Meet the Team

BLI is registered as an NGO in Uganda, governed by a Ugandan Board of Directors. This Board oversees the building of the campus, curriculum development, programs, human resources, and operations. BLI USA, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, serves as the advisory, fundraising and marketing arm of BLI in the United States. 99% of funds raised in the US are directly transferred to the BLI team in Uganda for operating and capital needs, and expenditures are reported back to the US Board. The US Advisory Board assists both Boards within the areas of the members' expertise.

“Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another” - Laudato Si', #42

The Founders

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Father Emmanuel Katongole

Co-founder & President

Father Emmanuel Katongole is the visionary behind BLI. Born in rural Uganda, Father Katongole is now a Professor of Theology and Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN. He is the author of several books concerning the intersection of Africa, the environment, and reconciliation. Prior to founding BLI, Father Katongole co-founded Share the Blessings, another nonprofit operating in Uganda, and Duke University's Center for Reconciliation, home to the Africa Great Lakes Initiative which supports thousands of leaders in the Great Lakes Region of east Africa in their work of peace and reconciliation. He splits his time between Uganda and the U.S.

BLI Founders

Father Anthony "Tony" Rweza

Co-founder (Deceased)

Father Tony Rweza served as the chairman of the Uganda Board of Bethany Land Institute. A priest ordained by the diocese of Jinja, he worked as Managing Director of Interservice, the procurement and logistics agency of The Church in Uganda, for the Bishops Conference. Father Tony held a Masters degree in Business Administration of Non-profits (MSA) from the University of Notre Dame and served on various boards of nonprofits and agencies in Uganda. Fr. Tony passed away on June 15th, 2021. May he rest in peace.


Father Cornelius Ssempala


Father Cornelius Ssempala is a Philosophy Professor at Makerere University in Kampala; his farm outside of Kampala is his pride and joy. He is the BLI Site Manager, in charge of overseeing the construction of the campus and ensuring that the campus is built to the correct specifications, and built on-time and on-budget, using as many local resources and merchants as possible. He resides in Uganda full time.

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Archbishop Paul Ssemogerere

Co-founder & Patron

Appointed by Pope Francis in 2021, Archbishop Paul Ssemogerere heads the Archdiocese of Kampala. As a young man, he was part of the first class of aspiring priests to study at St Mbaaga Seminary at Ggaba. He was officially ordained a priest in Kampala in 1983. He later attended the the Saint Francis de Sales Seminary in Wisconsin (USA) and earned a Master of Divinity degree. The 2019 BLI MOU officially made Archbishop Seemogerere a co-founder and patron for his significant support and advancement of BLI's mission.

Uganda Staff

Sylvester Kule
BLI Director

Sylvester Kule

Institute & Program Director

Sylvester is an agro ecologist, with over 20 years of leadership experience (former principal and associate director of Mbuye Farm school) working with agricultural-based NGOs in skills training and community outreach. As program director, he oversees the implementation of the BLI curriculum, runs the BLI Caretaker Formation Program, oversees the recruitment, training, outreach, placement, and follow up of BLI caretakers, and serves as chief trainer and mentor to BLI caretakers.

Father Joe

Fr. Joseph Kakooza


Father Joe is the Administrator of BLI, overseeing the campus construction and development. He was ordained as a Catholic priest in the Kampala Archdiocese and currently serves in the diocese of Kasana Luweero, where he is the coordinator of diocesan lands and investments. He previously served as the treasurer for twelve years. Educated in Uganda, he also studied Pastoral Theology at the University of Notre Dame and served at Holy Family Parish in South Bend, Indiana.


Simon Nyombi

Coordinator and Head of Mary's School

Born in Luwero, Simon holds a Bachelor of Agricultural Science and Entrepreneurship from Uganda Christian University, a Certificate in Horticulture from Bukalasa Agricultural College, and a Certificate from Songhai Leadership Academy. Prior to joining BLI, he taught Agriculture at Kakungulu High School, was the Chair of Bukolwa Agricultural Development Youth Project, and was the Liaison Officer & Coordinator of the Uganda Green Incubation Center (UGIC) Songhai-Uganda Initiative.


Chris Mukwaya

Head of Lazarus' Trees


A forester with an extensive background and passion for ecological conservation, Chris is working with a local team to protect the BLI forest and conduct community outreach relating to ecological education and reforestation. Chris has a master's degree in taxonomy and is a published author who writes about ecotourism centers.


Jonathan Makubuya

Head of Martha's Market


Jonathan has been with BLI for many years and was recently promoted to Head of Martha's Market. Prior to joining the BLI team, Jonathan earned a postsecondary certificate and diploma in animal husbandry from Bukalasa Agricultural College and spent time working both with the land and animals. He also participated in the Caretaker programming during its first year.

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Josephine Nabakooza

Community Outreach Coordinator

Josephine Nabakooza holds a Bachelor’s degree from Makerere University Kampala-Uganda. She has over ten years of experience collecting, transcribing, and analysing data. She has worked with L’Arche Uganda, Great Lakes Institute-Ggaba, and with scholars from various institutions like Makerere University - Kampala, Boston University School of Theology, and University of Notre Dame. At BLI, Josephine runs the outreach program.

USA Staff

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Father Emmanuel Katongole


Father Katongole, one of the BLI founders (see bio above), splits his time between Uganda and the U.S and thus leads BLI efforts in the U.S.

Theresa Murray

Theresa Murray

Development Coordinator


Theresa is the Development Coordinator for BLI USA. She is a CPA (non-active) and holds a Certificate in Non-Profit Fundraising from the University of St. Thomas. Theresa has spent 18 years on non-profit boards, in both governance and functional roles from Treasurer to Committee Chair to President. She has consulted with small businesses in finance and business development and volunteered with interfaith organizations assisting at-risk families, educational institutions, and governmental entities.

Maureen N.

Maureen Newsome

Board Treasurer


Maureen serves as the BLI treasurer. She graduated from Notre Dame in 1980 with a BA in History and an accounting degree from Indiana University at South Bend in 1982. For the past 20 years she has worked as the business manager at Saint Pius X Catholic Church in South Bend, Indiana while raising six wonderful children.

Macky Johnson

Macky Johnson

Assistant to Board President

Macky is serving as assistant to Fr. Emmanuel Katongole, and as recording secretary to the BLI board. Retired, she comes to BLI with years of experience in office management and bookkeeping. She served for 10 years as the program coordinator for 20 Liters, a water organization in Rwanda that she and her husband Bob were instrumental in founding.


Emma Ziegler

Communications Coordinator

Emma is a recent Notre Dame graduate who is assisting BLI in its communications efforts. Over the past few years, she has spent time in both Uganda and Rwanda, studying and living with the communities there. She resides in New York City and works in health law at a civil legal aid organization.

Uganda Board

All Members

Father Emmanuel Katongole

As a founder, Father Emmanuel sits on both the Uganda and USA baords.

Father Cornelius Ssempala

As a founder, Father Ssempala sits on both the Uganda and USA boards.

Father James Kabonghe

Father James is a Catholic priest and Agriculturalist. Fr. James holds a BA Philosophy, Urban University Rome 1991, Bachelors of Theology, Urban University, Rome 1994; Diploma Educational Management, Nkozi University 2001; Diploma Sustainable Agriculture for Rural Development, Baraka College – Kenya 2009. Fr, James currently serves as a Priest of Jinja Diocese and works at Kagoma Catholic Parish, Caritas Jinja Diocese and is the in-charge of Agricultural Development Programs. He also serves as Board Member of SARD-NET Uganda.

Father Joseph Nnyanzi Kakooza

Father Joe is the Administrator of BLI, overseeing the campus construction and development. He was ordained as a Catholic priest in the Kampala Archdiocese and currently serves in the diocese of Kasana Luweero, where he is the coordinator of diocesan lands and investments, and previously served as the treasurer for twelve years.  Educated in Uganda, he also studied Pastoral Theology at the University of Notre Dame and served at Holy Family Parish in South Bend, Indiana.

Josephine Kizza

Josephine holds a Degree in Organic Agriculture, Reading University, United Kingdom; a Diploma in Food Processing, Branding and Marketing, Copenhagen; a Diploma in Education, Kyambogo University, a Certificate in Water shade Management and a Certificate in Education. She is the co-founder and Executive Director of St Jude Family Projects started with her late husband in 1993 to support rural small holder farmers with practical and sustainable organic farming practices so that they improve their incomes and livelihoods. Major activities are on a 3.7 acre demonstration farm with 17 integrated agricultural projects, offering simple and practical skills that have reached out to 6,000 families of small holder farmers and 12,000 youth who have become job creators. The project has attracted high profile visits from His Excellence President Museveni of Uganda, cabinet ministers, members of parliament, cultural and religious Leaders among others.

Margaret K. Sakwa

Margaret serves as the Board Secretary of Bethany Land Institute. She is an Advocate of the High Court in Uganda. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Law, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, a Post Graduate Bar Course and Post graduate Diploma in Public Administration and Management. Since 2016, Margaret has practiced law with Sakwa Advocates, specializing in company secretarial services; corporate governance and compliance; legal advisory and consultancy; and land conveyancing. She serves as a Court Accredited Mediator in the Commercial Division of the High Court. She previously worked as in-house counsel for a top government parastatal and continues to serve as legal advisor and Board secretary to several private companies and NGO sector.

Father Hilary Muheezangango

Rev. Fr. Hilary Muheezangango is the chairman of the BLI Board. He is a Roman Catholic Priest ordained for the Diocese of Kasana-Luweero and holds a Master’s Degree in Development Studies from Uganda Martyrs University-Nkozi. He also holds Master’s Degree in Divinity and a Bachelor's degree from the University of St. Mary of the Lake (USA). He holds another Bachelor’s Degree in Social and Philosophical Studies from Makerere University, Uganda. Hilary has a special passion for Rural Community Development. He is a founding member of COVE Alliance in Chicago and is involved in a great deal of research surrounding positive change in rural community development, climate change, and migration efforts. He comes with experiences gathered from over 23 countries around the world where he has traveled for conferences and learning purposes. Additionally, he serves in multiple capacities on boards across the world.

Christine Flora Kizito


Christine has 14 years of experience in Education, 12 years of experience in Administration and Management and 5 years in social work. She holds a Master of Art’s Degree in Ethics and Public Management, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, a Diploma in Secondary Education and Certificates in Adult and Community Education, HIV/AIDS and Counseling, French Methodology and Linguistics. Christine is passionate about Education, Farming, Counseling, Mentoring and Coaching. She is also skilled in the management of Children and Youth Welfare. “I believe every human being has strength, it’s for this reason I give opportunity for people to explore their potential. This enhances my optimistic character and personality”

USA Board

All Members

Andrea Cate Crary (Chair)

Andrea fell in love with the vision for BLI after attending a lecture from Fr Emmanuel in 2015 where he described his plans for the Institute. After two conversations in Chicago with Fr Emmanual Andrea got on a plane to Ugandan and has been involved with BLI ever since. She is a founding member of the USA BLI Board and currently serves as the board chair. Andrea describes her career as a parade of program management roles in different places and contexts. Currently she is based in Denver and works as an Associate Resilience Planner for the design firm Logan Simpson. She has her Master of Public Health from the Colorado School of Public Health and an Interdisciplinary Bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College. Most of Andrea's time is spent working or traveling, but in her free time Andrea enjoys going to open houses and fawning over other people's dogs.

Maureen Newsom (Treasurer)

Maureen is serving as the BLI treasurer. She graduated from Notre Dame in 1980 with a BA in History and an accounting degree from Indiana University at South Bend in 1982. For the past 20 years she has worked as the business manager at Saint Pius X Catholic Church in South Bend, Indiana while raising six wonderful children.

Kelli Hickey (Secretary)

Kelli is the Director of Formation for the Francesco Collaborative, a team inspired by the Economy of Francesco Movement and the emerging solidarity economy. She is most passionate about addressing questions of poverty, meaning, economics, and human development through a lens of Christian social ethics. Through her work, she seeks to restore and deepen our moral imagination through writing, advocacy, policy, and conversation. Kelli holds a degree in economics from Yale University and completed her graduate studies at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business. 

Ed Collupy

Ed says he is “rewired, not retired." He continues to be active in the retail technology industry, an industry that has been his career for over forty years. More important are his community, charitable, and family activities that keep him grounded. From being a co-founder of Share the Blessings upon his return from his first Ugandan visit; to parish leadership work in both the Boston and Raleigh dioceses; to activity in his local community on Cape Cod and his alma mater, Suffolk University; Ed has believed in giving back. It’s something he learned from a young age and he hopes it continues in his family for generations. 

Father Emmanuel Katongole

As a founder, Father Emmanuel sits on both the BLI and Uganda boards. 

Colleen Keller

Colleen joins the BLI Board from Bozeman, MT; she was drawn to this grassroots conservation school by the potential to improve the land and the economic well-being of each student commissioned. With previous experience through Operation Crossroads in Kenya, she embraces the opportunity to work again in Easy Africa. Colleen has served as the President of U.S. based NGOs including a free medical/dental clinic, an inter-congregational homeless shelter, and Community Works – an NGO resource consulting group. She holds a BBA from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from the University of Virginia. A lifetime hiker and advocate for guarding what nature provides, Colleen is passionate about reforestation and the sharing of global resources.

Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen is a certified yoga and meditation teacher, working with private clients, students, inmates and religious sisters. She and her husband live on a farm in LaPorte, Indiana, and have a company in South Bend that manufactures solar panels, with the labor force consisting of formerly incarcerated people. Through her work she enjoys being part of transformational experiences that help people grow.

Father Josef Ntuwa

Father Josef Ntuwa is a Uganda native who currently serves as the pastor of All Saints Catholic Church in North Carolina. He was ordained a Catholic priest by the Archdiocese of Kampala at the age of 25 and has served in various roles in The Church since then. He first arrived in the United States in 2006. Prior to his time at All Saints, he served as the Campus Minister at NC State and UNC Wilmington. He is excited to join the BLI USA board and continue to work with his Uganda friends and neighbors from afar.

Rev. Kevin Sandberg

Reverend Kevin is an assistant teaching professor in the Center for University Advising at the University of Notre Dame. Previously, he was executive director of Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns (2017-2020) and taught courses on the common good, including “Women, the Church, and the Ecology of the Common Good in Uganda,” which brought graduate and professional students to BLI. Fr. Kevin is a faculty fellow of Notre Dame's Institute for Educational Initiatives, a board member of Ave Maria Press, and past treasurer and board member of the Religious Education Association, the association of professors, practitioners, and researchers in religious education. Prior to pastoral ministry as a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Fr. Kevin had been a financial economist with the U.S. Treasury Department, a trust officer with the Northern Trust Bank, and founding director of Young Adult Community at St. Clement Church in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Advisory Board

The Advisory Board is made up of six Members: Kimberly Lord Arndt, the Executive Director of One Heart Uganda; Godfrey Ddungu, a licensed mental health professional and therapist; Eric Sobocinski, the Founder of Amphora Wealth Management, LLC and a lawyer; Yvonne Ssempijja, the Co-Founder and Co-Owner of the Sabastian Family Psychology Practice LLC; Norman Wirzba, a Distinguished Professor of Theology and Associate Dean for Faculty Development at Duke University; and Laura Yoder, a Professor of Environmental Studies and Director of the Program in Human Needs & Global Resources at Wheaton College.