The XVI General Chapter was celebrated in a very special context: the start of the Third Millennium and the impending canonisation of Daniel Comboni.
Just a few days before the Chapter began its work, a mark of evangelical grace was added to these events: the martyrdom of our confreres Fr. Mario Mantovani and Bro. Godfrey Kiryowa. It was as though the Lord wanted to remind the Chapter Members and all the Comboni Family through their death that mission and martyrdom are vocations that often go together, especially when a decision is made to remain in the midst of our poorest brothers and sisters to “make common cause” with them.
What John Paul II wished us
In presenting the Chapter Acts of 2003, we wish to recall what the Holy Father told us at the Audience on the occasion of the canonisation of Daniel Comboni: “Let us thank God for giving the Church St. Daniel Comboni, a champion of evangelisation. May his example encourage you to respond generously to your Christian and missionary vocation. (...) May God make each of your initiatives fruitful, always intent on spreading the gospel of hope. May He also bless the efforts you make in the field of human development, especially on behalf of the youth”.
It is our hope and certainty that this Chapter document will direct us and help us to make this wish of the Holy Father become a concrete reality in our lives.
The voice of the mission
This document is not just a printed paper; it is a voice. The voice of all the Chapter members who have passed on the sentiments of the confreres of every province and delegation. It is the voice of our Family, engaged in God's mission and guided by the spirituality of our Saint and Founder.
It is the voice of the poor, of the outcasts and the persecuted, who ask of us Comboni Missionaries concrete responses of solidarity, fraternity and love.
It is the voice of the Spirit who has consecrated us and sent us “to tell the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, to give sight to the blind, to free the oppressed and to preach the time of grace of the Lord” (Lk. 4:18-19).
The new insight of the Chapter
The Chapter members set off looking for the new, the prophetic. On the way they realised that maybe the new means to re-discover those treasures that have long been in the Institute, and at times over-looked. The new means to return to that passion for mission that Comboni spoke about, worked, lived and died for (cf. RL 2).
The new is looking at the future with optimism, moving forward with our poverty and our wealth.
A moving forward that often demands the obligation to return to the purity of our origins, to the source of that vast heritage of experiences of faith that has reached us through the sacrifice of the confreres who went ahead of us and transmitted to us the passion for mission.
An advance with the spirituality of the humble labourer who often works without seeing the results of his efforts and sacrifice.
The new is to be faithful to the urgings of Daniel Comboni to contemplate the God on the Cross, who rid himself of everything without reserve, so as to walk alongside all the crucified people in the world.
The new is to return to a spirituality nourished by prayer, recognising that “a missionary can do nothing without Christ who sends him, and that the spreading of the Gospel is linked to prayer” (cf. RL 46.1).
The new is to confirm, each day, our “Here I am!” to God, for an increasingly authentic commitment to our missionary activity.
With our gaze turned towards the future
The future depends on our present and on the commitment to take part together in the missionary adventure to which God has called us. The future depends on how much we want to be Comboni Missionaries together, avoiding the temptation of selfishness, individualism and unwarranted privileges (cf. RL 38).
The future above all depends on a Comboni spirituality that is lived, and from which our way of carrying out mission is born and sustained.
So, “courage for the present, and above all for the future ... without putting obstacles in God’s way”. That is what Comboni taught us.
With all best wishes and blessings
In the name of the Chapter members
Fr. Teresino Serra, superior general
Fr. Fabio Carlo Baldan, vicar general
Bro. Hernán Romero Arias, assistant general
Fr. Tesfamariam Ghebrecristos Woldeghebriel, assistant general
Fr. Odelir José Magri, assistant general