Building Africa awareness person by person

by Ed Cohen

Five Notre Dame faculty and staff members will join Holy Cross priests inEast Africafor two weeks later this month to learn about the region and the work being done there by the congregations missions and the Catholic Church.

Traveling toUgandaandKenyawill be Sonia Gernes, English professor; Naunihal Singh, political science instructor; Jeffrey Talley, assistant professor of civil engineering and geological sciences; Todd D. Whitmore, associate professor of theology; and Ed Cohen, associate editor of Notre Dame Magazine. Richard Viglione, a chef by trade and the husband of Julia Douthwaite, assistant provost for campus international development and professor of romance languages and literatures, will also join the group.

The itinerary for the trip includes visits to Holy Cross schools, seminaries and churches, and meetings with university professors and human rights and social justice workers. There is also time set aside to experience the natural wonders of the region.

The expedition is the third such trip organized by the congregation. Leaders have includedRev. Tom McDermott, C.S.C., visiting fellow in the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, and Rev. Paul Kollman, C.S.C., assistant professor of theology and fellow of the Kroc, Kellogg and Nanovic institutes. Both have extensive experience working inEast Africa.

Past participants include Scott Appleby, now director of the Kroc Institute; James McAdams, professor of political science; Paul Weithman, philosophy professor; G. David Moss, assistant vice president of student affairs; Jay Caponigro, director of the Robinson Community Learning Center; and Jim Paladino, Rachel Tomas-Morgan, and Rev. Bill Lies, C.S.C., all from the Center for Social Concerns.

The call of theU.S.bishops to ‘Solidarity with Africaprovides direction for this trip,says Rev. Tom Smith, C.S.C., who is director of theHolyCrossMissionCenter. In recent weeks Smith has been helping prep participants for the journey with reading materials and talks by priests and scholars familiar with the countries. He expects to join the group at some point inAfrica.

The trip will create a community of learners, Father Smith explains.We will become acquainted with East Africa and some of its people, grow in understanding the myriad ways of being church, come to know the challenges that believers face in a different part of the world, and reflect on our global community and how we relate to it.

The organizers hope the experience not only helps raise awareness of what life is like in East Africa and what Holy Cross is doing there, but also that it strengthens ties to the Notre Dame-Saint Marys community for possible collaborative work in the future.

So far, these hopes have been realized, says Father Smith.

One alumnus, G. David Moss, has spearheaded an effort in conjunction with the Mendoza College of Business to assist a womens business academy inNairobi, according to Father Smith. Another past participant has built a lasting relationship with a secondary school in an African town, while some faculty have made awareness ofAfricapart of their curricula.

We feel fairly confident this brings a greater awareness of African issues to campus,Father Smith says.

The trip is estimated to cost $3,500 per person, including airfare and all food, lodging and travel within the countries. Fundraising by the religious order was expected to reduce the price to participants to no more than $2,000. Some participants defray the cost with support from their departments, Father Smith says. Regardless of cost, the trip also represents a substantial time commitment.

Candidates are recommended by previous participants and by members of the order. The six who plan to take the upcoming trip are among 40 originally invited to attend, says Father Smith.

In addition to Notre Dame community members, the group will include a Holy Cross Associates board member and his wife (both from Wisconsin) and one faculty member from each of two Holy Cross sister institutions, Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and Saint Edwards University in Austin, Texas.

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