March 2003 Consulta – General Notes
Commitment to Peace
Following the invitation of Pope John Paul II, we remind the communities of our commitment to pray and work for peace. In the difficult time we are going through and considering the negative effects war has on the coexistence of peoples and religions, we feel undoubtedly united to the Pope in his call to reconciliation and invitation to pray for peace. Besides the dreadful events in Iraq, we carry in our hearts and keep in our constant prayers the many forgotten wars of Africa (Central African Republic, Congo, North Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast) and of Latin America (Colombia), which closely affect the lives of our confreres, the Comboni Sisters and the people we serve as missionaries.
Preparing for the XVI General Chapter
The preparation for the XVI General Chapter is proceeding as scheduled. We remind the provincials/delegates that they have to send their province/delegation’s report to the secretary general by 10 May in two languages: a neo-Latin language and the English language, in line with the instructions already forwarded. The members of the Precapitular Commission are expected in Rome by the 22 April to begin their work. With the date of the opening of the General Chapter getting near, we all feel the need to renew our interest in this opportunity for discernment and decision-making for our missionary family and of intensifying our prayer for the success of the work of the Chapter.
Preparation for the Canonisation
As already announced, with the publication of the date by the Holy Father in the Consistory of 7 March, the canonisation of our Founder, Blessed Daniel Comboni, has been officially fixed for 5 October 2003. The canonisation’s preparation in the provinces/delegations has started on 15 March and is proceeding well: an indication of this commitment is the setting up by every province/delegation of their provincial/ delegation’s Commission. The Central, Reflection and Operative Commissions are going on with their work and are sending to the provinces/delegations various information and texts for reflection. We remind you that in the Central Commission Fr. Venanzio Milani is the contact person for the MCCJ, Sr. Annunziata Giannotti for the SMC and Cristina Busin for the Secular Missionaries. This time of preparation for the canonisation gives us a unique opportunity to animate our own communities and do missionary animation in the local Churches where we work: as we keep alive the memory of Comboni, this great missionary animator, we are urged to make better known his person and his message to all Churches and countries.
Observers to the General Chapter
The General Council has decided to invite as observers to the XVI General Chapter the following confreres: Archbishop Paolino Lukudu of the Comboni bishops; Fr. Torres Gómez Manuel Ramón for Poland; Fr. Kyankaaga Ssendawula John Richard for the African confreres of the English-speaking provinces/delegations; Fr. John Ikundu, for the African confreres of the French-speaking provinces; Bro. Tsomafo-Agbemelo Constant Marcel for the African Brothers. The two scholastics Longba Medard Godefroy and Estacio Dela Cruz Moises will represent the scholastics, while Bro. Bertolo Roberto will represent the Brothers of the C.I.F. Also the Comboni Lay Missionaries, Comboni Sisters and Comboni Secular Missionaries have being invited to send observers.
The General Council thanks the provinces/delegations that have answered the General Superior’s letter in which he was asking for financial support to help with the expenses of the General Administration. We consider your response as a sign of communion with the whole Institute, of responsibility in its development and its present and future needs. We are confident that the Lord will not let these signs of communion and solidarity go without reward, especially those coming from “one’s own poverty”. The provinces/delegations that have not yet given, but wish to do so, may send their contribution to the General Treasurer.
Comboni Year of Ongoing Formation (CYOF)
After extensive dialogue with the interested confreres and their provincials/delegates, the final list of the participants to the CYOF 2003-2004 to be held in South Africa was sent to the provincials and delegates. The participants will receive a personal letter from the Superior General and another from the CYOF team with all the required information. We take this opportunity to thank everyone who has collaborated: the participants for having accepted the Institute’s invitation; the provincials/delegates for planning and preparing in time for their confreres’ attendance; the province of South Africa for the support that will give also this year to the CYOF; the team for the committed service they provide to the Institute.
Fr. Tesfaghiorghis Hailè Berhane as of 6 March 2003 is confirmed as vice delegate for the Eritrea delegation until 31 December 2004.
Bro. João da Silva Ferreira (CN) and Bro. Redaelli Giuseppe (KH) have been appointed as members of the General Council for Finance for French-speaking and English-speaking Africa and Mozambique respectively as of 15 March 2003.
Bro. Casagrande Alessandro (U) has been nominated as a member of the precapitular commission to represent the Brothers.
Fr. Ikundu John (TC), an observer at the 16th General Chapter, is appointed as a co-opted member of the Precapitular Commission.
Bro. Binaghi Marco (CO) is appointed formator at the C.I.F. of Bogotá, effective 1 July 2003.
Fr. Climent Vilapiana Juan is appointed formator of the scholasticate in Rome, effective 1 July 2003.
Fr. Giannini Giuseppe is appointed superior of the Curia (Via L. Lilio, 80, Rome), effective 1 July 2003.
Fr. Joaquim José Valente da Cruz is appointed member of the Studium Combonianum with residence at the Curia (Via L. Lilio 80, Rome) effective 1 July 2003.
Fr. Wokorach P'Mony Raphael is appointed second formator at the scholasticate of Chicago, effective 1 July 2003.
Formation Secretariat: Yearly Statistics - 2002-2003
Aspirants and pre-postulants: 229, with 147 seminarians (minor seminary) and 82 pre-postulants (introductory phase). We have 5 minor seminaries (2 in Mexico, 1 in Portugal, 1 in Eritrea and 1 in Mozambique) and the stage of pre-postulancy, in various modalities, is now present in many provinces and delegations of America and Africa.
Postulants: 320 (281 candidates for the priesthood and 39 for the Brotherhood, 87% and 13% respectively). This number is in line with the average of these latest years. We have 28 postulancies (14 in Africa, 9 in America, 4 in Europe and 1 in Asia). Three of them are specifically for Brothers (Monterrey, Lomé and Layibi).
Novices: 125 (109 for the priesthood and 16 for the Brotherhood, 87% and 13% respectively). The total number of newly professed this year should be 63 (55 scholastics, 8 Brothers). We have 9 noviciates: 3 in Africa (Namugongo and Lusaka for the English speaking African provinces and Kinshasa for the French speaking African provinces), 3 in America (Sahuayo, Huánuco and Nova Contagem), 2 in Europe (Venegono and Santarém), 1 in the Philippines (Calamba). In July 2003 it will be opened a second noviciate for French speaking Africa in Cotonou, Benin. In October, there will remain just one noviciate for the whole of Europe in Venegono, Italy, as the noviciate of Santarém, Portugal, will be temporarily closed.
Scholastics and Brothers with temporary vows (TV): 200, with 152 scholastics and 48 Brothers. These numbers are close to the average of the last few years, but the decline in the numbers of Brothers is continuing.
- Distribution by continents: 95 from Africa (45%), 59 from America (33%), 34 from Europe (17%) and 12 from Asia (5%). The provinces with more scholastics and Brothers with temporary vows are Mexico (33), Togo (25) and Uganda (17).
- We have 9 scholasticates and 2 C.I.F. (4 in America, 4 in Africa and 3 in Europe). The Scholasticate of Pietermaritzburg in South Africa was opened early in July 2002.
- In the General Council’s Consulta of October 2002 it was decided to close the scholasticate of Elstree (see AC ’97 n. 165). The present 14 scholastics will continue their studies in Elstree until the completion of their entire course.
- The number of those who left the Institute last year (2001-2002) is 22 (17 scholastics and 5 Brothers). Of those who join the Institute (i.e. who take the first vows) are about 40% of the intake.
- For the formative year 2003-2004, scholastics and Brothers will be 230 in all: 182 scholastics (176 in the scholasticate and 6 in pastoral experience); 48 Brothers (20 in the C.I.F. and 28 in missionary experience).
Ordinations and Brother finalists: this year (2003) we expect 33 ordinations (16 from America, 7 from Africa, 8 from Europe and 2 from Asia) and 2 Brother finalists in the C.I.F. (1 from Africa, 1 from Europe). 7 Brothers will make their perpetual professions this year (3 from Africa, 3 from America, 1 from Europe). Last year (2002) 19 were ordained, 6 Brothers completed the C.I.F. and 4 Brothers took perpetual vows.
Personnel: There are 182 confreres working in the vocation sector. They are distributed as follows: 82 promoters (52 full-time and 30 part-time) and 100 formators (86 full-time and 14 part-time).
- The overall number of confreres working in the field has remained about the same. There is a good number of part-time promoters. Even though these confreres very often are only ‘reference persons’ for vocations, and are mainly engaged in other services, this is a clear sign of the growing attention which provinces are paying to the selection and accompaniment of candidates.
- All the communities are invited to have a confrere in charge of vocations in order that vocation and animation may become a regular activity everywhere we are present.
Specialisations: 28 confreres are presently attending courses of specialisation, including Brothers in the C.I.F. (3) and scholastics (4). Last year (2001-2002), 17 confreres have obtained a degree (16 licentiates and 1 special diploma).
- The confreres presently attending courses for a direct preparation to a particular service are 13 (9 of them are for formation). Last year they were 21 (12 of them for formation).
Renato Kizito Sesana, La Perla Nera, l’altra Africa sconosciuta, (The Black Pearl, the unknown other Africa) Paulines, Milan 2002, 304 pages, € 12,50.
Renato Kizito Sesana, Matatu, in viaggio con l’Africa (Matatu, a journey through Africa), Cittadella, Assisi 2003, 168 pages, € 10,50.
AAVV, The art of journalism, (adapted by Fr. Renato Kizito Sesana), Paulines, Nairobi 2002, 144 pages.
P. Justino Martínez, Històries Per Viure Llegir (La Bíblia des de la vida), Claret Editorial, pages 219. The book will also be published in Spanish. For those wanting the book, please request it from the author in Barcelona, Spain.
BRASIL DO SUL
At the beginning of April a new community was opened in the far North of Brazil, in the state of Roraima, near the border with Venezuela and British Guyana. The bishop has entrusted to our pastoral care the parish of Alto Alegre, about 100 km West of the capital Bõa Vista, with 36 communities, ten of them being Indios.
In order to understand this move it is necessary to know that the state of Roraima is the state of Brazil with most Indios and, at the same time, the most anti-Indios. The indigenous people occupy most of the areas along the border and, restricted to their reservations, they are able to preserve their style of life, their culture and traditions. The society that surrounds them sees them as a problem. It considers them an obstacle to development and the expression of a backward and primitive world which, sooner or later, will have to give in to the pressure of technology and progress. Those who work with them and protect them, such as missionaries and the Church in general (probably due to the fact that many of them are foreigners), are seen as agents of Russian or American imperialism, smuggled in to protect foreign interests and to prevent Brazilian society to establish its structures and services. This fact has given rise to constant criticism against missionaries, slander campaigns against the leaders (especially the local bishop) and attacks against the indigenous people and their organisations. In reality, what is not said openly is that the real object of this game, which is of interest to those who shape the local public opinion, is not Brazil or a better organised society, but the land of the indigenous people which is immensely rich in gold, diamonds and minerals of high market value and that everyone wants to control and exploit.
Since they are not able to draw any benefit from the wealth of their environment, the indigenous people lead very precarious lives. The area entrusted to us is very poor and the inhabitants live in abject misery.
Being near the capital of Bõa Vista, we are also able to understand another problem, namely the situation of the indigenous people who live in the city and who, without a doubt, constitute a challenge for today’s Brazil. It is estimated that about 20 thousand of them live in Bõa Vista. They can be found everywhere. They come from many different tribes and they have lost their identity. Almost always they live in the most exploited and degraded urban areas. No one, be it State or Church, does anything for them.
The Comboni Missionaries have started in Roraima with a community of three.
Handing over of a parish and of a social institution
At the end of December 2002 the parish and the social services of St. Judas Taddeus in São José do Rio Preto, in the state of São Paulo, were handed over to the local Church. After 40 years of Comboni involvement this structure, founded and pioneered by Fr. Angelo Dell’Oro in 1960, had become very large and complex. It hosted on a daily basis hundred of youngsters coming from the city’s outskirts to study and learn a trade. Thousands have gone through and found a solid formation. This fact turned St. Jude’s into the most famous, loved and respected institution of the entire city. Currently, it needed internal reorganisation and above all adaptation to the new reality of Brazil and the new legal situation. Lately it had also encountered serious financial difficulties because it had become involved in the formal school education of the youngsters (part of the structure had been turned into a grade school). The province had had to step in to close the school and cover the financial needs. The province also decided that the time had come to hand over the structure to local organisations, which, not only showed that they were able to carry on, but also had a desire to continue the work we have started. The Diocesan Caritas in particular was pushing for the chance to take care of St. Jude in this new phase.
And so it happened. With the new school year (which here begins in February), St. Jude opened its doors rather renovated. Totally restructured, it has come forward with a new teaching project, a new philosophy of labour, new avenues for the formation of adolescents and, above all, the willingness to pursue as Church the challenges of today’s minors. This is certainly a positive step.
Slow return to normality
The situation in the Central African Republic is slowly returning to normal. On Thursday, 4 April, we at Comboni House in Bangui were happily surprised by the arrival of Fr. Fiorenzo Felicetti of Dekoa and, in the afternoon, of Fr. José Luis Valle Castellano from Grimari. The roads are open and it is possible to travel, but it does not mean that security is guaranteed. Both of them are in good shape, even though a little thinner and tired. The morale is high. Speaking with them, one has the impression of dealing with two confreres who have been spiritually purified and strengthened. It is indeed a time of grace for all of us. Bro. Alfredo de Jesús Aguilar Cedeño of Grimari did not come, but we know he is fine.
Also in other places, such as Mongoumba, the situation is slowly returning to normal. The CLM and Fr. Luigi Mattiazzo are fine. They showed great courage. Now, on a rotation basis, they are able to leave for about ten days each to rest and take courage. They all seem to look at this experience from the point of view of their faith and see it as a consequence of mission.
General situation in the country
The month of April has seen the conclusion of the inter-Congolese dialogue, with the signatures of all the parties concerned (government, civil society, unarmed opposition and armed rebel groups) on the agreements that open the way to a transition period of two or three years: constitutions, presidency, transition government. While in a way we see attempts to begin this process, we also see delays and areas where fighting still rages on producing new victims and creating a climate of uncertainty and suspicion. Generally speaking, people do not show signs of rejoicing over these agreements: they have seen too many of them signed one day and rejected the next. Furthermore, the decisions taken seem to be very far removed from the daily worries that centre mostly on survival.
Despite a slight improvement on internal communications in Congo, it is not yet possible to come all together for a provincial assembly. In March all the confreres met for assemblies at regional level, where we were able to review the life of the province, to share on our lives and projects and to begin the preparation for the canonisation of our Founder. One of these meetings, nevertheless, had a very special character: in Isiro, after a retreat on the Comboni charism, besides the confreres working in the area, there were also confreres from Kinshasa, Kisangani and Bondo. It was a great gift from God, especially if we remember that last year many confreres from this area had not been able to attend this same assembly because of the fighting.
New bishop for the diocese of Isiro-Niangara
On 19 March, Mgr. Julien Andavo was ordained as bishop of Isiro-Niangara and began his service there. Born in the parish of Tadu, diocese of Isiro, a place where we worked until 1997, he was professor of moral theology in the seminary of Bunia and then rector in the major seminary of Kisangani. The diocese of Isiro had been waiting for a leader for nearly two years. We are close to him with our prayers and our cooperation.
General Chapter and Canonisation: hospitality (second notice)
While we have had prior experiences of the general chapters, its close connection with the Canonisation is a unique occasion that in a way complicates the housing situation at the Curia.
Keeping in mind that the participants to the General Chapter, between capitulars, observers and people in charge of some offices, will be over 70, it has been decided that from 10 August to 15 October it will not be possible to accept guests in the community: neither confreres nor others. Even the guest room will be taken.
To make room for the participants, from 10 August until three days after the canonisation the Fathers and Brothers Students and the scholastics will also have to change residence and will be hosted by the Seraficum.
Diploma in Spiritual Theology
On 21 March Bro. José Díaz Pérez was awarded the diploma in Spiritual Theology, summa cum laude, by the Institute of Spirituality “Teresianum.” Congratulations!
The MISNA has become a society made up of the General Administrations of the Comboni Missionaries, Saverians, Consolata, PIME (55%), of SERMIS (20%), of CIMI (20%) and Cuore Amico (5%). The above sharing and membership is open to new members.
On 4 April the assembly was held at our Curia. During the meeting, the following were re-elected: Fr. Venanzio Milani as president, Fr. Giulio Albanese as director and Bro. Fabio Mussi (PIME) as administrator. The vice-president is Fr. Luigi Goduto (PIME).
In October 2001 MISNA had 2.173.727 monthly “hits”; in October 2002 they had become 4.111.400.
Recently Fr. Anton Schneider has completed a University Course of five semesters on “Communicative Theology”. He did this course while at the same time taking care of his normal work. At the end of the course he had to prepare a “project work” and go through the examinations. He passed everything with distinction. On 28 February he graduated as “Master of Advanced Studies” (MAS) and got also a Church licentiate that goes with this degree. In his “project work” Fr. Anton has examined the value of the German system for the Lay Missionaries (“MaZ - Missionaries for a time”). Congratulations, Fr. Anton!
Fr. Anton would like to thank his confreres for having given him the opportunity to take part in this course.
Opening of the Comboni Year and inauguration of a rectory
On the occasion of the opening of the Comboni Year in preparation for the canonisation of Blessed Daniel Comboni, Esmeraldas did not want to lag behind, because this region was at the very core at the beginning of our presence in the province, and the Church of La Merced was the first, indeed the only, Church to welcome us in those years. This is why all of us Comboni Missionaries, Comboni Sisters and Comboni Secular Missionaries decided to open the celebrations there.
We started with a day of recollection for the Comboni Missionaries of the city and nearby communities, the Comboni Sisters from Quito and the Comboni Seculars, for a total of 32 people. The main event in the celebration was the blessing and inauguration of the new rectory, including a large sculpture dedicated to the Virgin of la Merced. It is the work of a young local artist and it represents the Father, the Son and the rays of the Holy Spirit shining on the face of the black Madonna. At its feet we see the Black slaves and various situations of modern slavery. All the apostolic organisations and many local priests attended the celebration with the bishop as the main celebrant. The provincials of the Comboni Missionaries and the Comboni Missionary Sisters delivered a joint homily. The celebration ended with the blessing of a beautiful mosaic of Comboni. Attendance was exceptional with crowds of people both inside and outside the Church, grateful to God for the gift of canonisation.
Similar celebrations have taken place in other communities as well, and among them we remember our missions in Manabí, El Carmen and La Catorce, where the archbishop chose to celebrate in both places.
EMI is 30 years old
The “Editrice Missionaria Italiana” (EMI) was born on 2 April 1973. It is the only existing publishing house in the world born of the cooperation of 15 missionary congregations.
It came into being soon after the season of independence of most African countries, in the days of great ten year development plans, and at the time when the Catholic Church, just a few years after Vatican II, was launching a new missionary effort and the young Churches of Latin America, Africa and Asia were discovering and showing to the world their own wealth of ideas and life.
During these 30 years EMI has accepted with interest and respect the new things that were taking shape, assisting them as they grew and now marvels as it contemplates the large rivers whose springs are the meetings of cultures and new styles of life.
EMI navigates on these rivers and the Gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – is both rudder and pilot; missionaries – believers called to gently approach others – are at the oars together with all men and women of good will.
In the same way, EMI has valued the words of every people, and in recent years it has enhanced images and sounds with the production of videos and CDs, taking care of its internet page (www.emi.it) and other similar outlets.
MISNA (www.misna.org) , now independent, is another offshoot of the CIMI and initially under the administration of EMI. The magazine of theology and anthropology of mission called AD GENTES, produced by CIMI, has found in this publishing house its proper place.
EMI cooperates in a preferential way with the magazines federated in FESMI. It pays attention and highlights various entities in its area: NGO, missionary associations, groups and movements working for solidarity and peace. By way of example we list here some data for 2002 that show how EMI published 144 books (three per week), including 85 new ones, 10 new editions and 49 reprints for a total of 956,052 copies. About 50% of these were religion textbooks for the schools. The copies of new publications totalled 430,997.
It is a lot of work that can only be done as a group and with people who believe in mission and in the value of the press. “The first form of solidarity must be information!” (Fr. Ottavio Raimondo)
The Caravan of Peace is again on the move...
The Caravan of Peace gathered at our community in Trento to pray, reflect and prepare the journey. It decided to take to the streets of Italy once again to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Pacem in Terris and to share the strength of Truth, Freedom, Justice and Love. During these past months the young members of the Caravan have thought out a new itinerary. From 4 to 15 September, in the style of a “popular mission”, they will be in Assisi, Naples, Rome, Monte Sole (BO), Barbiana and Quarrata (PT), Brescia and Limone. They will interact with local forces contacted in advance. There will be many surprises! For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Publications of Fr. Ermenegildo Zanuso
Fr. Ermenegildo Zanuso, who is currently at our C.C.A. in Verona, continues his apostolate through books. Three of his books “Cuentame un ejemplo”, “Cuentame otro ejemplo” and “Ejemplos para dar sabor al caldo,” have been published by the Jesuit publishing house “Buena Prensa.” The first one is at its 21st reprint. From the anecdotes and “tasty” examples found in these books, a believer can draw inspiration for one’s own life, in order to live a Christian life with “gusto.” We thank Fr. Ermenegildo for the flavour he gives to Christian life.
Tenth Comboni Missionaries Congress
From 14 to 16 March 2003, our noviciate of Sahuayo, state of Michoacán, hosted the 10th Comboni Missionaries Congress with the participation of the novices, postulants and aspirants. About 200 candidates gathered to open the year of grace for the canonisation in the Mexican provinces of the Comboni Missionaries and Comboni Sisters. Besides the presentations of Fr. Vittorio Moretto, Fr. Jorge Oscar García Castillo, Fr. Siro Stocchetti, and the lectures and debates, there were also song and poetry contests.
We thank God for the gift of the missionary vocation that the Lord continues to sow in the hearts of young people on this continent. In this regard, we want to thank God because in 2003 we will have seven ordinations to the priesthood and two perpetual professions of Mexican Brothers: five of them have already been assigned to other provinces.
Comboni Lay Missionaries (CLM) News
Three CLM, Joel Luis Juárez Gómez, Adriana Margarita Salcedo Cabello and Violeta Campos Robles have happily completed the eight month community experience and are ready to leave for the missions. On 30 March, in the chapel of the Uganda Martyrs, they attended the commissioning Mass. At the beginning of April the first two left for La Palma, Tamasopo, SLP, together with Ana Luz Zamudio, who has worked as a CLM in Guatemala. They join the German CLM, Helga Wilfer, who has been in that community already a year. God willing, Adriana will go to Perú with Josefina Jácome who will return there for three more years of missionary work in the Sierra of the Andes.
This community, which has been assigned to the CLM, has already enjoyed the presence of Martha Navarro and of other CLM who devoted all their energies to sharing their faith with our indigenous brothers and sisters who speak the Xi-Uy (Pame) dialect. Dina Bello is working in Cincinnati in a literacy program sponsored by the Autonomous University of Mexico, while Delia Hernández just left for Mozambique where she will be working with the Comboni Sisters. Three more young ladies, Adriana Llamas, Rocío Quintero and Luz María Almaraz, have asked to begin the community experience in July. More information may be gathered from our web site www.esquilamissional.org
A big fright in Pietermaritzburg
On the night between the 10 and 11 of April, just after midnight, some burglars came to visit the premises of St. Joan of Arc’s parish, with the intention of stealing cars. By chance our scholastic Clément Bosh Bebé Kazaku happened to be coming out of our dining hall on his way to the rectory, where he has his sleeping quarters. He met with the thieves who held him at gunpoint asking for the keys of the place and threatened to kill him. Clément handed them the keys he had. They insisted that they wanted the keys of the cars. Clément told them repeatedly that he did not have those keys. So they stabbed him over the shoulder in an attempt to make him comply.
Then they demanded that he showed them where the cars were kept. He wisely obeyed, but the burglars, seeing that the vehicles were well closed inside a protected area and surrounded by buildings, did not dare go further. Besides, they had no keys to facilitate their work. Nevertheless, they stabbed Clément again and took him back to the compound that stands between the dinning hall and the rectory, just in front of the parish hall. There they forced him to lie down and threatened to shoot him if he made any noise and left.
Clément let a good ten minutes pass by before calling out to the scholastic Faustin Mboka Ngere and Fr. Bernhard Joseph Riegel, whose rooms were the nearest. The two of them went to assist him and called the other scholastics. Bro. Clément was rushed to hospital where he was treated and stitched. Thank God the wounds were not so serious. Once the shock was over he was able to explain what had happened.
We are very grateful to God for the protection we have received so far. Burglaries are a common feature in South Africa and night assailants are never kind to their victims.
The Comboni Year of the canonisation
On 15 March in Madrid we have opened the Comboni Year for the canonisation with a solemn celebration of the Eucharist, presided by Fr. Daniel Cerezo Ruiz, in the Comboni Missionary Sisters’ house. The celebration was followed by a fraternal agape. A similar celebration took place in all the communities of the province to mark such an important event for us.
On 23 and 24 of April we held a two-day seminar in our house in Madrid. The theme was The Comboni Spirituality, Today, presented by Fr. Daniel Cerezo Ruiz who has divided it into four presentations: 1.- The Comboni Missionary, sent by the Father; 2.- The passion for mission; 3.- Fidelity to the Cross in Comboni’s spirituality; 4.- The missionary spirituality: one of hope; Comboni as the man of hope.
The Comboni Missionary Sisters had also been invited to this encounter. At the end, in the seminar’s evaluation it was underlined the importance of the contents and of the methodology followed. As soon as the texts are available, shall be publicised in the “mailing list”.
Death of Dr. Piero Corti, founder of St. Mary’s Hospital
“The work started by Piero will continue, because it is a project blessed by Providence. And even though lately Piero was not always present, the hospital has carried on splendidly.” With these words Bro. Elio Croce, talking by phone with MISNA, remembered Dr. Piero Corti, the founder of St. Mary’s of Lacor, Gulu, who died on Easter Sunday (April 20. He was 78.
Bro. Croce, in charge of technical services at the hospital, has been at Lacor since 1985, working hand in hand with doctors and nurses. He has seen the hospital grow and double the services offered to the local community. “I spent 18 years with Piero. We got along very well and together we lived through a period of great growth of the hospital he had started. News of his death was received by all with great serenity and the local people are very grateful to him for all that he has done. This man has touched every one of these families. They all had need of him,” said Bro. Croce.
During a trip to Uganda in 1961 Dr. Corti saw a clinic and a maternity near Gulu, capital of the Acholi district in Northern Uganda. Since then the doctor from Brianza carried out a work of development, which. in the span of 40, years has turned St. Mary’s Hospital into one of the most modern health facilities in Africa and a point of reference for the people of North Uganda devastated by AIDS, by deadly epidemics such as Ebola and by the violent tactics of the LRA (Lord Resistance Army) rebels. St Mary’s Hospital now has 460 beds, provides a vast array of diagnostic and therapeutic services and has been chosen by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the pilot centres in the fight against AIDS.
After the funeral in his native town of Besana Brianza, Milan, the body of Dr. Corti was returned to Uganda where it will be buried at Lacor, near his wife, Dr. Lucille Teasdale.
We offer our condolences to his daughter Dominique.
Situation in the North
The situation in Acholiland continues to be dramatic. Violence and exploitation seem to have become daily happenings, so that the mass media do not speak anymore of them. Ambushes, killings and abductions are going on all the time. It would be too sad to have to mention them all. What is sadder still is that the government and the army are not very willing to favour peace talks. For many, the war in the North has become a business.
A situation of insecurity exists also in Karamoja. Raids and ambushes on the roads have not stopped. On 7 March Fr. Pietro Premarini survived an ambush at Kamusalaba, where the Comboni Missionary Sr. Rivetta was killed in 1981. Many bullets hit his car, but no one was injured. A real miracle.
The World Food Program has started assisting the local people, bringing them some relief. The insecurity affecting our personnel is of concern to our communities in the difficult areas of Acholiland, Lango and Karamoja. The most missionary areas of Uganda are the less protected and assisted.
Africa as our priority
On various occasions here in Uganda we have been reflecting about our Comboni Missionary Identity. People feel that during the forthcoming General Chapter we need to focus more clearly on the sense of “Africa as the Nigrizia”, and not only as a "myth" or "symbol" to be applied to all situations of poverty and oppression in the world. For instance, the provincial council feels that the word “Africa” never appears in the message for Comboni's canonisation of the three Institutes, except for quoting the words of Comboni himself “Save Africa with Africa”. The word Nigrizia nowadays does not seem to signify anymore the geographical Africa. Our idea of mission has to be more focused according to the "primigenia inspiratio". Our being generic in the idea of mission is dangerous. It will work against our identity. We are already experiencing the consequences. Young confreres do not opt for the most difficult missions where Comboni would be in the first line, such as Southern Sudan, Karamoja, etc.
We have also seen the Logo chosen for the canonisation: “A thousand lives for the mission”. We fall again into the generic idea of mission. Mission can mean all and nothing. We might have lost the chance to be better focused. Linguistic rhetoric cannot take the place of prophetic courage.
Will the forthcoming General Chapter show more courage? The answer to this question will decide our identity and future. The compromising attitude of “generality” will make us “salt which has lost its taste. It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot” (Mt. 5,13). The continent of Africa has to come back as a priority for the Comboni Missionaries of the third millennium. It is the base on which the Comboni Missionaries will stand or fall.
St. Comboni’s House of Prayer
In Moyo we are setting up a “St. Comboni’s House of Prayer”. It will be in memory of Fr. Guido Bertuzzi and Fr. William Nyadru. Its motto is: “The infinite power of prayer is our strength” (D. Comboni - MDC 189). Its mission statement reads as follows: “St. Daniel Comboni’s House of Prayer is a welcoming community for individuals, priests, religious and committed lay people who wish to spend some time in restful recollection and prayer, with the possibility of spiritual direction, sharing meals with the Comboni community or alone. St. Comboni’s House of Prayer welcomes also groups for a day of recollection. St. Comboni’s House of Prayer welcomes Comboni Missionaries’ vocational weekends or other Comboni Missionaries’ vocational activities”. To implement this project, the province has planned the closing of one of its communities.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Fr. Vincenzo Cioffi (13.11.1933 – 15.03.2003)
Fr.Vincenzo was born in Sorrento, Southern Italy, on 13 November 1933. He grew up in his native town and joined the diocesan seminary. In 1955 he came in contact with the Comboni Missionaries and after a time of discernment, he entered the noviciate of Gozzano. He took his first vows on 9 September 1958, his perpetual vows four years later and was ordained a priest on 30 March 1963. His first mission assignment was Ecuador.
He worked in the Guasmo of Guayaquil, in Esmeraldas and in Quito, always showing a great sense of responsibility in his pastoral work and a special love for the liturgy and for preaching. Gifted with a very creative and independent character he found it difficult to live in community and in 1983, after a long period of reflection, he decided to leave the Institute and to be incardinated in the diocese of Quito, where he took the pastoral care of a large parish in the city.
Despite the geographical distance that his decision brought about, Fr. Vincenzo never ceased (as he himself would later say) to be a Comboni Missionary: “I continued to be one in my own way…”. He never cut his ties with the province of Ecuador. In 1995, when Fr. Angel Irigoyen Lafita was provincial, Fr. Vincenzo began the process that eventually brought him back to the Institute four years later. In 1996 he was assigned to Cali, Colombia. Here he took up the care of the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, where he distinguished himself for seven years for his generous dedication to the pilgrims, his Marian spirit and his love for prayer. Lately, a congenital illness that had already surfaced some years earlier, got worse to the point that it began to impair his sight and his movements. In April last year he suffered a mild heart failure that obliged him to follow a strict diet and medical therapy. He accepted these limitations with courage, helped by his faith and by his devotion to the Blessed Mother, offering it all for the missions.
On 5 March he left for his holidays and, on his way to Italy, he stopped in Quito to see his friends and to rest for a few days at the provincial house. He was supposed to continue his journey on 10 March, as he had planned to celebrate his 40th anniversary of ordination in Sorrento with his family and with other priests he knew. But God had different plans… On the morning of 9 March he suffered a serious stroke that made him fall down and left him in a deep coma from which he never recovered. He underwent emergency surgery at the Pasteur Clinic in Quito, but died five days later on 15 March, on the very day when in the entire Institute we were celebrating the beginning of the Comboni year in preparation for the canonisation… From heaven may he pray for us. (Fr. José Antonio Girau Pellicer)
Let us pray for the deceased
THE FATHER: Girolamo of Fr. Vincenzo Balasso (I).
THE BROTHER: Pio of Bro. Luigi Tiziani (I); of Fr. Lawrence Okello (U); Luigi of Fr. Antonino Orlando (I).
THE SISTER: Argentina of Fr. Francesco Pierli (KE).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. Antelma Pozzoli; Sr. M. Germana Romagnosi; Sr. Pier Ester Battistella; Sr. Cilinia Cioli; Sr. M. Agnese Montini; Sr. M. Natalina Ferrante.
THE CD-ROM OF THE WRITINGS OF COMBONI
The title is: “VOSTRO per sempre Daniele Comboni” and it INCLUDES:
1. The texts of Comboni published in “GLI SCRITTI” in the Italian, Spanish and French languages. It is possible to move from one language to another very quickly and, through “windows”, to compare the texts in the various languages. Furthermore, it is quick to find words and sentences in all the writings and in the language desired..
2. Presentation by cardinal Martini, lists of archives and libraries, biographical notes on Comboni, historical places of Comboni, alphabetical index, etc., just as in “GLI SCRITTI” (The Writings).
3. Toponymic and onomastic indexes.
4. Maps of the Vicariate in Africa and travels.
5. 150 high resolution photos: historical photos of Comboni, people at the time of Comboni, historical places and Comboni’s points of interest.
6. Installed are also the music and songs of the Recital “A prophet for Africa” and a voice reading “The Writings”, which was previously prepared in cassettes by the Italian province.
7. Whenever the CD-ROM opens, it appears a Comboni’s sentence of that day with the details, when possible, of the place where Comboni was on that very day of a certain year. It is the Comboni Calendar.
8. Notes can be added to the text, as well as print, copy and paste.
9. The CD-ROM works on Windows and Macintosh systems.
In an interesting window there have been inserted links with some of the sites in Internet. Once the connection to Internet is made, it is possible to enter any of the sites by a simple click.
The person who has programmed and put everything together, with the collaboration of some Comboni Missionaries, is Rev. Carlo Sacchetti. He is an expert and an innovator in the matter. His is the CD-ROM of the “Yong people’s Jubilee Bible”, the Bible of the “Dehoniani” and Pauline Publications.
The price of each CD-ROM with folder is € 15,00 for the members of our Institutes. Orders are to be sent to the General Treasurer.