By Fr. Peter Vecellio, O.C.D.
I just finished giving a retreat to our cloistered Carmelite nuns here in Uganda. On my drive back to Jinja, I passed through several outdoor markets, which are ubiquitous in Uganda. While passing through one of them, there was a big traffic slowdown. As I sat idling in my car, I noticed how many women were walking through the market with babes in their arms. And every single one of those babies was the cutest baby you’ve ever seen! Perfectly round, little faces, smooth skin, and the most innocent and curious looks!
There they go, just along for the ride wrapped in their mamas' arms while they do some shopping. Or you’ll see a baby wrapped in a sheet, pressed close behind mama’s back. It’s truly endearing! And for this American, I just don’t see that many babies back in the U.S. It’s really beautiful to see all that innocent and precious life! And here in Uganda, babies are taken everywhere and are right in the middle of all the adult action. An accurate bumper sticker here would be: “Have baby, will travel.”
As I was speaking to one of our Carmelite nuns this week, she told me that her aunt made a comment about this nun coming from a family of only seven! Only seven?! Can you believe that? It gives you a whole new perspective. Here in Uganda, they expect large families of 10 or more. Contrary to western prejudices, families of that size are not merely a series of unplanned accidents caused by ignorance and negligence. A true culture of life is not only open to having more than 2.1 babies, but is also intending and PLANNING to have many, many more. Children are beautiful blessings from God. And contrary to the philosophy of many western relief organizations, children are not obstacles to economic growth in a developing country. They’re the solution!
If someone were to ask me what Uganda’s greatest commodity or natural resource is, I would have to say babies. Uganda has the fifth highest birth rate in the world, which makes them one of the youngest countries in the world. That is a reason for hope and rejoicing! The U.S. might have the chain of stores, but Uganda is truly a nation where BabiesRus!