God liberates ‘a girl’ from Kalerwe slum to attain Master Degree in Divinity
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2018/12/god-liberates-a-girl-from-kalerwe-slum-to-attain-master-degree-in-divinity/
UPDATE: Since this story was written in October, the subject of the interview has been ordained and currently volunteering with the Uganda Christian University’s Chaplaincy (December 2, 2018).
By Brendah Ndagire
Her family said “no.” But God said “yes.” It wasn’t quite that simple as Lovincer Katana, the oldest of seven children, straddled her dream of being a pastor with the acknowledgement that she wouldn’t make much money to support herself and her family.
Lovincer, a Uganda Christian University (UCU) M.Div’18 graduate, found a role model in her home priest, the now retired Rev. Kisitu Frederick. As a teenager and young woman in her 20s, she remembered how he talked at great lengths about his positive experiences as a student at Bishop Tucker College, which was renamed Uganda Christian University 21 years ago. Now age 28, Lovincer recalled being particularly inspired by the way Rev. Kisitu used to teach and engage the scripture for his congregation at St. Nicholas Church Kalerwe. She wanted those skills and that gift.
With a passion for theology, she knew the obstacles. Being a priest in Uganda does not usually come with financial gains. Most priests have to have another source of income as a teacher or a professor to economically sustain their families. As such and with the cultural expectation for children to support parents and younger siblings, most Ugandan mothers and fathers don’t encourage their children to study theology and take on priestly roles.
Such was especially true for Lovincer. Not only was she the first-born daughter of seven children, but she grew up in one of the harshest environments of Kampala, in the Kalerwe slums. Her parents wanted her to study something that would deliver not just herself but the rest of the family from the economic poverty of their neighborhood. To adhere to the pressure and accept her responsibility, she obtained her first degree in education from one of Uganda’s public universities, Kyambogo University in 2012, with the hope of gaining full-time employment as a secondary school teacher.
Lovincer graduated and got that job, but it was short lived. She worked for a few months as a teacher on the pay-roll at Gayaza High School, a Uganda girls school before being laid off. At the same time, she served at her home church in Kalerwe and was not discouraged as she continued to see God leading her to deeper service.
In May 2015, after a rigorous application process for a three-year Master Program in Divinity, she was thrilled to find out that she was one of the 20 theology students in her class who would be receiving Uganda Christian University Partners financial support towards tuition. In 2018, Lovincer got that degree. Uganda Christian University Partners recently caught up with her to learn about her experiences at the university and where God is leading her. (This interview is edited for clarity.)
Briefly, share with us what has stood out for you as a theology student at UCU?
UCU is a unique university all around. What has stood out for me in the past three years were two days of the week – Tuesday and Thursday. At 12 Noon, students and faculty members would take time to pause whatever they were doing, and come to gather at Nkoyoyo Hall for community worship. I felt a unique sense of belonging in Christ and identity with God that transcended classes, ages, expertise, and our distinct backgrounds. It is our way of paying attention to what God is doing in our lives. And beyond theological classes I took, I really appreciated the foundational class on Worldviews. It exposed me to different perspectives and understanding about how other people perceive the world. It was important for me because often times as people we want to make sure our own worldview is dominant. We make sure we push it onto others without creating room for us to understand why other people think the way they do or why and how they were raised differently. And from there, we are able to understand to share what we believe or how we view the world around us. It is important to primarily understand where the other (person) is coming from so that we can share our perspective of God and the world from an understanding position. Finally I appreciated the practical aspect of our divinity classes, where we were equipped to exercise church ceremonies such as baptism, officiating weddings and so forth.
Reflecting on your life before and during UCU to your graduation, where do you see God’s role in making this graduation happen?
God has been there for me really from the start. Every time I tell people that it is God who can liberate a girl like me from the slums of Kalerwe…come here at UCU and sit in a class with students with significantly different life experiences. Through Uganda Partners God has paid for my tuition, food, and accommodation at UCU. It was God who made it possible for me to afford to live a comfortable life and have access to all the resources I needed to study at UCU. It is not a day-to-day opportunity that God touches someone’s heart over the oceans to care for the education of an economically poor woman from Kalerwe. Today I celebrate this graduation joy because God in His mercy gave me the opportunity to live out my dream. And that I do not take for granted.
The Uganda Partners scholarship was very meaningful to me in ways I cannot exhaust saying. There were very many people struggling with tuition for an entire semester. We could raise some money for a few of them, and as we thought about our own blessing, we set aside a time on our Monday morning devotion to pray for people in the United States who make it possible for us to have access to tuition and other scholarly needs.
How have you gotten closer to God throughout your studies?
The UCU setting itself makes anyone get closer to God if only they pay attention to their surroundings. Apart from the time set aside for community worship on Tuesdays and Thursdays, UCU has a talking compound. If you are walking around, you notice these scriptures embroidered on almost every building speaking to you. I remember there was a time I felt really discouraged after our Hebrew exam. I was trying so hard to understand Hebrew and when we finished I felt like I did not do enough to get my desired grade. Then, I was walking by the Nursing Building and I don’t remember the scripture entirely but I do remember how meaningful and encouraging it was on that day. It (the scripture) remained my source of encouragement throughout my life at UCU, and it was one of the ways I stayed and/or have gotten closer to God.
Where do you see God taking you now as a Priest?
I know for certain that God is calling me to serve His people in the Church. Right now I do not know where He is leading me as far as a physical location is concerned, but the ministry skills I have acquired from UCU makes me believe that God wants me to share my story and His work in me with others. Every time I share my story with people, they take time to truly understand that someone who grew up in the slum, a place of lack, where I constantly struggled to find food and other basic needs would study at a great university such as UCU and excel in her studies and graduate on time. For many people it is hard to connect the two (i.e., abject poverty with academic excellence). But God in His own way is able to raise all of us in our own slums, and for that I intend to use my story, experiences and skills I have gotten from UCU to encourage lives, be part of someone’s life, and give fully back to the community in any way I can.
If you are interested in supporting Divinity Students who are struggling with tuition at Uganda Christian University, contact Uganda Partners’ Executive Director Mark Bartels @email@example.com.