The first true Consulta of the new General Council came to an end on 3 January 2004. Most of the time was given to “explore” and “envision” the service expected from the Superior General and his assistants.
Here are the areas of responsibility of the general assistants:
Fr. Fabio Carlo Baldan is the vicar general and the delegate of the Superior General for the Curia district. He is responsible of Evangelisation, Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation, the DSP, the English speaking provinces of Africa and Mozambique, and the confreres in special situations.
Fr. José Magri Odelir is the general assistant responsible of Basic and Ongoing Formation, of the provinces and delegations of Brazil Nordeste, Brazil do Sul, Colombia, Delegación de Centro America, Ecuador, Peru-Chile and co-responsible for the French speaking provinces of Africa.
Fr. Tesfamariam Ghebrecristos Woldeghebriel is the general assistant responsible of Mission Promo-tion and of the provinces and delegations of Asia, España, Italia, London Province, Mexico, North American Province and Portugal.
Bro. Romero Arias Hernán is the general assistant responsible of Brothers, Finances, Comboni Lay Missionaries, and co-responsible for the French speaking provinces of Africa.
The program of the visits of the General Council members to the provinces and delegations for 2004 will be published in the near future, favouring visits in conjunction with provincial, continental or secretariats’ assemblies.
We hope to resolve at the earliest the situation of the visa and residence permits for Fr. Tesfamariam Ghebrecristos Woldeghebriel and Bro. Romero Arias Hernán who, for the time being, may not leave Italy.
Fr. Benno Singer will lead the Province of South Africa as vice provincial from 10 December 2003, up to the end of the current term of office, namely till 31 December 2004.
Fr. Sebhatleab Ayele Tsenna is appointed superior of the delegation of Eritrea from 1 April 2004 up to the end of the next term of office, namely 31 December 2007.
Fr. Luigi Cignolini was appointed member of the Board of Dar Comboni for Arabic Studies in Egypt on 9 December 2003. At the Board meetings Fr. Luigi represents the delegation of Egypt and the province of Khartoum.
Fr. Lanfranchi Renato has been confirmed by the General Council as vice provincial of BS from 10 No-vember 2003.
Fr. Alcides Costa was elected to the provincial council of BS on 20 January 2004. He replaces Fr. Odelir José Magri who has been elected assistant general.
Fr. Quigley Brian Joseph from 1 January 2004 has been appointed provincial councillor of the NAP in place of Fr. Vargas Egüez Ramón Alberto, assigned to Ecuador.
Sch. Apaap Bonifacio Jr. Autentico (A) Roma 19.12.2003
Sch. Carlassare Christian (I) Roma 19.12.2003
Sch. Djago Paul (T) Roma 19.12.2003
Sch. Estacio Moises Dela Cruz (A) Roma 19.12.2003
Sch. Ibarra Hernández Luis Enrique (M) Roma 19.12.2003
Fr. Hipólito Pedro Senén (M) Usila (MEX) 29.11.2003
Fr. Vargas Vera Ernesto (PE) Huayllabamba (PE)29.11.2003
New CD on Comboni and the Comboni Missionaries
On the occasion of the canonisation and of the 4th National Youth Congress of “América Misionera,” we decided to offer in particular to the younger generation something new, using the newest means of communication in the service of Mission Promotion in a more efficient and stimulating way. Therefore, with much work, sacrifice and determination, and with the encouragement of the provincial, the brothers of Guayaquil, particularly Bro. Roberto Misas Ríos, produced the first multimedia CD on Comboni and the Comboni Missionaries in Ecuador.
The CD has five sections: 1) Daniel Comboni: his identity, what was said about him, quotations from his Writings, an outline of his life and a hymn; 2) The Comboni Family: the Comboni Missionaries and Comboni Sisters, Secular Comboni Missionaries and Lay Comboni Missionaries, nations where they work, statistics; 3) The Comboni Missionaries in Ecuador: priorities, messages, contribution of the Comboni Missionaries to the Church in Ecuador, their history, pastoral work among the Afro-Americans, América Misionera, publications; 4) How to be a missionary priest, brother, sister, secular and lay, and personal interviews, stages of formation, etc.; 5) Comboni music, which holds four musical CDs; three books: the history of the province, the life of Comboni (Fr. Cirillo Tescaroli), the book of Fr. Lorenzo Gaiga on the Sisters; pictures of all our missions and missionaries; personal witnesses.
In the introduction by the provincial we read: “The canonisation of St. Daniel Comboni encourages us to seek new ways of doing promotion in order to spread his charism, his spirit and the history of our Institute using modern means of communication. May this small effort inspire us to know Comboni better, to allow ourselves to be imbued with his one and only passion, to be enthused by his ideal and to choose to dedicate our entire life to the service of the Kingdom as we follow in his footsteps.”
4th Youth Congress of “América Misionera”
The 4th National Youth Missionary Congress of “América Misionera” was held at the St. Daniel Comboni Centre of Carcelén-Quito on 14-16 November. Its theme was “A thousand lives for the mission.” It was attended by about 800 young people from all the provinces of the country, including the Galapagos Islands.
A few months earlier a booklet with seven topics had been sent to the participants to help them prepare for the event.
The focus of the Congress was on the challenge of mission and on our missionary resolve. It was developed by the reflections of the provincial, of various other speakers and through very lively Eucharistic celebrations, where the presiders were in turn the vicar general of the archdiocese, the provincial, and the bishop in charge of missions within the Bishops Conference. The Afro Mass was a great encouragement to make good use of their cultural values.
During the Congress the characteristic traits of every province in the country were highlighted and there was even an exhibit of typical products and of objects fashioned by the participants themselves. It was also a good occasion to successfully launch the new CD. At the conclusion it was decided to continue to hold congresses. The closing Mass was attended by about 1200 people, including the families that had hosted the participants. The Congress was taped in its entirety in view of putting together a video of mission promotion. We hope that, out of those thousand lives in attendance, at least some will be dedicated to mission…
The community of Quinindé is handed over to the vicariate
With a triduum to St. Daniel Comboni we prepared ourselves to hand this parish over to the apostolic vicariate after almost 90 years of committed and fruitful work by many missionaries who worked in this place, which was always seen as a symbol of the Comboni Missionaries’ presence in Ecuador. In town there are ten chapels with kindergartens and schools up to secondary level and for adults with a total of 1800 students, a health clinic, an independent savings and loans cooperative, various lay groups and a centre of formation for catechists and lay leaders. In the 120 villages of the countryside there are many chapels and lay ministries.
We decided to hand over the parish on 5 December and to remember the day of the canonisation with the blessing of a monument and the placing of a bronze bust of Comboni, in memory of all the Comboni Missionaries who gave their life, beginning with the first to die in Ecuador, Bro. Giovanni Piacquadio, who drowned in the Quinindé while visiting the communities, up to Fr. Alberto Buffoni, who by his example and dedication changed the history of this town to the point that the hospital is dedicated to him, and to Fr. Modesto Pacheco Llorente who stayed here to the end.
The parish community itself took care of everything, insisted on having the monument and prepared an unforgettable farewell. The evening was very beautiful. It included a Eucharist presided by the bishop and concelebrated by several priests who had worked here, followed by a cultural and artistic production, with the giving out of plaques, followed by a display of fireworks to end it all, with the likeness of Comboni and a “Thank you, Comboni Missionaries” appearing in the sky.
Closing of the Comboni Year in Esmeraldas
On Saturday 6 December at the Centro Santa Cruz of Esmeraldas the members of the Comboni Family gathered for a day retreat and to prepare the closing of the Comboni Year. The gathering was facilitated by Mgr. Eugenio Arellano Fernández, and was the occasion for an exchange of experiences and above all an opportunity to thank God for the gift of the canonisation. It took place in Esmeraldas, because it has a special meaning for our Comboni Family, since the Comboni Year had been started there.
On Sunday 7 December we closed the Comboni Year with the ordination of three new priests of Esmeraldas: two Afro-American and the first Indio Chachi (Cayapa). It was like seeing the realisation of Comboni’s dream to “Save Africa with Africa” which for us, since 13 April 1955, has been to “Save Esmeraldas with the Esmeraldeños”.
On Friday, 28 November, in the new Coptic-Catholic cathedral of Cairo the patriarch and cardinal Stephanòs II Ghattàs presided over a solemn liturgy in his rite, in thanksgiving for the canonisation of St. Daniel Comboni. Among the concelebrants were the Superior General of the MCCJ, the two auxiliary bishops and the Coptic-Catholic bishops of Ghiza and Assiout. Present also were the secretary of the nunciature, the Maronite and the Greek-Melkite bishops, and the retired bishops of Minia and Sohag. About 40 priests joined in the concelebration, among them the provincial of the Franciscans, the rectors of the major seminary and of the Theological Institute, and the Armenian parish priest. The cathedral was packed with at least 2000 people, including several hundred Sudanese who, with their songs, drums and dances, gave a particular African tone to the celebration. During the reception that followed the celebration, they entertained the public in the nearby yard. At the end of the liturgy, the Superior General of the MCCJ and the Superior General of the CMS, who had come from Rome for the occasion, were asked to address the congregation and to speak on the meaning of the canonisation. Afterwards about 100 invited guests attended a dinner.
Later on a group of 25 Comboni Missionaries and Comboni Sisters, together with Fr. Teresino Serra, Sr Adele Brambilla, Fr. Venanzio Milani and Bro. Umberto Martinuzzo, went on a pilgrimage of the Comboni places of Muski, Old Cairo, Bulac and the Comboni church of “Cordi Jesu Sacra, where solemn vespers were celebrated in honour of the saint.
On Sunday, 30 November, another solemn celebration was held in Aswan with the patriarch as the main celebrant, assisted by the Coptic-Catholic bishop of Luxor.
At the end, the patriarch and the bishop announced that the name of St. Daniel Comboni will be added to the title of the cathedral, which is named in honour of Mary Immaculate. The official document was signed also by Fr. Teresino Serra, by Fr. Claudio Lurati (delegate of the MCCJ in Egypt), by Sr. Adele Brambilla and by Sr. Jago Abril Teresa Irene (provincial of the CMS of Egypt). The group then visited the ancient Shellàl that saw Comboni and many other missionaries leave for Central Africa. In the evening, the young people performed a show on some of the more remarkable episodes of Comboni’s life.
Pontifical recognition of Dar Comboni
Dar Comboni has received pontifical recognition as an institute depending directly from the Holy See. It is the first of its kind in Egypt. On Tuesday, 2 December, in the church of St. Joseph in Zamalek, the apostolic nuncio Mgr. Dino Brogi, OFM, celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving for the recognition which includes the power to confer, after two years of study, the Baccalaureate in Arabic and Islamic Studies. The Latin bishop, together with the Greek-Melkite, the Maronite and Syrian bishops were present, together with the two Coptic bishops of Ghiza and Ismaylia. Several Comboni Missionaries and priests students joined the concelebration.
Following the Mass, the institute was introduced to the public in various languages in the parish hall. A buffet followed in the garden.
In view of this important recognition a floor was added and the building was completely renovated to make room for a larger number of students and courses. This year thee are 95 students: 44 attend regular courses in Classical Arabic, 14 are in the Arabic Dialect course and 37 attend personalized private courses. The students come from four continents, 30 different countries, 15 religious institutes. There are also diocesan priests and members of protestant churches, plus an Armenian Orthodox.
Closing of the Comboni Year
On Sunday 7 December in the Comboni church of Cordi Jesu, more than 60 Comboni Sisters gathered together with the Comboni priests and Brothers of Cairo for the closing of the Comboni Year with the renewal of vows. A joyous meal followed.
“Telamone for Peace” to the Comboni Institute
On 31 November 2003, in front of the “Concordia” Temple of Agrigento, the international prize “Telamone for Peace” was given to the Comboni Missionaries. After a number of speeches on the victims of current wars and on the urgency of starting a “new crusade of peacemakers that will tear down the walls people are building,” Mgr. Carmelo Ferraro spoke of the close relationship between the “commitment to peace of the honourees and the meaning of Christmas.”
The text that was proclaimed to explain the giving of the prize to the Comboni Missionaries reads in part” “The Comboni Institute, founded by St. Daniel Comboni, shining example of missionary ideals, canonised this past 5 October, has been in existence for more than 150 years, with communities of courageous, sometime “uncomfortable,” priests and brothers who live a life of witness, of communion, of sharing and of commitment to solidarity with the poorest and most abandoned. The projects carried out by the Comboni Missionaries in Africa, Asia and Latin America number in the hundreds and they are of benefit to the poor, they cry for justice, they defend and promote the culture of ‘diversity’ as an enrichment and proclaim to all that Peace is possible. A truly extraordinary curriculum, a true blessing for all. Special people, these Comboni Missionaries!”
Limone on internet
The Agency LIMTOURS of Limone has put together a very interesting web site with information on St. Daniel Comboni and Casa Comboni of Limone. Enjoy visiting http://www.lagodigardamagazine.com - Limone – Missionari Comboniani.
Priestly Ordination of Fr. Ernesto Vargas Vera
Saturday, 29 November and Sunday, 30 November, were the dates set for the celebration of the priestly ordination and the first Mass of Fr. Ernesto Vargas Vera at the centre of the “Sacred Valley” of the ancient Incas.
Fr. Ernesto is the first Comboni Missionary from Cusco. For all those people who, on both days, filled to overflowing the churches of the district of Huayllabamba and of Urquillos, his native town, it was the first time they were able to witness such a touching religious event. Perhaps for this reason, the participation of the entire population, from the mayor and all the other authorities to the most humble farmers and village women was remarkable. They were all present in that place that was once again a parish after a century of neglect. The women arrived in church with large flower arrangements to be given to the bishop and the priests as they exited the church.
The town has a large colonial church with a facade of stone and a gilded baroque altar backdrop. The presider at the ordination was Mgr. Domenico Berni, OSA, of Chuquibambilla. Four diocesan priests and four Comboni Missionaries concelebrated, including the provincial. Bro. Ivan Bernardi came to be with the new priest together with a large number of people from Arequipa, where Fr. Ernesto had been for some months as a deacon. Also present were several lay people friends of the Comboni Missionaries who had come from Lima.
The mother and Fr. Ernesto’s eight brothers enjoyed the good fortune of being with him on this great day. During the celebration some popular songs in Kechwa were performed with gusto by the participants. At the end of the liturgy there were words of thanksgiving and, when his turn came, Fr. Ernesto thanked everyone for the reception he had received from his town. He spoke also in Kechwa, his mother tongue.
On 30 November, the first Sunday of Advent, Fr. Ernesto celebrated his First Mass in the church of his native town of Urquillos. It is a beautiful church in colonial style, very well preserved thanks to the work of the Franciscans who have had a convent next to the church for some centuries. Fr. Conrado Franco Lorenzo, our provincial, preached the homily. This church as well was filled to overflowing and could not hold all the neighbours of Urquillos who did not want to miss the blessing of their fellow citizen.
At the end of the Mass, Fr. Ernesto received the blessing of his people in the form of a rain of flowers that the women of his land poured abundantly on his head, just as they had done at his ordination. A great popular celebration continued on for several hours in the town square with popcorn and cheese for all, with music and dancing, rye drinks and fruit drinks brought with great care in large containers by farming families who showed in this way their happiness and solidarity with their very own new priest and missionary.
Closing of the Comboni Year in Lima
On Saturday, 6 December, the Comboni Family of Lima gathered at the house of the Comboni Missionary Sisters of Pueblo Libre for its regional retreat day. More than 40 people attended and we anticipated the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the major feast of the Comboni Sisters.
The year of the canonisation of our founder, St. Daniel Comboni, came to its conclusion at this gathering. The entire Family was represented, because Comboni Missionaries, Comboni Sisters, Lay Comboni Missionaries and friends attended as well. The house turned out to be a little too small but, as the proverb has it, “the heart was large” and it was meaningful for the closing of the Canonisation Year.
We started the day with a reflection given by Sr. Luz Rosmary Apaza Herrera, who spoke of the personal relationship of Comboni and the Virgin Mary. A time of adoration followed to help us deepen our relation to Jesus and Mary, our Mother. After a coffee break, during which we watched a short video on the Comboni Family in Peru, we celebrated a Eucharist with the provincial, Fr. Conrado Franco Lorenzo, as the main celebrant. In his homily he summarized for us the content of the December reflection we had received from Rome, “Our Lady of the Sacred Heart: a Comboni Missionary Marian Icon of Evangelisation.” The provincial stressed the presence of this devotion and its missionary value in the life and mission of our Founder. We, his children, have received this as our inheritance from our Father and Founder and it must be part of our lives and of our missionary service. After the homily, the Comboni Sisters renewed their religious consecration.
After the Eucharist we enjoyed a lunch that had been prepared and offered with love and care by the Comboni Sisters.
Comboni on TV
Channel 2 of Portuguese TV has begun airing a series of six programs on St. Daniel Comboni. The author is Mgr. Manuel Clemente, auxiliary bishop of Lisbon and director of the Centre for Historical Studies of the Portuguese Catholic University (UCP). The programs were taped in the hall of our community in Lisbon. The exhibit of African art we have there was used as a backdrop. The programs started airing the evening of 18 December.
Lira district and the LRA rebels
Since September, Lira district, occupied by the Lango ethnic group, has become the centre and the target of the mainly Acholi LRA rebels. The latter even have semi-permanent camps in some areas within the district, like Orit in Apala sub-county and Amomeno in Abako sub-county. Of recent they have changed their military tactics, namely, they split in small units and attack simultaneously at different locations. In the last three weeks alone they have killed more than 150 people. The attacks occur so often and in so many places that it has become difficult to keep accurate records. Lira municipality, which in normal times hosts 90.000 people, now has swollen to more than 300.000.
Displaced people breed other serious problems like famine, lack shelter, scarcity of water, disease and insecurity. The district was not prepared for this emergency. They have created eleven camps to accommodate the displaced people: Starch Factory, Lango Cultural Centre, Railway, Alito Camp, All Nations, etc. The district has chosen a place called Barapwoo, in Bala County and 11 Km. west of Lira town, to build a permanent settlement. Some NGOs are trying to provide the basic facilities in all these camps, as people are living in sub-human conditions.
Another dangerous aspect is the hatred and the feeling of revenge the Lango of Lira feel against the Acholi, to whose group belong the rebels. Unconfirmed reports say that an Acholi family was massacred in Agwata township a week ago. According to the army spokesman based in Lira, the LRA rebels are revenging the death of Tabuley, one of the rebels’ leaders killed in the area, but who, at least according to some sources, seems to be still alive.
Lango Religious Leaders Forum
On 1 November 2003 the different religious denominations met and formed an association called “Lango Religious Leaders Forum”. It was meant to take a common stand about the situation. In fact, on 15 November 2003 a jointly organized peace march took place and prayer was held in the municipality garden. The bishops of the Catholic Church and of the Church of Uganda gave strong messages, appealing to the LRA, to the government of Uganda and to the international community. Some MPs and district officials attended the prayer service. A few weeks ago the Lango and Acholi MPs walked out of parliament in protest against the passivity of the government in front of the tragedy of the North.
Three km. from Ngeta Mission the rebels massacred about 12 people with sticks and pangas. The scene, witnessed by Fr. Fernando Moroni, was horrifying.
Ambush of Fr. Guido Cellana
On 28 November 2003 Fr. Guido Cellana was ambushed while going to Aliwang to take food to the people sheltered around the mission. At about 15 km from the mission, seven LRA rebels jumped in the middle of the road and started shooting. As Fr. Guido bent down behind the steering wheel to protect himself, he was hit in the hand that was holding the steering wheel. A 15 year-old boy traveling with him was shot dead.
The rebels surrounded the car and asked Fr. Guido to get out of the vehicle and to sit down by the side of the road. They looted the food he was carrying and set the pick-up on fire. The rebels then began to move away leaving Fr. Guido behind. Soon, though, one of them started to turn back. Fr. Guido understood that the rebel intended to shoot him. He immediately jumped up and ran into the bushes and the tall grass. The rebel decided to rejoin the group of his companions. Fr. Guido went back to the main road and began to walk. After a few km. he eventually met a man on a motorcycle who took him to Lira, where he was medicated in the mission dispensary of Ngeta.
Fr. Guido has been assisting the many displaced people in the Lira district, especially those from Aliwang, by distributing relief items. His work is very much appreciated by the local population. The provincial visited with him some of these camps and could witness the cry of the people who do not know whom to turn to for help. The children run around looking for a smile, for a little help and for a sign of concern and affection. The people are spiritually open and responsive. Fr. Guido finds the work he is doing providential from the pastoral point of view and quite rewarding. In spite of the insecurity and suffering people meet regularly with their catechists in nine places.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Fr. Alfonso Polacchini (28.02.1927 – 25.12.2003)
We have received new of the death of Fr. Alfonso Polacchini. His necrology will appear in the next issue.
Fr. Giuseppe Galeotti (07.10.1921 – 28.12.2003)
We have received new of the death of Fr. Giuseppe Galeotti. His necrology will appear in the next issue.
Let us pray for our deceased
THE FATHER: Jósef of novice Stefan Tudaj (I); of Bro. Daniele Giovanni Giusti (U).
THE MOTHER: of Fr. Luciano Marini (BS); Catalina of Fr. Pascual Garrido Ramón (E); of Fr. Pascal Garasoma Subari (PO); of Fr. Paolo Berteotti (I).
THE BROTHER: of Fr. Paolo Tomaino (U).
THE SISTER: Lucia of Fr. Giuseppe Cavallini (ET); of Fr. Luigi Varesco (I); Èlia of Fr. Giancarlo Guiducci (KE); Susana Amparo of Fr. Héctor Manuel Peña Sanchez (M); Paola (Salesian Sister) of Fr. Claudio Altieri (ET).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. M. Ester Garavaglia.