A BLESSED EASTER
in the year of the canonisation
of Blessed Daniel Comboni
The date of 05.10.2003 for the canonisation of Comboni is now official
In the morning of 7 March 2003, in the Clementine hall of the Vatican, the Pope held the ordinary public consistory for the addition of 12 blessed to the Register of the Saints, our Founder being one of them.
On that occasion the Pope established that the canonisation of Comboni will take place on 5 October 2003. Together with Comboni, Blessed Arnold Jansen, founder of the Divine Word Missionaries, and Blessed Joseph Freinademetz SVD, will also be canonised.
The Consistory was attended by three members of our general council, three from the Comboni Sisters, two from the Secular Comboni Missionaries, the postulator Fr. Arnaldo Baritussio mccj, the provincial of Italy Fr. Francesco Antonini and Fr. Fidel González Fernández mccj. In attendance were also archbishop Gabriel Zubeir Wako of Khartoum, bishop F. Carraro of Verona, Mgr. A. Nicora, bishop emeritus of Verona, and Mgr. Romeo Panciroli mccj. Unable to attend were the bishop of Brescia, who was visiting the mission of Mozambique, and Fr. Pietro Chiocchetta mccj, not well.
All we need to do now is to thank the Lord and prepare ourselves for the canonisation.
Members of the Precapitular Commission
With the death of Fr. Legonou Jean Pierre and the appointment of a representative for the Brothers, the members of the commission are: Fr. Baldan Fabio, Bro. Casagrande Alessandro, Fr. García Castillo Jorge Oscar, Fr. Miante Girolamo, Fr. Serra Teresino, Fr. Tesfamariam Ghebrecristos Weldeghebriel.
P. Ikundu John, an observer at the General Chapter, has been appointed additional member of the commission.
Slogan for the canonisation of Daniel Comboni
(translations made with the help of the provincial commissions of Europe)
• A THOUSAND LIVES FOR THE MISSION
“Holy and dedicated… to make common cause… with the poorest and most abandoned” (Daniel Comboni)
• MILLE VITE PER LA MISSIONE
“Santi e capaci… per far causa comune… con i più poveri e abbandonati” (Daniele Comboni)
• MILLE VIES POUR LA MISSION
« Saints et capables… pour faire cause commune… avec les plus pauvres et abandonnés » (Daniel Comboni)
• MIL VIDAS PARA LA MISIÓN
“Santos y capaces... para la causa común... con los más pobres y abandonados” (Daniel Comboni)
• MIL VIDAS PARA A MISSÃO
“Santos e preparados... dispostos a partilhar... a sorte dos mais pobres e abandonados” (Daniel Comboni)
• TAUSEND MAL UND NOCH VIEL MEHR IM DIENST DER EVANGELISIERUNG
“In Heiligkeit und Selbsthingabe… solidarisch sein… mit den Ärmsten und am meisten Vernachlässigten” (Daniel Comboni)
• GDYBYM ŻYŁ NAWET TYSIĄC RAZY – WSZYSTKO ODDAŁBYM MISJOM
“święci i zaangażowani…na rzecz solidarności…z najbiedniejszymi i opuszczonymi” (Daniel Comboni)
The Renewal Course of Rome at Limone sul Garda
The priests and Brothers of the Renewal Course of Rome, while at Limone sul Garda for a workshop on the Comboni charism, opened in the Founder’s home town the celebrations of the Comboni Year to prepare for his canonisation.
On 15 March a celebration of the Word at the Tesöl, placed the participants in touch with the last moments of Bishop Comboni’s life. Also remembered were the ideas that inspired the Comboni mission, to which the participants renewed their consent in a formal way. A fervent prayer placed before God the needs of the mission, of the Institute and of the confreres.
In the evening, in the parish church, a solemn concelebration presided over by one of the participants of the course gathered the inhabitants of Limone who came in great numbers. During the homily some typical traits of Comboni as a missionary were recalled, such as the evangelisation of the African people and the defence of their dignity.
Article on Comboni in “L’Osservatore Romano”
On 13 March “L’Osservatore Romano” published a full page article on Comboni written by Fr. Fidel González Fernández.
RADIOUNO (Italian TV)
On 16 March, in the context of the program “Oggi 2000,” RADIOUNO gave a 30 minute slot to Comboni and the Comboni Institutes that included live interviews.
Reports for the General Chapter
The secretary general is receiving the provincial/delegation reports for the General Chapter sent by the various provinces and delegations. We remind provincials/delegates (or whoever is responsible) that the reports must be in two languages: one in the official language of the province/delegation, and the other in another language (a Latin or English language accordingly).
Besides the printed text, we kindly ask you to send us the texts also by e-mail in RTF attachments.
The new General Directory of Finance (GDF), already approved by the General Council in October 2002, has been published in English, Italian and Spanish. The Italian version is to be considered the original edition. This updated GDF has included the various norms approved or proposed by the Chapter of 1997 and the resolutions of the various assemblies of treasurers that have taken place over the past six years. The text in three languages has been e-mailed to all provincial/delegation superiors and treasurers and to the scholasticates. It will also be sent by mail to all our provinces and delegations.
Sch. Torres Castañeda Luis Fernando (M) Chicago 08.02.2003
Sch. Malásquez Quispe Carlos Alberto (PE) Chicago 08.02.2003
Bro. Todjohon Luc Mathurin (T) Toffo (BENIN) 15.03.2003
Sch. Aleti A. Z. Chris (U) Ochodri (U) 01.03.2003
Mgr. Romeo Panciroli, L’appartamento delle Udienze Pontificie, (the apartment for Papal audiences), Libreria Vaticana 2002, 216 pages, € 70.00.
Fr. Pietro De Angelis, Vocabolario Zande, Trieste 2002. 420 pp., University of Trieste. It is a Zande dictionary with an Italian translation. Copies may be requested from Fr. Pietro Ravasio (Roma, EUR).
Francesco Accardo, Un approccio alla spiritualità di Daniele Comboni: missione e laicità. These are 16 page articles that have been published in the magazine “Il pungolo” of Santa Maria Capua Vetere (CE).
Fr. Lorenzo Gaiga, Con la pace nel cuore (Fr. Gualberto Bormolini), 192 pages. Brescia 2003. Copies available from the author upon request.
A philosophical discussion-week in Kisangani
The Philosophical Institute “Edith Stein”, in cooperation with Fr. Mileto Palmiro and Fr. Jorge Domingues de Oliveira, has organised from 17 to 21 March the Sixth Philosophical Week in Kisangani: a workshop that has involved not only the Comboni, Dehoniani and Monfort postulants, but also many of the numerous university students in Kisangani and a large section of civil society.
This year’s theme was “The concept of time in a globalised world”. It has analysed the consequence of the phenomenon of the globalisation of the world and its impact on the concept of time and space in the African mind, discussing the hopes and fears that this new way of living through time raises in the African people.
There is no doubt, it says in its concluding summary, that this global concept of the world is creating in Africa changes in the notion of time, obliging the Africans to think about themselves as persons under a different perspective.
Anyone interested in receiving the workshop’s report, may write directly to Fr. Mileto Palmiro (email@example.com)
Opening of the Comboni Year
The evening of 14 March, the eve of Blessed Daniel Comboni’s birthday, Mgr. Robert Sarah, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of People (C.E.P.), officially opened the Comboni Year to prepare for the canonisation of Blessed Daniel Comboni with a lecture and with a Eucharist in the chapel of the Curia of the Comboni Missionaries in Rome. Mgr. Sarah spoke on “Comboni, Africa and the local Church,” as an introduction to a time of study, reflection and prayer to prepare for and in view of the “after” canonisation of Daniel Comboni. Bishop Sarah said that Daniel Comboni’s intuitions are all part of a history of grace and are still valid today as we face new challenges and new situations in mission. Tracing a path through the documents of the Church, the Writings and the Plan of Comboni, the speaker explained how mission is born of God who is love, and comes from meeting what is Holy, and the missionary is a person of God, dedicated to God and to the Church; the missionary is an evangeliser and promoter of human dignity, a person of peace who reveals Christ hidden in the poor. He concluded with a call to embrace the theology of the Cross, pointing out that in the course of history Africa has always been associated to the suffering of God.
While waiting for the arrival of Mgr. Sarah, Fr. Milani gave a brief report on the activities to prepare for the canonisation of the Founder planned by the various ad hoc committees at the Curia and in the provinces/delegations. He also mentioned a number of activities connected to the event (prayer vigil, canonisation, thanksgiving mass), and other activities being planned with the Municipality of Rome. Of special interest is the proposal of the mayor of Rome to organise an “Africa Day” (on a date yet to be set) when missionaries will be invited to a number of junior and senior schools to promote a better knowledge of peoples and of the work being done. We shall see…
CIAM: Meetings of Asian and African priests
About 70 African priests who are currently in Rome to study or for other duties took part in a day of reflection, sharing and prayer on the theme: “Africa today: how to be ministers of reconciliation in the context of today’s conflicts.” After a general introduction to the topic offered by some experts, the participants explored it in depth first in groups and then in a plenary session. Mgr. Robert Sarah, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, led the prayer service. The gathering was held on 8 March at the International Centre of Mission Promotion (CIAM in Italian) thanks to Fr. Romeo Ballan mccj, director of the Centre.
A week earlier a similar meeting had been held at the Centre for Asian priests who reflected on the challenge to mission facing them in “Asia today: how to be ministers of the gospel in minority situations.”
All the participants have asked the Centre to organise other similar meetings, inviting also other groups of evangelisers, such as Americans, religious and lay people.
Seventy years of missionary life
On 15 February all the Comboni Missionaries of the area around Cairo met in Helouan for the monthly day of recollection and, on that occasion, they celebrated in a spirit of joy and thanksgiving to God the 70th anniversary of religious profession of Bro. Lino Cremona, still active despite all the work he has done and being over 90. Among other things for Christmas 2002 he still prepared a beautiful Nativity Scene with mechanical movements and lights that drew the admiration not only of the children, but also of the adults. He arrived in Egypt from Sudan in 1939 and has always remained here, except for eight years he spent in Congo. Best wishes in view of the 75th anniversary and beyond!
On the same day we bid goodbye to Fr. Alessandro Bedin who, after two years of Arabic studies at Dar Comboni and four and a half years of work in the parish and school of Helouan, has been called to Rome to prepare himself for basic formation work. Thanks and best wishes.
In the church of “Cordi Jesu” founded by Blessed Daniel Comboni himself, a celebration was held in honour of the Founder’s 172nd birthday, the seventh anniversary of his beatification and the opening of the Comboni Year to prepare for his canonisation. The Coptic-Catholic Patriarch and Cardinal Stephanòs II Ghattàs presided at the Coptic Rite liturgy concelebrated by 20 priests. All the Comboni Missionaries and Sisters of Cairo were present, together with many religious of other Institutes, many lay people representing the parishes where members of the Comboni Institutes work, plus a good number of Sudanese who enlivened the celebration with songs and the sound of drums. A new hymn, To follow you, Comboni, was sung with text and music by Fr. Sergio Chesini who conducted the singing. A simple reception followed the celebration. Both in church and in the yard posters and books on Comboni in various languages were exhibited. It was a very intense occasion of mission promotion.
On a journey… in Comboni’s footsteps
Fr. Vittorio Barin and Fr. Giuseppe Benito Cruciani, of the community of Assouan, attended two meetings held in Assiut for the priests of the four Coptic Catholic dioceses of Southern Egypt (about 100 participants) and also a meeting of 30 sisters of the diocese of Sohag. Fr. Cruciani has already shown eight times, also to some parishes, his PowerPoint presentation of slides on Daniel Comboni’s first journey into Africa with captions in Arabic. The text has also been printed in a booklet form and given to the priests who attended the presentation. Other series are in the making.
Fr. Vittorio and Fr. Giuseppe have been invited to visit and animate various parishes. The reception, also on the part of the bishops, has been excellent. Let us pray that it may bear fruit.
Eritrea… hunger again!
This young and small nation in the Horn of Africa, which is struggling with all its energies to achieve stability and peace, is once again being overwhelmed by events, natural and otherwise, that drag her down.
Independent since 1993, Eritrea covers an area of 124,357 square km, and is home to 3.5 million people. The geography and the climate vary. The area of Dancalia and of the Sahel are mostly desert. The central highlands and the western lowlands are the most populated areas, where agriculture, based on maize, sorghum, wheat and barley, is mostly developed; orchards are also found, but only in small areas with sufficient water. People subsist mostly on agriculture and animal husbandry. Even under normal conditions Eritrea only produces 40% of its food, while the balance is supplied partly by imports and partly by international relief efforts.
In 2002 the small rains of March-June, essential to agriculture, did not come. The large rains of June-September were four weeks late, and for this reason the crops did not have time to ripe. The harvest was the lowest since 1993. Livestock dropped 20% from the level of 2001.
In 2003, to cope with the situation, we would need 601,200 tons of cereals. The people at high risk of starvation are about 2,500,000. But 1,400,000 people need immediate relief, before it is too late. The worst hit are the elderly, the children and the women, who are the great majority.
The Catholic missions are besieged by requests: even the government health centres ask for help in the areas of Keren, Assab, Barentu and near the border with Ethiopia, where for several years the harvests have been very meagre due to the irregularity and scarcity of rain.
Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation
On 6 March the new commission on Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation gathered for the first time in Florence with the participation of three Comboni Sisters and of Fr. Fernando Zolli, general secretary of evangelisation.
The first session was given to an analysis of reflections, activities and projects the Comboni Institutes in Italy are currently involved in: from mass media to the proposals of the Jubilee of the Oppressed and the “GiM;” from the insertion into the reality of the outcast (Castelvolturno) to the decade old pastoral presence among the immigrants (ACSE); from the awareness campaigns to the cooperation with various dioceses; from an overview of the national scene to the keen and vigilant watch on Brussels and European trends.
In a second session the commission focused on the areas of service where it plans to be active:
- internal national level (communities): to raise the awareness of the confreres on areas of justice, peace and integrity of creation and to offer practical activities (Bible studies, spiritual retreats, life styles, use and distribution of goods, a commitment to the outcast, etc.)
- external national level (local Church/society): to network with diocesan organisations (justice, peace and integrity of creation commissions) and with civil society (movements such as “Rete Lilliput,” Pax Christi, “Tavola della Pace,” etc.);
- European level: to network with the religious Institutes connected with Brussels and the European Parliament in order to monitor decisions on international cooperation and others.
Meeting of Comboni Brothers
A meeting of almost all the Brothers working in Kenya was held at the CIF of Nairobi over the weekend of 8-9 March. There were about twenty in all between those in charge of formation and those working in the missions. The meeting was organised by Bro. Hans Eigner, member of the Kenya Provincial Council, in order to reflect together on the image of the Brother and his formation, so as to prepare topics of discussion for the General Chapter. All the Brothers were very pleased with the meeting and the sharing and committed themselves to give their own contribution to the promotion of vocations to the Brotherhood.
Opening of the Comboni Year
The opening of the Comboni Year to prepare for the canonisation of Blessed Daniel Comboni took place at two different times.
- On Saturday, 15 March, we held the “family” celebration at the provincial house on Ngong Road attended by about one hundred Comboni Missionaries, Comboni Sisters and postulants from the four provinces of Kenya and South Sudan. The gathering opened with a lecture by Fr. Umberto Pescantini who highlighted a number of important points in the life of the Founder, which could help us to arrive at a peaceful resolution of conflicts and disagreements. The text of the lecture has been shared through the internet site “combonisanto”. Mass followed and then a community meal. We truly felt like a family around the Founder, not withstanding our diversity and differences.
- On Sunday, 16 March, a good number of Comboni Missionaries, friends and benefactors of our Institutes gathered in the cathedral of Nairobi where they took part in a solemn Mass with the local Christian community. During the celebration a beautiful portrait of Comboni (1.20x2.40m) was uncovered, the creation of the local artist Njoroge. The portrait was placed in the apse of the basilica. Presiding at the Mass was the provincial of Kenya who, in the course of his homily, developed the theme of the transfiguration or, as Comboni used to say, of the “regeneration” of Africa.
Official beginning of the pre-postulancy
On 5 March the pre-postulancy of El Obeid, which is under the responsibility of Fr. Kabeya Mbinze Janvier, was officially opened. The choice of El Obeid was motivated by the desire to move away from Khartoum, where most of the activities of the Institutes operating the Sudan are located. In El Obeid we own a house that in future could become the residence of the pre-postulancy.
Currently there are 10 pre-postulants. Three have yet to arrive, because they are still in the armed forces, even though their draft time has expired. For the time being the pre-postulants are housed at the diocesan pastoral centre. Mgr. Antonio Menegazzo, the apostolic administrator of El Obeid, has been very happy about this choice from the very beginning and so is the diocesan clergy. Other members of the province, together with the community of El Obeid, will take turns in helping Fr. Janvier.
Opening of the Comboni Year
On Friday, 14 March, the eve of Bishop Comboni’s birthday, all the Comboni Missionaries and Sisters in Khartoum gathered at Masalma to open the Comboni Year to prepare for the canonisation of Blessed Daniel Comboni with a vigil. The gathering and the prayers were prepared by the canonisation committee and in particular by Fr. Salvatore Marrone, Sr. Cecilia Fierro and Fr. José Alberto Pimentel Guzmán. Each community brought a meaningful sign of its presence and activity in Khartoum. These signs were then exchanged among the communities.
The church of Masalma has a strong historical meaning for us. It represents in a way the “regeneration” of the mission and of the plan of Comboni. It was built on the spot where Fr. Orwalder lived after he returned from the Mahdia and is also the place where Mrs. Grigolini lived.
In the church there is a painting of the Blessed Mother, which was brought by Bishop Antonio Maria Roveggio who then celebrated Mass in front of it on the feast of the Epiphany of 1900, on the occasion of the opening of the mission. We prayed in front of a crucifix that was brought back by the missionaries after the Mahdia. Many of our missionaries found before this crucifix the strength needed during the first difficult years of the mission in the Sudan.
Reminder of new address of provincial headquarters
Despite the notice that appeared last summer in the Update to the Annuario 2002, many people still write to our provincial offices using the old address. Very soon the Post Office will stop forwarding the mail from the old to the new address and many things will get lost. Please, remember that, as of July 2002, we are no longer at 8108 Beechmont Ave. The new street address is: 1318 Nagel Road, Cincinnati, OH 45255-3120 (See Familia Comboniana of September 2002).
On Saturday, 14 March, the community of Cincinnati’s provincial headquarters celebrated the opening of the Comboni Year to prepare for the canonisation of Blessed Daniel Comboni with a solemn Eucharist attended by the staff and by the Comboni Ladies Auxiliary. Fr. Dennis Conway, provincial superior, was the main celebrant. Lunch followed for all the invited guests. Similar celebrations took place in all the communities of the province during the weekend of 16 March. Meanwhile, press releases have been sent to the over 200 publications that are members of the Catholic Press Association and to the local press.
Opening of the Comboni Year
On 15 March, in Monterrico, at the invitation of the superiors of the Comboni Family, we opened the Comboni Year to prepare for the canonisation of Blessed Daniel Comboni with a half day gathering of our communities in Lima.
A representative committee of Comboni Missionaries, Comboni Sisters and CLM offered to the participants a good programme of inputs, reflections and prayer that covered the first part of the morning. Later we gathered around the altar for a Eucharist presided by Fr. Conrado Franco Lorenzo, provincial superior, who shared some of the ideas proposed by the General Councils of the three Institutes of the Comboni Family inviting all of us to live to the fullest this time of grace to prepare for the canonisation of our Founder.
At the end, the various activities that will take place during this year were officially announced and, trusting in the “groom” who is with us, we made an exception during this time of Lent, and gathered for a family “agape”.
The Comboni Year is on its way
With over 50 CLM, members of the Secular Institute, Sisters, Brothers and priests in attendance, the Comboni Family gathered at Fatima on 10 March to open the “special time” of preparation for the canonisation of Blessed Daniel Comboni with a day of recollection. We meditated and prayed over the basic characteristics of the life and spirituality of our Founder.
In Portugal the Comboni Year will last till 15 March 2004. There will be three special events: the presentation of the translation of the Scritti of Comboni, the Pilgrimage to Fatima of the Comboni Family on 26 July, with the ordination of three Comboni Missionaries, and the celebration of the canonisation on 5 October. Beside the pilgrimage to Rome, the canonisation will be marked by a Mass that will be aired on radio and TV. Meanwhile, the magazine office is distributing to the local and regional mass media texts and pictures on Comboni. The texts have been prepared by several confreres.
At the community level, the Comboni Year was opened in Famalicão on 14 March, date that also marked the completion of the renovation done to the house. The Comboni Missionaries and the Comboni Sisters in Lisbon celebrated it on 15 March with a gathering of benefactors, friends and helpers of the south of Portugal. On the same day the community of Coimbra offered a musical show on Comboni. In Maia the occasion was remembered during the Saturday Mass. Viseu and Santarém opened the Comboni Year on the occasion of the gathering of the parents of our seminarians and novices.
Shooting incident on the Narus road
On 1 March, while travelling from Narus (South Sudan) to Lokichokio (Kenya), Fr. Elia Ciapetti and the Italian lay volunteer Alessandro Codato from Tradate (Varese) were ambushed on the Kenyan side of the border by Toposa robbers. The car came to a halt. Fr. Elia alighted, gave to the robbers whatever was inside his bag and went back to the car, which was driven by the lay volunteer.
Just as he got inside the car, one of the robbers fired shots through the door of the car, hitting Alessandro in the legs and Fr. Elia in the hand. The robbers then disappeared, not before killing an SPLA soldier who was travelling with Fr. Elia and had also alighted from the car. Alessandro and Fr. Elia, unable to drive the car due to the wounds received, had to resort to an inexperienced young man who slowly managed to drive them all the way to the mission of Lokichokio. There they were given first aid and later flown to Nairobi by a Flying Doctors’ plane.
Both Fr. Elia and Mr. Codato were operated on (a 3 hour long operation each) and are recovering from the ordeal. On 21 March they were flown to Italy for further treatment.
In remembrance of Fr. Jean Pierre Legonou
On 18 March, in a moving and spiritually filled celebration, the Comboni Missionaries, the Comboni Sisters and the postulants of Togo gathered with his family and the Christian community of Kodjoviakope to remember Fr. Jean Pierre Legonou, whom the Lord had called to himself ten days earlier, while he was in Sahuayo (Mexico) visiting the novices of his delegation (DCA). Jean Pierre was raised in that neighbourhood that later on became the first city parish entrusted to the Comboni Missionaries who had arrived in Togo in January 1964. Having met the Comboni Missionaries, the young Jean Pierre had felt the desire to belong to their missionary family. He was among the first Togolese postulants and novices and was the first Comboni Missionary to be ordained a priest from the province. The church was packed with people, the same church that on 25 July 1992 had witnessed his priestly ordination by the apostolic nuncio in a ceremony enlivened by a choir that had come from Abomey, Benin, the original home town of the Legonou family.
During the homily, the provincial superior asked what God may want to say to us with the sudden death of Jean Pierre at an age (43) when everyone placed great hopes in him. We were proud of the fact that the confreres in Central America had chosen him as their delegate and that he had been chosen, the first African ever, to be a member of the preparatory commission for the General Chapter in the year of our Founder’s canonisation. The answer is to be found in the Lord’s Cross in whose shadow the task of evangelisation is born and grows. The provincial repeated what Fr. Enrico Cordioli had said at the funeral in Mexico, that Jean Pierre “was a good man, with the spirit of a child, the heart of a father and the strength of a warrior.” The family, contrary to ancestral tradition, has decided that Jean Pierre will rest with the Comboni Family where the Lord called him to himself.
In Mexico, Jean Pierre will certainly be the seed of future Comboni Missionaries “holy and dedicated” like he was and like Comboni wants his missionaries to be. His ailing father, his mother and twin brother and other relatives attended the Mass.
Particularly moving was the traditional greeting of the bereaved family at the end of the celebration: a long line of people, stretching from the rectory to the church, waited for the opportunity to express to them and to the provincial their human and Christian solidarity over the loss of Jean Pierre, the “good giant.”
The province of Togo had placed great hopes in him. We are sure that from his place in heaven he will not forget us.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Fr. Aldo Pieragostini (27.07.1927 – 10.02.2003)
Fr. Aldo Pieragostini returned to the Father’s house on Monday, 10 February 2003, a little after midnight of Sunday night. He was at the hospital of Lacor (Gulu) where he had been admitted on January 31 in the hope that he would recover from an illness that seemed more serious than his previous ones. During the last few months the fever never left him and the doctors had been unable to control it. Fr. Aldo was passing the time praying and always had the rosary in his hands. On Sunday morning he had been anointed by Fr. Carlo Pasquali. In the early afternoon the situation worsened as he had difficulty in breathing and could no longer speak. He was conscious, however, and acknowledged with nods the words of comfort and the prayers that were being said for him. He lost consciousness around 8:00 in the evening; eventually he passed away surrounded by his confreres at the hospital, the Sisters and the nurses.
He was then dressed in his priestly vestments. The chasuble was the same one he had worn a few months earlier when he had celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination, bearing the words: “God is love.”
The particular traits of Fr. Aldo were his simplicity and humility that made him attentive and available to the service of others. There was more: All his life, especially during his last few years, he lived his mission beset by physical weakness, the result of a personal journey of asceticism and acceptance of his own limitations, in conformity with the glorious cross of Jesus.
Fr. Aldo was born in Barbara, Marche, on 27 July 1927 and entered the Institute when he was close to being ordained priest, coming from the diocesan seminary, to follow the missionary vocation to which he felt drawn. He was ordained priest together with 30 confreres on 7 June 1952 by cardinal Ildefonso Schuster of Milan. A few months after his ordination he was already in Uganda, where he spent most of his priestly life among the Acholi, except for short periods of time spent in Italy to recover from illnesses or from exhaustion. He was in Italy from 1959 to 1962, then again in 1974 and 1975 and, for a longer period, after 1990 when he had been the victim of an ambush by the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) during which Fr. Egidio Biscaro had bled to death right in his arms.
Fr. Aldo kept a vivid memory of that event together with the mark of a wound to his jaw. A few months after the ambush he had returned to Italy and stayed for about 10 years in our community of Lecce, where he had continued his apostolate characterised by simplicity, availability to all and by the witness of a life of faith and prayer. His many friends attest to that, as he kept in frequent touch with them by mail to have them share in his missionary life, especially in the trials of the people of North Uganda, and also to share words of faith and hope.
Fr. Aldo, simple but observant, had uncommon abilities in the technical field, especially with engines and electricity, that made him very useful in the missions, especially when he joined Bro. Federico Bonalumi to open the mission of Padibe.
He was happy to be back in Africa. After the ambush of 1990 he had tried several times, but each time, as the departure date approached, fear had made him apprehensive and nervous. He finally managed to overcome his anxiety and had returned to Uganda on October 2000. “It could be for a day or for a week or for a month or for a year,” he used to say. In fact he remained for a little over two years, up to his death. A few months ago, when his energies began to wane and trips to the hospital were becoming more frequent, he began to ask himself whether it would have been better to return to Italy for medical tests and care, or to remain in the missions. In reality, in his heart he had already decided to stay, but did not want to become a burden. Once he realised that he was accepted just as he was, then he no longer worried about it. At the beginning of this year, when making plans for his holidays, he had said decidedly: “I will go in May next year, 2004.”
His funeral saw a large and moving attendance of many confreres and diocesan priests, religious and, above all, people: it was a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of Fr. Aldo to the Church, to the missions and to Africa. People accepted his witness of prayer and humble service, as administrator of the Lord’s mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation. Fr. Aldo always gave all of himself to the Lord and to the mission: his work, his word, his friendliness and, in the end, all that he had left, his weakness and death.
Fr. Aldo, we thank you for your presence, your friendship, your witness. May the Lord accept you in the joy of the saints. In heaven pray for us.
Fr. Oliviero Coppari (21.03.1913 – 22.02.2003)
Fr. Oliviero Coppari died at 11:30 a.m., on Saturday, 22 February, one month short of his 90th birthday. He had been active up to a week before his death: in fact, even though he felt very weak, on 16 February he had insisted on concelebrating what was going to be his last Mass. Before Mass, he had been in the confessional and had heard confessions for a good length of time. Finally, very tired, he had gone up to his room never to come out alive.
On the day of his death, Fr. Oliviero was alone in the house with Bro. Silvestro Fadda who took good care of him while the other confreres were out hearing confessions. Around 11:20 Fr. Alberto Doneda on a hunch left the confessional and returned home to find Fr. Oliviero rapidly and serenely lapsing into a coma and barely in time to administer to him the anointing of the sick.
Fr. Oliviero was one of those individuals who consecrate themselves to God’s work from childhood and never look back, missionaries who, with body and soul, with their hands and their mind, have worked in the field of evangelisation tirelessly and without regrets.
He was born on 21 March 1913 in Filotrano in the diocese of Osimo, province of Ancona. When still very young he had entered the diocesan seminary and had successfully completed his senior school. In 1933 he decided to become a missionary with the Sons of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to go to evangelise the lands of Central Africa (Sudan and Uganda). The following year he entered the noviciate. He took his temporary vows on 7 October 1936 and was ordained priest on 16 April 1939.
That same year he was assigned to the missions of South Sudan that, at the time, were the most difficult in all of Africa, among very primitive and at times hostile tribes, in a horrible climate and difficult living conditions, beset by tropical diseases such as malaria, black fever, yellow fever, that drove many missionaries to insanity or untimely death. The apostolic work started from the most basic needs and moved on to visits to the outside chapels, the formation of a community and of Christian leaders, the building of schools, the catechumenate which included boarding. In the mission of Bar-el-Gebel, where he worked from 1939 to 1948, Fr. Oliviero met and worked with Fr. Angelo Barbisotti, future first bishop of Esmeraldas.
From 1949 to 1960 he worked in Italy, particularly in the administration of the minor seminaries up until 1960 when, at the invitation of Bishop Barbisotti, he was assigned to Ecuador. He worked there for the next 43 years, serving in various missions and parishes: Muisne, San José Obrero, Catedral Cristo Rey, La Merced.
Officially, he was never parish priest, even though he was alone for long periods of time. While in Muisne, he fell off the roof and was thought to have died, even in newspaper accounts, but he recovered quickly and went back to work.
Fr. Oliviero was a holy priest, faithful to the Rule of Life, serious and honest. He loved studying and reading, he liked to talk and to preach, even though it had not been easy for him to learn Spanish at his age. He became the friend of and confidant to many. He was enterprising, active, courageous, without fears or doubts. He was also a good administrator. He loved manual work and was always making something: a bench, a cupboard, doors and a thousand other things. He was an expert carpenter, mason, electrician and even a nurse. He worked an orchard and gathered perfumes from plants and flowers. At Christmas time he would build a nativity scene with enthusiasm and creativity. In Africa he had been famous as a big game hunter, providing food for the boarding catechumens and for the school children. In Ecuador, with his rifle he just hunted the bats that were invading his church.
His most visible trait was the devotion to the Virgin of the Holy House of Loreto and he liked to celebrate with special solemnities the feasts of the Blessed Mother. He was put in charge of the spiritual assistance to the Legion of Mary of Esmeraldas. He also had a particular devotion to St. Joseph, an artisan and a worker, perhaps because he himself loved manual work.
Beyond all this, especially when he was stationed at La Merced, he devoted a lot of time especially to the ministry of the confessional, which became the distinguishing mark of the last years of his life. His confessional was the most frequented by simple Christians, by priests and religious of the whole province and he was always available up until the very last few days of his life.
The participation of the faithful to the wake – it lasted one entire day and night – was massive and moving. Some were saying: “Fr. Oliviero knows my entire life and my sins. Undoubtedly he will talk to God about my problems and help me."
During the homily, the bishop emphasised especially the priestly life of Fr. Oliviero, presenting him as an example to the over 30 priests and to the people present.
The funeral and the Mass took place at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, 23 February, in the church of La Merced. (Fr. Alberto Doneda)
Fr. Jean-Pierre Legonou (22.02.1960 – 08.03.2003)
Fr. Jean Pierre Legonou was born in Benin of a deeply religious family, where the father, a teacher, and the mother, a postal service employee, attended parish functions regularly and took part in the pastoral life of the Christian community.
On 22 February 1960, the Legonou family rejoiced over a great event: the birth of two beautiful twins. The father, Anselmo, a man of great faith and involved in parish work, remembered that on that day the feast of the Chair of Peter was being celebrated and chose to name the twins Jean Pierre and Jean Paul, in honour of the two great apostles.
While the twins were still little the family moved to Togo, the neighbouring country where Jean Pierre attended grade school and high school.
The event that left a mark in his Christian life was his belonging to the Legion of Mary, a movement that fostered his Christian and missionary vocation. He often talked with fondness of the years he spent in this Marian movement and it was easy to notice the affection he had for the many friends he had met in that period.
Towards the end of his secondary education he met the Comboni Missionaries of Togo. He was fascinated and very enthused and decided to begin the journey that brought him to his becoming the first Togolese Comboni in West Africa. In following years he often said: “If I had not become a missionary I would have become a jet bomber pilot.” How many times have we laughed over this disclosure that remained famous.
The years of formation passed quickly: postulancy in Lomé, noviciate in Congo and scholasticate in Rome. This last period of studies turned out to be a very important time for Jean Pierre’s spiritual, cultural and human growth.
Many times we remembered the years we spent together in that scholasticate: we were much younger and we had had the same formators and the same teachers.
Already then it was evident that the Lord had given Jean Pierre many gifts and talents, and he was advised to continue his studies and specialise in Canon Law, which he did by attending the Gregorian University where he performed brilliantly.
He was ordained priest in Togo on 25 July 1992 in his home parish, accompanied by a group of young people from the parish of Saint Vigilio (Rome) who loved him and who were his inseparable friends.
Having completed his studies in Rome, he had been assigned to Central America: he was the first African Comboni Missionary to arrive in the delegation.
He quickly learned the language and obtained a driving permit. The car was to be a faithful companion on his long apostolic journeys. Assigned to vocation promotion, he distinguished himself for his serious commitment and dedication to such an important task.
Very soon we realised that beside his intellectual gifts, he also was suitable for positions of authority and we presented him to the General Council as the delegate of Central America. The proposal was accepted and later his term of office was renewed. It was a prophetic step in Latin America and everybody was happy with it. Fr. Jean Pierre served with generosity and enthusiasm, without sparing energy and labour with the authority of a father and the tenderness of a mother.
He loved life in all its aspects and lived each day with joy despite the many problems of the delegation. His laugh which we all got to know was contagious. He loved the Church, the Pope and the Institute, serving generously and with great missionary spirit. Death caught him by surprise, suddenly, while he was directing a retreat for the young novices of Sahuayo in Mexico.
To us he leaves the example of a young missionary who lived a short, but a full life, serving God and the people of Central America. Goodbye, Jean Pierre and, as people say in Togo, “may the soil that covers you be light.” (Fr. Enrico Cordioli)
Fr. Enzo Canonici (30.06.1931 – 09.03.2003)
The confreres of his community in Brescia affectionately called him “master.” And a master he was. Fr. Enzo was a master because he left us many instructions and examples of the Comboni Missionaries’ life. He was a teacher of spirituality and missionary spirit, of goodness and understanding, of humility and prayer. He was a master of obedience, humble obedience but intelligent and creative at the same time. It was exactly this spirit of obedience that prompted his superiors to ask of him a variety of services. Fr. Enzo accepted all of these appointments and discharged them with determination.
He was spiritual director and formator in Italy, Spain and Mexico. He formed people by example and his authenticity gave him authority.
He was a shepherd. The time that he remembered with greater joy and nostalgia was the years he spent in pastoral work in Baja California and in Netzahualcoyotl, in the heart of Mexico. As a good shepherd he loved the people and his love was returned. In his pastoral approach he gave priority to the formation of leaders, to a serious and deep catechumenate experience, and to groups of Bible meditation and study. “The word – he wrote – is life; the word changes hearts and minds; the word turns to Christ even the most hardened lives. The word changes water into good wine.”
Perhaps his most significant witness for us was his way of being a Comboni Missionary. He was proud of being a Comboni Missionary and as such he had four loves: Comboni, the mission, the Institute and his confreres.
He loved the mission, not only as a geographical place, but above all as “a privilege that he had received from Christ, the evangeliser of the Father.” He loved the missions with the availability of the Virgin Mary in serving God in all things and always. In his notes we often read his favourite sentence: “totus tuus sum et omnia mea tua sunt.”
Even during his service as superior of the Curia in Rome (1989-1995), a service which he always considered a heavy cross, his real dream was to return to the missions. Finally, in 1998 Fr. Enzo received the joyous obedience that all Comboni Missionaries await: to return to the missions. A heart failure dosed his dream, but not his hope. In 1999 he was definitely assigned to the Italian province. He wrote: “I bow to obedience. Fiat, fiat!” A few months before his death he again asked to go to the missions. His desire always was to die on the battlefield like a good soldier. But God had different plans. His heart began to play tricks and Fr. Enzo accepted everything as a sign of God’s will. He concentrated all his energies on carrying on his missionary program in Italy by transforming his illness into a form of apostolate.
As an instrument, beside the Bible, he used the book he had written for the sick: “The suffering that saves.” The book was well received by the sick and the elderly and has already reached the fifth printing. Fr. Enzo stuck to this apostolate till the end. Death did not surprise him, because he had been waiting for it for a long time: “Each day – he used to say – could be the beautiful day of the meeting with the Father.” The meeting took place in Milan on 9 March. Fr. Enzo was 72 and had been a priest for 48 years. He was born on 30 June 1931 and was ordained on 26 June 1955.
Fr. Enzo loved flowers. But we have seen the best flowers in the garden of his life long witness. Without doubt, the most abundant were the flowers of simplicity and humility. He was humble, in a Marian way that had helped him to transform himself into availability and service to God and his brothers. He added a beatitude to those proclaimed by Jesus: “Blessed are the useless, because they are needed. God works wonders through the humility of his servants.” This is the beatitude that is often quoted in his letters.
And next to humility we find the flower of prayer. By his prayer, faithful constant and extensive, he became a reminder to the confreres of the importance of taking nourishment from that daily bread that Comboni had offered to his missionaries.
Dear Fr. Enzo, we thank you for the goodness you have sowed in our hearts. God is happy with you. And so are we.” (Fr. Teresino Serra)
Fr. Antonio Dutto (14.02.1926 – 20.03.2003)
Fr. Antonio Dutto was born in Boves, in the municipality of Cuneo, on 14 February 1926. He was ordained a priest in 1951 and in December 1952 he went to London to prepare for his assignment in Gulu, North Uganda. From 1952 to 1956 he taught at Lacor seminary. From there he moved on to pastoral assignments in the following missions: Anaka (1957-1958), Aduku (1958-1965), Opit (1965-1968), Padibe (1968-1975), Pajule (1975-1976), Namukora (1976-1978), Kalongo for Namukora (1978-1982). Then Awach (1982-1984), Kitgum (1984-1986), Parombo (1987-1990), Kalongo (1990-1994).
From this list of frequent changes, even from one diocese to another, he did not appear to be an easy character to live with. He was strong willed, outspoken, easily irritated and often critical. It shows, for instance, in a letter he wrote to the provincial of Uganda in 1981: “I am dead tired, everything upsets me and makes me nervous, and I do not feel like going to a difficult assignment and shoulder the responsibility. Even more, the question of the larger community I just can’t see it. Don’t force me to go crazy. At least for a while I need peace and quiet, otherwise I will have to go back to Italy. I say this, because in conscience I need a bit of respite from worries.” So even Fr. Antonio certainly had his limitations, but he also had a great passion for the missions and for Uganda in particular.
In 1994 he was the victim of an ambush by the Kony rebels. On that occasion he was wounded in the leg, which had eventually to be amputated. In Verona, where he was a patient, he was always trying to do therapy in order to walk again. Often, especially in these last few years, he was in a wheelchair, but still kept alive the hope of returning to the missions. In the letters he was writing to the provincial of Uganda from Verona, one notices like a constant refrain his great desire to return to Uganda.
He would not resign himself to being assigned to the Italian province. In 1994, after having recovered a bit from the amputation, he wrote: “I always think of Uganda. I keep seeing the places and the people and remember everyone in my prayers.” In 1995 he wrote: “They have asked me to accept to be transferred to the Italian province. I prefer to wait and see how I am doing. I hope that Bishop Comboni will have a present for me on the occasion of his beatification.” He would read with great joy news from Uganda: “Thanks for Dialogo and the Voice of the Council. They are like a breath of air from Uganda and do me good. I chat with passing confreres and I am always waiting for news bits from Uganda. When they arrive, I am thrilled.” In 1996 he wrote: “Knowing that there is hope for me to return to Uganda, has given me the courage and good will to try harder to walk.” Finally in 1997 he wrote to the provincial of Uganda explaining how he was beginning to walk fairly well and therefore he was hoping to return there. “I walk fairly well, for the poor old man that I am. I’m beginning to think about returning to Uganda.” A year later he insisted: “I hope to return to Uganda. What do you think? Even though you are about to finish your term of office.” To his successor, who visited him in Verona in 2000, he said: “I want you to know me, so that you may accept me back in Uganda.”
Fr. Antonio left us on 20 March 2003 after a painful illness that was his purgatory. His passion for the missions, and for Uganda in particular, has been like a fire that has purified his limitations. This passion of his for the missions is a great example for all. (Fr. Guido Oliana).
Fr. Vincenzo Cioffi (13.11.1933 – 15.03.2003)
His obituary will appear in the next issue of Familia Comboniana
Let us pray for the deceased
THE MOTHER: of Fr. Tesfamichael Debesay Negasse (Roma); of Fr. Claudino Ferreira Gomes (CN); Beatrice of Fr. Marcello Trotta (I); Maria of Fr. Ottavio Raimondo (I);
THE BROTHER: Samuel Njoroge of Fr. John Ikundu (TC)
THE SISTER: Anna of Fr. Arcangelo Petri (U);
Rose of Fr. Vincent Maguire (U)
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. Celerina Scolari;
Sr. Armanda Testoni; Sr. M. Castilia Moioli.