Year Joined MKLM: 2010
Ministry: Lake House of Prayer
Ministry Area: Pastoral Care
Goals of ministry: to provide a “desert” environment — a place free from the distractions and business of daily life, where people can come home to themselves and to their God
The ministry of spiritual direction or spiritual companioning, as I prefer to call it, is not well known in Tanzania, even among religious congregations. For many of our retreatants who come for a directed retreat, this is an introduction to spiritual companioning. As they are guided into their own inner landscapes and inner resources, it can be frightening at first, but also very enriching, as people become comfortable exploring their own interiority. Helping individuals explore their inner landscape, including wounds and flaws and compulsions, can be a source of empowerment for them — finding a greater inner freedom and spaciousness that makes them more available for service to others.
The Lake House of Prayer is situated just outside the City of Mwanza. This is a port city on the southern shore of Lake Victoria with a population of 2.7 million. The average income for the local people in this area is about $20 U.S. dollars per month, but for Judy’s neighbors who live in poverty, it is much less. Mwanza is called Rock City, because of its unusual rock formations throughout the area. Judy and most of her neighbors live and work among rocks, between rocks, on top of rocks, or underneath giant rock formations balanced on every mount and hillside in the area.
The Lake House of Prayer is a retreat house and an apostolate of the Archdiocese of Mwanza. With a special focus on the contemplative dimension of the church, it provides an environment of silence and solitude for prayer. It was founded in 2014, under the joint leadership of Archbishop Jude Thadaeus Ruwa’ichi and Maryknoll Father James Eble. Fr Jim invited me to join him in opening the Lake House of Prayer in 2016. The vision of the House of Prayer, as stated by Archbishop Ruwa’ichi, is to “provide a contemplative environment of prayer as a way to respond to the spiritual hunger and need of many members of the family of God, and to enrich and deepen their life of faith.”
We offer the following services:
- An environment of silence and solitude conducive to prayer
- Guidance in the practice of contemplative prayer
- The opportunity to practice contemplative prayer in community
- Private and directed retreats for individual and small groups up to eight days
- Spiritual direction on an ongoing basis
- Daily Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation
- One day retreat for small groups wanting to learn contemplative practices, such as: lectio divina, examen of consciousness, and body-based prayer.
The main focus of my ministry here is being a spiritual companion, walking with people through their interior landscape, deeply listening with them to hear how God is present, and acting in them through their particular life situations. We all have deep wounds and blocks that hinder the flow of God’s life to us, and through us out to others. We are all in need of healing. We can’t spiritualize our wounds and hurts away. We have to face them, go through them, and we need a companion to support us, hold us, and witness our process. We can’t do it alone.
We are very blessed to have a “praying community” here at the Lake House of Prayer. This praying community is from our surrounding neighborhood. These are the poor who join us every day, two times a day, for morning and evening prayer and meditation. Part of the vision for the House of Prayer is to provide a spiritual “home” for the poor, those who live all around us and those who live at a distance. Providing a place of peace and tranquility where they can come for an hour, a few hours, or a day, where they can come home to themselves and encounter God. Those who join us on a regular basis know that this is their place, and they are the heart of the House of Prayer. It is their faithfulness to prayer in the midst of the struggles of their lives that inspires us and unites us as one community in the deep silence of contemplative prayer.
Judy is from Aurora, Illinois, and Holy Angels Parish in the Rockford Diocese. In New York, Judy graduated from Rogers College and Valhalla Nursing School. At Columbia Presbyterian, she obtained a bachelor of science in nursing and has a master in pastoral studies from Loyola University Chicago. She is certified in hospice nursing and is a chaplain. Judy worked in Bangladesh and India for many years with the Medical Mission Sisters, Holy Cross Community and the Church.
Judy began serving with Maryknoll Lay Missioners in Mombasa, Kenya. She was nurse in charge of St. Patrick Parish Dispensary. The clinic served vulnerable residents in the largest informal settlement in Mombasa, also called “Bangladesh.” To foster mother and child health, Judy introduced a 24-hour maternity clinic. Before transferring to her new mission in Tanzania, Judy was able to hand over the administration of St Patrick’s Clinic to a very dedicated and capable young Kenyan health professional.