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

Emmanuel

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)

It is with sorrow that we announce the passing of Father Anthony Rzewa on June 15, 2021. He played a key role in the founding of BLI, and served as the BLI Financial Director and President of the Ugandan Board.

May he rest in eternal peace.

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Father Cornelius Ssempala

Co-founder

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.

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

Administrator

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

Simon Nyombi

Coordinator

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.

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Chris Mukwaya

Director 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.

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Suzan Nakayima

Accountant

Suzan currently serves as BLI's accountant. She holds a bachelor's degree in accounting and finance with a CPA level 111. She is currently married with two children.

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 Cissy Nakasi

Administrative Assistant

Cissy serves as BLI's executive secretary and currently assists in the ongoing development of the Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO). She holds a bachelor's degree in philosophical studies and ethics from Makere University. She is married and has two young girls.

USA Staff

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 Minneapolis, MN. Theresa has spent 18 years on Non-Profit Boards, in both governance and functional roles from Treasurer to the chair of various committees to President. She has consulted with small businesses in finance and business development. Theresa has volunteered with Interfaith Organizations assisting at risk families, educational institutions and governmental entities.

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

Emma Ziegler

Communications Officer

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. Currently, she works in an immigration legal services center in Brooklyn.

Uganda Board

All Members

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, 49 years old and the chairman of the BLI Board, is a Roman Catholic Priest ordained for the Diocese of Kasana-Luweero, Uganda. He holds a Master’s Degree in Development Studies from Uganda Martyrs University-Nkozi, Uganda. He also holds Master’s Degree in Divinity from the University of St. Mary of the Lake-USA. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree (STB-Church degree) from the University of St. Mary of the Lake-USA. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social and Philosophical Studies from Makerere University, Uganda. Hilary has a special passion in Rural Community Development. He is a founding member of his own organization, COVE Alliance, in Chicago and is involved in a great deal of research surrounding ensuring positive change in rural community development and documentations around climate change and migration efforts. He comes with a lot of 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 multiple boards aacross 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

 

Andrea is studying for her Master of Public Health, with a concentration in Environmental and Occupational Health at the Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Anschutz. She is a 2012 Wheaton College graduate, with an interdisciplinary degree focused on food security. Post college, she has worked for Cargill and as a marketing and education manager for a non-profit urban farm on Chicago’s South Side.

Lori Giovannini

 

Lori is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and Boston University and is a Christian Life Coach. Lori has worked as the Executive Director of Reachout Women Center, the largest Catholic Pro-Life Pregnancy Help Center in Tucson, Arizona serving over 6,000 vulnerable women a year. She has served on several boards and is currently the Vice President of the Board of the South Bend Elkhart Chapter of the Legatus Organization.

Sara Hohnstein

Sara is the Director of Operations at the Issachar Fund. Sara has a wealth of experience in program development, management, and evaluation. Prior to her position at the Issachar Fund, Sara worked for an international Christian ministry, Colorado State University, and as the Executive Director of the Heart Ministry Center. At the Issachar Fund, Sara oversees the operations of the fund, builds partnerships with organizations and scholars, and aids in developing Issachar Fund programs. Sara earned her Master in Social Work from Colorado State University.

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.

Bob Johnson

Bob is a Structural Engineering Consultant who has been with BLI since 2016. He has served BLI as an Owners Representative for facilities. Bob guided BLI through the development of the preliminary facilities plan. He coordinated BLI’s vision with EMI, who designed the master plan for the BLI campus. Bob currently works closely with the facilities planning team in Uganda. Bob has 10 years of experience as the Technical Advisor for 20 Liters, a water organization in Rwanda.

Maureen Newsom

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.

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.