GREEN BAY — One Green Bay woman is on a mission to help a young Ugandan student realize her dream of helping people in her African country. Thanks in part to the Catholic Foundation’s global mission projects, Pat DeGroot was able to bring Conaria Nansubuga to Green Bay and enroll her in college.
Conaria (Connie) arrived in late August to spend a year or more living with DeGroot in her east-side home while starting her education. Connie, 18, was chosen from the student body of Stella Maris, an all-girls boarding school in Nsuube, Mukona, Uganda, that houses 1,200 girls, age 6 to 20.
DeGroot, a former teacher and widow, opened her home to Connie and began seeking funding support for her education months before she arrived here.
DeGroot served, with her late husband, Dale, as parish director in Oconto Falls, Stiles, Clintonville and Bear Creek. She returned to Green Bay and Prince of Peace Parish in 2010 and is a member of the Benedictine Oblates.
Connie was an A-student at Stella Maris, living in a dorm where girls slept in bunkbeds stacked three high. She is the ninth child in a family of 12 children and the first to come to the United States. Her siblings range in age from 34 to 11. One brother is in Italy and three others are in the seminary. Her father has a small mechanics business and her mother tends to the home and children.
Stella Maris is operated by Sr. Juliette Nakayiza, a member of the Little Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. Stella Maris is one of 28 short-term global mission projects that Catholics in the Diocese of Green Bay can support. (See sidebar story at right for more information.)
DeGroot is the Green Bay contact for Sr. Juliette and her order. DeGroot first met Sr. Juliette in Erie, Pa., when the nun was working on her bachelor’s degree. They met again when Sr. Juliette was at Alverno College in Milwaukee to work on a master’s degree. DeGroot visited Stella Maris last Easter and met Connie, whom Sr. Juliette had described as “a wonderful young lady, a beautiful gifted person.”
Mission organizers hope that Connie will complete her education and return to her country to fulfill the dream of Sr. Juliette: to be empowered to meet the challenging future that awaits her, especially on the African continent.
After picking up Connie at O’Hare Airport in Chicago on Aug. 25, following a lengthy trip from Uganda to Brussels and Chicago, DeGroot said Connie began her studies at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. She takes a city bus to campus and has been able to find her way around the massive school, where she finds classmates and staff friendly and helpful.
DeGroot said Sr. Juliette “runs her school completely on faith and trust in God.” The sisters are the only support Stella Maris school receives.
DeGroot does the same in her mission to get Connie educated. She shopped at Goodwill to find clothes for Connie and family and friends are also sending clothes to her. DeGroot, who taught music, is helping Connie learn to play the keyboard until a piano, given by a relative, arrives in Green Bay. Connie has joined the choir at Prince of Peace.
Connie’s only complaint thus far is the onset of winter. She shivered in the 50-degree temperatures of early October and wore a heavy sweatshirt and woolen scarf to keep warm.
Uganda is located just five degrees from the equator, DeGroot noted. Heat was a challenge at Stella Maris, where dorms had metal roofs. The girls had to use latrines with no drainage, and washing up and doing laundry took place in the same small room where water was in short supply. Connie marveled at DeGroot’s clothes dryer the first time she realized that her clothes actually got dry in the machine. Foodwise, she has enjoyed spaghetti, chicken, eggs, chips, pizza and pie crust.
Connie has a heavy load for a first-timer at NWTC. She’s carrying 13 credits. Her classes include Introduction to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Chemistry and Sociology. She dreams of becoming a doctor.
“I want to help people, especially because back home people are so helpless,” Connie said. “They come for treatment, but they have no money for treatment. If I could just do something to help…”