BLI hosted its second group of Notre Dame students during their March 2019 immersion in Uganda. The students visited both campuses as part of their course called New Norms of Development and the Ecology of the Common Good in Uganda. The course is part of the Common Good Initiative at the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns. It led the 8 graduate students, who represented five different academic disciplines, to explore the ways in which concern for the earth can foster a “common good” among peoples and across cultures. Fr. Emmanuel has described the idea of the common good as simply people coming together who used to be far apart.
Upon their return to Notre Dame, the students unpacked their experience before an audience of 35. They reflected on what it meant for them, their studies, and their future careers to participate in Notre Dame’s second step in what is shaping up to be a long-term friendship with BLI (the first group of students visited BLI in 2017). They seemed to take to heart the charism of Mary (though not to the neglect of Martha and Lazarus!) in particular because she represented for them the need to slow down, the ability to get by with fewer possessions, and the desire to listen. They came prepared with a sensitivity toward learning the history of Uganda and its ecology, and so found their BLI hosts–founders and staff alike–to be models of what it means to listen to the cry of the earth as well as to the cry of the poor.
One story they shared has remained with me. Among the Ugandans they met who lived on only $1.50 a day was a young woman who was finally able to purchase her own bed. How did she earn the money? She made paper bags to sell at the market. And the bed was something than she could purchase, for it symbolized the security of home for her. She would be safe tonight, and had a future tomorrow.
Visiting BLI, the Notre Dame students witnessed a community attempting to live out what Pope Francis calls “an ecological conversion.” They saw their hosts pursuing the common good in and for Uganda, so they have returned to the United States challenged to live out this call in their own communities, recognizing that local choices have global implications.
Fr. Kevin Sandberg, C.S.C.
Leo and Arlene Hawk Executive Director
Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame
BLI USA Board Member