Letter of Card. Eduardo Martínez Somalo to the Superior General on the Chapter Acts (Vatican, 27 February 2004)
“We have received with pleasure the Acts of the 16th General Chapter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus that you graciously sent to this Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
Once again, the Chapter Assembly has placed the evangelisation of peoples at the centre of your missionary commitment, with a special attention to the African continent, connected to the Comboni family by a particular tie which is historical and charismatic at the same time. The blessed event of the canonisation of Daniel Comboni, that took place this past 5 October, was a privileged time to rediscover the charism of the Founder, to place yourselves, following his example, in the footsteps of the crucified Christ and to renew in the heart of each missionary the passion for mission.
It is particularly a reason for joy and satisfaction to learn of the intention to draft a Ratio Missionis for the Institute, under the direction of the secretary general of evangelisation in dialogue with those responsible for this sector on a continental level, based on theology and a new methodological plan, that will hold firmly to the two poles of action and contemplation. The renewed and pressing commitment to the ongoing formation of the Comboni Missionaries, to be missionaries rather than bureaucrats of the mission, starting from the Gospel of Christ and from the Rule of Life, placing life in common as a sign of your consecration and of your mission, using the Community Charter as an instrument for a creative fidelity to one’s chosen life.
I thank you for what you have so kindly sent me, and I gladly greet you with the words spoken by the Holy Father on the occasion of the audience for the canonisation of your Founder: “May God grant fruits to all of your activities, always aimed at the spreading of the Gospel of hope.”
Saint Daniel in the liturgical calendar of the Universal Church?
The request that the memory of our Founder (10 October) may be inserted in the liturgical calendar of the universal Church with the rank of an obligatory memory, has been sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. Even though our request seems to have good reasons (the great relevance of Saint Comboni for the Church in Africa and for the missionary spirit of the universal Church; the celebration of a great evangeliser in the context of October as the missionary month, the Pope called Comboni “the protector of the African continent”...), approval is not to be taken for granted, because there are many similar requests on behalf of other saints. A suggestion that has emerged in informal meetings with members of the competent authorities, is that there should be a progressive and consistent introduction of St. Daniel Comboni in the calendars of local Churches: diocesan, national, regional… At that point, the extension to the universal level would look more logical and be better accepted, because it would reflect an existing real devotion.
It is a suggestion that we may want to pick up and make it happen in the dioceses, provinces and countries where we work. This too is a valuable service of mission promotion in the local Churches.
“Renewal Course” in Rome
The General Council has decided to resume the Renewal Course in Rome in 2005. It has been discontinued for this year, 2004, due to the fact that Fr. Carmelo Casile has been appointed master of novices in Venegono.
The new director will be Fr. Giuseppe Franzelli who will run it in cooperation with Fr. Carmelo and Fr. Danilo Cimitan.
The Course will continue to be “a period of reflection and revision, that will help deepen one’s vocation identity based on the Comboni charism, and the re-foundation of one’s life in the three major areas of consecration, communion and mission.” Also, “there will be a continued stress on a methodology of the Course as a process of interaction which is, therefore, based on the proactive initiative of the participant, so that he will use his ability to interact with others as an exercise of ongoing formation both at the human and at the missionary-vocational level.”
The provincial and delegates are kindly asked to inform the confreres who are interested in this and to dialogue with them on the character of the course, in order to dispel expectations that do not fit its current aims.
It is also important that applications be received by September 2004, to help both the preparation and the planning. As always, the course will open at the beginning of January and will end towards the end of May 2005 with a pilgrimage to Egypt and, if possible, to Israel, in the footsteps of Jesus and Comboni.
Report on the expenses for the Canonisation
The canonisation of St. Daniel Comboni is now a reality in the Church and an historical event. The General Chapter reminded us that “the event of Comboni as a saint spurs us to a deeper understanding of the gift we have received. It enables us to face with courage and creativity the challenges of a renewed mission for the coming of the Kingdom in today’s world.” (CA ’03, 32)
At times, however, a news type reporting may also satisfy our curiosity of the little details, the financial aspect being one of them: how much does it cost to “make” a saint?
As it has already been revealed earlier on, the Postulation cost the general administration € 26,745.09 and the ceremony of the Beatification € 31,803.54.
For the canonisation process the office of the Postulator spent from 2001 to 2003 the sum of € 31,736.39:
Printing € 7.579,57
Trial € 6.797,34
Research € 3.554,00
Positio € 8.555,00
Relics and Souvenirs € 1.300,00
Various-Office € 3.950,48
The organisation and the assembly connected with the celebration of the Canonisation itself, cost (through the general administration) a total of € 117,196.18, not including the pilgrims bags and the buying and selling of mission promotion material and souvenirs.
Tapestry € 330,00
Thanksgiving Booklet € 3.012,88
Material (cards, brochures, posters) € 11.419,29
Guests (travel and hospitality) € 64.110,50
Paintings € 1.750,00
Statues € 3.151,95
St. Peter Square (chairs and booklet) € 13.870,00
Vigils in various churches and basilicas € 5.361,55
Various (conferences, press, chalice, videos) € 1.150,00
Gifts (to the Pope) € 3.692.00
Organisation € 7.824,01
The main contributions came from:
Banks € 9.200,00
Rome’s City Hall € 4.487,28
Comboni Missionaries € 50.227,24
Private € 530,00
Secular Comboni Missionaries € 2.500,00
Comboni Missionary Sisters € 50.251,66
During the Consulta of March 2004, the General Council has decided not to print the new Annuario Comboniano in 2004, but rather to wait until the early months of 2005, when it will be possible to include the new provincials/delegates and their councillors who will be chosen by December this year.
It is important, however, that any change of personnel, community data (addresses, phone numbers, e-mail, etc.) and home addresses of confreres be immediately communicated to the secretary general.
Fr. Tena Escobar David (M) Guadalajara (MEX) 02.28.2004
Holy Redeemer Guild
April 01 – 15 DSP 16 – 30 E
May 01 – 07 ET 08 – 15 ER 16 – 31 IT
April - That Saint Daniel Comboni inspire young people to follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and that the Spirit give us new missionary vocations who might bring the Church and her message of Communion, Peace and Justice to all peoples and cultures. Let us pray.
May - That through the intercession of Saint Daniel Comboni and the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may be ever more conscious of the dignity of women and of their fundamental role in the regeneration of the family and of human society. Let us pray.
Consecrated Life Week 2004
The event of “Consecrated Life Week 2004”, promoted yearly by the Institute of Consecrated Life in Asia (ICLA) and run by the Claretian Missionaries in Manila, had this year a unique touch with the presentation of Saint Daniel Comboni as an icon for Mission in Asia Today.
With the theme of the week “Mission at the Heart of Consecrated Life Today,” hundreds of religious Sisters and some Brothers and priests gathered from 23-25 January to deepen their sense of Mission, which is essential to the life of the Church and to every Institute, for without mission there is no Church, no consecrated life, no prophecy, no sharing in God’s compassion for humanity.
After Fr. Alberto de Oliveira Silva’s welcoming address, Fr. David Kinnear Glenday led with enthusiasm the participants to appreciate “St. Daniel Comboni’s missionary personality and legacy,” emphasising his deep experience of God as the impelling force for all that he was and did. Fr. Giovanni Taneburgo spoke on “St. Daniel Comboni’s guidelines of missionary spirituality”, presenting in a systematic way some unique traits that deeply marked his spirituality. Both talks were highly appreciated for their content and depth. Comboni’s life and mission were taken as the focal points for the many areas of Consecrated Life, like consecration/mission, spirituality, fraternal life, witnessing, service to the poor, dialogue, proclamation, etc., which could unify and enhance passion for mission in the lives of the religious and of their Institutes in their service in Asia.
The following day was dedicated to a more specific theological reflection on Consecrated Life, by taking a look at the situation of this form of Christian Life in Asia and its mission. The well-known theologian, Fr. Cristo Rey G. Paredes, CMF, who expounded on “Mission as the key to understand Religious Life Today”, led the reflection.
Among those who spoke on the third day, Fr. Daniel Cerezo Ruiz stood out with his own witness as a missionary in China.
The fact that St. Daniel Comboni has been placed at the centre of this annual gathering of religious and that has been presented as an icon for Mission in Asia Today, is a further proof of the relevance of his life, not only for the past, but also for our present age, bringing Mission at the heart of the Church and of Consecrated Life.
With this event, the delegation of Asia closed its canonisation’s celebrations.
Inauguration of the monument to Comboni in El Carmen
In an effort to ensure that after the canonisation the memory and the vitality of this event may not die, we decided to close the Comboni Year in a solemn fashion in the community of El Carmen, where the local people took time to prepare themselves to express their gratitude to God and to the Comboni Missionaries.
During the week, in the evening, a solemn triduum was held to honour St. Daniel Comboni and to raise the awareness of the people by explaining various aspects of the life of Comboni and of Comboni spirituality.
On Sunday, 14 March, the provincial unveiled and blessed the brass bust of Comboni which has been placed at the entrance of the parish church as a reminder of his birthday and above all to remember all the missionaries who spent time here doing good. A plaque was also unveiled to commemorate this event. A large crowd attended the ceremony that has already awakened in people a devotion to our Founder. That same evening, people coming to church were already lighting candles in front of the bust of the new saint.
Then followed the “Third Festival of Local Cuisine” with the participation of all church organisations and lots of people of good will who prepared many typical local dishes, desserts, etc. The money raised was given to the poor in the parish: this being a way to make people feel responsible for their neighbour and an example of solidarity.
Courses and publications of the centre in Guayaquil
The Obra Comboniana de Promoción Humana of Guayaquil covers three areas: Pastoral work in the social area, with the Afro-Americans and with the youth.
In the social area space is being given to a program of ongoing formation on social challenges from the perspective of the Church’s teaching. It includes Sunday sessions on social pastoral activities for pastoral agents, leaders and animators of parishes, for organisations, and for Church and social movements involved in transforming the social reality. The program was presented at the meeting of the local clergy of the archdiocese of Guayaquil and to the society at large through the radio and through El Universo, one of the main dailies in the country. These courses are held on a monthly basis. At the end of each course the material is transcribed in a simple language, so that it can be used to support social evangelisation. Some parishes have begun to take greater interest in social areas and to ask for courses for their pastoral agents.
In the area of Pastoral Work with the Afro-Americans, we have opened the School of Formation for pastoral agents working among the Afro population. It is the first of its kind in the archdiocese of Guayaquil. The bishop supports it and has written a letter to pastors inviting them to send their agents to this school.
The topics covered are: “Pastoral Work with the Afro-Americans: an evangelising effort inserted in the reality of the black people of Ecuador;” “Black History;” “Reading the Bible from the perspective of the Blacks and of Afro-American theology;” “Afro-Ecuadorian culture and religiosity;” “Afro-Ecuadorian sociology and politics.” The educators in this school are a group of Afro missionaries with the help of Comboni Missionaries. Much appreciated teaching aids and other materials have been and are currently being prepared.
The principal aim of this school is the formation of agents who will educate the parishes of Guayaquil and form Black Christian Communities according to the directives of the bishops conference. There are also easier courses of Afro pastoral care and culture available to parishes that have a high percentage of Black members.
With regard to the youth, we are working with parish youth groups in the areas of the Malvinas, using popular videos geared to street youth and we are also doing mission and vocation promotion through the “América Misionera” group of Guayaquil. This group will offer a course on “Youth Missionary Formation” for the education of youth group coordinators. During the months when courses are not offered there will be visits to various groups of participants. The course will conclude with a gathering of coordinators and their groups.
Anniversary of Saint Daniel Comboni’s birth
The birthday of St. Daniel Comboni was celebrated in the Comboni church of Cordi Jesu on Friday, 12 March, with two hours of private adoration and one hour of community adoration followed by the celebration of the Eucharist. A festive meal, attended by about 80 Comboni Missionaries and Comboni Sisters, concluded the day.
A symposium on the Plan of Saint Daniel Comboni
The symposium was organised by the Comboni Missionaries, the Comboni Sisters and the Institute of Religious Sciences of Sakakini, Cairo. The Institute hosted two days of study and reflection on “The Plan for the Regeneration of Africa” and on its implementation in Egypt. The speakers were Fr. Kamil William, director of the Institute, Fr. Milad Sidqi, a Lazzarist, Fr. Magdi Zaki, Copto-Catholic pastor, Prof. Ahmad Abd Allah of the Islamic University of Al Azhar, Bishop Yusuf Abu al Kheir of Sohag, and George Agaiby, journalist and teacher at the Institute and an outstanding member of the Catholic Church of Egypt.
The participation exceeded all expectations: more than 250 people, religious and lay, came from various dioceses, from Alexandria to Asswan. Even the cardinal patriarch Coptic-Catholic, the apostolic nuncio, and other bishops, by their very presence, underlined the importance of this event that hopefully will bear fruit for mission promotion in the Egyptian Church. We have been told that next year the Institute of Religious Sciences will start offering a course on missiology.
To prepare ourselves for the great event of our Founder’s canonisation a triduum was organised by a special committee. On the eve of the celebration many Comboni Missionaries, especially the Comboni Sisters, came even from the missions outside Asmara and attended the prayer vigil service. A large impressive and elegantly decorated “das” (tent) was set up by the Comboni Family and friends, including ex-Comboni seminarians.
On 5 October a celebration was organised at the Mother House of the Comboni Sisters in Asmara. The Eucharistic celebration was presided by the Eparch emeritus of Asmara, Mgr. Zeccarias Yohannes, accompanied by 15 priests. Sr. Mehret Tsegai, a Comboni Sister, gave a very meaningful and inspiring homily. During the offertory, the following symbols were presented with a short explanation for each one of them: a Bible, a candle, a globe, some maize cobs, a drum and an ebony carving. A choir, formed by CMS aspirants and MCCJ postulants, truly animated the liturgy with their beautiful voices and songs to fit the occasion. At the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration leaflets and souvenirs were distributed. Afterwards T-shirts, prayer books and a Comboni’s biography were put on display for sale. All those who participated in the liturgy were invited to a simple breakfast. More than 400 guests had been invited to a special lunch during which CMS postulants, MCCJ seminarians and ex-Comboni seminarians entertained them with poems, songs and other funny performances. A drama hinting at the miracle that Comboni performed in Brazil was put on stage. At the end the many people expressed their appreciation for everything. All in all the celebrations left a good impression on our people. In fact now the people see Comboni not only as our saint, but also as their saint.
Meanwhile in Rome about 100 Eritreans and Ethiopians belonging to St. Thomas’ parish were present in St. Peter’s Square with great joy, wearing their distinctive national dresses and waving their respective flags, thanking God to have given them a great saint such as Comboni.
On 6 October, the Comboni Family and the students in formation had a joint lunch. In the evening a thanksgiving Mass was celebrated, followed by a pizza party, sacred and popular songs and dances.
On 19 October the post canonisation celebrations were held in three different places: Afabet, Decamere and Senafe and on 26 at Ghinda. On 9 and 23 November there were celebrations at the Eparchies of Barentu and Keren respectively. On later dates other celebrations were held at Saganeity, Berakit, Addi Genu, Addi Abur and Tokombia.
All these celebrations have been excellent opportunities of missionary animation and have made our Founder better known. We have thus completed in the delegation the Comboni Year. May St. Daniel Comboni intercede for us all.
Comboni Seminar 2004
The Comboni Seminar 2004 took place in Pesaro from 8 to 12 March and was attended by over 40 representatives of the large Comboni Family: fathers and brothers, sisters, seculars and lay people. Its purpose: to delve ever more deeply, along the way opened by the canonisation, into the knowledge of the Founder through lectures and group works.
Second day. Lecture by Fr. Arnaldo Baritussio on the “Identity from Comboni to the Comboni Missionaries”: a deeper reading of the ‘saints and capable’ up to the mysticism of mission.
Second day. Lecture by Fr. Arnaldo Baritussio on the “Identity from Comboni to the Comboni Missionaries”: a deeper reading of the ‘saints and capable’ up to the mysticism of mission.
Third day. Presentation of the “Plan” which, with its hints to the mission of today, places the Comboni Missionaries in their historical context (Fr. Walter Vidori) and gives to women a very important role (Sr. Carmela Coter).
Fourth day. Lecture on “Comboni as animator of Churches and of society” (Fr. Giuseppe Franzelli and Sr. Maria Grazia Campostrini): wherever they are, Comboni’s followers cannot avoid animating and cooperating with all the ecclesial entities.
Fifth day. A conclusion by Fr. Alessandro Pronzato, author of La sua Africa, a biography of Comboni as a contemplative and a “monk” (a man with one sole passion).
The participants left with the intention to meet again, because, as one of them said, “The knowledge we have of Comboni is quite superficial. We need to come to a deeper understanding of his feelings and of his behaviour in order to shed light on our feelings and behaviour today. This can be effectively done only if we do it together.”
The Italian province, that asked for this seminar, thanks Fr. Venanzio Milani who organised it. Because of their depth, the various lectures will be published in a book form and will be made available to all the confreres.
With the youth at the national mission congress
The GIM teams are preparing three “Caravans for Peace” that, in order to develop and to re-introduce the topics connected with the “Jubilee of the Oppressed,” will travel through Italy in an effort to build bridges rather than walls. The official start will be on 7 September at Limone sul Garda, the birthplace of Daniel Comboni: a limen (frontier) that has opened the doors of Africa to many men and women. One of the objectives of the three caravans will be, in accord with the local Churches and civic authorities, to come up with some proposals for the third national mission congress to be held from 27 to 30 September in Montesilvano (Pescara), to which the young members of the caravans have been invited.
A street dedicated to Comboni
On 4 January 2004, in the wake of the celebrations in honour of Comboni, a new street (only a few hundred feet long and unpaved) bearing his name was officially opened in the Dagoretti area of Nairobi. Prior to the ceremony, the provincial had celebrated Sunday Mass in the nearby parish staffed by the Pallottines. The street sign bearing the new name was blessed in the presence of local authorities and of Fr. Kizito Renato Sesana who had launched the idea through Radio Waumini.
Lecture on Comboni
Acting on behalf of the Italian embassy, professor Elio Traina, director of the Italian Cultural Institute of Nairobi, organised a well attended program on Comboni that included a lecture by Fr. Francesco Pierli on Tuesday, 9 March, and a presentation of the recital “To Save Africa with Africa” by Hesbon Otieno, performed by the group “Light Heart of Jesus Youth Group” of Korogocho on Wednesday, 10 March.
On Sunday, 14 March, our parish in Kariobangi held the conclusion of the artistic competition on Comboni, organised by our mission promoters (fathers, brothers, sisters). Paintings and poems were sent in from various missions (Amakuriat, Marsabit, Dol Dol, etc.). Tied for first prize were a decorated cross and a portrait of Comboni etched in copper. The awards were distributed by our provincial and by Sr. Paola Moggi, vice provincial of the Comboni Missionary Sisters.
Tenth Anniversary of the Foundation of the Social Ministry Institute
From 23 to 27 February 2004, Tangaza College of Nairobi, Kenya, held a Congress to mark the 10th anniversary of the foundation of the Social Ministry Institute, born to prepare religious, missionaries and lay ministers for social service to work for the transformation of Africa.
A number of events, very significant for the history of the African Continent, that took place in 1994, contributed fundamentally to the birth of the “Social Ministry Institute”. First of all, the end of apartheid in South Africa and the tragedy of Rwanda. These two events, but especially the massacre of Hutus and Tutsis perpetrated by people who called themselves Christians, presented a dramatic challenge to the Church to evangelise in greater depth, in order to lead Africans to be inspired by Gospel values, as a necessary condition for the transformation of Africa.
Also in that same year there was the celebration of the Synod on Africa and, with it, the urgent call to a new evangelisation of the continent, starting from the traditional cultural values and from the need of an ever greater involvement of the laity in the political arena and in Justice and Peace issues for the transformation of Africa.
During the five days of the Congress, Fr. Francesco Pierli, the founder and coordinator of the Social Ministry Institute, together with a large number of teachers, alumni and other people interested in social transformation especially in Europe and in Africa, coordinated the event in a very efficient manner and shared with the participants – about 400 people each day - the theory and practice of Social Ministry by describing its history, the aims, the objectives, the contents, the spirituality and above all the new way of doing ministry in various parts of Africa, as it is promoted by missionaries, Brothers, Sisters and lay people as an urgent and indispensable contribution to the re-birth and the transformation of the African continent.
The reflections and the experiences that were shared helped to understand that the main source of wealth on which to rely for the development and the political and social transformation of the African continent is to be found first of all in the creativity and resolve of the people, especially the poor, the women and the children.
Especially appreciated were the presence and contributions of Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, president of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya Giovanni Tonucci and of Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana-a-Nzeki of Nairobi. Fr. Teresino Serra, Superior General, and Fr. Fernando Zolli, secretary general for evangelisation, also attended the Congress.
In the closing session of the Congress the planning of the Social Ministry Institute for the next few years was revealed. Among other things, it was stated that there is an urgent need to begin a program of higher studies for research and the acquisition of new skills aimed at wiping out poverty in the continent, through a Master of Arts degree in the fields of administration, social and ecclesial service, in the political arena and in the formation of Justice and Peace agents, rooted in the cultural values of African peoples. Also highlighted was the need to evaluate the formation offered to students at Tangaza College, to the candidates for the priesthood, the missionary and religious life, in order to make them ever more efficient in the ministry of the transformation of Africa. (Secretariat of Evangelisation)
Centenary of faith in Bahr el Ghazal: Wau
Great celebrations were held in Wau on the occasion of the first centenary of the arrival of missionaries in Bahr el Ghazal. Ten missionaries arrived in Wau on 15 February 1904: Bishop Franz Xaver Geyer, four priests and five Brothers. It took them three weeks to travel from Omdurman, first by boat and then, for the last 100 miles, by donkey. In fact, they had left Omdurman with 20 donkeys and one mule. The mule was for the bishop.
The preparation for this celebration took a whole year. The ceremonies were enhanced by the presence of Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, the first Sudanese Cardinal, who was at one time bishop of Wau and was born in the area. He was the focus of the event.
The arrival of the Cardinal on Thursday, 5 February, opened the celebrations. The welcome was warm and enthusiastic. 7 February was given to the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation that was very well attended: the children in the morning, the adults in the evening. On Sunday, 8 February, the Eucharist was celebrated by the river on the spot where the first missionaries landed on 15 February 1904, at 2:30 in the afternoon. The Cardinal recalled that historic event, seeing in it the realization of Comboni’s dream who, 40 years earlier, had fought for the dignity of Africans and for their right to be regenerated by Christ. He then spoke of the presence of the Spirit during those dark years after independence, when all foreign missionaries were expelled and the Church was left in the hands of a small number of local pastoral agents. Even in their poverty they were able to ensure and to give continuity to the development of the Church. Then he spoke of peace and of the challenge it represents today for the Christian community which is called to be an instrument of evangelisation, reconciliation and peace in our time. Close to 10.000 people attended the ceremony.
Monday, 9 February, was the day for the youth. The young people marched from their own parishes to the cathedral, singing and waving flags. Once there, they gathered around the monument erected to celebrate the centenary in which the names of the first ten missionaries are carved. The monument was unveiled and blessed. Mass celebrated by the Cardinal followed. The Gospel passage of the rich young man was read. The Cardinal launched into a strong appeal to the youth to have very high ideals in life and to commit to translate them into practice in order to build a better world. He then asked the adults to be serious and demanding educators so as not to betray the younger generations.
Celebration in Mboro
Wednesday, 11 February was a memorable day. The celebration took place in Mboro, the fourth mission founded after Kayango, Mbili and Wau. It was not possible to go to Kayango and Mbili, because these areas are under the control of the SPLA. Mboro is the village where Cardinal Zubeir was born and received his first education. Thousands of people came from Wau and from many villages. Mass was celebrated just a few feet from where Fr. Angelo Arpe, the founder of the mission, was killed in November 1946. Mboro was also the mission of Fr. Arkanjelo Ali, the second priest from Bahr el Ghazal after Bishop Ireneo Dud. Fr. Arkanjelo was ordained a priest in Mboro only four days before the killing of Fr. Arpe. He himself was killed for his faith 19 years later in Rumbek. Mboro was a very important educational centre: all the best youngsters from the nearby missions were sent there to attend sixth grade, the highest grade available at one time. The Cardinal himself was a student there, but there were also other notable people, such as Clement Mboro who was at one time minister of internal affairs. In his homily the Cardinal spoke of the importance of education to the building up of a new Sudan at this particular time.
Once again in Wau
On 13 February we commemorated the deceased missionaries: 20 are buried in the cemetery of Wau, 13 in other missions around Wau and over 300 rest in various parts of the world. Fr. Luigi Cignolini, provincial of the Comboni Missionaries, was the main celebrant. He compared missionaries to the seed that falls and dies, but produces fruit. The fruit is the Church in Bahr el Ghazal.
The last great celebration was held on Sunday, 15 February. Probably no one had ever seen such a great crowd in the whole history of Wau. The Cardinal was the main celebrant, surrounded by 5 bishops and 44 priests. In his homily he encouraged Christians to take up the privilege of evangelising in our days with the same enthusiasm and determination of the first missionaries. Drawing on Comboni, he underlined the importance of the role of young people and of women. He also appealed to all lay people, who have already been evangelisers in other times. He reminded them, in fact, that they were responsible for opening a chapel in Rumbek even before the arrival of the priests. The centenary must stimulate us to look at the future and to evangelise.
The centenary was intended as a celebration of the past, but even more as a spur to look ahead, to renew our faith and our knowledge of the Gospel and to commit ourselves to be evangelisers to the people of our time. The Church of Bahr el Ghazal has prayed that it may be able to renew that Pentecost of which it has been a witness during its first 100 years of history.
From 11 to 12 March, confreres aged 63 and over from Montclair, Chicago and Cincinnati gathered at our Promotion Center of La Grange Park, Illinois, to attend a workshop on "Ageing”. Confreres in the same age group who are stationed in California will attend the same workshop in April.
The workshop was directed by Sr. Anne Marie McNicholl, SSC, a gerontology expert who is very well known in religious circles for her expertise on this subject. In the first part of the workshop the participants were guided through a consideration of the physical, spiritual and psychological changes people undergo with the passing of time. The second part was given to interaction between the participants and the Sister.
Many positive aspects surfaced through it all such as the spirituality of ageing, what this means for our communities in the context of our Comboni charism, the virtues of ageing gracefully, the service of age and experience. The workshop was also an occasion for the 12 participants to spend some time together and to strengthen the bonds of brotherhood that unite us even though we are so scattered across the country.
The workshop is part of the new program of ongoing formation of the NAP.
PERU - CHILE
Comboni celebrations of 15 March
Even though at present it is no longer liturgically important, healthy tradition has prevailed once again this year and the Comboni Family gathered in Lima on 15 March to celebrate the birth of St. Daniel. The gathering had two parts: a half a day of recollection and a festive dinner.
The facilitator invited all the participants to share an aspect of Comboni that required more work in discovering it and understanding it; the major difficulties met in passing it on and in putting it into practice. He also gave some suggestions to help us in the “contemplative dimension of being and doing mission. During the Eucharist, where the provincial was the main celebrant, there was a deeper reflection on the topic with several references to the Chapter Acts.
The Comboni Missionaries and Comboni Missionary Sisters continued the celebration around the table as it is the custom of the provincial house.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Bro. Giovanni Zucchelli (24.06.1926 – 05.03.2004)
On his desk, printed in five languages, Bro. Giovanni Zucchelli kept in full view a precious card with St. Paul’s quote, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12,10). This is the text that guided us through the funeral celebration in Verona, at the Mother House, and in his town of Crespiatica (MI), where a large crowd gathered to say their last goodbye. The text sheds light on his life and the life of every missionary, where the greatness of one’s vocation and the frailty of the human person coexist. Bro. Giovanni knew that and in some sincere moments he also said it.
His African missionary experience was brief: after a short stay in Egypt and in Lebanon, he was in South Sudan, at Kit, with Fr. Giuseppe Gusmini and Fr. Adelmo Spagnolo tending to the very beginning of the foundation of the Brothers Institute founded by Bishop Sisto Mazzoldi. The rest of his life was spent in Europe, between England and Italy.
Everywhere he went he left the signs of his particular interests: nature, the mysteries of human life, archeological finds and fossils, strange and medicinal plants. His objective was clear: to recall for a curious visitor that all the works of creation lead to God. His unique competence in managing the world of philately was known and appreciated; the various anniversaries and historical events of Comboni were remembered with some interesting creations. He knew how to deal with all this. Unique was also his ability to involve artists at the highest levels for many years in the preparation of the Nativity Scene in Venegono; his ability to impress on the young messages of respect and attention to the “beautiful and great things” that the Lord has made.
Bro. Giovanni spent his last years at Daniel Comboni’s home, on Lake Garda. They were not devoid of suffering. In many ways he tried to promote Comboni thanks to his artistic sense and his many contacts. However, even gold and pearls, before being placed in a necklace, must go through the fire of purification. This is what happened to him in the last months of his life, when a fast progressing disease withered his body, but could not take from him his gruff approach to people and things that everyone knew.
Fr. Isaías da Rocha Pereira (02.03.1940 – 16.03.2004)
Isaías da Rocha Pereira was born in Villa Nova de Paiva (Portugal) on 2 March 1940, the only son of Júlio da Rocha Pereira and Rosa da Rocha Dionísio. He entered the mission seminary of Viseu in October 1950. In 1955 he concluded his secondary school and entered the novitiate in Gozzano for the first year, and at Villa Nova de Famalicão for the second year. He took his first vows on 9 September 1957. He then attended the philosophical-theological courses in Viseu, Maia and Venegono where he got his degree in theology. He was ordained in Verona on 28 June 1964, then spent a year in Maia as teacher and vice rector of the philosophy seminary. From there he moved to Moncada (Spain) in 1965 where he was treasurer, taught philosophy and Portuguese literature to the novices and did mission promotion.
A serious health problem that will mark him for the rest of his life, brought him back to Portugal in 1970. In an autobiographic poem entitled Pedaços de Vida we read: “In Moncada there was terror/the nervous system plunged you into sorrow./Silence and long lasting torment: this, of the whole life, the passing.”
During the following 34 years of his life he passed through Viseu, Paço d’Arcos, Lisbon, Maia and Coimbra. In 1975 he wrote to the Superior General to let him know that his doctor was advising against his going to Brazil.
During the last ten years of his life, Viseu was once again his home. Beside doing pastoral work (confessions, Mass, preaching) he also wrote for Familia Comboniana, Além-Mar and Audácia. He also worked with some local newspapers and radio stations. He gave a lot of time to translations. In 2000 he coordinated the publication of “Testemunhas a Descoberto” a book of memoirs with 35 contributions on the 50 years of the Comboni Missionaries’ presence in Portugal. In 2002 he produced “Desde chão”: a collection of poems he had written with some ethnographic and anthropological notes on his native area. Then he still wrote “Ser Familia Hoje.”
He was a man of great intelligence and spirit of observation, with a rare ability to interpret things, and he was better able to express himself through the written word. At the end of 2003, during a stay at the “Casa da Saúde” in Telhal, he had a cardiac arrest, but he was promptly tended to. His health situation was rather complex and, therefore, he had to continually undergo tests, even though he seemed to have improved a little.
On 15 March he attended the closing of the Comboni Year at Fatima. The celebration opened with the way of the cross in the Valinhos, about an hour walk. Fr. Isaías felt tired, but said he was feeling well, blaming his fatigue on his lack of exercise. In the afternoon he returned to Viseu with the rest of the community. The following morning, 16 March, he got up, ate breakfast and returned to his room. Later he was found dead, sitting on a sofa. He had turned 64 two weeks earlier.
May he rest in peace.
Let us pray for the deceased
THE FATHER: Camillo of Fr. Efrem Tresoldi (RSA); Valentin of Fr. Avelino Gonçalves da Silva Maravilha (P).
THE MOTHER: Maria of Fr. Manuel João Pereira Correia (T).
THE BROTHER: Renzo of Bro. Ambrogio Confalonieri (I).
THE SISTER: Cesira of Fr. Luigi Bano (I); Silvana of Fr. Severino Perini (BNE); Giovanna of Fr. Luigi Penzo (KH).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTER: Sr. Flaminia Bresciani.