By Katharine Bales '22
Re-published from the October 2021 The Bear Facts
Two Ugandan priests named Father Joe—one tall and one short—lighten the mood with their dancing, laughing, and singing every time they set foot on our campus, and this fall they finally came back to The Academy after a two-year hiatus.
According to the global department, delegations visit Uganda in collaboration with the Catholic Archdiocese of Kampala, Uganda rather than with a fellow Ursuline school. Whenever students visit, they learn about how the Catholic Church serves communities in Africa, as well as numerous nonprofit sites dedicated to helping women and babies. Visiting Ursuline girls also have the opportunity to form close relationships with students at St. Peter’s Catholic School in Kampala.
In August the two beloved “Father Joes” from this global partnership in Uganda made a much-awaited return to Dallas, making them our first international guests since before the pandemic. They explored the newly completed east campus building, visited individual classes and added to their ever-growing knowledge of United States traditions.
For example, Father Joe Short recalls learning about buffet-style meals in America during one of his first visits.
“It’s a place where you pay, go in and eat,” he said. “When I first went, I put my plate aside and thought I would have to pay for more. There’s such a permanency of food here! In my country you have to pay for every refill.”
Father Joe Tall fondly recounts his favorite memories from previous Ursuline delegation visits to Uganda.
“Madison Haley became a celebrity,” he said jokingly, referring to a heated soccer tournament between the two delegations.
Haley ’17, who recently finished playing soccer for Stanford University, had blown away the Kampala locals with her soccer skills on a past trip.
“They had never seen a girl—much less an African or African-American girl—play soccer like that,” Ursuline’s director of global relations Cecilia Nipp ’85 said.
The Joes said they admire Ursuline students’ confidence in their pursuit of not only their athletics, but also academic success.
“You are living in a very free country, so you are very confident in yourselves,” Father Joe Tall said.
Going into the priesthood, the Father Joes experienced their respective challenges with family and other career options.
“Many kids in Uganda want to be priests,” Father Joe Tall said, “but my father wanted me to get married and do business.”
However, both he and Father Joe Short became drawn to the priesthood after completing their college education; here they initiated their lifelong friendship.
The Father Joes met in the seminary and have been inseparable ever since. They have inspired each other to be priests from the start of their friendship.
“I wanted to get away from the seminary,” Father Joe Tall said, “but he helped me to cope with the environment. He’s a great saint, I’m telling you.”
Father Joe Short had initially studied to be a medical doctor in college but later decided to enter the priesthood instead.
“As you grow, you start finding your attraction,” he said. “One night I went to bed and closed my eyes. Something asked me, ‘What do you want to be?’ And that is how I decided to become a priest.”
Both of them, despite how they felt at first, ultimately chose this vocation as Catholic priests.
Before leaving for Uganda again, the Father Joes share their most cherished pieces of advice.
“A very old priest whom I despised advised me, ‘Be yourself and use what God gave you,’” Father Joe Tall said.
Father Joe Short added, “My high school physics teacher always said, ‘Never build your life on regret.’”
With that, the Joes departed for Uganda Saturday, Sept. 4. Until the next time they can return to Dallas for future visits, the UA community will miss their joyful personalities!