By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Father Samuel Martin of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Marshfield told his congregation that one of his goals this year was to help people on more than just the local level.
“I put in the (church) bulletin a year ago that it just was on my heart to do something more international and kind of a missionary outreach,” Martin said. “We do a lot in our own community, rightfully so. We have a duty to take care of our own first, but I think Pope Francis and others have kind of lit a fire that we are our brother’s keeper, and it’s a different world now than it was 100 years ago. We can kind of see past our own borders.”
The church found its international opportunity when a family in the parish met a nun from Tanzania who was doing graduate work in the United States, Sister Sabina Kabuga. Kabuga lives in Mwanza, Tanzania with one other nun, and they work as professors at St. Augustine University of Tanzania.
Kabuga came to speak to St. John’s parish in July of this year and established a relationship with the congregation. In meeting with Kabuga, St. John’s parish learned about her and her fellow nun’s living conditions in Mwanza.
“It’s basically a two-room hut. They bathe with a hole in the floor and a bucket and a cup. And they also, what really put us over the edge was their kitchen,” said St. John’s church member Patti Willkom. “They have to cook with charcoal inside the home in this tiny, little space. … It’s the size of any one of our bathrooms, and that’s the entire kitchen.”
After hearing about their housing situation, the parish decided to start fundraising to build a new convent for the two nuns, with hopes of making a large enough home that up to six sisters could live there at a time and continue the work of their order, The Sisters of Our Lady Queen of Africa.
St. John’s has already raised and sent $16,000 to Mwanza to start construction of the new convent, which is estimated to cost a total of $100,000. A cement floor and some perimeter walls have already been put up, but more money is needed to advance the project.
To raise additional funds, St. John’s congregation decided to compile a cookbook and sell it. The cookbook is called “Cooking Up A Convent,” and it is filled with recipes from parishioners as well as some Tanzanian recipes from Kabuga. All of the proceeds go toward the construction of the new convent.
The 166-page cookbooks sell for $15 apiece, and St. John’s has sold about 500 books so far. St. John’s published 700 books total, and publishing costs were covered by an anonymous donor.
Willkom said that being involved with the process of making the cookbook and donating to the convent project has been a great experience.
“It’s just been remarkable for me (and for) mainly the women in our parish to embrace this project because we would have been nowhere without the recipes,” Willkom said. “It’s just been a remarkable process.”
Martin said that the ultimate goal of building the convent is two-fold. St. John’s wants to build a more livable environment for the nuns and also eventually hopes he and church members can visit Mwanza.
“People say, ‘What’s the end game?’ It’s to go there someday and not just to send money and so forth but maybe to go work with them, and that’s where you really are impacted for a lifetime,” Martin said.
He added that he hopes to have the $100,000 raised for the new convent by about December of 2015.
To donate to this project, make a check out to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and put “Sister Sabina” in the memo line. St. John’s is located at 201 W. Blodgett St., Marshfield, WI 54449. To donate by purchasing the cookbook “Cooking Up A Convent,” call St. John’s at 715-384-3252, ext. 2.