Fr. Dominic Mwebe, 87, is a priest and doctor to his Kampala, Uganda community. He’s also a hero to the many local children who he has put through school and college — 22 of whom are now priests.
Fr. Dominic doesn’t like to advertise the exact numbers of the people he has helped over the years because he believes his reward is in heaven. He shared with me via email that each year he says a novena to St. Teresa of Kolkata seeking her guidance in choosing the right people to provide extra aid. He wants to invest in those who will best manifest God’s glory because of his help.
In 2007, on completion of the novena, a young girl came to Fr. Dominic asking for his prayers.
Fausta Nalubega was only 11 when her dad died of AIDS, leaving behind his wife and six children. “When our father died, our relatives took all the things our father owned, and they wanted us to get married to the men of their choosing,” Fausta, 28, said in a Skype interview.
Fausta’s strong Catholic mother resisted the demand that her older three daughters, ages 12, 14, and 16, marry. “In our culture, the man takes care of a young girl and pays for her school fees and after he takes her as his wife,” she explains.
The paternal relatives abandoned Fausta’s family because they refused child marriage; they accused them of not respecting their elders and told them they were cursed. “My relatives took that curse to mean that we shall suffer in this life,” she recalls.
And suffer they did.
When it rained, the Nalubega family would stand and cover themselves with plastic bags until the rain let up. There was also no food to eat.
“We used to go house to house asking for clothes to wash and doing housework for rich families. They paid us a dollar or two a day.” [It costs a family of five or six approximately $10 per day to eat well.]
The Nalubegas had no choice but to live in the streets.
For a short time, Fausta, when she was 13, was able to find a good job as a live-in housemaid, but that soon ended. “I had to run away — back to my family — because the man I was working with wanted to take me as his wife.”
Despite the hardship, Fausta’s mom made sure that she and her family attended Mass daily.
Fr. Dominic noticed
Fr. Dominic was a new priest at St. Joseph’s parish, and he kept noticing Fausta and her family sitting in the front row for the 7 a.m. daily Mass.
“They used to come to church in very dirty clothes and with no shoes,” he recalls. “Sometimes they used to come with yellow bananas on their heads because after Mass they’d sell them on the streets.”
The priest felt moved by their situation and how they continued to praise God. It was at the completion of Fr. Dominic’s novena to St. Teresa of Kolkata when Fausta, age 14, approached her priest asking for his prayers. “He asked me, ‘Why are you not schooling? I told him our story.”
Fr. Dominic remembers, “I asked Fausta’s mother to take me to their home; when I reached where they were staying on streets, I just cried.”
Their priest learned that the Nalubegas had been living on the streets for more than six years.
Fr. Dominic felt in his heart this family was the answer to his novena, and he thanked God. Out of his own money, he paid for Fausta and her sisters to go to a Catholic boarding school which costs approximately $130 a year per child, and he also paid for Fausta’s college tuition, which costs almost $800 per semester.
To put this in perspective, according to the World Bank, in 2016, the average income in Uganda was $615 (adjusted for the cost of living). Public schooling is considerably cheaper but the class sizes are too big and the education is inferior.
Fruits of Fr. Dominic’s novena
“God used Fr. Dominic to rescue us,” Fausta beams.
During college, when Fausta was 19, she was elected president of St Vincent de Paul ministry and a year later she founded her own her ministry, Mercy For Life. She desired to help poorest of the poor in her community because she knew intimately the suffering of her people and it was a way for her to thank God for answering her family’s prayers. She also says, “What pushes us to do this work is the joy people receive when they receive our services.”
Mercy For Life — also referred to as Mercy For Life Africa after a United States chapter was formed — provides a multitude of services in Kampala. They care for 22 orphans, teach women to sew so they can earn a living, pay for a Catholic education for 52 children in primary school, provide professional counselors to help keep children out of prostitution, and aid those elderly abandoned by their kin. They also provide meals to destitute families.
However, sometimes there are no funds to help. “If we don’t have enough food to give, we give them God and courage, and they go back home,” added Fausta.
Seeing all that Fausta has accomplished — and how her work brings glory to God — is a cause for great joy for Fr. Dominic.
“I saw a good seed and am seeing the results,” Fr. Dominic says. “I am so much excited because of what Fausta and her family are doing for God. I believe, even if I die now, Fausta and her family can stand to do what I have done even better since she is inspired by the spirit of God.”
Would you like to help?
Mercy for Life’s future plans involve obtaining more sewing machines. With sewing skills, women can earn a living. They also hope to build a large home for the homeless and young mothers (under 16) who chose life rather than abortion Lastly, they hope to provide scholastic materials for the students they are sponsoring.
To make a secure donation, visit Mercy For Life on Facebook.
Read more about Mercy for Life/Mercy for Life Africa here.