The situation in the Central African Republic (CAR)
The situation of the Central African Republic has been of special concern to the General Council which, together with other Institutes working in the country, has initiated several activities. First of all, the Institutes concerned have held several meetings. Our side was represented by Fr. Venanzio Milani and Fr. Fernando Zolli.
A letter of solidarity was drafted and sent to the member of all the Institutes working in the CAR. The office of the Vatican Secretary of State has also been contacted to ask to call a meeting of the ambassadors of the countries the missionaries working in the CAR come from, in view of putting some pressure on the local government, hoping to reach peace or at least to establish channels that will allow the flow of relief goods. Mostly through MISNA, press releases have been prepared and distributed to newspapers and magazines. The European delegation in Italy has offered space in its daily NEWS, which is distributed by e-mail to over four thousand customers, for the publication of the press releases. The magazine Il Regno published an article on the situation in its 16 January issue. On Sunday, 16 January, Fr. Venanzio Milani and Sr. Carmela Coter, CMS, took part in the TV program Cristianità, aired by Rai International.
The General Council follows closely the situation, thanks also to the flow of information being received. It assures the confreres of its prayers to God through Comboni.
General Secretariat of Mission Promotion
The maps of The Comboni Family in the world have been printed in seven languages: English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish. Due to technical problems, the Arab edition will come out later.
The maps have already been mailed to all those who had requested them. They should be receiving them shortly. Those who have not yet ordered any and those who need more may request them from the Secretary General of Mission Promotion in Rome, specifying the language, the size and the quantity desired. Here is the list: Mural (100x70 cm): € 4,00; Poster (70x50 cm): € 1,50; Size A3 (40x29 cm): € 0,50.
Meeting of the directors of Comboni mass-media in Europe
The directors of Comboni mass-media of Europe gathered for their yearly meeting in Madrid on 28-30 January 2003. The gathering was organized by Mundo Negro. It was attended by Fr. Martin James Devenish, LP, mission promotion representative for the European provinces; Fr. Jaime Calvera Pi, secretary general of mission promotion; Fr. Francisco Augusto Carrera (Mundo Negro), Fr. Longinos López Fernández (Vida Misionera TV) and Leo Salvador (Aguiluchos) for Spain; Fr. José António Mendes Rebelo (Além-Mar) and Fr. José da Silva Vieira (Audacia) for Portugal; Fr. Carmine Curci (Nigrizia), Fr. Gianni Gaiga (Piemme), Sr. Elisa Kidanè (Raggio) and Fr. Alessio Moiola (Fatmo) for Italy; Fr. Patrick Wilkinson (Comboni Mission) for the LP; Fr. Reinhold Baumann (Kontinente) for the DSP; Fr. Manuel Torres (Misjonarze Kombonianie) for Poland and Fr. Giovanni Battista Antonini of Comboni Press. The study of the current situation showed a picture of lights and shadows, successes and difficulties waiting for a solution (commitment and involvement on the part of the personnel, difficulties in finding qualified Comboni personnel, visibility and identification of the Comboni Missionaries with their local publications, decrease in subscriptions and lack of planning in promotion) and pointed to possible ways of future development. The canonisation of Blessed Daniel Comboni, a unique, and identifying event for all, is seen by the Comboni mass-media as a source of inspiration and of mission promotion for the entire year (articles, special issues). The project of a European Comboni mission magazine on the web has been scratched for lack of qualified personnel and funds. There is a commitment to make more visible and accessible the Comboni sites that already exist, by introducing more links and by using a simpler language that will facilitate the access and the reading in less privileged countries. The participants also spoke of MISNA, to register their appreciation for the work done and to push for further development by adding a page in Spanish and possibly even in Portuguese. The 2004 meeting will be organized by the C.C.A. in Verona and will include input on marketing.
Fr. Tarcisio Agostoni, “Una fiaccola sul mondo” (Human rights and the social teaching of the Church) Biblioteca Comboniana, Rome 2002, 192 pages, € 7,00. Request copies from the general treasurer or the general secretary.
Fr. Antonio Pavia, “Bajo sus alas, de la angustia a la certeza”, Ed. de espiritualidad, Madrid 2003, 220 pages. Request copies from the author in Madrid.
Fr. Isaías da Rocha Pereira, “Deste Chão”, poetry, Viseu 2002, 160 pages. Request copies from the author in Viseu.
Fr. Giuseppe Caramazza, “News reporting and broadcasting”, New People, Nairobi 2002, 144 pages. Request copies from the author.
Fr. Paulino Twesigye, “Mission promotion in Africa today”, New People Media Centre, Nairobi 2002, 64 pages. Request copies from the author at the Comboni Mission Promotion Centre, Nairobi.
Fr. Paulino Twesigye, “Mission promotion for the local Church”, Kenyan Missionaries Directory, Nairobi 2003, 60 pages. A directory of missionaries from Kenya. Request copies from the author.
Blessing of the new Mission Centre
The community in charge of the magazine “World Mission” and of mission promotion has moved to the new Mission Centre in Sucat, Parañaque, Metro Manila. After the move and for more than a month they saw to the final touches that a new house demands. This busy time was concluded with the official blessing of the new house on 5 January 2003.
The blessing was imparted by Mgr. Jesse Mercado, titular bishop of the recently created diocese of Parañaque. Fr. Rafael González Ponce, representing the Superior General, honoured us with his presence. Some confreres from the China group also took part in the celebration. The well-prepared ceremony was attended by a good number of benefactors and friends who joined us in thanksgiving. The celebration of the Holy Eucharist was followed by the cutting of the ribbon at both premises – the residence and the offices – and the blessing of the whole building. The celebration ended with a light supper offered to all the friends present.
Dedicated to Blessed Daniel Comboni, the centre is located in a fast developing area of Metro Manila and close to the airport. With this new structure, the delegation wishes to strengthen mission promotion, the main reason for our presence in the Philippines.
Meeting of Young Confreres
On 6-7 January, eight of our Young Confreres gathered at our novitiate in Calamba for their yearly meeting of on-going formation. This year the topic chosen was relationship and sexuality. The first day was left to the sharing of personal experiences. The second day was facilitated by Fr. Kit Bautista, SJ. In spite of unforeseen events, the meeting was judged positive by all the participants. Another meeting is scheduled for October this year.
Immediately after the Young Confreres’ meeting there was, from 8 to 10 January, the Delegation Assembly. These days were completely taken up by the study of and reflection on the Lineamenta and the presentation of the Report of the delegate to the Chapter. Fr. Rafael Gonzalez Ponce, who was with us throughout the Assembly, facilitated the morning of the first day, giving a positive contribution to our meeting. In spite of some apprehensions about the document and how to go about, it turned out to be a positive exercise of communion and participation in preparation of the forthcoming General Chapter.
Fr. Rafael took advantage of his presence to visit the communities in the Philippines and in Taipei. We express our gratitude to him for his encouraging presence.
The 4th World Congress of the Families in Manila
On 23-26 January 2003, the Philippines welcomed thousands of delegates from all over the World to the 4th World Congress of Families. The event, held in Manila, was a special moment in the life of the local Church and the nation, the only Christian nation in Asia and in the Far East. The festive celebration had as a theme “The Christian Family: Good News for the Third Millennium.” It is indeed a special mission for Asia because the Holy Father himself has dubbed this millennium as the “Millennium of Asia”.
Our novices, postulants and some of our confreres took part in the vigil and in the closing activities of the congress.
Accident of Mgr. Franco Masserdotti
The morning of 12 February, Mgr. Franco was driving to Pastos Bons with two sisters and two lay women. It was raining heavily and the bishop was driving carefully. Suddenly he came upon a puddle that covered the entire width of the road. He tried to stop, but he did not succeed. He then lost control of the vehicle that ended up in the water, skidded, hit a boulder and flipped over.
The passengers were assisted almost immediately and taken to hospital. Mgr. Franco had a cut in his arm, which required ten stitches, and other superficial wounds on his forehead. The next day, after one night under observation in hospital, he returned home and was able to celebrate the evening Mass in the cathedral.
Mgr. Franco is still recovering from the shock of the accident in which one of the two Sisters of Providence died. The other sister, who was in the front seat, sustained an arm injury, but was able to use the fire extinguisher, preventing the car from catching fire. Of the two lay women, the wife of Antonio Lazzarin sustained a collar bone fracture and the other, who underwent surgery for haematosis to the head, is still very ill. From the way the car looks like, we must thank God that the consequences were not even worse.
We offer our condolences to the Sisters of Providence on the death of their Sister.
Handing over of Mirador
After 34 years, the BNE province has handed over to the diocesan clergy the parish of Mirador. The official ceremony took place during a liturgy held in the open air on Christmas Eve, in the presence of Mgr. Franco Masserdotti and of the provincial, Fr. Carlos Bascarán Collantes.
The first Comboni parish priest in 1968 was Fr. Marco Vedovato, who was murdered on 19 October of the same year. The last was Fr. Giuseppe De Feo.
Several Comboni Missionaries, priests and brothers, have passed through Mirador during these 34 years. During the ceremony, Fr. Carlos remembered all of them: “Many have passed through this place, all have done the best they could in their own way. All shared a common trait: they loved and were totally committed to the people; none of them came to push their agenda or to get rich.” His was an important statement, also due to the fact that during these last few years many Evangelical Sects have appeared in the area. They are known as the “Churches of prosperity.”
The expressions of love and appreciation from the people and from the city council were very gratifying. On this occasion, the city council bestowed the honorary title of “Citizen of Mirador” on Fr. Giuseppe De Feo, parish priest for the last 13 years.
A diocesan priest, who stayed with Fr. De Feo during all of 2002, is now the parish priest. He is helped by a diocesan deacon.
Posthumous homage to two confreres
Santa Luzia do Paruá has relied on a Comboni presence for many years, starting in 1975. It became a parish in 1977. The first two Comboni Missionaries to reside there were Fr. Joaquim Sanchez Macias and Fr. Giuseppe De Feo. Today Santa Luzia is a city of some importance, no longer a “povoado” needing organization, as it was in those early days. The parish has been in the hands of the diocesan clergy for quite some time, but, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of its foundation, the parishioners have requested, as a recognition and a surprise, the presence of the first two Comboni Missionaries who had worked there.
The city council, in a three hour long solemn session and in the presence of all its members (some of them Evangelicals) and a large crowd, granted honorary citizenship to the two priests. Two eucharistic celebrations followed in the two main churches, today twice as large and many times as packed with people. Mention was made of the many activities of human promotion and religious formation in the community: “Miracles of the founding fathers” of the parish.
It is possible that 25 years later the people may be idealizing and enlarging the truth, but it is interesting and gratifying to know that the seed sown in a field that we considered still dormant, in reality has been and still is bearing abundant fruit, just as the mustard seed! It is indeed true that “when one does good, he never knows the good he does.” Graças a Deus!
Visit of the Superior General
During the visit of Fr. Manuel Augusto Lopes Ferreira, Superior General, to our province from 6 to 24 February, we experienced two events that were quite significant for our young province: the celebration of the 25th anniversary of our arrival in Chad, which gave us the chance to take a look at the past and be grateful and remember the presence of God during these years, and the opening of the Comboni postulancy, which gives us hope of a greater future for the Church and for Chad.
Celebration of the 25th anniversary of our arrival in Chad
On 8 February about one hundred missionaries and pastoral agents gathered in Sarh together with the three bishops of the areas where we work (Mgr. Michele Russo, Mgr. Miguel Angel Sebastián Martinez and Mgr. Admond Jitangar), and the Superior General, to celebrate the 25 years of our presence in Chad in the context of a day of mission promotion. The agenda included a lecture by the Superior General on “Mission in the Third Millennium” in which Fr. Manuel Augusto stressed the importance of a “kerigmatic” mission based on the Word of God, a “charismatic” mission open to all, a “prophetic” mission which looks at God’s promises to his own people and a “spiritual, Trinitarian” mission. He concluded saying that the mission of the future is destined to be present at the frontiers of the world and of the Church and to be inculturated. During the debate, the participants stressed the fact that missionaries not only work for the local Church, but are the local Church, and that lay people have asked us to give them God’s life in its Trinitarian dimension, avoiding the temptation to turn into social agents.
After the talk and against the background of a photographic exhibit of the Comboni personnel, we attended a lively round table discussion where Comboni pioneers, lay people and religious of those early days told of their first impressions when, in 1977, the first young Comboni Missionaries appeared on the scene: feelings, anecdotes, common experiences. We then closed the day with a meal in African style.
Inauguration of the Comboni postulancy of Sarh
In the afternoon we inaugurated the postulancy of Sarh where currently we have 6 young men in formation. The Mass of thanksgiving was attended also by Fr. Piergiorgio Prandina and Mr. Giovanni Battista Cena, a great benefactor of the postulancy.
Toward the end of the day, the provincial council and the Superior General held a friendly meeting with the three bishops to dialogue on what the Church in Chad expects of the Comboni Missionaries.
The following day, at the parish of Bégou, we concluded the 25th anniversary events with a Eucharist where the entire Christian community celebrated the presence of the Comboni Missionaries in their midst.
During his stay in Chad, the Superior General had the opportunity to visit the various Comboni communities and gain first hand experience of the challenges and reality of the youngest Church on the African continent. All the Comboni Missionaries gathered in assembly with Fr. Manuel Augusto for a sharing on the life of the Institute and on our “being missionaries.” Other celebrations in Doba and Laï also acknowledged the importance of this visit for the province, with the hope that this tiny Comboni presence will enjoy the freedom to grow and to dream of a better future at the service of the people of Chad.
Radio prayer vigil for Blessed Daniel Comboni
A woman, who attended the vigil of thanksgiving for the Church’s gift of the upcoming canonization of the Apostle of Central Africa, said: “This was a night of prayer in which the Comboni Family was well represented and all of us have felt the presence of Blessed Daniel Comboni.”
The vigil, held during the night between February 8 and 9, was organized by the members of the radio team “Enlace Misionero” in the chapel of the radio station “Minuto de Dios,” FM 107.9, Bogotá. The station was founded by Fr. Rafael García-Herreros in 1987 and is currently run by Fr. Diego Jaramillo, both members of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary.
The radio program ran from 10.00 p.m. to 5.00 a.m. and was made up of seven one-hour-sections. The following took part in the vigil: Comboni Sr. Paquita Galache; Yesid, Myriam, Andrés and Juan Manuel of the Comboni Lay Missionaries; the Comboni Brothers of the CIF of Bogotá. The Secular Comboni Missionaries, Anna Rita and Grazia, produced recordings of prayers and personal witnesses.
The Mass, the highlight of this night of prayer, was celebrated by Fr. Cristóforo Contreras Ramírez and Fr. Ramón Arturo Orendáin Camacho, the main celebrant being Fr. José Antonio Girau Pellicer, superior of the delegation of the Comboni Missionaries in Colombia.
“Enlace Misionero” is a weekly one hour program that was started six years ago in Bogotá by the Comboni Brothers. Today the team that runs the program is made up of Martha Cecilia, a psychologist, Andrés Polo, an industrial engineer, Claudia, an expert in communications, Bro. Mawusi Darius Gakpe Kodzo, Bro. José Gilberto Gutiérrez Pacheco and Fr. Ramón Arturo Orendáin Camacho.
The music for the vigil was provided live by Carlos and Miriam, both members of the music department of the association of “María Santificadora”. Ernesto, Esmeralda, Johanna e Jimmy, from the parish of St. Bernabé and the Brothers of the CIF of Bogotá also contributed.
María Beatriz, a teacher and director of the “Vivace” choral groups, made up of fathers of the students attending the “Gimnasio Moderno”, together with “La Escala,” made up of children and young people, contributed some of their recordings containing works such as “Hoja Ho,” a South African song, the popular Colombian tune “Makerule” and others, such as “Por el Camino.”
Donal Fernando, who was in charge of the technical controls of the radio station that night said: “The things I liked most were the Missionary Rosary, the testimonies and the celebration of the Eucharist enlivened by African songs.”
Around 50 listeners called “Minudo de Dios Radio” to pass on their prayer intentions for good health, employment, blessings, peace, protection, prisoners and the victims of the bomb attack at “El Nogal,” in downtown Bogotá.
General Chapter and Canonisation: hospitality
While we have prior experience of hosting the General Chapter, its coinciding with the canonisation presents a unique situation that, in a number of ways, renders problematic the lodging at the Curia.
Keeping in mind that those attending the Chapter, capitulars, observers and people in charge of certain offices, will be about 70, it has been decided that between 10 August and 15 October it will be impossible to offer hospitality to anyone else, even confreres. All the guestrooms will also have been taken.
Indeed, to make space for the Chapter’s participants, beginning on 10 August and up to three days after the canonisation, the Father and Brother Students and the Scholastics will also have to move out. It has been arranged for them to lodge at the Seraficum.
Meeting of diocesan directors of mission and of pastoral vicars
On 4-6 February there took place in Managua, Nicaragua, the 3rd meeting of diocesan directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies and of the pastoral vicars of all dioceses of Central America, in order to finalise the details in preparation of the COMLA-CAM 2 (The Second American Missionary Congress) due to take place in Guatemala on 25-30 November of this year. Mgr. Vittorino Girardi, new bishop of Tilarán and representative of the bishops of Costa Rica for the Pontifical Mission Societies, addressed the main theme of the meeting: “Mission Ad Gentes in the document of Santo Domingo.” His lecture, much appreciated and applauded, consisted in a learned theological input on the sources of mission, namely the Trinitarian love of the Father as Creator, of the Son as Redeemer and of the Holy Spirit as Sanctifier, that allow us to know God, present and active in and through the evangelising activity of the Church.
The reason for the meeting was to share experiences in the preparation for the Missionary Holy Year and to study the Missionary Project for Central America introduced by Fr. Jesús Osorno, of the missionaries of Yerumal. A commission was formed, made up of representatives of the diocesan mission directors and of pastoral vicars, to implement this project, even though details regarding its implementation still need to be clarified.
The book “Llamado a la Misión”, written by our confreres Mgr. Vittorino Girardi, Fr. Giuseppe Moschetta and Fr. Pietro Gianmaria Piu, consisting of missionary reflections, prayers and actions for parish groups (missionary cenacles) of Central America, is already in its third edition. It has been well received and is in great demand among pastoral agents. People think it’s very useful and easy to use.
The central commission of the bishops and of the diocesan directors has accepted a proposal presented by Fr. Vincenzo Turri for a mission exhibit at the congress and has put the Comboni Missionaries, in cooperation with other Institutes, in charge of its implementation and of integrating in the work of evangelising the indigenous people of America. To complete this important task, we need the support and the help of the other provinces of the Institute.
Course for health workers at La Catorce - El Paraíso
On Saturday, 1 February, in the presence of the provincial, La Catorce-El Paraíso parish marked the beginning of the first course for health workers, aimed at preparing personnel for this service-ministry in the various communities in the rural areas of the parish. There are 39 participants from 32 communities. The course is given by a Colombian couple, both of them Comboni Lay Missionaries and doctors, who are doing their missionary service in this parish that covers 82 rural communities.
It is a first attempt at planning a pastoral approach to health care. The course lasts a month and at the end the participants will receive a diploma as Community Health Agents.
Meeting of relatives, benefactors and friends
On Sunday, 2 February, at our centre of Carcelén in Quito, we held the yearly meeting of the relatives of our confreres (living and dead), of friends and benefactors. About 150 people attended. With the help and cooperation of our postulants, we thanked God for this event and asked for his blessing on all our friends. Fr. Gladimiro Waldemar Pacheco Cruz, recently ordained, spoke of his own vocation and of his experience in the Republic of Congo and encouraged the participants to support and help the young Ecuadorians who are currently in formation. The provincial spoke of the truly missionary significance of the canonisation and of the importance of preparing for it. Therefore, we have agreed to have other meetings to help us grow in the missionary and Comboni spirituality.
After lunch we attended a festive celebration prepared by our novices and by the musical group América Misionera.
Meeting of local treasurers
On 17-19 February all the local treasurers gathered at the provincial house for their yearly meeting. The reflection of the first day, centred on ongoing formation, was facilitated by Enrique Galarza, director of the National Catholic Radio, who, starting from the current reality in Ecuador, spoke of finances from the point of view of poverty, emphasizing the importance of giving witness to it. The participants then moved on to the reading, study and discussion of the document of the Union of Major Superiors: “Finances and mission in consecrated life today,” analysing above all the role of the treasurer and his contribution to formation in the field of finances.
The second day was given to reports, a discussion of the financial situation of the province and an exchange of information. It was a moment of communion, sharing and awareness of the service done by the local treasurers while, at the same time, they were encouraged to start a journey towards a better sharing and a joint responsibility in the administration of goods.
Remembrance of Mgr. Enrico Bartolucci
On the 8th anniversary of the death of Mgr. Enrico Bartolucci, and in the wake of the recent publication of his biography “Nelle Mani di Dio” (In the Hands of God), published by EMI and sent to all the relatives, friends and benefactors in Italy, his native parish of Mercatello sul Metauro and the community of Pesaro celebrated his memory on 8 and 10 February, respectively. Among others, Dr. Renza Labaa, author of the book, and Fr. Corinno Scotti, a Fidei Donum priest from Bergamo who was a missionary in Esmeraldas for 20 years, attended the celebrations. The profile of Mgr. Bartolucci presented by these two speakers was very interesting and moving. Both at Mercatello and in Pesaro the local bishops were present and closed the meetings with words of appreciation. These two celebrations were also opportunities to speak of the upcoming canonisation of Daniel Comboni.
In preparation for the General Chapter and the canonisation of Comboni the commission for ongoing formation is offering two sets of spiritual exercises on the “Comboni Missionary Spirituality” to be held in Pesaro.
1st course: from 30 June through 5 July. It will be directed by Fr. Francesco Pierli;
2nd course: from 3 through 10 November. It will be directed by Fr. David Kinnear Glenday.
Confreres who wish to attend should make reservations with Fr. Pietro Bracelli (Pesaro).
Shooting during Mass
It was Sunday, 2 February 2003. The parish of Blessed Daniel Comboni had invited the newly ordained priest Fr. Germano Bernardo to celebrate the Eucharist. Fr. Martín Isaac Arnanz, the parish priest, was concelebrating. Sr. Odette Riad, a Comboni Missionary Sister serving in the parish, was also in the congregation. It was supposed to be a festive occasion and it was so till communion time when the celebration turned into tragedy. A congregation of about 600 people was packed under the “mashama” and under the trees. People were lining up for communion when suddenly a soldier arrived by bicycle from the direction of Grinti and started shooting at random from a distance of 30-40 metres. Instinctively the children, who were close to the altar, ran towards the hill on the back of the school. The others threw themselves to the ground. A woman, Maria Utur Fahal, was killed and six other people were injured: a woman, four boys and a seventeen year old girl whose wounded right arm had to be amputated. In the end the soldier killed himself. It seems that he was having psychological problems.
Maria Utur Fahal was a well known person in the parish. Of about 60 years of age, she had come to Hilla Fahal in 1986 to escape the tribal clashes that made many victims in those days in the Nazareth area where she was living. She had been an active member of the Legion of Mary in Nazareth, from its foundation in 1971 till she came here. In Hilla Fahal she was involved with the Small Christian Community Programme and was a very active member of the Catholic Women League (CWL). The day before her death she had gone to confession and six days before she had participated in a recollection day with the CWL. On that occasion she had asked for a rosary, because, she said, “the mice have spoiled the rosary I had.”
Serious car accident
In the early afternoon of Saturday, 8 February, Mgr. Antonio Menegazzo was driving toward El Obeid, where he was expected to celebrate the feast of St. Bakhita. Travelling with him were Mgr. Antonio Doppio, parish priest of Schio, Fr. Giacomo Bravo, director of the Mission Centre of Vicenza and Fr. Armido Gigolo, all three of them diocesan priests from Vicenza diocese. Suddenly, due to the breaking of a yet to be determined part on the front left wheel, the car skidded, leaned heavily to the left, went off the paved road and flipped over several times, coming to a stop in a horizontal position about 20 metres from the road. Mgr. Doppio and Fr. Giacomo were ejected from the car and died instantly. Fr. Armido, with a few broken ribs, found himself on the back seat where his travelling companions had been. Mgr. Menegazzo was still in his seat, but unconscious. The first to arrive on the scene and offer help were military policemen who just happened to drive by.
After several setbacks it was finally possible to have an ambulance and take the wounded and the bodies of the two priests back to Khartoum. Fr. Armido and the bodies of Mgr. Doppio and Fr. Giacomo were flown to Italy on 15 February, accompanied by Archbishop Gabriel Zubeir Wako. The funeral took place on 17 February with more than 400 priests and the local ordinary, Mgr. Nonis, attending, together with Archbishop Gabriel Zubeir Wako, Mgr. Cesare Mazzolari and Fr. Rafael González Ponce.
Mgr. Menegazzo, after spending a few days in a hospital in Khartoum, was moved on 15 February to the provincial house of the Comboni Missionaries, where he is slowly recovering.
Meeting of Comboni Missionaries and Comboni Missionary Sisters
There has been a three days meeting of the Comboni Missionaries and the Comboni Missionary Sisters. From 11 to 13 February the people in charge of ongoing formation in the two Comboni Institutes, in line with the letter on cooperation, organized a seminar on “Comboni’s Plan,” under the direction of Fr. John Converset. For the Comboni Sisters, the seminar was a remote preparation for their General Chapter. For the Comboni Missionaries, it was a time of preparation for their provincial assembly, where the amendments to the Lineamenta were discussed. The significance of the event is that for the first time the MCCJ and the CMS attended a meeting and a reflection of this kind together. All the participants were satisfied.
We hope that it will strengthen the cooperation that it has always existed and improve our “being Comboni-like.”
Signs of hope in the province
One of the most beautiful moments of missionary life is the first departure for the missions ad extra. In 2003 six Brothers have had this experience and all six have gone to Africa. If it is true that God’s greatest blessings are people, it is right to thank him for the “gifts” that he continues to send to his Church, since our province has 30 scholastics, 40 postulants for the priesthood, 16 postulants for the Brotherhood and over 60 aspirants. It is not easy to find formators for all of them!
The fruits we are gathering are the results of a half a century of work. In fact, in October 2002 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of one of our first houses of formation at Colonia Moctezuma. It was a very simple ceremony attended also by some who had been seminarians in those days. Last August also the postulancy of Xochimilco celebrated its 40th anniversary. The province hopes to be able to count on the presence of those who have already had a significant mission experience in the apostolate ad extra and about to return home.
The Coordinating Canonisation Committee of the NAP is hard at work preparing for the big day, especially by offering its help and resources to the communities of the province and to the local Church. Because of the geographical distances in the province, this is done through area coordinators in California, Chicago, New Jersey and Canada. The members of the committee are Fr. Giuseppe Bragotti, Fr. Paul Donohue, Mr. Tom Keller, director of development, and Ms. Cindy Browne, Justice and Peace coordinator. The formators of the scholasticate will take care of organizing the theological reflection on this blessed event.
The committee will keep in close touch with the Comboni Missionary Sisters, the Comboni Lay Missionaries and the local dioceses. Tentative plans include opening local celebrations on March 15, a celebration at province level in Cincinnati on December 8, pilgrimages, regular contacts with the secular and religious media, days of reflection, printing of mission promotion literature in English and Spanish. To this end the committee is also keeping in touch with the Spanish speaking provinces and delegations in view of possible cooperation in reprinting existing publications.
Fr. Giuseppe Bragotti has once again been asked to be a member of the National Board of “FROM-mission to mission”, an organization he helped organize in the 1980s and which assists returning missionaries to transition from their mission experience abroad to a pro-active and positive approach to the Church and society in the United States. The organization offers several publications and workshops on the topic, including special sessions on conflict resolution and on traumatic stress syndrome management. The entire process is based on a deep foundation of evangelical faith and commitment to Mission.
Working for peace
On 19 February the Comboni Mission Centre of Cincinnati, together with the archdiocesan seminary, St. Timothy Episcopal Church and two Catholic parishes, sponsored a program billed as Is War the Only Answer in Iraq? Before a standing-room-only crowd, three speakers addressed the issue from different angles. Dr. Paul Knitter of Xavier University spoke on how the major religions view war and peace; Ms. Mary Schoen, who recently returned from a visit to Iraq, gave a living witness of how the Iraqi population lives through the present crisis; Fr. Mike Seger, professor of moral theology, addressed the “Just War” theory under past and present circumstances as currently interpreted by Pope John Paul II and our bishops. The program opened with a prayer offered by a member of the Greater Cincinnati Islamic Centre. The evening was a good occasion to spread and affirm the message of peace in Iraq, in which a sizeable percentage of the local population believes.
Visit of the Superior General
From 13 through 25 January Fr. Manuel Augusto Lopes Ferreira, Superior General, visited the province of Peru-Chile. He was able to see all the communities and to dialogue with the confreres he had not been able to see on a previous visit. All in all, he visited 13 of the 16 communities we have and joined us in the work of the provincial assembly, sharing with us his thoughts as we get near the General Chapter and the good news of the date of the canonisation of our Founder. It was a good opportunity to make us truly feel united to the rest of the Comboni Family spread all over the world, as it attempts to bear witness to the lifestyle and the vision of Daniel Comboni.
Celebration of the 9th EPA - meeting of Afro Pastoral
The 9th Meeting of Afro Pastoral (EPA) was held in the diocese of Callao during the second week of February (10-15). Delegations from Panama, Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Honduras, Haiti, Paraguay, and the United States joined Perú in the gathering which began with a solemn concelebrated Eucharist led by Mgr. Miguel Iriaz, our host, in a lively and active liturgical setting.
Several bishops, including Mgr. Eugenio Arellano Fernández of Esmeraldas, Ecuador, priests, some Comboni scholastics from Lima, lay church workers and about 600 other people attended the event.
With these activities we want to meet the Afro-American people who had been the centre of attention by our bishops when they gathered in Santo Domingo in 1992. During the 9th EPA there was a reflection on the role of “black women” in the development and building of America, looking at the continent as a place where there must be room for everybody without any hint of discrimination and where all can feel as living members of a new society that draws inspiration from the Gospel values. The next meeting will take place in three year time in Venezuela.
It has been a while since we informed you on what is going on in this country, which hopes to become part of the United Europe (UE). The economic and social situation is experiencing some problems. The reshaping of the industry and of the mining sector causes a lot of unemployment. The farmers, far from being in a position to compete with their counterparts in the UE, do not know what to do, as subsidies from the UE are not forthcoming, because Poland is not yet a member. As you can see, the situation is ever changing and many people do not know whether it will be good to be part of the UE, about which not many are well informed.
We, personally, are very happy because we already belong to the Europe of the Comboni Missionaries.
The work on the house we are building in Krakow is proceeding well. It already has walls, doors, windows and the roof. Progress is being made with the plumbing and electricity. The second floor and the basement have already been plastered. We hope the house to be finished by the end of May.
In the postulancy we have 16 postulants for the priesthood and one for the Brotherhood. Ten novices are in Venegono, with five of them possibly taking their vows this year. We have six scholastics in various places, with two of them are expected to be ordained this year.
As for mission promotion, there are many opportunities. From October to March we have, between our two communities of Warsaw and Krakow, four or five mission appeals every Sunday. Unfortunately, people cannot afford to help us financially as much as they do in Italy or in Spain, but these encounters with people are always a good occasion for mission and vocation promotion, from which we are already gathering the fruits.
We cooperate with the Pontifical Mission Societies at national and diocesan level and this helps us to become better known in the country. Some diocesan seminaries are allowing us to give retreats. During Advent and Lent we often direct the three days spiritual exercises that are common in Polish parishes. As you can see, work and opportunities for more work are not lacking. We are just waiting for volunteers!
Pastoral letter of the Bishops of Southern Sudan on peace
After the meeting of the Sudan Catholic Bishop’s Regional Conference (SCBRC) last January, a pastoral letter on peace was issued.
The letter refers to the crucial moment the peace process is going through. The bishops point at the need of true peace, not only as a mere cease-fire, but also as a comprehensive process based on four basic human values: truth, justice, love and freedom, according to the teaching of John Paul II on the last message for the World Day of Peace.
Civic responsibilities are of paramount importance in order to involve all the different groups of society in building a culture of peace. Among them they mention: the protection and promotion of human rights, the formation of community members regarding rights and responsibilities and the life as Christians according to the example of Jesus, especially his love for his enemies.
They support the fact that there should be not only a Declaration of Human Rights, but also a Declaration of Human Responsibilities, that “would help to establish the limits within which the rights of groups and nations may be exercised and thus contribute to the welfare of the whole human family.”
The letter is aimed to be a challenge to the opposing parties in the peace process, to the friends of Sudan and to the international community, as well as a pastoral encouragement to all the faithful and the pastoral agents working in Sudan.
At the beginning of January most of the confreres working in SS held their provincial assembly in Nairobi. They dealt with some topics on the preparation for the next General Chapter. It was also a suitable occasion to take a look at the present situation in SS, where it is well known that the missionary work is tough. On the one hand the needs do not diminish, on the other our personnel shrinks in number and the province is experiencing problems in keeping up with all its commitments. Our desire is always the same: to be at the service of that very people for which Comboni lived and died. More than a century after Comboni’s death, the difficulties and the general situation remain approximately the same.
On 6 February a new step towards a comprehensive peace process in Southern Sudan was made. The government of Sudan and the rebels of the SPLA signed an agreement on wealth sharing, which was one of the main obstacles on the way to a complete halt of the nineteen-year-long civil war. The natural resources of the oil fields have in the last years benefited the economy of the North, while the rest of the country has been excluded from it. Moreover, the government has profited from the oil revenues in order to renew and extend its weaponry and to intensify war operations in the South. With this agreement, a certain mechanism of control and wealth sharing will be set up under the umbrella of international organizations such as the World Bank.
The main mediator, Lt. Gen. Lazaro Sumbeiywo from Kenya, has expressed his satisfaction for this major step and has even stressed that peace is very near, almost at hand.
Also a truce was signed in order to assure that there is an effective cease-fire and an end of military activities from all sides. The last military attacks, conducted at the end of January by the pro-government Nuer militias of Cdr. Peter Gadet, have resulted in the displacement of thousands of people from the Leer area. With the creation of a following-up committee, monitored by military observers, these actions will swiftly be cleared up and the responsibilities properly determined. Meanwhile, the previously agreed cease-fire on the Nuba Mountains seems to be holding and it has been extended for a second time until mid-2003.
On 1 March the talks will resume. Many other issues, such as power-sharing, elections, details of the interim period and especially the issues of the Nuba Mountains, the Blue Nile (Funj) areas and the status of the town of Abyei, have still to be resolved.
Healing the healers
For the last 19 years, Sudan has suffered under a bloody civil war in which more than two million people have died and many others have seen themselves forced to leave their homelands and flee somewhere else. Events such as bombardments of civil population, widespread violence, raping, displacement and cultural uprooting have, unfortunately, become everyday happenings. The trauma of war has also affected the Church and its personnel.
In order to tackle this important issue, a new initiative from the Sudan Catholic Bishops Conference has officially been launched. The program is called “Healing the healers”. Though the program has already been running for more than a year, only recently it has had a centre of its own. This centre was blessed on 1st February in the presence of some Sudanese Bishops who had come for the meeting of the Regional Bishops’ Conference (SCBRC).
This program was set up because of the urgent need to address the symptoms as well as the causes of trauma suffered by the service providers in the community who have been serving in highly traumatizing situations of war and unrest. Many priests, religious and pastoral agents, because of their role in society, have more seriously suffered the negative effects of the hardships brought by the war. Many of them have often been threatened, robbed, blackmailed, pointed at with guns by soldiers, some others had to witness violent and heartbreaking scenes, had to help the wounded and to offer comfort to the suffering. In time, the war trauma resulting from such painful experiences has taken its toll in the form of nightmares, anxiety, anger, physical stiffness, psychological diseases and ultimately, sex abuse, drug and alcohol addiction. This process is known in psychology as PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), which is the whole range of normal human responses to abnormal situations of violence, fear and uncertainty.
A society can’t be healed if its leaders don’t get through this painful process of healing and of integrating brokenness into wholeness again. Every person is a “wounded healer” and the experience of pain and trauma can also be a source of spiritual and personal deepening in the human and Christian aspects of life.
In the healing process, as it has been thought up by this program of “Healing the healers”, there are three phases that make use of the medical, psychological, psychosocial and spiritual aspects. These phases aim at the reintegration into pastoral life with new insights and with the human resources needed to avoid post-traumatic stress situations and the competence to help people to overcome such symptoms through simple techniques of stress management.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Bro. Alfonso Segato (19.07.1920 –17.01.2003)
Bro. Alfonso was born in Dueville, Vicenza, on 19 July 1920. At age 20 he took his first vows in Venegono and, after serving in Italy for nine years, went to spend a year in Zahle, Lebanon. From 1950 to 1955 he worked in Cairo, Egypt. Back in Italy, he worked for six years in Thiene and Milan. In 1961 he left for Mexico where he remained until 1989, offering his missionary service in La Paz, Santa Rosalia, Cuernavaca and Bahía Tortugas.
In 1990 he had returned to Rebbio, Italy, where he remained till his death.
This is what Bro. Giuseppe Menegotto writes about him:
“In 1961, after several years of service in Italy and in Egypt, Bro. Alfonso arrived in Mexico where he remained for 28 years, about 20 of which spent working in Baja California. I got to know him well at the “Ciudad de los Niños” of La Paz where he was in community with Fr. Carlo Toncini, director of the Ciudad and parish priest of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Bro. Alfonso felt at home, since there was enough work for everyone and he had the opportunity to be in charge of various activities and projects.
At the shrine he took care mostly of the liturgy and the altar servers, activities to which he felt particularly attracted. At the Ciudad he took care mostly of the carpentry and mechanics, lending an artistic touch to the workshops.
He was also very involved in sports, both organized and recreational, as activities in which to involve the boys of the “Ciudad”. I remember him as a good referee, especial during soccer games, since he had the advantage of being a little deaf. He was sparing us and himself from having to take embarrassing decisions, because he very seldom blew the whistle and, even if we complained to him, he would say: “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!”
To close this brief sketch, on the basis of what I got to know about Bro. Alfonso, I can say that he distinguished himself for his intelligence and liveliness. He could find the humorous side of any situation, both of those not too important and of those that were painful, such as not being able to go back to Egypt. He spent the last years of his life in Rebbio, alternating joyful moments and sad moments, carrying his cross up to the day when the Lord called him.
A Brother, whom we loved and whom we remember with affection, has gone. May he rest in peace as he awaits the resurrection.”
Bro. Igino Antoniazzi (26.01.1911 – 24.01.2003)
24 January, the day of Bro. Igino’s birth into heaven, was also the day of the yearly diocesan assembly for the diocese of Nacala, attended by 60 missionaries.
Bro. Igino, we gathered in the large church of Carapira to thank God for the gift of your life and of your witness, enlivened by the Word of God and the words of the bishop of Nacala.
Here are the main stages of his life. Bro. Igino was born in Montecchio Maggiore, Vicenza, in 1911, and took his first vows in Venegono in 1931. From 1931 to 1937 he served in Italy, in the houses of Troia and Thiene. From 1937 to 1943 he was a builder in Gondar, Ethiopia. Then he was back in Italy, at Rebbio, Padova and Trento (1943-1948). From 1948 to 1956 he minded the building of the seminary of Viseu in Portugal. In 1956 he left for Mozambique, where he stayed until 2001, mostly assigned to the carpentry workshop of Carapira. Back in Italy in August 2001, he was admitted at the C.A.A. of Verona.
Bro. Igino, a classic example of a Comboni Brother, lived his missionary life in a radical way. Daily he devoted a large amount of time to prayer, arriving in church early in the morning, much ahead of the other members of the community.
Being very friendly and sociable, he was very attentive and helpful with his confreres, other religious and laypeople.
He stuck by his ideas, but, because he loved peace, he was understanding with all and never left room for divisions and grudges; he always found the right word by having a good laugh or… praying over it.
He was a great worker and a promoter of development, and spent most of his energies in doing manual work. He was always quite active up to age of 89 when he stopped working because it was physically impossible for him to do so. Nevertheless, from his room, he kept in touch with us and was always happy to give us some advice.
He did not know what rest or time off was and rarely took time to relax. He always matched his holidays in Italy with times when he needed medical care or for one of the several operations he had to undergo. Even then was busy getting what was needed for his mission.
A charming aspect of his life was the deep relationship he had with his family, his brothers, his sisters-in-law and his many nephews and nieces. With great zeal he spoke to all about his missionary concerns and encouraged his native parish to contribute generously for the missions.
With pride here in Carapira he told of his labours as a young brother, building new houses for the Institute. As soon as he finished a house, he was sent to build another, then another: Verona, Padova, Troia, Fai, and so on. It cost him a lot, because all this work was delaying his going to the missions, but he always obeyed and worked with good will.
Then came the mission assignment, but it was in Ethiopia and during the colonial war. There he had to start alone and in difficult places, without much to work with. Because of his total commitment to his work he had recurring bouts of illness, but always bounced back and his will power made him move ahead. Having returned to Italy to recover, he gave much of his time and service to the scholastics, who had moved to Rebbio on account of the war. At that time he used to drive around on a steam vehicle.
Finally there was hope that he could go to Mozambique, but he was derailed to Viseu, Portugal, to build the seminary. In 1956 he eventually arrived in Mozambique where he remained until 2001, when he was convinced to return to Italy and go to Verona for health reasons. It cost him a lot because he wanted to leave in Carapira not only 44 years of missionary service, but also his body, his heart and interests as a generous and lasting gift to Africa.
In Verona he continued to live for the missions. His room became the meeting place of anyone connected with Mozambique, white or black. His mind and his heart, always active and alive, helped him follow the events of the Mozambican people with his prayer and the daily offering of his life.
Bro. Igino, now in heaven, continues to intercede for the Church and the people of Mozambique whom he loved so much. (Fr. Cusini Firmino)
Fr. Gesuino Podda (18.04.1930 –03.02.2003)
Fr. Gesuino Podda was born at Orotelli, Nuoro, on 18 April 1930. He started his vocational journey at an early age by entering the regional seminary of Cagliari. Following the advice of his spiritual director, he joined the Comboni Missionaries to become a religious and a missionary ad gentes. In the novitiate he met Fr. Giovanni Audisio who helped him keep under control his rebellious spirit, especially with regard to obedience and some behavioural strict norms of those days.
He was ordained a priest on 26 June 1955. His first assignment was in mission promotion in Southern Italy, a service he was asked to do again later in life.
Finally, his dream of going ad gentes became a reality with his assignment to Brazil, in the state of Maranhão, and specifically in Balsas, located in the southern part of the State. In Loreto and Mangabeiras, in the happy company of other Comboni Missionaries, he spurred the parishioners with his enthusiasm, teaching also how to play, and himself playing, the harmonium during the liturgy and catechism. He continued to take care of the two parishes even after he was moved to Balsas.
He kept his rebellious character in check in situations of injustice and lack of love, being unable to put up with hypocrisy, no matter where it came from. Elected provincial, Fr. Gesuino left the community of Balsas in order to give more freedom of action to future provincials, and built the centre of the Nordeste province of the Comboni Missionaries in São Luis (MA). With the support of Mgr. Rino Carlesi, he planned to go to the help of other dioceses that were short of priests.
At the end of his mandate as provincial he returned to Italy and to mission promotion. Later he returned as parish priest to Balsas, a city growing fast because of the exodus from the countryside. Gradually, he left the care of the downtown area in order to concentrate his energies on the outskirts. It was a prophetic intuition and a move that met with criticism at the onset, but was widely praised later.
The last phase of his apostolate was in the parish of St. John the Baptist, in the heart of São Luis. He strengthened all the activities of a religious nature, without forgetting the social needs of the parish. The social centre catered for the sick and the people who had problems related to their poverty. Even after he got sick, he did not stop running and guiding the parish community. He was present in the life of the community through the telephone.
At the beginning of January, Fr. Gesuino attended the provincial retreat with the other Comboni Missionaries. He went to confession and went back to his daily activities with his trusted telephone at his side. He then asked to be hospitalised to take care of excessive fluid in his legs, but the situation grew more complicated with the onset of pneumonia. The cares of the doctors proved fruitless and, at 11.30 the night of 3 February, Fr. Gesuino died of heart failure.
He was buried in Balsas, in the chapel of the Comboni Missionaries, joining the other deceased confreres Fr. Franco Sirigatti, Fr. Marco Vedovato, Fr. Flavio Campus, Fr. Florio Chizzali and Fr. Fabio Bertagnolli. (Fr. Gabriele Marcon)
Bro. Alfonso Bertagnoli (22.09.1906 – 10.02.2003)
Bro. Alfonso was born in Grezzana, diocese of Verona, on 22 September 1906. He took his first vows in Venegono in 1929 and his perpetual vows in 1935 while he was in Brescia. His longest term of service was in Verona as financial manager of the magazines (1935-1982). The rest of his long life was entirely spent in the Mother House of Verona where he died in the early afternoon of 10 February 2003.
“Certainly for me it is very difficult to speak of a friend and a confrere (we knew each other since the 1930s) and tell of great deeds that perhaps were not there. I would rather describe as great those little deeds of his, like the daily routine, always the same: church, office, community life, being on time.
As the financial manager of Nigrizia and of Piccolo Missionario, Bro. Alfonso had the task of keeping track of subscriptions, add new names and delete those to be dropped. In those days we were using those famous metal plates that had to be inserted or pulled out accordingly. It was a laborious job and Bro. Alfonso spent hours at it, day after day, with patience and commitment.
For reasons of health Bro. Alfonso never went to the missions, even though that was the reason why he had joined the Institute. I can’t give an evaluation of this fact, but he must have suffered a lot on account of it, at least in seeing others leave for and return from the missions, listening to their adventures and experiences. Nevertheless, I never heard him complain about it.
He had taken up also the duty of sacristan, which he kept very efficiently up to when the large chapel in the Mother House was modified. To this service he gave all his free time and the time he could spare from other duties. Perhaps this too helped him in showing all the time a recollected demeanour that allowed him to cultivate his interior life. We can’t forget his love for the Blessed Virgin, whom he addressed with a variety of wonderful appellatives.
Bro. Alfonso passed in our midst without making any noise, without demands or human ambitions.” (Bro. Ulderico Menini)
Fr. Aldo Pieragostini (27.07.1927 –10.02.2003)
His necrology will appear in the next issue of Familia Comboniana.
Fr. Oliviero Coppari (21.03.1913 –22.02.2003)
His necrology will appear in the next issue of Familia Comboniana.
Let us pray for the deceased
THE FATHER: Olindo of Fr. Giorgio Previdi (U); Margarito of Fr. Jorge Oscar García Castillo (M); Longinos of Fr. Longinos López Fernández (E).
THE MOTHER: of Fr. José Antonio Girau Pellicer (CO); Valentina of Fr. López Fernández Longinos (E).
THE BROTHER: Francesco of Fr. Giovanni Morazzoni (I)
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. Michele Lenna; Sr. M. Nunzia Bonifazi; Sr. Geronia Rodighiero.
MISSIONARI COMBONIANI VIA LUIGI LILIO 80 - ROMA