Fontbonne University's Gulu Immersion Project

Lori Helfrich, Fontbonne University's campus minister, shares her heart with her fellow Gulu delegates.

by Kelly Davis, communications intern

“People take their best gifts over and use them in order to help the community," says Sister Marion Weinzapfel about past volunteers for the CSJs Gulu Mission. This is exactly what Fontbonne University is striving for through sending a group of 10 students, faculty and staff to Uganda for Fontbonne’s own Gulu Immersion Project.

The Gulu Immersion Project will take place from July 23 until August 6. Lori Helfrich, Fontbonne University’s campus minister, has been working on fundraising and planning for many months to ensure everything falls into place.

Lori says that in Gulu, the group “will go to listen to the people, to hear their stories and learn from their culture. We will visit the maternity clinic, connect with Sacred Heart University and learn about Uganda and its culture all while building relationships with both the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and the people of Uganda.”

This group is not planning to visit empty handed either. They will be bringing 240 water filters and prenatal vitamins with them.

Lori also explains that one of the major reasons they decided to undertake this project was to allow the students to feel a personal connection with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the founders of the school they attend. Fontbonne University students see sisters on campus from time to time, yet many of students are unaware of how far the CSJ ministries reach and who or how their ministries serve.

She references the sisters going to Uganda in 2008 after war had ended and how they asked themselves, “How do we help people be in right relationship again?” That idea really helped Lori to feel connected to the CSJs, and she hopes the students will be able to feel this same connection.

Lori also hopes this project will help the students to open their eyes not only to look at the world around them but also to look into themselves. Most of all she hopes the students are able to bring back what they will learn to their friends and families, Fontbonne and the general community.

Abby Towle, a 2016 Fontbonne graduate, is excited for her opportunity to serve in Gulu. Abby decided to go on the Gulu Immersion Project because she thinks “it is critical for young people to be submerged in different cultures to gain a global awareness on how people on the other side of the world live, feel, think and experience day-to-day tasks. Also, it is an important part of the Fontbonne mission that students are taught to be global citizens.”

Overall, Lori believes that by attending the Gulu Immersion Project, the students will be able to value and understand the sisters’ work not only in the lives of others, but also in their own lives.

On July 19 there was a blessing ceremony for the Fontbonne participants of the Gulu Immersion trip. Kind words and many hugs were shared from sisters to the students and faculty, and the feeling of the want and need for solidarity in Gulu was prevalent through the delegates sharing their hearts. The service ended with singing “We are walking in the Light of God." We all have great confidence that this is the truth for those heading to Gulu.

The sisters raised their hands to pray over and bless the Gulu delegates before their trip.