Laurie and Lowell Peterson live in Jackson, Missouri. Laurie is a childhood friend of Fr. Jonathan Haschka, SJ.
So it all fit: the educational aspect, the clear need in the Nyashana community, a staff and procedures in place to ensure that money provided will be spent wisely
Why We Support the Jesuits in Tanzania
By Laurie and Lowell Peterson

Fr. Jonathan Haschka, SJ, has been a close friend for many years (Laurie has known him since they were childhood classmates at Visitation School in Minneapolis) and has inspired us in many ways. During the 10 years he served at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Mwanza, Tanzania, Fr. Haschka corresponded with us about the challenges and the satisfaction he, and the other priests, encountered in serving this community. 

We decided many years ago that we wanted to emphasize Global South education in our charitable giving. Addressing today’s needs for adequate housing, medical care and nutrition is critical. But we also believe that education helps youth achieve their full potential, enabling them to make meaningful contributions to their society, giving them life skills necessary to craft local solutions to local problems.
Fr. Jonathan Haschka, SJ
Fr. Jonathan Haschka, SJ

So, we were thrilled when Fr. Haschka shared with us that St. Francis had established an outreach church and training center in Nyashana, a struggling community outside of Mwanza. Through his letters, Fr. Jonathan very subtly sold us on Nyashana, and we were honored to make some financial contributions to support his vital ministry. We were sure we’d get to visit him in Mwanza and maybe go sailing in the Seychelles, but he was sent back to the states to assume his current job as superior of the St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

Despite Jonathan’s absence, our desire to learn firsthand of the Jesuits’ work in Mwanza led us to make the trip last October. Father Jim Spillane, SJ, Business professor at St. Augustine University of Tanzania, and Dan O’Brien, regional director of advancement for the Midwest Jesuits, were very helpful in sharing what was happening at the parish and what we’d be able to witness during our four-day visit. 

Richard Ross, Fr. Aquinine Tarimo, SJ, Johanna Seles (kneeling, former director of Lubango Center), Fr. Jim Spillane, SJ, Lowell and Laurie Peterson, Sophia (new director of Lubango Center), Joan (kneeling), a volunteer and Florentine.  

Richard Ross, Fr. Aquinine Tarimo, SJ, Johanna Seles (kneeling, former director of Lubango Center), Fr. Jim Spillane, SJ, Lowell and Laurie Peterson, Sophia (new director of Lubango Center), Joan (kneeling), a volunteer and Florentine. 

We arrived to find a neat, well-constructed campus that is obviously the pride of the Nyashana community. The Lubango Center is made up of a kindergarten, a library to augment the lack of textbooks at the nearby school, a quiet reflection space, a women’s training center, a small business coffee shop, and a well-equipped playground for use by the school and community at large. All of these places were administered by a very competent staff led by Johanna Seles, director of the Lubango Center. 

After a tour of the grounds of the church and living areas, we also met with the St. Francis priests, Frs. Gaspar Sunwah and Tarimo and Fr. Spillane. The warmth of the three priests, the simplicity of their lives, and genuine caring for the flock and us were humbling.A major surprise, to us, was the size of the church and the parish, which we saw at the Swahili Mass on Sunday. 

Kindergarteners playing at the Lubango Center in Nyashana.  
Kindergarteners playing at the Lubango Center in Nyashana.
So it all fit: the educational aspect, the clear need in the Nyashana community, a staff and procedures in place to ensure that money provided will be spent wisely. It is our dream that in coming years graduates of the women’s training classes will be better able to support their families through the skills they have learned there. And perhaps a few years from now the school’s students will be young business professionals and political leaders making meaningful contributions in Nyashana, Mwanza, and Tanzania. 

We are thankful to have had the opportunity to see God’s grace in action. These folks are gentle warriors, indeed!

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