On the 20 December 2002 in the “Sala Clementina” in the Vatican there was the proclamation of the “Decree on the Miracle of the Cause of Beatification of Blessed Daniel Comboni”. The Holy Father John Paul presiding, were proclaimed also 17 other decrees for the canonization and beatification of other saints and blessed, among them of Blessed Arnold Janssen and Mother Teresa of Cacultta. Present at the proclamation for the Comboni Family were: Fr. Manuel Augusto Lopes Ferreira, Superior General of the Comboni Missionaries; Sr. Adele Brambilla, Superior General of the Comboni Missionary Sisters; and Anna Maria Menin for the Secular Comboni Missionaries. With the proclamation of the Decree on the Miracle, the Cause of Canonization of our founder reaches an happy ending and is officially made known. Still to be decided is the date of the canonization, which we hope will be soon.
1 - Reflection on the Lineamenta
We remind the provincials/delegates to encourage the confreres of their provinces/delegations to become actively involved, as individual and communities, in the process of reflection on the Lineamenta and in the preparation to the XVI General Chapter. We remind them also that all the contributions, observations and comments on the Lineamenta must be forwarded to the General Secretary’s Office by the end of February 2003.
2 - Letter on the commitment to live consecrated Chastity
The letter of the General Council on the renewed commitment to consecrated Chastity in the face of the phenomenon of sexual abuses, entitled “Witnesses to the Love of the Crucified”, has been sent to the provinces/delegations. To the provincials/delegates it has been sent also by e-mail. This letter has been published in 6 languages (Italian, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and German). We ask the provincials/delegates to forward a copy to each confrere and to encourage them to study it at community and at province/delegation’s level. The stand taken by the Holy See and by some national Bishops’ Conferences on the issue of sexual abuses makes this letter of the General Council timely and it is convenient that the whole Institute reflect on it.
3 - Meeting of the Brothers’ delegates to the Chapter
The General Council has called a meeting of the Brothers’ delegates to the XVI General Chapter. It will take place at the Generalate in Rome from 28 March to 4 April 2003. The aim of this meeting is to give the Brothers delegates an opportunity to meet and to study issues of special concern for the Brothers, so as to arrive at the Chapter with a common understanding. The formators of the CIFs and of the Brothers’ postulates and some especially invited confreres will also take part. We ask the provincials/delegates to facilitate the participation of the confreres concerned and we ask all confreres, especially the Brothers, to pray for the success of this meeting.
Fr. Vargas Egüez Ramón Alberto (NAP) has been appointed superior of the Scholasticate in Chicago from 1 December 2002.
Fr. Codianni Luigi Fernando (BNE) has been appointed member of the General Council concerning Finances for America from 1 January 2003.
Fr. Zolli Fernando (C) has been appointed member of the “Follow-up Committee of PISAI-DAR COMBONI” from 1 January 2003.
Fr. Lorenzo Gaiga: “Sulle orme dei martiri” “In the footsteps of the Martyrs” (Life of Msgr. Giovanni Giordani), 220 pages. Copies may be obtained from the Italian province or from the “Parrocchia, 23020 Lanzada, SO”.
Fr. Alberto Doneda: “Misioneros Combonianos en Ecuador y Colombia” “The Comboni Missionaries in Ecuador and Colombia,” by Editorial Sin Fronteras, 2002, 234 pages, with picture inserts. It is an updated second edition. Copies may be requested from the province of Ecuador.
Sc. Breda Rossano (I) São Paulo (BS) 11.21.2002
Sc. Ramundo Massimo (I) São Paulo (BS) 11.21.2002
Sc. Cabascango Ulcuango Félix Angel (EC) Kinshasa (RDC) 11.28.2002
Sc. Chwaliszewski Wojciech (PO) Kinshasa (RDC) 11.28.2002
Sc. João Rodrigues da Costa (P) Kinshasa (RDC) 11.28.2002
Sc. Jorge Miguel Pereira Brites (P) Kinshasa (RDC) 11.28.2002
Sc. Merletto Matteo (I) Kinshasa (RDC) 11.28.2002
Sc. Torres Cuyubamba Noé Abel (PE) Kinshasa (RDC) 11.28.2002
Sc. Vargas Vera Ernesto (PE) Kinshasa (RDC) 11.28.2002
Sc. González Rodríguez Armando (M) Elstree (GB) 11.29.2002
Sc. Kizito Dennis Ssebunya (KE) Elstree (GB) 11.29.2002
Sc. Kouande Adekoun Victor (T) Elstree (GB) 11.29.2002
Sc. Orango Clement George (KE9 Elstree (GB) 11.29.2002
Sc. Bolaños Palacios Martín Adolfo (CO) Roma (I) 12.20.2002
Sc. Güitrón Torres Rafael (M) Roma (I) 12.20.2002
Sc. Joaquim José Moreira da Silva (P) Roma (I) 12.20.2002
Sc. Mitchell Sandoval Nelson Edgar (PE) Roma (I) 12.20.2002
Sc. Quiroz Alférez Prisciliano (M) Roma (I) 12.20.2002
Fr. Murillo Tongo Víctor Hugo (PE) Lima (PE) 12.14.2002
Ordination to the diaconate
On 7 December 2002 Sc. Antonio Arnaiz Carañagan (Tony) was ordained deacon by Mgr. Socrates Villegas, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Manila. Many thanks to the Salesians who welcomed our deacon Tony to take part in their celebration, during which they had four priests ordained. The ordination, held at Mary Help of Christians parish in Better Living, Paranaque, was well attended also by the relatives and some friends of deacon Tony as well as by all the confreres, our candidates and some of the Friends of the Missions. It was followed by a simple reception at our new house – the Comboni Mission Center – in Sucat.
Creation of a new diocese
The much spoken and waited plan to divide the archdiocese of Manila into several dioceses is being implemented. In the course of the ordination mentioned above, Mgr. Villegas announced officially the creation of two new dioceses, Novaliches and Paranaque, carved out of two pastoral areas of the archdiocese. Paranaque, entrusted to the care of Bishop Jesse Mercado, has now become the diocese where our new Mission Center (Sucat) is located. Thus, the Comboni Missionaries have become present in three dioceses in the Philippines: in the archdiocese of Manila, in the diocese of San Pablo, Laguna, and now in the latest one, the diocese of Paranaque.
Meeting of Ongoing Formation for the Young Confreres
On 20-21 November the young confreres gathered for two days of ongoing formation. On the first day, Fr. Carlos Álvarez, a Eudist, spoke on “The Living Encounter with Jesus Christ,” distinguishing two types of encounters of the disciples with Jesus, one at the beginning and the other at the end of the Gospel: the first impacts and brings about change; the second purifies their infidelity and brings to commitment. We are all called to repeat this journey.
In another talk we dealt with “the young as expression of a culture,” trying to find the reason for certain attitudes of the young candidates and exploring how far these challenges influence our lives. On the second day we did some group work in order to answer these questions: What are the causes of the crisis in mission and what are the possible solutions? How can the mystical experience of the Founder be a valid point of reference today for the young Comboni Missionaries.
Meeting of Ongoing Formation for Middle Age missionaries
The ongoing formation meeting for middle age religious took place at the provincial house on 25-27 November. The theme was, “The importance of self esteem for priests and religious” which was developed by Fr. Luis Bayas, SJ. Describing “the signs of what is OK and of what is not OK” he spurred us to always have a high level of self esteem, insisting on the stimulating value of even the slightest signs of affection. We closed with a feedback session on the positive qualities we could see in each one of the participants.
Fr. Enea Mauri introduced us to a booklet on mission promotion based on our Latin American reality, as an essential component of our evangelisation and of our charism, closing with the “Final Proposals of the Assembly of Mission Promotion held in Bogota in 2002.” On 27 November we concentrated on the preparation for the General Chapter and working proposals.
Once again this year the six Institutes involved in the project of the magazine “Spiritus” gathered in general assembly under the direction of Fr. Enea Mauri in order to evaluate what has been accomplished during the past five years and to plan for the future. We underlined the positive aspect of this magazine which is the only missiology publication in Spanish, we also noted that it needs to have a stronger Latin American flavour and even outlined the topics for the next two years: otherness, namely who are the “others;” dialogue, the wounds, fundamentalism; mission: the protagonists, the places, what image of God are we projecting? We hope that this commitment, which some Institutes have taken up with enthusiasm and in a spirit of service, may help to bring about a deeper reflection on mission and to foster our missionary work.
The 50th anniversary of St. Joseph parish in Zamalek, Cairo
On this occasion the entire inside of the church was repainted. The building was completed in 1939, on the spot where the Comboni Missionaries presence goes back to the Anti-slavery Colony Leo 13th, founded in 1888. It became a parish in November 1952, as part of the Latin Apostolic Vicariate of Alexandria, which now embraces all of Egypt. The occasion was observed on the feast of Christ the King with a solemn Mass presided by the Latin Bishop and with 15 priests concelebrating. The liturgy itself and the songs were in a variety of languages and at the offertory several women from various African Countries performed a liturgical dance. At the end, children from the different catechisms sections (English, French, Italian, and Spanish) gathered in front of the altar and sang a hymn while waving silk banners with the name of the parish and a picture of the Holy Family.
Two people were confirmed during the Mass. For the occasion a calendar was also printed with pictures of the church and of its chapels. On that occasion we also celebrated the 25th anniversary of ordination of Fr. Pierino Landonio, the current associate pastor. Fr. Angelo Anzioli directed the choir. An open reception followed. The celebration was attended also by the Ambassador of Italy and his wife, who regularly worship here.
Drought and famine
The Ethiopian Government and several humanitarian organisations have started appealing for help towards the great needs created by yet another severe drought that has hit Ethiopia once again. At least one sixth of the country’s main harvest has been destroyed by drought. Studies say that 14 million people will need food help within a month or two. Many places are also facing shortage of drinking water because wells have run dry. The regions hit hardest by the drought are Wollo, Tigray, Afar and Bale.
The Sidamo area, too, where Awasa Vicariate is situated, has not been not spared by the drought. The people of some of our missions are already suffering from the consequences of the drought. We have already started organising feeding programs especially through our clinics. After studying the situation together with civil authorities and other churches, the decision was reached to divide the areas among the various churches, NGOs and other development agencies for a sustained intervention in favour of the people affected by the drought. The Awasa Vicariate, in cooperation with the Comboni Missionaries, has started to look for funds to undertake a five-month-long feeding program for 46.000 people in Boricha Wereda, where our mission of Fullasa is located.
Workshop on Ecclesiology
From 5 to 7 of November a workshop, organised by the Comboni Missionaries but open to other pastoral agents, took place in Awasa. The seminar was led by Fr. Francesco Pierli who helped us in our reflection on some of the situations and challenges that we are currently facing, both as Comboni Missionaries in Ethiopia and as members of the Church of Awasa. Fr. Pierli’s accurate reading of the Ethiopian social developments and the present situation of evangelisation in the Vicariate was shared by the forty priests, brothers, sisters and lay people who took part in the seminar. Meetings such as this at diocesan level are precious opportunities to grow together with the various religious Institutes that are increasingly present and working in Awasa Vicariate. The fact that the Comboni Missionaries, who founded the local Church of Awasa Vicariate and are still responsible for the highest number of its parishes, are increasingly sharing their pastoral responsibilities with a growing number of other male and female Religious Institutes as well as with the local Clergy, is an encouraging sign of ecclesiological growth of the Vicariate.
After the conclusion of this seminar, the Comboni Missionaries gathered together with Fr. Pierli to reflect upon the Lineamenta in order to focus their attention on the main issues that we shall bring to the forthcoming General Chapter.
Commitment to Education
Human promotion is closely linked with education. Since the beginning of our Missions in Sidamo, we Comboni Missionaries have always had an outstanding commitment to education by investing all our available resources into it. At the moment, more than 14.000 children are getting their primary and secondary education in the Catholic schools of Awasa Vicariate. This is an important contribution to the development of a country where the great majority of people are still illiterate. Furthermore, after repeated requests from the people and local education authorities and serious discernment on our part, we have decided to up-grade some of our schools from elementary to medium courses and up to Grade 8.
A new primary school was inaugurated on 28 October by Mgr. Lorenzo Ceresoli at Sintaro, in the Parish of Tullo. The new school will serve the needs of children in Sintaro and surroundings, a remote area in the hills around Lake Awasa.
In the Mission of Teticha, too, Mgr. Ceresoli blessed four new classrooms that were required for the upgrading of the existing school up to the 7th and 8th Grades. Two of the new classrooms will serve as library and laboratory respectively. As the guests visited the facilities, they were introduced to the pedagogic materials on display: Ethiopian history books, English books and audiovisuals like tapes and videos. The local authorities expressed their satisfaction for the contribution offered by local people in the building of the new classrooms. They also expressed the wish that the school of Teticha may become a model to be followed by other schools in the area.
New Church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary
On 30 November, the community of Teticha organised the blessing and inauguration of a new church in Mattana Murshano, one of the fifty-nine outstations of the mission. The building was put up by our Bro. Fernando García Acedo, counting on the collaboration and financial contribution also of the people of Mattana Murshano. For the occasion, the Catholic community invited the provincial superior of the Comboni Missionaries and the provincial superior of the Comboni Sisters. Mgr. Ceresoli proceeded to the blessing of the new church surrounded by the local Catholic community that expressed their happiness in a joyful and lively celebration of the Eucharist.
Assembly of superiors
The Assembly of superiors was held in Pesaro from 2 to 6 December and was attended by those in charge of the provincial secretariats and commissions. The four days of intensive work were highlighted by the talks of our vicar general, Fr. Venanzio Milani. The upcoming General Chapter and Comboni’s canonization led the superiors to take an attentive look at the life of the province and, at the same time, to the sketching of a concrete program for the future, finding priorities, choices and ways of implementing them. While looking for an answer to how to be missionaries in Italy today, the participants promised a greater commitment to the sector of justice and peace, a better cooperation with the local Church in the pastoral work among the immigrants and, in particular, to a more intense and cooperative effort in vocation awareness. An atmosphere of openness and sincerity allowed the assembly to recognize the weaknesses in the province and to look for possible solutions.
Fr. Antonio Piacentini and his twenty thousand
Milan, 12 December 2002: Mass of “thanksgiving” to God for the life and the person of Fr. Antonio Piacentini, Comboni Missionary and founder of the Movement of the Little Brothers and of the Little Sisters of Mary. The many people who attended the funeral rites well represented the close to 20 thousand members of the Movement, present today in 17 countries! Fr. Rafael González Ponce, assistant general, giving an overall view of his presence in Mexico, described Fr. Antonio as a simple, humble and joyful man who always allowed the Spirit to do his work, particularly in the foundation of his Movement. Certainly it was not just a coincidence that Fr. Antonio, very devoted to Mary, died suddenly on the feast of the Immaculate Conception and was buried on December 12, feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
A Note for provincials and delegates
In order to ensure a better service to the sick/elderly confreres and to have a more efficient organization of the C.A.A., all interested provincials/delegates are asked to deal directly with the one in charge of this sector, namely Fr. Teresino Serra, vice provincial of Italy (firstname.lastname@example.org) or, as an alternative, the provincial secretary (email@example.com) We remind you that it is not proper to deal directly with the personnel of the C.A.A., except in emergencies, and that it is very embarrassing for us to see confreres who arrive without prior notice. You are all welcome, but only good cooperation and communications will allow us to offer adequate care.
The NGO called “ONLUS”, namely the Nonprofit Organization of Social Help: Open World, can pass on to banking institutions, municipalities, firms, benefactors, etc. “Small Projects” (from 2.500,00 to 10.000,00 Euro) requested by Comboni Missionaries in the missions. Projects should deal with the various needs in the fields of education, formation, health (AIDS), orphan care, humanitarian and religious assistance, emergency situations and other concrete needs. The projects must be described clearly and briefly (not much more than half a page) listing: 1) the general objective of the project; 2) the specific objective it hopes to achieve; 3) the expected results, namely the tangible effects and benefits of the project and which changes or improvements will the project bring about; 4) What are the necessary investments of this projects in terms of personnel, equipment, formation, study, tools; 5) the total budget of the project (namely, the sum of money needed for the various items).
Requests should be sent to Fr. Walter Borghesi, Missionari Comboniani, Vicolo Pozzo 1, 37129 Verona (Italy). Fax 39-45/803.1455.
Sub-Continental Assembly of Mission Promotion
The African Sub-Continental Assembly of Mission Promotion was held in Nairobi at the Provincial House of the Comboni Missionaries from 11 to 15 November 2002. Twenty members, priests (11), brothers (1) and sisters (8), represented all the ten provinces/delegations of this part of Africa and the two General Administrations in Rome (Sr. Maria Grazia Campostrini, SMC, and Fr. Jaime Calvera Pi, MCCJ). The line-up had been organised by Fr. Paulino Twesigye and Sr. Teresa Raimondo together with the Coordinator Fr. Umberto Pescantini, all of Kenya. The inputs were appreciated, especially the one of Fr. Pierli, and the discussions were lively, as they tried to clarify in practice how to proceed in order to promote the mission in the African Church. The participants enjoyed and treasured the encounters they could have during these days with various communities in the neighbourhood, such as that of the CIF, of South Sudan and of the Provincial House of the Comboni Sisters. This helped to improve the "Comboni" spirit of the Assembly.
Elections for a new government
The country of Kenya is living through a very delicate moment of its history as a young nation. President Moi is retiring after 24 years of rule. On 27 December there will be elections for a new government. The political campaign sees two main groups pitched against each other: the ruling party KANU (in power since independence) and a coalition of opposition parties NARC. So far people have shown a lot of civic maturity and have restrained from violence. We hope this peaceful attitude will carry them through the election process and usher in a new government that will take really at heart the good of the common people, especially of the forgotten areas like those where we are based for our missionary work.
A new course at Tangaza College
In the context of world confrontation between Christians and Muslims, the Tangaza College (Nairobi) will begin to offer a new one-year course (from August 2003) on Christian-Muslim Encounter. The same Director, Fr. Guy Vuillemin, a Missionary for Africa, who used to hold this course for PISAI (Rome) will be the person in charge of the course at Tangaza College. We are convinced that bringing this course from Rome to Africa has been a step forward and expect a good attendance every year. Its declared purpose is: (1) To form members of the Catholic and other Churches so that, animated by a spirit of “dialogue”, they may reflect as Christians on the pastoral and social issues encountered in the Christian-Muslims co-existence; (2) To facilitate learning about Islam and Muslim peoples.
To attend the course one needs to have a certain amount of experience in pastoral work, but the knowledge of Arabic is not required.
Provincials of the Americas meet in Chicago
The provincials/delegates of Ecuador, Colombia, North and South Brazil, Mexico, Peru and the NAP met in La Grange Park 4-9 November, along with the Assistant General Fr. Rafael González, to review many matters of the past and future. They managed to visit the various pastoral and social commitments we have in that area. They also visited the Catholic Theological Union where our scholastics study and Fr. Archimede Fornasari and Fr. Charles Walter teach. Fr. Walter gave a good introduction to the school and the guests also had a very interesting visit with the president, Fr. Senior. A well prepared liturgy was offered when they visited the scholasticate itself. They also took part in the local community’s annual dinner-dance event and in the Sunday Eucharist at an African-American parish. The more adventurous even made it to the top of the Sears Tower, the tallest building in America. The sad note was the absence of Fr. Jean Pierre Legonou, who was not granted a visitor’s visa to come to the United States. He was really missed, but arguing with government bureaucrats turned out to be pretty much a waste of time. We look forward to our next meeting in August of 2003.
Late in October Fr. Joseph Bragotti attended the yearly meeting of the United States Catholic Mission Association, an umbrella organization that gathers people and institutions dedicated to mission. About 180 missionaries from all over the country attended the gathering which took place in Raleigh, North Carolina. This year’s theme was “Inter-religious Dialogue” and various speakers from different faiths contributed to its success in a scholarly and prayerful atmosphere. A number of participants attended Friday Noon Prayer at the local mosque, while the weekend Eucharist took place in a large, multi-racial parish on the outskirts of town. Catholics are a small minority in North Carolina and our missionary presence helped, at least in a small way, to make the presence of the Church a little more relevant.
Comboni Mission Centre – Cincinnati
For the 53rd year in a row we are offering our contribution to the Christmas Season with our Nativity Scene. The animated display of the Holy Night in Bethlehem was one of the first thing our confreres offered to the public in the late 1940s. Grandparents, who saw the display back then when they were children, are now bringing their grand-children to share in this Christmas Cincinnati tradition. Visitors are given the opportunity to meet with the resident members of the Comboni community, visit the Mission Museum and the Comboni Hospitality Room run by the staff and by the Comboni Ladies Auxiliary.
A park in honour of Blessed Daniel Comboni
In the morning hours of Sunday, 24 November, the Christian community of “Los Doce Apóstoles” of Chorillo, in the outskirts of Lima, honoured the memory of its founders, the Comboni Missionaries, dedicating to the memory of Blessed Danile Comboni the park in front of the parish church. The ceremony began with a touching celebration of the Eucharist with the provincial superior, Fr. Conrado Franco, presiding, together with the pastor, Fr. Fidel Zavaleta, several diocesan priests and representatives from all the Comboni communities of Lima and of other areas of the province, the Comboni Sisters and some Lay Comboni Missionaries. The church was packed with friends, helpers, members of the parish who in many ways (including speeches) expressed once again their gratitude and love for the Comboni Missionaries, particularly for those who have been their fellow pilgrims in a parish journey of 25 years. After the Eucharist a bust of Blessed Daniel Comboni located in the park was blessed. The demonstrations of affection and gratitude, the joy of the gathering and the many requests to have pictures taken with the “padrecitos” in front of Blessed Daniel’s bust, turned the celebration into an expression of family sharing. The parish of “Los Doce Apóstoles” was founded by the Comboni Missionaries in 1970 and in 1995 its more developed part was handed over to the diocesan clergy.
Priestly Ordination of Deacon Victor Hugo Murillo Tongo
On 14 December 2002, we had the ordination of another Peruvian Comboni Missionary. In preparation for the event a “bingo” was organized in the neighbourhood to collect funds. On the day of the ordination the chapel “Virgen de Lourdes,” of the parish “Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza” was packed as never before. Among the people in attendance there had to be the Comboni Sisters who have worked in the area for over ten years: one of them, Sr. Pia, introduced Victor Hugo to the missionary vocation. Beside his parents, relatives and friends, also his baptismal God-parents were present. The ordaining prelate was Bishop José Ramón Gurruchaga of Lurin, assisted by Fr. Franco Conrado, several Comboni Missionaries and other priests of the diocese. In his homily Mgr. Gurruchaga praised the Comboni Missionaries, underlining the fact that a missionary from his diocese will go to preach the Gospel in Africa. At the end of the ceremony everyone congratulated the newly ordained and shared in a simple meal that had been prepared with much care.
Sixteenth Meeting of Anthropology and Mission
The 16th Meeting of Anthropology and Mission took place in Madrid on 8-10 November. It was organized by Mundo Negro and was devoted to “Peace and Reconciliation in Africa.” Many Africans and experts on Africa spoke and, by sharing their own experiences and personal reflections, helped the participants to identify processes of peace and reconciliation existing in some African groups, and the necessary conditions for their success.
Donato Ndongo Bidyongo, a writer and journalist from Equatorial Guinea, emphasized that, more than material help, Africa needs trust and solidarity from other people, especially from the West. In fact, material help favors the intrusion of foreign powers and justifies the plunder of Africa’s riches, thus reducing the Africans to the role of spectators rather than protagonists in their liberation.
Juan Carnero, president of the S’Olivar Foundation and a candidate to Nobel Peace Prize, analysed the tragic events of 1994 that covered Rwanda with blood and the subsequent so called war of “liberation” in neighbouring Congo that spread through the entire region of the Great Lakes. He stressed the fact that, for a true process of peace and reconciliation, it is necessary to have a Gospel spirituality of active non-violence and of defence of truth. It is not possible to continue, he pointed out, to have a partial reading of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994: yes, we remember the death of many Tutsi, but we systematically forget about the elimination of over 2 million Hutu. In order to reach true reconciliation it cannot be accepted that a minority monopolize the interpretation of facts in order to hold on to power, oppress the majority and continue to freely rob neighbouring Congo of its riches, under the benevolent eyes of the West.
Half way through the meeting, in the course of a round table discussion, Jesús Romero of the St. Egidio community, Fr. Esteban Kazadi and Eduardo Tchiopolo, an Angolan theology students, also spoke. These last two, through the sharing of their personal witness, spoke of the role of the Church in the process of peace and reconciliation, through its presence in solidarity among the neediest and through the commitment to reconstruction and management of basic infrastructures, such as schools, hospitals and farms. Because of its prophetic stance the Church itself is the object of hatred and persecution. The many martyrs, Bishop C. Munzihirwwa of Bukavu, Congo, among them, are proofs of this.
The work of mediation done by the Church has been of fundamental importance; of special significance is the role the Community of St. Egidio played during the peace negotiations between the warring parties in Mozambique, which was greatly appreciated and requested because the Church, being above party politics, did not have to defend special interests.
At the end of the meeting, the Comboni Missionary Fr. José Carlos Rodríguez Soto, missionary in Uganda and secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Gulu and the Anglican bishop emeritus of Kitgum, Uganda, shared with the assembly the forgotten plight of the Acholi people of North Uganda and what the Church is doing in the field of justice and reconciliation. The witness of Fr. José Carlos and Bishop Ochola deeply moved the listeners. In reality, both of them have been victims of the violence and the guerrilla war waged by the Lord’s Liberation Army among the Acholi: Fr. José Carlos, who is still nursing an arm wound, miraculously escaped death during an attack by government forces while he was getting ready to start a mediation meeting with a group of rebels. Bishop Ochola has suffered greatly because of the loss of his wife, who died in a bomb blast, and of a daughter who fell into rebels hands and was so violently abused that she did not recover from that tragedy and later committed suicide. Bishop Ochola underlined the ecumenical value of the activity of the Church which, setting aside theological differences, presents a united front in the mediation of these conflicts. The role of the Church, added Bishop Baker Ochola, consists in following in the footsteps of the Master, who willed to make himself a victim in order to banish hatred and violence and in order to “make of two people, one people”: this is why the death the violence and the sufferings that afflict us, at the same time confirm us more and more in our mission as mediators and instruments of peace among the peoples.
At the end of the meeting, Fr. Laureano Rojo Buxonat, provincial of the Comboni Missionaries in Spain, presented to Bishop Ochola, in the name of the entire province, the Mundo Negro Brotherhood Prize, as a sign of gratitude for all that he has done in Uganda.
On Sunday, 10 November, many people attended the Eucharistic celebration at the “Stella Maris” College, during which Fr. José Carlos and Bishop Ochola renewed their invitation to become instruments of peace and reconciliation among the peoples. The Congolese choir that provided African songs and dances for the celebration, encouraged the audience to keep alive the vision of hope in a new and reconciled world, despite wars and conflicts.
Situation in the North of the country
The last several months have been laden with many difficulties in the area of Gulu-Kitgum. The rebels have laid ambushes, killed or kidnapped people a little bit everywhere. The roads Gulu-Atyak, Gulu-Anaka, Gulu-Kitgum and Kitgum-Lira are evermore dangerous because of repeated attacks. Three students on their way home at the end of the school year were among the dead. Only the old people are left in the villages, while the children and the younger folks have taken refuge in Gulu town fearing that, if they remain in the villages, they will be kidnapped. Outside the city schools are closed and the field have been abandoned. Even in the chapels there are only a few people and one feels the fear and the sadness. Every evening hundreds of people, mostly mothers and their children and other younger people with their meagre belongings take cover for the night at the hospital, at the mission or in town.
While all these things were happening here, on 20 October in Rome Daudi Okelo and Gildo Irwa, who died in an historical context similar to the one we have been living in for years, were being beatified. On 10 November a solemn celebration of thanksgiving for their beatification took place in Gulu cathedral. Fr. Paolo Ottolini and Fr. Igino Leso carried the relicts of the martyrs in a procession. The celebration planned for 15 December in Paimol has been postponed due to the lack of security. The occasion, instead, was observed in Kalongo with a beautiful celebration despite the worries and the fears. Among the people present were Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu and Fr. Guido Oliana, our provincial, who addressed words of encouragement and hope to the people.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Bro. Aldo Morandini (30.12.1919 – 23.11.2002)
Bro. Aldo Morandini was born on 30 December 1919, in Bosco Chiesanuova, Verona, the birthplace of the servant of God Sr. Marietta Scandola, the first sister called by Comboni to serve in the African Missions. A stone cutter and mason by trade, after his military service he decided to become a Comboni Missionary. Already at an early age he had felt a great attraction to the missions, but the deciding event was “God’s positive answer” to a precise request: “If my two brothers will return safe and sound from Russia and from Germany, I will become a missionary.” They returned and he honoured his promise.
Having enter in Gozzano in 1948, he took his first vows on 25 April 1951. While in Gozzano he had the opportunity to practice his trades as a mason (because the house needed many urgent remodelling jobs) and as an artist. In fact, he gave a lot of help to the construction of the grotto of the Blessed Mother in the park of the novitiate. He served for a time in Italy, at Pellegrina, and then he went to North-Eastern Brazil.
He was one of the first there and can be considered one of the co-founders of that mission. The Comboni Missionaries arrived in Balsas in 1952 and Bro. Aldo joined them a year later. He was then 35 years old. He worked at building the saw mill, the brick factory, the bishop’s house, the hospital, the seminary, the school, always giving the best of himself.
In 1958 he moved to Southern Brazil where he remained for the next 30 years, always busy in construction. He was a great worker and never wasted any time. He always came up with projects first, then he studied them and at times he was upset when they were not realized as he had envisioned them. He built homes, churches and seminaries. He had become a specialist in terrazzo work to fashion objects that were of use both in the homes of the people and of the missionaries alike. He also erected a number of monuments to the Blessed Mother and to the Sacred Heart, taking inspiration from a sculpture of two hands almost joined together and holding the glove on which stood a cross. He was fond of saying that, “We missionaries are the hands of God that hold up the world, on which Christ reigns.”
Bro. Aldo knew how to make friends. In his room he kept hundreds of letters from people who were writing to him even after 20 years. He had a great heart willing to excuse people and show mercy even when they made serious mistakes. He always searched the truth. He liked to read and to study. He studied astronomy, geology and other sciences. Another trait of his was his devotion to the Blessed Mother. In Verona, during one of his vacations from the missions, he built the grotto we still have now and worked with Bro. Adani on the monument to Comboni which is in the yard of the Mother House.
In 1999 he returned to Italy for the last time, because of his failing health. As soon as he could he would go to the shipping room to help ship books, letters and magazines and, like a good Veronese that he was, he always had a joke on his lips.
His calvary started in September 2002 when he was taken to the hospital in Borgo Trento with a haemorrhage. He stayed there four days and then returned home, but placed in the infirmary, because he felt weak. During a second hospital stay in Bussolengo from 1 to 15 November he was diagnosed with a lung tumour already in an advanced stage.
The last few weeks were particularly painful because of the lack of oxygen. What made a great impression was the serenity with which Bro. Aldo faced his illness. Already in the middle of October he had said: “I feel that I don’t have long to live. I have a lot of pain on my left side, but I am not afraid to die. All I need to do now is to pray and get ready. But, you know, I am already there!” During his last bout with sickness he always held on to his beads: “I have lost count of how many rosaries I say each day,” he said one day to the one in charge of the C.A.A. Truly serenity in the face of death is the gift the Lord grants to those who give their lives in the service of their brothers and sisters for God’s sake.
We also have the testimony of a person from his home town, the Comboni Sr. Valeria, who said: “I knew him as a direct, truthful person without hang-ups and who knew how to make lasting friendships. He knew people and called them by name. He was blessed with a very good memory and a subtle sense of humor that made him very likeable. Whenever he met people, he welcomed them with joy. He was happy in his missionary vocation and proud of what he had done in the missions. If there were misunderstandings he always cleared them with a serene dialogue and soon all was forgotten.”
After the funeral at the Mother House he was buried in the cemetery of Verona, where the other Comboni Missionaries rest.
Fr. Alfredo Hernández Preciado (19.08.1954 – 24.11.2002)
Born in Terecuáto, a small village in the area of Purépecha of Michoacán, Fr. Alfred belonged to a family that was simple and deeply religious. After the years of compulsory education he joined the seminary of Autlán for a short time. After that, he worked in a guitar factory in the village of Paracho, where he had grown up. At 26 he entered the postulancy of Xochimilco. With great enthusiasm in 1984 he asked to make his religious profession “because this experience of deep faith which I am living now has moved me to leave everything for the sake of missionary work and to dedicate myself to the service of my brothers, especially the neediest.”
With great effort and determination he went through the scholasticate in Chicago and a little bit at the time he learned to rid himself of his shyness and become more open. After his ordination in 1989, he was assigned for a year to work with indigenous people in Mexico, near the place of his last mission assignment. Following that he spent two years at St. Albert in California, as a member of the NAP. These were difficult years as he learned the value of being open to people of all kinds among whom he worked, since the parish had both Hispanics and Afro-American members.
For seven years he then worked in the Andean Sierra of Peru at Cerro de Pasco in the parish of San Juan Pampa, with special care for the miners settlements of Chicrín and others. In 1999 he too part in the Comboni Year of Ongoing Formation. Those in charge of the course remember his interest in developing those life traits that would help him live in a better way his missionary service. At the end of the course, he was again assigned to Mexico where he spent his remaining years in the higher areas of the sierra of Chinantla, in the recently founded parish of San Pedro Sochiapan.
Upon getting news of his death, his former colleague in mission, Fr. Enrico Cordioli, expressed what was in his heart: “This thought came to my mind: Jesus died at 33, Comboni made it to 50 and you, Alfred, were 48. You were in the most important phase of your life, when a person begins to give out of his own accumulated life experience. You left us because Sochiapan destroyed your body. I see you happy now among the 144,000 who wear the white robe and came out of the great tribulation; you are happy, but here you have left a void. I remember that it was 2:00 in the afternoon when we left Tuxtepec. They had to help you climb on the pickup, because you already felt something. We spent a week together and you listened very intently because you were about to take up the responsibility for a very hard mission. But at that time you only felt the desire to dedicate yourself to the care of your indigenous brothers and sisters. With great effort you walked over these mountains that inspires fear, where distances are always measured in hours: five hours to Zapotitlán, four hours to Soledad or Quetzalapa… The sierra is unforgiving, the paths are difficult and the body feels it all. This labor, this love for your brothers, this dedication have led you to lose what you most appreciated: your life. Alfred, you taught us that life is beautiful not because of its length, but because of the intensity with which we live it. May God keep you in his glory.”
Alfred spent the last five months between the parish and Tuxtepec, with frequent doctors appointments, tests and listening to the advice of people who were trying to lessen his pain: several infections undermined his health and brought about a kidney insufficiency. During a dialysis session Alfred had a heart attack. One hour later his heart had stopped.
Fr. Alfred, “El Paracho” as he had been called jokingly since his entrance into the Institute, joins the other Mexican Comboni Missionaries who have died in accidents over the last years. His death saddened all of us, because no one ever thinks that it is possible to die even at a young age.
Fr. Antonio Piacentini (05.08.1915 – 08.12.2002)
The death of Fr. Antonio Piacentini almost marks the end of the first group of Comboni Missionaries (6 priests and 3 brothers) who arrived in Baja California in the by now distant 1948. The only remaining member is Bro. Arsenio Ferrari who, at 81, still works in Baja California, in the mission of Bahía Asunción.
Fr. Antonio was born in Trescore Cremasco in 1915. At age 13 he entered the diocesan seminary in Crema. But at the end of his secondary education he entered the novitiate in Venegono where, after the required two years, he took his first vows (1935). On 29 June 1940 he was ordained a priest in Verona. He spent his first years in ministry first in Crema doing mission promotion for two years, then at San Pancrazio in Rome, as pastor for three years and finally in Bologna for a year. On 1 January 1948 he was assigned to the province of Mexico where he worked for the next uninterrupted 34 years, up to 1982.
“Fr. Antonio arrived in La Paz on 24 July 1948. After a period of preparation in the Vicariate of Tijuana, to learn the language, he went to La Paz as chaplain until November 1949, when he was substituted by Fr. Gino Sterza. Fr. Antonio was sent to reopen the mission of La Purisima, together with Bro. Ferrari. They left La Paz on Monday, 14 November, and stopped briefly in many places to celebrate Mass wherever a few people would gather, and reached La Purísima on 20 November. It was Sunday. They were looking for the rectory. They found a 4m² room, with three doors and no windows. They had to borrow two cots to spend the night.
“A hall without benches or chairs served as a church. The altar was just a table. A wooden box was turned into a tabernacle. A length of material was used as a curtain for the one window and, behind it, as a closet there were piles of plastic flowers and old holy cards. In the first page of his mission diary Fr. Antonio had written: ‘If the Lord of the universe does not mind our great poverty, we too may feel comfortable as well in one poor room.’
“In July 1951 the archbishop of Mexico City entrusted to the Comboni Institute the Vicariate of Tepepan, near Xochimilco, and Fr. Pietro Vignato was nominated vicar. A few months later, in November, Fr. Piacentini also arrived at Tepepan, charged with the job of keeping contacts with the government and handle the immigration papers that required a lot o time, but were necessary in order to ensure the residence of the missionaries in Baja California. During his stay at Tepepan Fr. Antonio met Mrs. Josefina Galván, widow of Mr. Meléndez, our great benefactor, who gave her entire patrimony for the building of the Comboni novitiate in Xochimilco.
“For a while Fr. Antonio was also rector of the minor seminary for aspirants to the Brotherhood in Moctezuma. In September 1960 he moved with the aspirants to San Francisco del Rincón. In 1963 he returned to pastoral work in Baja California. He subsequently worked in San Ignacio, Guerrero Negro, Costa and Todos Santos.
“During a renewal course in Rome that dealt with how to preach the Gospel to the world, Fr. Antonio had a prophetic intuition and, on 2 July 1971, he founded the “Movement of the Little Brothers and of the Little Sisters of Mary.” It is a group of consecrated lay people which, twenty years later (2 July 1991) was eventually approved by the Holy See. “For those who knew Fr. Antonio, the development of this organization is hard to explain. Everybody thought that, if ever there was a person who was not humanly speaking made for the foundation of such an organization, he was the one. And instead… It means that God was really working through him.” (Fr. Domenico Zugliani)
Today the Movement has about 20 thousand members, 150 of them consecrated for life, and spread out in 17 countries. Fr. Antonio suffered much because of the Movement, but always chose to follow the path of obedience. From 1982 to 1985 he was in Spain where he worked in mission promotion. From 1985 to 1989 he was assigned to the parish of San Lorenzo in Ecuador, then he was in Manila, Philippines, for two years (1990-1992). Having been assigned to Italy at the beginning of 1993, he did ministry in Rebbio.
Fr. Antonio spent the last years of his life travelling to visit the various cells of the movement. During his last trip to Hong Kong he had a heart attack that nearly killed him, but he miraculously recovered.
From 1996 on he was at the C.A.A. of Milan. On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, 8 December 2002, he died at the hospital of Niguarda.
Fr. Antonio Rizzato (13.09.1923 – 19.12.2002)
Fr. Antonio died peacefully at the C.A.A. of Milan, after a life spent in the work of missionary animation for which he shall remain a model in the history of the Institute.
A few days before the 19 December, two confreres who knew him well, went to visit him. When they reminded him of the days of their mission appeals, his face lighted up and he became emotional. At their request he blessed them in silence. Symbolically, it was his farewell to the Institute.
He had joined it still as a boy when entering the minor seminary of Padova, received by Fr. Alceste Corbelli. After those first years, he went on to Brescia with Fr. Giovanni Battista Cesana. Admitted to the novitiate in Florence on 16.9.1940, he had as novice master Fr. Stefano Patroni. Undoubtedly his basic formation started off with great teachers, whose witness and missionary experience they had accumulated was being transmitted to the many young people who in those years were entering the Institute.
He made his first vows on 07.10.1942. He did his scholasticate at Verona with a short spell at Rebbio due to the war. He begins his request to be admitted to the priesthood thus, “Here I am at the last request, at the crowning of my thirteen years of formation…” He was ordained on 06.06.1948, thirteen years after setting foot in the seminary at Padova in 1935, at that time 12 years of age.
From 1 July 1948 Fr. Antonio was at Carraia as local bursar. It was the beginning of his specific service into which he put all his intelligence, spirit of sacrifice and true missionary ideals on the example of Comboni. He was later provincial bursar in Verona (1954-1964) and in Rome with the Curia (1964-1975). For the next six years he was in the same community, but in charge of missionary animation as well as the central procure for the missions. It was in those years that the general secretariat for the missions was started. His contribution has been a wide-ranging one to the advantage, practically, of all the missions. He appeared to have an inexhaustible energy and a contagious enthusiasm, especially with the scholastics.
When after many years the superiors proposed to him the mission-field, he answered with generosity. We may mention two quotations from the letter of the Superior General, Fr. Tarcisio Agostoni, “It is not easy to find someone at your age willing to change the work he has always been doing, not only, but also the cultural environment in which he has carried out his service and the type of country he is used to. Your joyful acceptance to go to Mexico… is of great comfort to me and to the members of the Council… A thought of thanks, especially for all the work you have done from the time of your ordination for the Italian province and for the whole Institute all over the world. I believe this to be the unanimous feeling of the Council, of all the confreres and those who have followed your work, which, in line with your character and possibility, you have succeeded very well: and this you have seen not a s a personal fulfilment, but as a contribution to the development of the Institute and of the missions. It is a heartfelt and sincere thank from, I believe, all of us.” It is important to underline such words because, later on, three more Superior Generals expressed the same kind of judgment about his successive stages of service.
In Mexico, Fr. Antonio had a truly pastoral experience (01.07.1976-30.06.1981) which the provincial, Fr. Jaime Rodríguez Salazar, summarized in the following words, “Fr. Antonio goes on holidays at home after his normal period of missionary work in our urban mission of “Virgencitas”, diocese of Netzahualcoyotl, Edo. de Mexico. He has worked with enthusiasm and his presence in the religious community and among the Christians has been very much appreciated.” Back in Mexico, after his holidays, he was made provincial treasurer (1981-1984). In the meantime his health was beginning to give worrying signs, so he returns to Italy where he is made provincial procurator (1984-1991). He finds enough strength to leave for Centramerica where, in the newly started delegation, he will be the bursar (1991-1996). Assigned again to the Italian province for his last period of active service, we find him at Cordenons (1997-1999) engaged, as far as his health allows him, in pastoral work.
He passed his last years in the community C.A.A. of Milan. In his mind are always present the memories of the years he spent in missionary animation, his confreres, the events in the missions: they were his ideal horizon of reference, interrupted only by the ritual evening game of cards. Even in this he did his best to win.
Now that he has reached his goal, he leaves us as his testament an example of a clear Comboni identity and of fidelity till the end. (Fr. Pietro Ravasio).
Bro. Filippo Antonio Luisi (28.12.1914 – 26.12.2002)
Bro. Filippo Antonio was born at Roseto Valforte, diocese of Lucero-Troia. The priest who assisted him in making his application to enter the Comboni Missionaries, writes, “The young applicant, before making his final step, has desired to test better his vocation, to prepare his parents to the bitter separation and to assist them for a little while with the work in the fields. At the beginning of October he will be ready to leave and say good-by to his parents. I can also declare that the young man has always resided at Roseto, except for the time of the military service.”
Bro. Filippo Antonio enters as a postulant at the age of 24. He takes his first vows in 1941 and the final vows in 1947, at the completion of his novitiate in Florence. Twenty-six years later he remembered of his novice mater, Fr. Stefano Patroni, “his exquisite and cordial kindness who showed me during the time I was with him in Florence.”
The first years after his first vows were spent with the community at Padova. Sent to Bahr el Ghazal, South Sudan, a note of his superior (1950) says, “He is the first Brother at Kayango to teach how to build to the Jur.” In 1957 he was at Sulmona, Italy, and from 1961 in the UK in the houses of Bradford, Allanton and Sunningdale. In 1972 he left for Uganda where he remained till 1995, first in the mission of Palabek, then at Gulu Cathedral and later in Patongo mission. In 1995 he returned to Italy mainly for health reasons and was sent to the community of Rebbio.
In 1996 the Superior General at the time, Fr. David Kinnear Glenday, wrote to him, “As an old friend of yours (I recall our days at Allanton, and later at Gulu Cathedral, where we were next-door neighbours), I greet you very warmly and assure you my grateful and dear remembrance… For many years you have given your service to my province of origin and then to Uganda among the Acholi. Heartfelt thanks and may the Lord bless all the good you have done in a simple and humble way, as a true Comboni Brother.”
Bro. Filippo Antonio died at Milano on 12 December 2002.
From Rebbio Fr. Gianantonio Berti writes, “As the saying goes: a tree falls on the side it leans on. I believe I know on which side Bro. Filippo Antonio was leaning on.
He showed three main characteristics.
The first was that of ‘service’. He was always ready to help. He used to spend the mornings in the kitchen, giving a hand to the cooks. When Sr. Crescenzia allowed him to go, he used to fetch a broom and sweep the drive and the courtyards. He did this with such a simplicity and kindness that one almost felt guilty if unable to give him a task to do when asked for.
The second one was ‘prayer’: he used to say a good number of rosaries. For any little service or kindness shown to him, he used to promise a rosary in return…
The third was his full acceptance of ‘suffering’. He was in great pain, especially for the sickness that affected one of his leg all the way down to the bone and which, eventually, caused his death… If one told him: ‘Take courage, Brother, you are like Christ on the Cross and helping him to carry it’, then he would immediately calm down and one got the impression that he wasn’t feeling pain any more.
I like to remember Bro. Filippo Antonio like this, a true brother to all, unruffled, always busy doing something useful to others, with a rosary in his hand when not holding a broom or a kitchen knife, serenely bearing the suffering of his cross in the footsteps of Christ. I am sorry not to see him any longer around this house at Rebbio, but I am also happy that a brother and a friend in heaven is now interceding for the mission.”
Let us pray for the deceased
THE MOTHER: Sc. Ahoulou René Jean Marie (T); Luigina di P. Alberto Doneda (EC); Giuseppina di P. Venanzio Milani (C); di P. Vittorio Farronato (I); Lucia of Bro. Gian Piero Smalzi (ET).
THE BROTHER: Jorge of Fr. Enrique Javier Rosich Vargas (E); Franco of
Bishop Lorenzo Ceresoli (ET).
THE SISTER: Maria of Bro. Valentino Fabris (SS); Maria of Fr. Salvatore
Calvia (EG); Teresa of Fr. Marcello Panozzo (I).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. Pieranna Villa;
Sr. Mariantonia Lain; Sr. Adeliana Viale.
THE COMBONI SECULAR MISSIONARY: Anna Loiudice