Five years ago, Father Arthur Joseph Ssembajja was standing in the midst of one big shattered dream.
After 14 years of training to be a priest in his home country of Uganda, he was sidelined when administrative conflicts delayed his ordination by two years.
“It seemed as if my life had just been flushed down the pipes. At that moment, all my days turned dark,” he recalls. “In the midst of all this darkness, the words of the prophet Isaiah (55:8) came alive for me: ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.’ I picked myself up and continued the run — faster, bigger and better. I had dreamt of something small. The Lord opened my eyes to dream bigger and better.”
The bigger and better dream includes an unlikely 7,500-mile detour to northwest Indiana, where he is studying to earn a dual degree MBA/Master of Global Affairs (MBA/MGA). He plans to return to his home diocese in Kasese, a mountainous region he describes as “drowning in poverty, disease, cultural tensions and poorly distributed resources.” He wants to apply his business knowledge to help the community build better livelihoods through microfinance saving programs and income-generating projects for single mothers.
While he shivers through an Indiana winter, he takes inspiration from John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” “Full life is holistic and complete. A complete life is a life built in the mind, the hands and the heart,” he says. “As a Catholic priest, I preach to people’s hearts. With the MBA/MGA, I will enrich their minds and empower their hands.”
Photography by Matt Cashore (ND '94)
Father Arthur Joseph Ssembajja celebrates Mass alone daily in Mendoza's chapel, praying for others during the pandemic. Read his story on mendoza.nd.edu.