XVI General Chapter
All the 81 capitulars and observers to the Chapter have arrived in Rome. From the evening of 23 August they gathered at Mondo Migliore (Rocca di Papa) for a week of preparation, where the following activities were planned:
- a day of reflection on the “theology of mission today and tomorrow” by Don Giovanni Colzani;
- a day on missionary spirituality by cardinal Carlo Maria Martini;
- a workshop on the Comboni charism by Fr. John Converset.
The General Chapter starts in Via Luigi Lilio on 1 September and its commission for communication will send by the quickest way as much information as possible.
Letter of the three General Councils
The letter “Daniel Comboni, Witness of Holiness and Master of Mission,” prepared by the three General Councils of the of the Comboni Institutes on the occasion of the canonisation of our founder Daniel Comboni, will be sent, in the near future and in the various languages, to all the provincials and delegates’ places of residence and to some communities. We ask those in charge to distribute a copy of the letter to every confrere in his province/delegation and communities.
Fr. Fidel González Fernández has been appointed for five years by Pope John Paul II consultor for the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. Congratulations!
Fr. Navarrete Arceo Miguel on 26 June 2003 has been elected provincial councillor of Tchad to replace Fr. John Ikundu, assigned to Kenya.
Fr. Román Medina José on 1 July 2003 has been elected provincial councillor of Spain to replace Fr. Díez Maeso Lorenzo, assigned to Perú.
Bro. Piasini Antonio on 1 July 2003 has become provincial councillor of Congo (according to n. 67 of the Provincial Directory) to replace Fr Romero Arias Hernán, assigned to Perú.
Secretary General’s Office
Heartfelt thanks to all the provincials and delegates, provinces’ and delegations’ secretaries and other confreres who, as requested, have already sent or personally handed in to the secretary general photos and corrections to the Annuario Comboniano 2002 to be inserted in the Annuario Comboniano 2004. We hope that those who have not yet done so will do it as soon as possible.
We remind everyone that we will accept corrections and changes to the Annuario up to the end of January 2004. What is important is that changes and corrections are communicated to the secretary general as soon as possible and in details.
MISNA and Fr. Giulio Albanese received 3 further acknowledgements.
1. On 11 April the association “Peter Pan” has presented the “Solidarity” award for journalism to Fr. Giulio Albanese “for having given voice to the voiceless.”
2. On 29 July, at the Quirinale’s palace, present also Fr. Venanzio Milani as president of MISNA, Azelio Ciampi, president of the Italian Republic, has bestowed the honour of “Grand Official” on Fr. Giulio Albanese, director of the Missionary Agency MISNA. “Much of the information we receive about the tragic events of the peoples of Africa – said the president – come from our missionaries who give, by this, an extraordinary witness of charity and of civic courage. Italy is proud of them. We feel close to the 14.000 Italian missionaries working in Africa, Latin America and Asia and especially to the five who, together with a journalist, are at this moment still in Monrovia, Liberia, in a dangerous and distressing situation.”
3. On 1 August, the Scalabrini Missionaries, at the Loreto International Meeting on Migrants, honoured the Director of MISNA, Fr. Giulio Albanese. “An acknowledgement due to one bringing to the international forefront the forgotten wars of Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone and former Zaire, besides the innumerable vexations of totalitarian regimes like that of Khartoum against the Sudanese Christians or the tragic situation of Safya, the woman condemned to death for adultery. It is exactly to the person on the frontier to whom we wish to hand over the award.”
Bro. Joel Cruz Reyes has obtained a Diploma as “Expert in the Social Doctrine of the Church” at the Lateran University (Rome) with the thesis: “The social Deaconship of the Church.”
Fr. Filomeno Ceja Ceja ha obtained a Licence in Missiology at the Gregorian University (Rome) with the thesis: “Youth and pastoral life in the archdiocese of Beira (Mozambique)”.
Fr. Tesfamicael Debesai ha obtained a Licence in the Arab Language and Islamology at PISAI (Rome) with the thesis: “Al Butis’ view concerning free will - Men’s wisdom under God’s servitude.”
Fr. Hagos Zigta has obtained a Licence in the Arab Language and Islamology at PISAI (Rome) with the thesis: “The first ‘Higra’ of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad to Ethiopia.”
Sc. Hipólito Pedro Senén (M) Ciudad de México (M) 17.05.2003
Sc. Tena escobar David (M) São Paulo (BR) 22.06.2003
Sc. De Jesús García José (M) São Paulo (BR) 24.06.2003
Bro. Ramos González Armando (M) Poza Rica (MEX) 05.07.2003
Bro. Cruz Reyes Joel (M) Santa Maria Camotlán (MEX) 09.08.2003
Bro. Pettersen Regueyra Gilbert de Jesús (DCA) San José (CR) 16.08.2003
Fr. Ramundo Massimo (I) Neviano (LE) 12.07.2003
Fr. Camey Pumay Efraín (DCA) Chimaltenango (GUA) 05.07.2003
Fr. Lix Costop Agustín (DCA) Chimaltenango (GUA) 05.07.2003
Fr. Joaquim José Moreira da Silva (P) Fatima (P) 26.07.2003
Fr. João Rodrigues da Costa (P) Fatima (P) 26.07.2003
Fr. Jorge Miguel Pereira Brites (P) Fatima (P) 26.07.2003
Fr. Güitrón Torres Rafael (M) Tenamaxatlán (MEX) 26.07.2003
Fr. Cuarteros Marnecio Coralde (A) San Juan, Bato (RP) 31.07.2003
Fr. Cabascango Ulcuango Félix Angel (EC) Cayambe (EC) 02.08.2003
Fr. Kizito Dennis Ssebunya (KE) Kampala (U) 09.08.2003
P. Orango Clement George (KE) Manga (KE) 16.08.2003
Fr. Bukasa N’Dala Dieudonné (CN) Kinshasa (RDC) 17.08.2003
Fr. Ndombe Mbenza Jean (CN) Kinshasa (RDC) 17.08.2003
Fr. Malásquez Quispe Carlos Alberto (PE) Lima (PE) 23.08.2003
Afriquespoir: “Paroisse communauté évangélisatrice”, pp. 80, St. Paul Kinshasa. An interesting publication by Afriquespoir of Kinshasa. The book has been prepared in collaboration with the publishing house Epiphanie and the Pontifical Mission Societies. For copies, contact Afriquespoir, Kinshasa.
Video: Videocassettes about the miracle of Comboni and his life (transmission of Rete 4) and on Missionary Animation (Afriquespoir) are available. Contact the Comboni Press.
New superior at the Curia
On 20 August Fr. Giuseppe Giannini arrived at the Generalate. He is the new superior of the community of the Curia, responsibility that he has taken over on 1 September 2003, after an introduction by Fr. Torquato Paolucci, the previous superior. Fr. Torquato has been assigned to Uganda after seven years of service in Rome.
A very warm welcome to Fr. Giuseppe and heartfelt thanks to Fr. Torquato, with our best wishes for a fruitful apostolate on the African continent.
From 18 to 20 July has taken place at El Carmen the first “youth missionary mini-congress” in preparation for the National Congress, which will be celebrated during the month of November in Carcelén. 138 young people took part in it. They were coming from the various parishes of the archdiocese of Quito and, guided by inputs presented by Fr. Enea Mauri and Fr. Brito Carvajal Byron Gustavo, have deepened their appreciation of being missionaries, the meaning of mission today and have been motivated to follow the example of Comboni. The theme was: “A thousand lives for the mission”. We hope that this congress, as well as those that will follow, become occasions to encourage young people to commit themselves to mission and to animate their communities.
Ordination of the 8th confrere from Ecuador
Saturday, 2 August, in the parish church of Cayambe, about 50 km from Quito, we have had the joy of celebrating the ordination to the priesthood of the 8th confrere from Ecuador, Fr. Félix Angel Cabascango Ulcuango. The celebration was presided over by Mgr. Eugenio Arellano Fernández, bishop of Esmeraldas. Many Comboni Missionaries, priests and Brothers, representing the various communities of the province, have taken part in the ceremony.
It was a very simple, but beautiful and moving ceremony, especially during the singing of the litanies when, as the neo-ordained lay prostrated on the floor, the people passed by scattering petals of roses on him until he was all covered, following a custom of the Indios of the Ecuadorian forest. Cayambe is famous for growing and exporting roses. The following day, Sunday 3 August, during the Eucharistic celebration, the provincial spoke about the figure of the missionary and of Comboni in the year of his canonisation.
New Catholic Radio Station
In Nairobi, the new Catholic Radio Station, RADIO WAUMINI (88.5 FM) of the Kenya Bishops Conference, started broadcasting on Sunday 6 July, and it was inaugurated with a solemn ceremony. Seven bishops were present, including the chairman of the Bishops Conference. The Eucharist was presided over by the archbishop of Nairobi, Raphael Ndingi Mwana a' Nzeki. Some government representatives were there and the speaker, an assistant minister representing the vice president of Kenya, praised the Catholic Church for her love for the truth. The provincial was there to represent all the Comboni Missionaries since the radio was set up by Fr. Renato Kizito Sesana in the grounds of Mji wa Furaha (The City of Joy), started by Fr. Adelmo Spagnolo some years ago. It was a very cold day, but the atmosphere was full of enthusiasm and enlivened by the police band. Radio Waumini can reach some 5 million people. We congratulate Fr. Kizito for this success.
Africa to move ahead by “holding hands”
On the African continent there are 53 nations that for the past 40 years have tried to walk “holding hands”, as they have felt the need to come together. On 25 May 1963 African great minds like Kwame N’Krumah, Jomo Kenyatta and Leopold Senghor, gave birth to the “Organisation of African Unity” (OAU) at Addis Ababa (Ethiopia).
The OAU did a great job. It succeeded in bringing a number of African countries to independence from colonialism, but was unable to preserve such independence. Besides the political and socio-economic instability that followed the African nations’ independence, the continent found itself overcome by miserable indexes of social development and torn asunder by the Aids pandemic. These reasons forced them to launch a new organisation for Africa, with the aim of moving foreword together “holding hands”.
In September 1999 at Syrte, in Libya, the heads of states and of governments of the OAU decided, therefore, to create the “African Union” (AU). After the ratification of the statute of the new organisation by two thirds of the member states, the AU was unanimously approved at the “Lusaka Summit”, Zambia, in July 2001 and ratified in Durban, South Africa, in July 2002, on the occasion of the first conference of the heads of states and of governments of the “black continent”. In July 2003 it was the turn of Mozambique to host the second “AU Summit”, which had as its slogan: “To guarantee the implementation of the NEPAD”. Probably on account of this slogan the AU is being confused with the NEPAD.
According to Firmino Mucavele, member of the steering committee of NEPAD and professor at the Eduardo Mondlale University of Maputo, this “New Society for African Development” (NEPAD) is a programme of the AU that puts into practice the holistic development by the African leaders, with the main objective to promote a sustainable development of the African nations.
The NEPAD is not a new organisation, but a development initiative different from the previous ones. It has been created from the amalgamation of the two previous organisations for African development, namely the “Union of the Millennium for the Recovery Programme” (product of the idea and work of the South African Thabo Mbeki, the Nigerian Olusegun Obasanjo and the Algerian Abdelaziz Bouteflika) and the “OMEGA Plan” (launched by the Senegalese statesman Abdoulaye Wade). This NEPAD aims mainly at transforming the existing relation between the donor and the aid given for a development based on common objectives and reciprocal commitment.
At the Maputo Summit the AU heads of states and of governments have recognised that there can be no development without previous political reforms.
The NEPAD gives priority especially to sectors like good government (democratic, free and just elections; fighting corruption), public administration, development of the infrastructures and of human resources, agriculture, science and technology. For the majority of African governments, the above priorities, both at short and medium range, are difficult to be implemented, as also stated by Graça Machel, Nelson Mandela’s wife.
One of the objectives of NEPAD is to reach and sustain an average increase of the Gross National Product (GNP) above 7% per annum within the next 15 years.
According to AU official documents, many countries (like Guinea Bissau, Burundi, Sudan, Liberia, São Tomé and Principe) do not even pay the required contributions, breaking up this “holding hands”, because, as Gandhi used to say, “ we cannot hold hands with clenched fists”. The debt amounts to US $ 39 millions. These nations, according to the statute of the AU, have no right to speak in the meetings, of voting, of presenting candidates for any position or office in the organisation and of benefiting from the activities or of enjoying advantages that derive from it.
A few days before the Maputo Summit, the UN “Food and Agriculture Organisation” (FAO), published a report according to which, besides the fact that agriculture is listed as one of the NEPAD’s priorities, the investments that this receives does not reflect, for most of the member states, the importance that it should have.
Feast of the Sacred Heart
Friday 27 June, feast of the Sacred Heart, we have enjoyed together with the whole Comboni Family a different experience. We gathered at the provincial house of the Comboni Missionaries in Monterrico from all our communities in Lima and made use of the texts sent out by the General Direction to better celebrate the feast. A commission made up of representatives of our Comboni Family had been set up earlier for the purpose of animating and coordinating the activities of the day.
It has been a wonderful half-day, during which we have expressed our common root and gratitude for our Comboni vocation. The celebration was concluded with the Eucharist presided over by Fr. Rogelio Bustos Juárez, followed by a fraternal agape.
The first week of August the provincial house was overcrowded with forty-five Comboni priests, Brothers, Sisters, novices and scholastics who had come together for a day of recollection. The theme was “With Comboni, on a journey towards holiness” and was facilitated by the new Comboni bishop Mgr. Vittorino Girardi. It was a real experience of grace to prepare us for the canonisation of bishop Daniel Comboni and to ask for greater fidelity to the missionary spirit the Lord has bestowed on our father and founder.
A pilgrimage to Fatima
Following our tradition, on 26 July, the last Saturday of the month, we have organised the pilgrimage of the Comboni Family to Fatima, adopting as our main theme: “A thousand lives for the mission – With Daniel Comboni, holy and committed”. The best part of the morning was given to the celebration of the Eucharist, during which were ordained to the priesthood three Comboni deacons: João Rodrigues da Costa, Joaquim José Moreira da Silva and Jorge Miguel Pereira Brites. Mgr. Franco Masserdotti, bishop of Balsas (Brazil), presided over the celebration, with the participation of the bishop of Leiria-Fatima, the Superior General of the Comboni Missionaries, the majority of the Comboni priests, Brothers, Sisters and lay missionaries who work in Portugal or were there on holiday, and over three thousand people who filled the amphitheatre of Paul VI’s Centre to capacity. After lunch, we said the rosary in the chapel of the apparitions, followed by the ceremony of the “commission” that was given to some Comboni Missionaries and Comboni Sisters. Later there was a cultural and recreational entertainment, with the “Faith and Mission” youth group performing a show on Daniel Comboni. There was also a personal witness given by Sr. Rosa Moreira Aparício who was celebrating her 25th anniversary of religious consecration.
A day dedicated to Comboni
Taking advantage of the presence of Mgr. Franco Masserdotti, the Comboni Family came together for a one-day recollection at Coimbra. The bishop spoke on the theme: holiness and mission. Fr. Girolamo Miante, on his way through Portugal, briefly presented the situation concerning formation in the Institute. Fr. Manuel Augusto Lopes Ferreira, Superior General, on holiday, explained to those present the challenges that the Comboni Missionaries have to face and discuss in the XVI General Chapter.
Commemoration of the journalist Mário Castrim
On 31 July, the editorial staff of Além-Mar published the third and last book by the title “The place of television”, by Mário Castrim. The majority of the stories in the volume were published in the magazine Audácia, with which Mário had freely collaborated for almost ten years. Mário Castrim died towards the end of last year of pneumonia, after a few months in hospital. The ceremony – which took place on the day on which the author, journalist, writer and television’s critic would have celebrated his 83rd birthday – intended to commemorate this great friend and collaborator of the Comboni Missionaries. The most meaningful speeches were those of the writer and journalist Mário Zambujal and of Arlindo Ferreira Pinto, ex director of the Comboni publications. Lunch followed with the attendance of about 100 people, almost all friends and collaborators of our magazines. Mário’s family expressed its gratitude and joy for such a sign of respect and friendship. The widow and writer, Alice Vieira, still collaborates with Audácia through a regular column called “The diary of Laura”.
A week of missionary experience
Twelve young people, aged between 16 and 20, have taken part in the Week of Missionary Experience (SEM) that took place at Arganil (diocese of Coimbra) from 2 to 10 August. The morning were spent in reflecting on the themes of vocation and mission, the afternoons in apostolic activities, like visits to old age homes and other experiences of solidarity. During the weekends Eucharistic celebrations the young people spoke of their own stories about their vocational search. One evening they performed for the local people a recital on Daniel Comboni. One day was totally given over to prayer and spiritual recollection.
“Vida Misionera” from 1997 makes video programmes that are specifically missionaries in character and deal with situations that concern countries in the South of the world.
Its objectives are: missionary animation and promoting awareness in Spain so that people may show solidarity with problems experienced in missionary countries, by making known the situation of the local Churches and the work of the missionaries in Africa, Latin America and Asia. It informs in this way public opinion concerning the social, political and cultural situations of these continents, with particular reference to Africa, the forgotten continent, reflecting their problems and tragic situations and explaining their hopes and aspirations.
As for contents, “Vida Misionera” offers a range of missionary and Third World situations through documentaries, interviews and reports.
Each programme deals with topical themes and lasts, normally, 25 minutes, during which time are presented comments on the main articles of our magazine “Mundo Negro”, on African music, displays, meetings dealing with Africa and Latin America and the work of organisations that implement activities connected with the Third World.
The programmes are distributed to over 52 local television stations and, since the summer of 2002, also to “Popular TV”, a Church television station. The programmes are aired monthly from October to June. To date, 233 programmes have been shown. Vida Misionera is located in Madrid and Fr. Longino Lopez Fernández is in charge of it. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“All on Africa”
“All on Africa” is the title of an article that has appeared on the magazine “Ecclesia”, dated 21 June 2003. We thought important to inform and share the summary of the article with Familia Comboniana.
“The magazine ‘Mundo Negro’ does not need to do more than it has been doing for over the past 40 years and with nearly its 500 magazine issues to prove that it is the best publication in the Spanish language about the African continent. Furthermore, from time to time this prestigious publication of the Comboni Missionaries publishes monographic editions on the situation of the African countries. “Africa 2003” is the title of the special monographic edition of last May and June.
In this double issue we find a vast amount of information, based on numbers and statistics, about the present situation of the black continent. The magazine of the Comboni Missionaries does not limit itself to simply presenting data, but it challenges and provokes our conscience. The 861 million inhabitants of the black continent, marked by hunger and malnutrition, oppressed by life threatening sicknesses and armed conflicts that are generally ignored by western media do have important natural resources. The Europeans’ greed, however, prevents their equitable distribution and many people’s self-interest has helped to increase division among the Africans, thus fostering conflicts and supporting dictators and corrupt governments, making it easier for them to foster their own business interests. What follows is poverty and underdevelopment. The Comboni Missionaries strive to put foreword their conviction that another Africa is possible. The information provided by ‘Mundo Negro’ is the first obligatory step in this direction.
On the other hand ‘Mundo Negro’ has launched the book “Africa, why?” by Gerardo González Calvo, chief editor of the Comboni magazine, in which he, in a simple language, clarifies the situation of this mysterious continent, which has been and continues to be, on many occasions, the object of biased and manipulated information. The author, one of the most knowledgeable on Africa, denounces a lot of people: the corrupt leaders of African dictatorships; the politicians of the western capitalists who cover up the pillaging under the pretext of humanitarian relief; the journalists who are unable to understand the socio-political reality, etc. We have, then, a provocative, disturbing and ‘politically improper’ book as it tables issues that are being silenced either by ignorance or deliberately.
Anyone interested in this book may contact Mundo Negro in Madrid.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Fr. Giuseppe Castelletti (04.10.11 – 16.07.2003)
The last time I saw him in Africa was at Wad Medani, in Northern Sudan. He had only recently returned from Italy (1987) and I was at Kosti, 300 km from Khartoum, on the White Nile. I had heard from confreres that he had returned to die in his beloved Africa, wanting to exercise his ministry as a priest, since before he had always worked as a math’s teacher. After Christmas 1988 I decided to go and visit him. It was supposed to be our last encounter.
I really liked him. He had been my high school prefect in Brescia from 1933 to 1935. There I had the opportunity to appreciate his musical talent. Later I thought what great heights he would have reached if he had specialised in music! He was, though, rather daring in this matter, even to the point of modifying Perosi’s compositions.
Of his life as a chaplain in the Navy I learned many things straight from him. When talking about it, he was like a river: the words wouldn’t stop flowing. Some confreres, whenever he approached this topic, would make themselves scarce. Myself, instead, used to enjoy listening to his heroic deeds, which revealed a strong and generous character.
It was, nevertheless, when teaching that I got to know him well: in Khartoum, Asmara, Port Sudan and El Obeid. He was an excellent educator, though he only thought mathematics. Though without a degree, he taught these subjects so well and in such an interesting manner that his students always passed the Oxford exams.
He was an untiring worker. For many years at the Comboni College in Khartoum he was teaching every day six or even seven periods out of the seven scheduled, besides correcting the pupils’ papers (often weekly), and the classes had 35-40 students.
Naturally, he was not without faults, but these were always made pleasant by his good humour. Like the times he was asking that his superior gave him his monthly permissions in writing, or when he would get out of doing something by saying that “he was not the superior”: perhaps once he had been hurt in this regard!
What can I say about his trumpet? He always carried it with him and he was good at playing it. Many confreres used to make fun of it; nevertheless, for a newcomer, it was nice to be welcomed with the sound of a trumpet!
He did not have the joy of dying in Africa, as it had been his wish. Rushed back to Italy near death, he recovered. I was glad to meet him again in Gozzano. With how much love and generosity he applied himself to the ministry of the sick whom he used to visit every day: first on his own and then, as his eyesight became worse, accompanied by others. What can we say about the ministry of confession in the Shrine of the Crucifix of Boca! On Saturdays and Sundays he used to pass many hours in the confessional. When he returned home, he only took a glass of water and a piece of bread for supper and then turned in for the night.
Thank you Fr. Joseph, for the love to the Crucifix you taught me. The song you taught us at Brescia, “O Crux, ave spes unica”, still resounds in my heart. Thank for your affectionate devotion to the “Divine Immaculate Virgin”, whom you wanted to praise with divine melodies, and for teaching me to enjoy playing on the organ songs like: “Children, innocent and sinful, - all implore your love, o Mary!” Fr. Dino Vitalini, your favoured tenor and poet, must have welcomed you in heaven with joy. There I also hope to see you one day! (Fr. Antonino Orlando)
Fr. Giovanni Fortuna, Sr. (22.02.1909 – 27.07.2003)
Fr. Giovanni – or rather Father John, as he was called – was a true ‘gentleman’: gentle, welcoming, a good listener and always pleasant.
Born in Castelgombero, in the diocese of Vicenza, he took his first vows at Venegono and was ordained a priest in 1934. From 1935-1939 he worked in South Sudan. Sent to England to learn English, he was interned as a prisoner of war (1940-1944). From 1944 to 1946 he worked again in South Sudan, especially as a teacher in Mupoi. Then, after two years in Gozzano, Italy, in 1959 he left for Uganda, where he remained for 38 years, till 1997.
In East Acholi (Patongo - Kalongo - Namokora - Kitgum) he was to all a person to whom one went for counselling, pastoral work, individual confession.
He liked things that were done well and in particular he liked music and liturgical singing and to get people involved: some of the songs composed by him are still popular today.
He went through some hard time and unpleasant encounters with the rebels who were spreading destruction and death among the people, were kidnapping children and teenagers, whom they took along with them.
In Kitgum, by now already advanced in years, Fr. Giovanni looked after the sick of the nearby hospital with great love and kept up to date the archives and the church registry.
When I was provincial, Fr. Giovanni asked to be allowed to remain in Italy, though still enjoying fairly good health and being able to work. He wrote: “I feel that I am becoming ever weaker and it is not good that I come back to Uganda, because I feel that I will soon be a burden to everyone”. So in 1997 he was assigned to the Italian province, first to Thiene and then to Verona, where he remained till his death.
Fr. Giovanni was a person well loved and respected by all confreres and by the people. (Fr. Elia Pampaloni)
Fr. Marcello Pietro Bianchini (19.01.1928 – 04.08.2003)
On the evening of 4 August, Fr. Marcello Pietro left us all of a sudden, though he had been quite ill during the last months. He left us quietly and almost afraid to disturb; as gently as he lived he returned to the Father.
As his first gift he had an exemplary and large family and a Christian education in the spectacular valley of Tartano. At twelve years of age he entered the minor seminary at Como, before it was transferred to Rebbio. He continued his education at Brescia. In September 1946 he entered the noviciate at Florence, completing his second year noviciate at Sunningdale, England. He took his first vows on 9 September 1953 and was ordained priest in Milan by blessed cardinal Ildefonso Schuster on 12 June 1954.
Soon after his priestly ordination he began his ‘via crucis’, an illness that accompanied him for the remaining 50 years of his life. For a lungs ailment he had to be admitted to hospital three times at Arco, later at Sondalo and in 1970 in Rome. He had some periods of good health and activity, like when he was the secretary of two Superior Generals: in 1955 of Fr. Antonio Todesco and in 1960 of Fr. Gaetano Briani. For two years (1960-1961) he went to London for further studies.
From 1970 onwards he was “assistant” of the general procurator to the Holy See. Many people, and not just confreres, were helped by him in many ways, with great care and dedication, as he considered this kind of work to be his contribution to the mission and to the whole Institute, which he regarded as his true family. He always kept closely in touch with his relatives by phone and by mail, while keeping detached from them. His last visit to his hometown was over ten years ago. He was hoping to go home from our C.A.A. in Milan, where he had lately been transferred.
Two characteristics may better describe his religious life: the spirit of prayer and the humble acceptance of his being one of the least in the community. A witness that has become more meaningful on account of its authenticity. To a relative, a few days before his death – as he was feeling a bit better – he confided: “I am ready. As a priest, I would be happy to die; as a human being, I am scared.”
Fr. Marcello Pietro has certainly accomplished his missionary vocation and followed the genuine spirit of the Founder. He is an example to be imitated. (Fr. Pietro Ravasio)
Fr. Mario Mantovani (18.12.1919 – 14.08.2003)
Fr. Mario Mantovani was born at Orzinuovi, in the region of Brescia, on 18 December 1919. He was ordained priest in 1946. After 11 years of service in Italy, in 1947 he left for Uganda. He remained in Karamoja till his tragic death on the eve of the feast of Assumption, 14 August 2003. He gave his missionary service in the missions of Morulem (1957-1959), Kaabong (1958-1960, 1982-1983), Nabilatuk (1960-1965), Losilang (Kotido) (1966-1970), Karenga (1970-1975, 1978-1981, 1983-1985), Matany (1976-1978), Naoi (1986-1995), Loyoro (1996-2002), Kapedo (2002-2003).
Fr. Mario was nicknamed by the Karimojong “Apalongor”, which means, “bull of an ash-grey colour”. The Karimojong, nomadic shepherds, give everyone a nickname taken from the names they use to describe a characteristic of a head of cattle. Fr. Mario was a kind, friendly, generous, zealous and very human. He was also an excellent cook. On special occasions he was the one to work around the kitchen stove preparing something nice. His fish and pasta were delicious.
Fr. Mario was a man of prayer, always available and very understanding. One felt comfortable in his company. He would adapt himself to any situation. He could get along with anybody, but especially with those who were open and not too demanding, and particularly with young people. Lately at Kapedo he had a good relationship, based on trust and respect, with the Ugandese Bro. Godfrey Kiryowa - who would be killed together with him - almost as the last sign of the talent Fr. Mario had to create communion with all.
Fr. Mario knew well the Ngakarimojong language. He had written two grammars and a study on the verbs of Ngakarimojong. He was very happy to teach the language to the newcomers, wondering at the fact that some young missionary had no idea about the difference between a verb and an adverb, between a conjunctive and a conditional. When preaching he would be overcome with enthusiasm and raise his voice carried away by passion and fervour. On those occasion the Karimojong would look at him with curiosity, smiling at his funny way of talking. His enthusiastic way to express love for Jesus Christ must have seemed strange to them.
His ability to create friendship with people was shown by accepting tobacco from the Karimojong and by sharing with them some of his own, thus breaking down barriers. He always carried tobacco around with him in a small container. He knew also how to appreciate a glass of good wine or beer.
Fr. Mario was never discouraged by the difficulty of working among the Karimojong. He was basically an optimistic person. He has always a source of encouragement and of hope to the young missionaries of Karamoja. Fr. Mario always made himself available to go whenever he was needed, even though, humanly speaking, he might not have been enthusiastic about it. And this is how he accepted his last assignment: the mission of Kapedo. At his age that mission appeared to him to be a bit far away. He had discreetly expressed his desire to be assigned nearer, sooner or later, to the main centre of Kotido. In any case, he humbly and courageously accepted also this last challenge.
Fr. Mario was working in an area bordering with Sudan. Here live the Dodoth people. In the south of the district live the Jie people, a tribe traditionally clashing with the Dodoth over pastureland for their cattle. Fr. Mario had been for the three weeks at Kanawat (near Kotido), the mother mission of the Jie, to recover from malaria. Bro. Godfrey had gone to fetch him from Kapedo on 14 August. They left from Kanawat at 9 a.m. In the Kopoth area, which lies on the border between the Dodoth and the Jie, there were over 300 warriors armed with guns roaming about, as there had been a cattle raid carried out by the Dodoth together with some Sudanese. It seems that the Dodoth had been unsuccessful in the raid.
Around 10 a.m. our two confreres were driving through the Kopoth area when a group of Dodoth in retreat shot at the driver, Bro. Godfrey, who died instantly. A young man who was in the car with them managed to control the vehicle until it stopped. He then smashed the car window and succeeded to escape, leaving in the car Fr. Mario who was still alive. Fr. Mario got out of the car in the hope of getting away and hide in the bush.
Fr. Chris A. Z. Aleti, the only Comboni Missionary then at Kanawat, on the evening of the same day sent a radio message to Kapedo to know whether the two confreres had arrived. When he heard that they had not yet arrived, he informed the police, but these told him that it was not prudent to go and search for them at night. The following day, 15 August, Fr. Chris set off, following the road taken by the two confreres. He found the car with the body of Bro. Godfrey and brought it straight away back to the mission of Kanawat. There was no trace of Fr. Mario. Accompanied by an escort of soldiers, Fr. Chris set off to search for him. From the place of the ambush they followed the marks left by small boots that looked like those of Fr. Mario, in the hope of finding him. Instead these tracks led them to the hut of the suspected killer who seemed to have shot him and put on his boots. Shortly afterwards they found the body of Fr. Mario riddled with bullets. The suspected killer was imprisoned in Kotido’s police station, but a couple of days later, while trying to escape, was shot dead.
Fr. Mario was buried next to the church of Kanawat.
On 19 August Fr. Guido Oliana, the provincial of Uganda and on holiday in Italy, presided over the funeral Mass at Orzinuovi, Fr. Mario’s hometown and where he was well known. The church was packed with people. Fr. Guido thus explained the meaning of Fr. Mario’s death: “In the faith today we have to celebrate Fr. Mario’s evangelising victory in Christ. He could not have concluded in a more meaningful manner his mission among the Karimojong.” The readings used in the service were an excellent commentary to the evangelical and missionary meaning of Fr. Mario’s death: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Tribulations, anxieties, persecutions, lack of food or clothes, danger, the sword – and we could add – “the gun”? In all this we are more than winners by virtue of him who loved us.” Fr. Mario shares in Christ’s victory. Let us hope and pray that the blood he has shed will produce fruits in the difficult task of evangelising Karamoja. The Karimojong culture believes in sacrifices, so much so that, before setting off on a cattle raid, the Karimojong offer a head of cattle in sacrifice and, occasionally, even a human sacrifice. In the light of faith and of the Gospel, now it will be the sacrifice of Fr. Mario who will earn the Karimojong not heads of cattle, but their allegiance to Christ and to the Church.
With the killing of Fr. Mario and of Bro. Godfrey, the number of Comboni Missionaries who have shed their blood in Uganda has risen to 13. During the closing days of the 2000 Intercapitular Assembly Fr. Raffaele Di Bari, another Comboni Missionary in Uganda, was shot and burned to death at Pajule (Acholiland). Now, at the start of the XVI General Chapter, Fr. Mario Mantovani and Bro. Godfrey Kiryowa have been killed at Kopoth. I think the Lord by this event wants to send us a message about the true Comboni missionary spirituality. (Fr. Guido Oliana)
Bro. Godfrey Kiryowa (20.12.1973 – 14.08.2003)
Bro. Godfrey Kiryowa was born of a family of Tanzanian origin at Kwawangabi, in the parish of Kasaala, 70 km from Kampala. He did his postulancy at Layibi, where he specialised as a builder. Then he went for his noviciate to Namugongo (2000-2002).
The Uganda province in the year 2001 proposed a new curriculum for the Brothers, namely to assign the newly-professed, who had just finished the noviciate, to a province for their first period of missionary service and for the purpose of making their future studies at the C.I.F. more contextualised. The General Council had approved this proposal ad experimentum, to be eventually evaluated and so to see if applicable also to other provinces/delegations. For this reason Bro. Godfrey was assigned to Kapedo soon after the taking of his first vows. We can already make a first evaluation… In the light of the Paschal mystery, and in the spirit of the Comboni charism, we can say that this experience of his was a very positive one, because it was crowned with the greatest possible honour, that of martyrdom.
Bro. Godfrey was a simple, humble, good and friendly person who made himself available for services. By nature he was rather phlegmatic, so it was natural for him to take things slowly. During his noviciate he had made his pastoral experience at Loyoro, where the confreres, among whom was Fr. Mario Mantovani, appreciated him as a member of the community and for his skill as a builder.
At Kapedo he made himself available for the various chores needed in the mission, like looking after the buildings, generators, going shopping to Kampala and being the elderly Fr. Mario’s driver. On one of his first trips through Karamoja, from Loyoro to Kapedo, he was fired at. On that occasion there were some soldiers with him who, though scared to death, fired back. That was his initiation to Karamoja. When meeting with him in Kampala or in Karamoja, smiling and jokingly he often spoke about the shootings on the roads of Karamoja. He was scared, but he never refused to drive on those roads whenever necessary.
In his last visit to Kapedo, at the end of June, I spoke to Bro. Godfrey. Obviously the discussion soon came around the insecurity on the roads. Fr. Mario Mantovani remarked that the Brother was dramatising the situation, while he himself, when stopped on the road, always managed to get out of trouble by offering tobacco to the raiders. Bro. Godfrey had worked out a theory about the best time to travel from Kapedo to Kotido. To the provincial, who was saying that he preferred to travel late at night, Bro. Godfrey said that, in his opinion, the safest time to travel was during the day, setting off at 9 a.m. so that he would reach the dangerous area of Lobel at 10 a.m., an hour when there was less of a chance of an ambush. Instead on that 14 August, just a bit further ahead of Lobel, at the crossroad to Kotido, the hour of 10.30 a.m. had been fatal to him.
The two confreres, in fact, happened to drive through the Kopoth area after an attempted cattle raid by the Dodoth against the Jie. The Dodoth, humiliated by their unsuccessful attempt, must have given vent to their disappointment by shooting at the first car that happened to pass by. Bro. Godfrey was hit first and died instantly. Fr. Mario tried to run into the bush, but he was soon found and riddled with bullets at 300 m. from the car. The body of Bro. Godfrey was found the following day, early morning of the feast of the Assumption. That of Fr. Mario was found around two in the afternoon of the same day.
When the news of Bro. Godfrey’s death reached Kasaala, the parish of the Brother’s family, the local bishop Mgr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga was celebrating the solemn feast of the Assumption, patron of the parish. He personally informed Bro. Godfrey’s father, an ex catechist, a humble person of deep faith who reacted with great composure and, understanding the difficulty of the situation, he was willing to have his son buried in Karamoja, if the translation of the body would have put in danger the life of other missionaries.
On Saturday, 16 August, at Kanawat, the bishop of Kotido, Mgr. Denis Kiwanuka, celebrated a funeral Mass for the two deceased Comboni Missionaries, with the participation of Comboni Missionaries from that area and of Fr. Giuseppe Valente, who had been Bro. Godfrey’s novice master. While the body of Fr. Mario was buried next to the church of Kanawat, that of Bro. Godfrey was taken to Kasaala.
At the celebration in Kasaala the following day, 17 August, meaningful was the presence of a number of Comboni Brothers working in Uganda. A large congregation participated in the Mass with great emotion. Many students of the technical and secondary school which Bro. Godfrey attended took part in the service, they too overcome with emotion. Our Comboni novices carried the coffin from the church to the graveyard. He was buried next to the two Missionaries for Africa (White Fathers) who had founded and worked for a number of years in Kasaala. The faith and serenity of Bro. Godfrey’s father, with a meek smile on his face, was a great sign of evangelical witness, showing the power of the Gospel in transforming the human heart.
The blood shed in Karamoja by Bro. Godfrey as a Comboni Missionary becomes a strong symbol of the fruitfulness of the Comboni charism in Africa. In the case of Bro. Godfrey we can say that the Comboni charism has truly being inculturated. Let us hope and pray that his sacrifice may be a prayer of intercession that God may inspire many Comboni missionary vocations in Uganda, especially to the Brotherhood, and a fruitful seed for the Christian transformation of the Karimojong society, so hostile to change. (Fr. Guido Oliana)
Bro. Luigi Lunardi (21.06.1915 – 16.08.2003)
The first letter Bro. Luigi wrote to his superiors is dated 18 July 1934. In it he declares his intention to become a missionary. Though he must have met them earlier on, as one can tell from the letter. His vocation’s feelings at “leaving” appear noble: “Of all that you told me on that day, I understood the great difficulties and dangers one encounters in the missionary life. Well, reverend Father, I accept them willingly: whether it will be a matter of leaving my family and country, or of renouncing myself to become an instrument in the hands of Jesus Christ. I want to give my life to apostolic and missionary work, so that I may repay some of the love Jesus Christ has for me, he who gave his life on the cross to save me…”
When he wrote such words, Fr. Luigi was 19 years of age and an orphan of both parents. The father, a bricklayer, had died in a work accident; the mother, a housewife, “of a grave illness”. The one who sowed the vocation’s seed in Bro. Luigi’s heart was Fr. Ambrogio Festa during a talk given to the young people of Poiana Maggiore. That seed fell on good ground because: “The young man takes part in the holy Mass and receives communion even on days he had to work very hard,” wrote the parish priest.
Having taken his first vows on 28 March 1937, he left the following year for Sunningdale, England, to work on the buildings the Institute was putting up at the time. Bro. Luigi was working with Bro. Antonio Biasin, Bro. Angelo Zanetti and others. At the outbreak of war, they were interned as prisoners of war.
Only in 1945 Bro. Luigi was able to leave for the mission. His first field of work was Wau, in Southern Sudan. The job description registered in our documents says: “In charge of buildings.” The experience he got in England, but also the work he did at home, had turned Bro. Luigi into an excellent builder. At that time there was a lot of building activities in the missions of Sudan.
After 18 years in the mission, ended for him by the expulsion of all the missionaries from Sudan, Bro. Luigi was sent to the UK: first to Dunfries (1963-1966) and then to Sunningdale (1966-1967), always in charge of buildings. In 1968 we find him at the Generalate (Eur) as a “jack of all trades”. Towards the end of that year he left for Ethiopia “to face the challenges of his second missionary field.” He was at Awasa and at Dongora as builder. In 1975 he returned for good to Italy. At Florence he was put in charge of the various chores in the house” and in 1994 he went to Rebbio as an “elderly” confrere. In May 1999 he was sent to Verona for health reasons.
Whether in Europe or in the missions, this confrere of ours distinguished himself for his community spirit, humility, goodness of heart and for the love he knew how to give and to receive, both to confreres and to others. Generations of Africans have learned from him how to work, putting thus into practice the plan of Comboni to save Africa through Africa.
His illness (blood clots, heart attack, fracture of the thighbone, bypass) did not impair his good humour and peace of mind. Sometime at night, when in Verona, he went downstairs for a cup of coffee and carried back with him a second cup for the nurse on duty. When he could no longer speak, to let people know that “he was well”, he would raise his thin finger as if to say: “OK, it is all well” and perhaps he would wink. In this way, happy to be a Comboni Missionary, he passed away leaving in everyone the memory of a confrere very happy about his vocation. After the funeral in the Mother House, Bro. Luigi was buried in the graveyard of Verona. (Fr. Lorenzo Gaiga)
Bro. Richard Nagler (24.02.1930 – 19.08.2003)
Bro. Richard Nagler was born on 24 February 1930 in Unterschneidheim, Ostalbkreis (Southwest Germany). At that time a number of young men from that place joined the Comboni Missionaries, among them also Richard’s elder brother Andreas (who died in South Africa in a car accident at the age of 35). In 1950 Richard followed his brother and he also became a Comboni Missionary. He was a carpenter by trade and in Ellwangen he got a diploma as master craftsman. He made his first vows in 1952 and, by his perpetual vows on 15 May 1968, he consecrated hi whole life to God and to the mission. His first years in the Institute were spent in rebuilding and repairing various houses in the DSP (Josefstal, Brixen). In 1962 he went to Palencia, Spain, and in 1975 to Ecuador. There, in the boys’ town of Esmeraldas, a boarding school for street children, he directed the carpentry until 1980.
After his return to Europe, he worked in the carpentry of Josefstal until 1992, when he was sent as caretaker to our house in Mellatz. Here in January 2000 he had a serious accident, as he fell and suffered a brain haemorrhage from which he never really recovered. In May of that year he had to retire and move to Ellwangen, where he stayed until his death on 19 August 2003.
We remember Bro. Richard as a kind and humble confrere, very skilled in his profession, whom everybody loved and appreciated. He lived his missionary vocation in a committed and responsible way. Like Daniel Comboni, he used his skills in the service of people, be it at home or in the missions. For him it was clear: “No one has a greater love than he who lays down his life for his friends.” May the Lord grant him a share in his divine life. (Fr. Georg Klose)
P. Paolo Grumini (29.01.1928 – 19.08.2003)
Fr. Paolo Grumini, or rather “Fr. Gurumini” as he was called by the Sudanese, was born in Italy, completed his studies in England and worked and died in Khartoum, Sudan.
Arriving in Sudan in 1956, the year of that country’s independence, he started his work in education, which he continued till his last days. He had always being involved with schools and all the activities that go with this: teaching, supervising, administration, youth groups (for years he had been one of the most knowledgeable person about the scouts’ movement in the Catholic schools as well as at national level). Whatever he did, he always did it as a Comboni Missionary priest. Fr. Paolo, taking his inspiration from Comboni, trusted in the Sudanese. He did not “work for, but with” them in education, looking for and treasuring their collaboration.
As school director and teacher, every year he was in contact with over 600 youth of various nationalities and from a variety of religions and cultures. About thirty Sudanese teachers, the majority Muslims, were working with him, which required collaboration and understanding based on reciprocal respect. The teachers were following him with commitment and admiration, bound by a deep sense of friendship, a friendship that was extended to many of the students’ families.
He was tireless in his work. Though always busy, he managed to find time to take care of people’s special and difficult requests. He faced the various events without over reacting or showing fear. He was one of those Comboni Missionaries who know how to relate to everyone, from the president of the country and the minister of education to the “most simple and unremarkable” people.
Though he was an organiser of activities and of sport competitions, he gave the impression of not being directly involved in sport, instead he was a good tennis player. Music was another one of his interests, as he conducted the cathedral choir and the school musical groups. Outside the school, he helped the religious, Sudanese as well as foreigners, with catechesis and religious assistance.
Fr. Paolo became identified with the Comboni College and has contributed to its history. In 1964 there was the expulsion of all the Comboni Missionaries from Southern Sudan. The Comboni College gave hospitality to the 203 priests, Brothers and Sisters who, expelled from the South, were waiting for the plane to fly them to Europe. The Khartoum government had signed the decree of expulsion also for the missionaries of Northern Sudan, but providentially the document had remained locked away in a drawer, allowing the Christian presence in Northern Sudan to care for the seed hidden under the sand and which, in time, produced the good fruits that we are witnessing now.
In October of that same year (1964) there were demonstrations that led to the massacre of thousands of Southern Sudanese from the south who had found refuge in Khartoum. On that occasion the American mission was burned down. This was very near the Comboni College, which did not suffer the same fate only because some Sudanese students convinced the revolutionaries not to enter the school grounds and burn it down. It was a near escape for an unknown large number of people from Southern Sudan who had found refuge in the school. On that occasion Fr. Paolo was among the last ones to leave the College and only because forced by some students to get into a car and be taken to the safety of the cathedral, one of the few buildings not touched by the upheaval. The school was also saved, but the project already in progress to introduce courses for university levels had to be postponed.
In 1970 the schools were being nationalised. By direct intervention of the president of the republic, Numeiry, the “Comboni” schools were not nationalised. For Fr. Paolo, principal of the CCK and secretary of the Catholic Schools, began the subtle diplomatic game with the Ministry of Education, which was controlled by the Muslim Brothers who did not see well the work of the Christian schools.
In the 1970’s the migration of the populations from Southern Sudan towards the north and especially towards Khartoum started, first as a trickle, then as a river, creating serious problems to the aid structures of the Church, in particular to the secretaries of the schools who had to find a way to offer the possibility of education to the children of the immigrants, who were in great majority Christian or Christian-oriented. In 1985 famine and war caused a migration of millions of people from Western and Southern Sudan to Khartoum, to find security and food. It was a migration of biblical proportion. Just in Khartoum the UN Organisations calculated that in 1987 there were 300.000 school age children. The Catholic Church rose to the challenge with the project “To Save the Salvable”. Fr. Paolo was the one responsible of the education’s sector from 1991 to the day of his death. (Fr. Giovanni Battista Antonini)
Fr. Giovanni Stefani (09.03.1934 – 24.08.2003)
Fr. Giovanni Stefani was a former Comboni Missionary. After a time spent in missionary work in Brazil, he was incardinated in the diocese of Lucca (12.12.1971), where he remained till his death.
Let us pray for the deceased
THE FATHER: Apolinar of Fr. Jaime Rodríguez Salazar (PE); Enrico of Fr. Saverio Perego (T); Daniel of Bro. Humberto da Silva Ruas (EC); of Fr. Cristobal Conde Hernández (M).
THE MOTHER: of Fr. Andrew Paul Mpanda Chimwemwe (MO); Elvira of Fr. Giuseppe Ceriani (I); Susana of Sc. Estacio Dela Cruz Moises (A); Maria del Carmen of Fr. Esteban Ramón García Reyes (M).
THE BROTHER: Mgr. Riccardo of Fr. Arsenio Ferrari (M); Ovidio of Fr. Furlanetto Giuseppe (I); Carlo of Bro. Domenico Barbieri (I); Pietro of Fr. Guido Grilli (BS).
THE SISTER: Rosetta of Fr. Luigi Cocchi (KE); Maria of Bro. Arnaldo Braguti (M); Margherita and 5 year old nephew Gionata (due to road accident) of Fr. Davide De Guidi (MO); Gregoria of Fr. Modesto Pacheco Llorente († E).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. Redenzia Terranno; Sr. Solidea Trivini Bellini; Sr. M. Imma Cafiero; Sr. Pierdomenica Gazzolari; Sr. Rina Maria Begnini; Sr. Piermarta Sacristani; Sr. Romana Rosa Gugole.