a way I may not be able to explain in words.

CUEA peer counselors in community service with high school studentsCUEA peer counselors in community service with high school studentsThe other thing I have been so happy about is the initiative I took to train Peer Counselors for the University in self awareness and basic counseling skills through growth groups. This training takes one year. The program has helped to transform so many students for the better and to build them into the adults they want to be; today I see transformed leaders among them most of who have been employed by the University and corporate organizations. As a result of this, the University management board has requested that the program be made into a general course for all the students in the university. For the University management it may be something unique but for any rscj anywhere it is basically what defines our fourth vow of education, bringing out the aspect of transformative education, helping the students to believe in themselves, to risk being the change they want to see for themselves, their university and the world. Again I cannot but thank the Society of the Sacred Heart for the solid formation we have received as rscj that allows us to stand to be counted on. Indeed give credit where it is due; I give it to the Society of the Sacred Heart where I am very proud to belong.

In addition, in a multicultural University like CUEA, I cannot but share the prophetic dimension of our congregation’s internationality, depicting, by my way of acting and relating with others, that living interculturality is possible. This is a value especially here in Africa, where tribalism is an issue.

Josephine Adibo, RSCJ, chatting with some old people in Nyumbani Home, NairobiCUEA students entertaining the old people in Nyumbani Home, NairobiFinally, I reverence and trust in the work of God in each of my students. “I believe in their potential to be and to become, each, unique as he or she is”. I try to nurture that by being fully present to them. In my way of being and acting with them I try to send the message that they matter and are important persons, no matter what their status. I love to draw out the best in them by listening to them and affirming them. I help them also to live beyond themselves, open to the sufferings of those who are crying out for help. I do this by exposing them to what affects the society out there. They do this together with people in those communities by running needs assessments and developing interventions that address the most pressing issues in those communities. This is done by going out to do community service. Community service is one of the pillars of the Catholic University. We then listen to their sharing of how the issues out there affect them, and how they envisage themselves in being agents of change in that particular community. This boils down to them either running a workshop, a seminar or planning physical work once every semester at the venue or mentoring of the people through informative and formative workshops. Specialists in the area they are handling go with them not so as to overshadow them but to be a background support for them to consult until they are strong enough to fly with their own wings. I have been blessed in witnessing how much potential our youth have if we can only believe in them enough. This is one of the ways I have concretely lived our 2008 chapter on youth empowerment.

I continue to give thanks to the God who is, was and will be.
Josephine Adibo, RSCJ