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Notre Dame Team Heads to Africa for Solidarity Initiative

Author: Jennifer Laiber


In 2008, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) asked the University of Notre Dame for help in reaching out to the African Church. The Church was growing, but with the growth came the need for better leadership skills to manage the human and financial resources. In response, a leadership team from Notre Dame is traveling this week to Kampala, Uganda, to assist in the USCCB effort called the Solidarity Initiative.

Included on the team is Carolyn Y. Woo, Martin J. Gillen Dean of the Mendoza College of Business; Thomas Harvey, the Luke McGuinness Director of Nonprofit Professional Development at Mendoza College; and Robert Dowd, C.S.C., assistant professor of political science.

“In these African countries where poverty, disease, and scarce resources are the constant grinds on daily lives, the African Church has grown with great vitality and spirit,” Woo says. “We welcome this opportunity to integrate administrative training with Catholic identity in the service of the Church and to support those individuals who have dedicated their lives to the welfare of others.”

As part of the initiative, the team conducted a Needs Assessment Planning Workshop in order to help the African Church leaders set priorities for education and training programs. Workshop participants include high-level representatives from the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA). This is a Catholic service organization for the National Episcopal Conferences of the eight countries of Eastern Africa: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. Djibouti and Somalia are affiliate members.

Other workshop sponsors in addition to Notre Dame include Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Uganda Martyrs University. Monsignor Robert Vitillo, a special advisor to Caritas Internationalis who has worked extensively in efforts to combat HIV and AIDS, will serve as facilitator.

“It’s part of our mission at Notre Dame and the Mendoza College to view business as a force for good,” Harvey says. “Strengthening the management skills of nonprofit organizations, including Catholic Church leaders, is a very direct way to act on this vision.”

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