Diocesan News

Lincoln man a lay missionary in Uganda

Kadavy’s professional skills put to use for fellow Catholics

Kabale, Uganda (LMHA/SNR) – Matthew Kadavy from Sacred Heart Parish in Lincoln is serving as a lay missionary helping fellow Catholics in Uganda.

Kadavy and Bishop Callist Rubaramira. Courtesy photos.

A widower – his wife Cari passed away in 2013 – with two grown and independent children, Kadavy had recently retired from the position of facilities director at Nebraska Wesleyan University and wanted to do overseas work. As he was contemplating where to serve, Bishop Callist Rubaramira, the ordinary of the diocese of Kabale, had been asking the Los Angeles based Lay Mission-Helpers Association (LMH) for a project manager.

Lay Mission-Helpers Association’s mission is to train and send people like Kadavy – Catholic professionals – for service in mission dioceses. It was founded in 1955 by Monsignor Anthony Brouwers, then director of the Office for the Propagation of the Faith in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. LMH has sent more than 700 men, women and families for missionary service. They’ve served in 36 countries as teachers, nurses, accountants, radiologists, pastoral workers, office managers, project supervisors and other professionals.

Kadavy entered the LMH residential formation program in south Los Angeles in August 2018. He lived and learned with three other missionary candidates and was commissioned for missionary service Dec. 9, 2018. He received a ring with the inscribed LMH motto taken from 1 Cor 3.9: “for we are God’s helpers.” In January 2019, he left for Uganda.

After a few days of adjusting to the climate and the eight-hour time difference, Kadavy began to serve. His missionary duties consist of managing two tea farms over more than 180 acres, an apple orchard with 300 young apple trees, a chicken coop for 1,500 chickens which he built from scratch, two Catholic bookstores, a local store, and a diocesan guest house/hotel.

Learning how to be an effective business leader and manager in a very different environment where kinship and the sense of community often trump efficiency and pragmatism requires time and effort. However, Kadavy’s expertise and Midwestern work-ethic already have already begun to make a difference. His tea farms and the guest house started to make a profit, which the bishop slated for support of the diocesan pastoral programs like an initiative for domestic violence awareness, catechetical ministries, lay apostolates, the religious education office, and the pastoral and retreat center. The money also subsidizes parishes, hospitals and clinics. Other projects will take longer to make them profitable or more profitable, but Kadavy has three years to make that happen.

The missionary from Lincoln said he rejoices at being able to witness his Catholic faith and use his knowledge and skills in the service of his neighbor. Nevertheless, he said, he does feel a particular satisfaction from the “collateral” blessing of his work, namely, the creation of seasonal and permanent jobs. Uganda is called the “Pearl of Africa” for its beauty, and the Kabale region is nicknamed “Switzerland of Uganda” for its picturesque and fertile hills; however, the local population’s poverty is extreme.

Most local families live in single-room homes equipped with just one light bulb that is seldom turned on because electricity is too costly. However, there are many frameless images of Jesus, Mary and saints decorating the walls of homes, where families gather for their daily prayer. The people capture rain water for consumption and personal hygiene, or bring water in canisters from a village faucet hundreds of yards away. With the scarcity of water such a challenge, the cleanliness and elegance of the people, especially when they wear their Sunday best for Mass, is impressive.

Kadavy said the people are hard-working. He shared the story of Herbert, a 23-year old married father of two, who helped build the chicken coop. He needs about $5 a day to provide three meals for his young family. Most days, he is able to earn that operating a motorcycle taxi. However, the hope is that eventually he can work for Kadavy’s projects and secure a wage to feed his family. He volunteered his time to help build the coop because he wanted to help the Church.

Other families can benefit from the “collateral” blessing of Kadavy’s projects as well. Tea farms need laborers to harvest the tea during the few months of the rainy season. The chicken coop project has already created one full-time position, and the diocesan guest house offers opportunities for part- and full-time employment. 

Kadavy said he is grateful for making a difference doing what comes naturally to him. He is also grateful to his parents for raising him Catholic, to his siblings, his late wife and their children, and to Lay Mission-Helpers for the confidence in his ability to serve the bishop of Kabale. He also expressed thanks for his supporters in his home state for their prayers and kindness, and to the people of Uganda for accepting this Nebraskan in their midst.

Learn more about becoming a lay missionary on LMH website www.laymissionhelpers.org which includes Kadavy’s blog.

- From Damian Kabot, development director, Lay Mission-Helpers Association

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