Sister Fausta’s Dream (by Warren and Margaret Roth, board members, FOI)
Sister Fausta Mtweve is the third sister from the convent of St. Gertrude in Imiliwaha to study at Benedictine University. She will graduate in May with a BA in Education and a minor in Special Education. She arrived from Tanzania in 2012 and despite her initial difficulty with English she will complete all her requirements in four years.
She has been accepted into the Master’s Program in Management and Organizational Behavior at Benedictine University. We are very happy that she will be with us another two years.
Sister Fausta's nuclear family is small. She has one sister who presently works as a nurse in a government dispensary in Tanzania. The village she grew up in is small, about 300 people, and her parents are farmers. Among her jobs as a child were bringing home water from the river and firewood from the forest – carrying both on her head. While she was growing up, she spoke Pangwa, the local language in her village. Her primary school which she started at age 9 was about two miles from her home and as a small child she had to walk that distance twice a day. When she went to secondary school at fifteen, she shared a house with three other girls and sometimes she missed classes because her parents were unable to pay her school fees and rent. She entered the convent after secondary school. It was there that she understood the need for educating girls in Tanzania because so few schools and consequently so few professions were open to women.
After she was chosen to come to Benedictine University, she began to see the opportunities that higher education opened to both men and women. Her desire now is not only to educate children, but to train teachers in Special Education, a discipline that is almost totally lacking in Tanzanian schools. Besides her course work, she is getting practical experience by volunteering at St. Peter and Paul school in Naperville where she observes teachers in various subjects including Special Education. She also does one on one tutoring, helps small groups with their reading skills, and takes part in other school activities. Sister Fausta has high praise for the teachers at Sts. Peter and Paul who made her a part of their “community of learners.” And she loves the students there. After one of her presentations to a class about poverty of the children in Tanzania, one 2nd grade boy enthusiastically announced, “I’ll bring you money on Monday.”
Before coming to the USA, Sister Fausta had never lived in a place where English was spoken. She had English in school but the teachers could speak very little. Her first trip by air was from Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, to Chicago via Zurich in Switzerland where she had to change planes. She was so afraid to ask for help in Zurich, that she decided to stand still and smile at passing passengers until, lo and behold, a young girl asked her whether she needed help. The girl happened also to be going to Chicago on the same plane. When they arrived, she escorted Sr. Fausta until she met Sr. Beatrice and Sr. Helen at O’Hare. A small miracle!
Her first year at Ben U, she spoke very little, and then in a quiet voice. Her problem with English was compounded by never having heard some of terms that every American child grows up takes for granted. For example, in history, she did not know what the Revolution, or Civil War, were and she was afraid to ask the professor in class. Gradually, this hurdle was overcome with some very supportive professors at Ben U and some tutoring from members of the FOI Board. She eventually did well in these courses. Now she has no problems understanding and expressing herself and she helps others with reading.
Another adjustment was food. Her favorite Tanzanian foods were not served here and what was served had too much fat and sugar. There was too much meat and not enough vegetables and fruit. She has since learned that sandwiches are for lunch here and not for breakfast as in Tanzania.
In her first year she had difficulty making friends because she couldn’t use English well and the students asked her if she was Muslim because she wore a veil on her head. After the students got to know her, they became very friendly toward her and gave her rides back to the convent when it was snowing or dark. She still likes snow and the change of seasons, but she can’t get used to northern Illinois cold.
Like the two Sisters before her, Sr. Afra and Sr. Beatrice, Sr. Fausta has been sponsored by the Benedictine Sisters at Sacred Heart. They pay for her flights, visas, room and board, text books and warm clothes. Benedictine University gives her a full scholarship and Marriot Food Service provides her with a free meal plan
Sr. Fausta attends FOI Board meetings as a guest when her class schedule permits. There she fills in what is happening with Sr. Afra’s school and Sr. Beatrice’s medical education because she keeps in touch with them
In her own words:
“I like to study English because I know when I have finished my classes I will be able to teach English in my country especially to kids. I know the Benedictine Sisters at Sacred Heart, the Professors and students at Benedictine University and my other friends here all spend their time to help me because of their love. I feel at home because I miss nothing here. It feels like my community in Tanzania. God bless all.”