Giving Water, Giving Life in Gulu

Associate Carolyn HenryCSJ Associate and analytical chemist Carolyn Henry to work on water purification in Gulu

by Sister Mary Flick, CSJ

Serving the dear neighbor in Gulu, Uganda is not just a work for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. It is a mission that also holds an attraction for Associate Carolyn Henry. Carolyn, an analytical chemist, leaves for Uganda on Feb. 11 and will live with the three CSJs there while she tests community well water in and around Gulu during her 12-week stay.  

Living in Africa is nothing new to Carolyn. She spent a month in South Africa in 2001 and feels a pull to return. “The people are really attractive to me,” Carolyn says. “I love their beautiful faces.” Carolyn says she entertained the idea of volunteering to be the housekeeper for the sisters who are missioned in Gulu. “I know I could survive in Africa, physically and psychologically.”

Her chance to make her hope a reality came last August when she spoke with Sister Marion Weinzapfel,when Sister Marion was home from Gulu. Sister Marion has been a part of the CSJs' Gulu Ministry Project since it's inception in 2008.  “I asked her what kind of skills might be useful. I don’t have the background in catechetics or nursing. But I do have science,” Carolyn says. “One thing that was mentioned was water testing.”

As these possibilities were being discussed, the province received word about a group called Water with Blessings, which provides kits to purify drinking water in Africa. A contact was made. The director of Water with Blessings will meet with Carolyn and province leadership on Feb. 3 to see if a partnership might be formed. This would enable Carolyn to offer more than testing during her time in Uganda.

Water with Blessings provides water purification kits and training to village women who are identified as leaders. This empowers women in the community to provide a valuable service. Carolyn could provide that training during her stay.

So Carolyn’s mission is taking shape – and then some. “I hope to test for general bacterial presence in the water,” Carolyn says. “The kits being used test primarily for several chemical entities and a general bacterial presence.” She plans to purchase 10 kits at no more than $22 each. “I can take 12 easily in my luggage,” she says. “I’ve had a few people say, ‘I’ll buy a kit,’ so I might be taking more.”

But this isn’t just Carolyn’s ministry. It belongs to the associates, through her use of the Countess Account, which is covering the cost of her airfare and immunizations. The account is named for Countess Felicie de la Rochejacquelein, sometimes called the first associate, who paid for the first six sisters’ passage to the United States. It was established by the Associate Advisory Board with donations from Associates to provide financial assistance for associates who need assistance in covering the cost of participating in community events.

Carolyn has one message for her fellow associates: “Thank you for funding.” She also adds, “I would like anyone to get involved in what they are passionate about.”

She sees her 12 weeks as a way of living the CSJ charism. “This is a way of being with the poor and helping them to help themselves. I am delighted for the opportunity and the connection to this mission.”


 

If you would like to sponsor a water testing kit, contact Carolyn at chenry@csjsl.org.

If you would like to donate to the Countess Account, make checks payable to Sisters of St. Joseph and write “Countess Account” on the check. Send checks to: Associate Peggy Maguire, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, 6400 Minnesota Ave., St. Louis, MO 63111.

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