John Nagy | May 1, 2018
Sister Juliet Namiiro, a tiny, serene, irrepressible Ugandan disciple of St. Francis of Assisi in a tan habit and fleece vest, is explaining to me how I might raise pigs to finance my education.
It’s a process she knows as well as the liturgical theology that she’s traveled from East Africa to Notre Dame to master. Her uncle taught her how to do it.
Her uncle also taught her how to hold a pen and how to count to 100 — when she was 14, illiterate and hadn’t attended a single day of school in her impoverished and turbulent early life.
When Juliet was 16, this same uncle — a widower, an HIV-positive farmer and fisherman who was raising two younger children of his own — died. But in two short years he had given his niece everything she needed to change her life: a home; a practical grasp of money, how to count it and how to make it; a shot at an education. Not to mention stability, love and hope.
All of it, in a word, was grace. And it started with a pig.
So, she says: You get a pig. That’s the hard part when you are poor, the bespectacled nun points out. In Uganda today, where things are on the up and up but an estimated one-third of the population still lives on less than $2 a day, a healthy, weaned, 3-month-old pig costs $50.