Monthly newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
New General Council of the Comboni Missionary Sisters
On 22-24 September 2004 the General Chapter of the Comboni Missionary Sisters has elected the new General Council: Sr. Adele Brambilla, re-elected Superior General; Sr. Bianca Bresciani (Ital-ian), Sr. Elisa Kidanè (Eritrean), Sr. Maria Helena Freitas Lourenço (Portuguese) and Sr. Dorina Tadiello (Italian) elected Assistants General. Vicar General was elected Sr. Dorina Tadiello.
The General Council of the Comboni Missionaries, on behalf of all the confreres, joins the Com-boni Missionary Sisters in thanksgiving to the Lord for this election and offers congratulations and best wishes to the Superior General and her Council.
Resignation of Fr. Giulio Albanese from MISNA
Fr. Giulio Albanese has handed in his resignation as director of MISNA, though invited to recon-sider his decision. As it was “irrevocable and final”, the Administrative Council and the Superiors General members of MISNA had no choice but to accept with regret his resignation. It is worth stat-ing that there has been no pressure of any kind on Fr. Giulio to resign. Neither the way MISNA handles the news has anything to do with it.
Our sincerest thanks to Fr. Giulio for all that he has done for MISNA, for its development, expan-sion and achievements. MISNA will continue with its information service, especially “to give voice to the voiceless.”
From the first of October 2004 the new director in charge is Mariano Benni, an expert journalist and already a collaborator of Fr. Giulio throughout these years. Later on a missionary will be ap-pointed as editorial director. MISNA hopes for an ever-greater collaboration from missionaries eve-rywhere.
Fr. Victor Manuel Tavares Dias, Portuguese, a member of the delegation of Asia, at the Gregor-ian Pontifical University has obtained his diploma in Spiritual Theology dealing specifically with formation. His thesis was: Personalised Formation in an Institutionalised Structure (An interdisci-plinary study as basis for a more personalised formation in the novitiate of the Comboni Missionar-ies of the Heart of Jesus).
P. José Joaquim Luis Pedro, Mozambican, assigned to the province of Ecuador, has obtained the diploma in Sacred Scripture at the Biblical Pontifical Institute in Rome.
Fr. Radol Austine Odhiambo (KE) Kisumu (KE) 19.08.2004
Fr. Estacio Moises Dela Cruz (A) Concepcion (RP) 28.08.2004
Fr. Carlassare Christian (I) Verona (I) 04.09.2004
Fr. Tabaranza Raul Baluba (A) Sibutad (RP) 04.09.2004
Fr. Asfaha Yohannes Weldeghiorghis (ET) Adigrat (ETH) 05.09.2004
Fr. Apaap Bonifacio Jr Autentico (A) Bacusanon (RP) 11.09.2004
Fr. Vizcarra Edgardo Alfonso (A) Manila (RP) 18.09.2004
Holy Redeemer Guild
October 01 – 15 P 16 – 31 RSA
November 01 – 07 SS 08 – 15 TC 16 – 30 T
October - That the example of St. Daniel Comboni motivate the members of our missionary family to seek, with enthusiasm and creativity, new forms of evangelisation and missionary animation in the local Churches and in the world. Let us pray.
November - That in union with St. Daniel Comboni, the elderly missionaries of the Comboni Fam-ily, may put at the service of mission their experience and wisdom - the fruit of their lives -, as well as the serenity and hope that come from the suffering lived in the contemplation of the Pierced Heart of Jesus. Let us pray.
The English edition of the video on Comboni “A life for Africa” (EMI-Video) may be ordered from the Comboni Missionaries, Via San Pancrazio, 17/B, 00152 Roma. Price, € 8.00. The French edi-tion may be ordered from our community of Issy les Moulineaux (Paris).
Antonio Furioli: “Comboni ieri e oggi” (Comboni yesterday and today). This new book on Com-boni will be in the bookstores at the beginning of October, Pauline Publications, 128 pages, € 8.50. Various themes such as peace, the Cross, St. Joseph, ecology, prayer, etc. are reviewed in the light of the writings and teaching of Comboni and in the cultural context of our times. The book may be ordered from the Comboni Missionaries, Via San Pancrazio, 17/B, 00152 Roma. The price for the Comboni Missionaries will be € 6.00.
General Secretariat for Formation
Continental Assemblies of VP and BF
“To promote continuity between the different formation phases and mission, we propose that vo-cation promoters and formators come together to compare what this Chapter has said about mis-sion in relation to the process of the different stages of formation” (CA ’03, n. 64, 64.1)
In compliance with the directive of the General Chapter, during the months of July and August four continental assemblies of vocation promoters and formators (minor seminaries, pre-postulancy and postulancy) were held.
In Europe, delegates met at Venegono Superiore (Varese) from 29 June to 5 July: 25 confreres at-tended.
Another 33 confreres of the provinces and delegations of America and Asia gathered for their as-sembly in Lima (Peru) on 18-27 July.
The assembly of English-speaking Africa and Mozambique took place in Lusaka (Zambia) on 5-14 August, with 23 participants.
French-speaking Africa met in Lomé (Togo) on 22-31 August with 20 participants.
Beside the secretary general for vocation promotion (VP) and Basic Formation (BF), one or two Assistants General were in attendance at all four assemblies. In America and Africa, after the as-sembly, the other meetings of VP and BF were also held (CA ’03, 14.1)
In a brotherly atmosphere and exquisite hospitality on the part of the hosting provinces, the par-ticipants attempted to match the specific experience with the needs of Mission today. Three main paths were followed:
1. to remember - We tried to look at the specific experience starting from the last continental as-semblies and the document on Evaluation of Formation, underlining positive and negative aspects, outstanding difficulties and challenges;
2. Chapter Acts 2003 - Based on the Chapter’s reflection, this basic question was asked: “What does Mission ask today of VP and BF?”;
3. in view of the future - Again, starting from the experience of the Chapter, several conclusions-proposals for the future were formulated.
The assemblies accomplished their goals. There is a conviction that the service of VP and BF is Mission. The Chapter is very clear about it: “With our commitment to VP, BF and OGF, we want to ensure the quality of our mission today” (CA ’03, n. 40.3)
For promoters and formators alike fidelity to the gift of a Comboni Missionary vocation is a daily experience, because it becomes a living witness to the young people with whom they share their lives.
Mission requires that we aim ever more ay the quality of our service. Quantity in Mission depends on the quality of the missionary (CA ’03, n. 52.1).
We feel that it is important to develop and foster in our provinces and delegations, and also within the local Churches, a vocation culture where all of us, through the witness and commitment of our own lives, feel involved in promoting vocations and in helping them to grow. Vocation promoters can fulfil a key role of creative coordination in this challenge that faces us all.
We did not invent new and revolutionary vocation and formation strategies… Instead, it is crystal clear that the criteria and values chosen for guidance and discernment, and the formation curriculum itself, are valid and up to date. What we need, now more than ever, is that we learn to implement them and live them consistently, all of us! We are not always on the same wavelength: we need to work together in greater communion and synergy.
We see the beginning of interesting methods of vocation promotion and formation of candidates to the Brotherhood: some provinces are experimenting with new ways of guidance, favouring also a more qualified professional training.
In many provinces and delegations the pre-postulancy is seen more and more as a valid and pre-cious time for the following up of candidates before they enter the postulancy.
The reflection and the desire to see ways of formation more immersed in a missionary context, less bogged down by large structures, are still there… Something is being done, but certainly we should be more daring!
There is greater commitment to the guidance and discernment process of the candidates with par-ticular attention being given to the families of the young people, their social and Church environ-ment. There is also a growing need to use the tools of human science in order to know the person and to help the person know itself.
The preparation of promoters and formators and their ongoing formation are priorities unani-mously accepted. The Chapter Acts 2003 give very concrete directives that have already been ac-cepted for implementation by the various continental assemblies and councils.
For sure, there are difficulties and worries: we can’t hide that! After scrutinizing the Comboni re-ality of today, the continental assemblies held during the last few months have elaborated a course of action that can give new direction to the preparation of candidates to Mission. Furthermore, July 2005 will see the gathering of formators of the novitiates, scholasticates and CIFs. It will be another opportunity to evaluate and review BF in our Institute.
Community is a very strong characteristic of the 2003 Chapter. The Comboni mission can only be a community choice. The service of VP and BF can only be the fruit of a personal gift of a vocation lived together as a community. This certainty turns the Comboni charism into a gift to the Church and to the world that is lived in fidelity to Mission today.
Vocations depend on accepting and living this Comboni challenge.
A marathon of ordinations
In August and September, confreres in the Philippines were busy preparing or participating in the ordinations of our four Filipino priests in their own home parishes.
The first was the ordination of Fr. Estacio Moises (Moi) Dela Cruz on 28 August in Tarlac, the centre of the Luzon island. Despite severe floods that ravaged this area in the days of preparation, the weather suddenly became calm on the day of the ordination itself, seemingly collaborating in the celebration. To the welcoming brightness of the sun a bus of confreres, of our candidates in formation and friends from Manila joined Fr. Moi in thanksgiving. He was ordained by Mgr. Flor-entino Cinense, bishop of the diocese of Tarlac, in a solemn ceremony prepared by the diocesan seminarians and attended by several priests from the diocese.
Eight days later, on 4 September, we had the ordination of Fr. Raul Tabaranza Baluma in Di-polog, Mindanao, a thousand miles away from Manila. Most of the confreres went south to accom-pany Fr. Raul to his hometown that was in a festive mood, made possible by the parish organisa-tions. Mgr. Jose Manguiran, bishop of Dipolog, was the ordaining celebrant. Noticeable during the event was the presence of several priests and seminarians of this diocese, perhaps due to the fact that one of the brothers of Fr. Raul is a local diocesan priest.
Then, we proceeded to the heart of Mindanao island, to Bukidnon for the ordination of Fr. Boni-facio (Boni) Jr. Apaap Autentico. On the days prior to the ordination, heavy rains fell on the region without respite, often hampering the activities of the preparation, confining the confreres and the people in their houses. But on the day of Fr. Boni’s ordination, 11 September, there was an over-whelming attendance from all the barrios of the town. Our confreres and some priests of the diocese joined the Mgr. Honesto Pacana, bishop of Malaybalay, in the celebration.
On 18 September was the turn of Fr. Edgardo (Edgar) Vizcarra Alfonso in Tondo, Manila. Held in the parish run by the Salesians, where Edgar comes from and where he worked as a catechist, the celebration was presided over by Mgr. Socrates Villegas, bishop of Balanga.
Through this marathon of ordinations, one can truly sense that St. Daniel Comboni is now better known, familiar and closer to the hearts of many more Filipinos and the local Church, thanks espe-cially to the dedication of the teams of confreres assigned to the preparation of these grace-filled events.
Three of the newly ordained confreres have been assigned to places outside our delegation: Fr. Raul to Malawi/Zambia, Fr. Boni to Eritrea and Fr. Edgar to South Africa. Fr. Moi, instead, has been as-signed to Taipei, in our delegation.
The Comboni Missionaries leave Halle (31 August 2004)
On 29 August 2004, the Comboni-Missionaries had their farewell from the diocese of Magdeburg in a solemn church service at St. Norbert, Halle. Bishop Gerhard Feige, the diocesan administrator, presided the celebration. The faithful of Halle, regretting very much the departure, came in large number to say goodbye.
Mgr. Feige said in his opening remarks: "We got to know the Comboni Missionaries and they have become part of us. They have brought us the experiences of other parts of the world and now they leave us. We are grateful for the time they have spent here. During this time they have shown courage, involvement and commitment. They have improved things more than they might have re-alised.”
The bishop went on to mention four ways of handing on the faith: “a) the natural way: by passing on values from one generation to the next. However, this way seems to be somewhat having diffi-culty at present; b) the second way are the unconvincing systems of imposition and political in-trigue, but rightly this is an unacceptable way; c) a third way would be the influence of religion on culture. This method, though it appears attractive and appealing, may not be effective in a Europe where religion has no longer the same impact it had in the past; d) finally, there is ‘mission’. Behind this conviction there is the conscious awareness of having been sent to the whole of humanity and that our faith’s message is good for all. Events of the past, however, have presented the concept of ‘mission’ in a negative light. In East Germany, especially, many people fear of being manipulated. The ‘mission impact’, therefore, depends very much on the example and commitment of those who proclaim the Word…”
The bishop continued: “Not without reason the missionaries founded by Comboni were called ‘Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus.’ Their place was and is not with the highly regarded of this world; their heart beats with the downtrodden and needy of the world. To them, in particular, they give attention, love and care.”
The presence of the Comboni Missionaries in the diocese of Magdeburg began officially on 1 January 1992. Fr. Benno Singer and Fr. Robert Sottara were the first to start. One year later Bro. Eduard Nagler joined them. In the last 12 years, the following confreres worked at various times in Halle: Fr. Franco Barin, Fr. Michael Martin Zeitz, Bro. Hans Dieter Ritterbecks, Fr. Sebastian Hopfgartner and Fr. Georg Klose. In August 2002 the diocese entrusted the Comboni Missionaries with the pastoral care of the parish of St. Norbert in Halle.
In the various short addresses to thank the Comboni Missionaries it was highlighted our ecumeni-cal cooperation in the pastoral care of the sick and our active help in prison ministry and with the detainees. A representative of the neighbouring parish of Heilig Kreuz, with which we closely col-laborated, said: "You have brought a beautiful aspect of the universal Church to our nonreligious surroundings and have provided fresh air by the way you shared your faith with us. We would like to continue this experience in the future. We will miss you."
Not only the parish of St. Norbert, but faithful of all parishes in Halle regretted the departure of the Comboni Missionaries from Halle. During the agape in the parish garden, the faithful had a chance to say their personal goodbye to the members of the community: Fr. Klose, Fr. Zeitz and Bro. Ritterbecks.
Booklet on the first missionary seminar for different Institutes
After much time spent in gathering the various conferences, reports and inputs presented at the seminar, we managed to publish a booklet as an attachment to the bulletin of the CER (Religious Conference of Ecuador) and to send it to all the religious communities of Ecuador.
The booklet was prepared last we forget what has been a historical event for the religious life in Ecuador: the celebration of the canonization of our holy Founders, Daniel Comboni and Arnold Janssen. At the same time we believe that this effort will help us to look beyond this event so that we may reach new goals and become a greater challenge in fostering religious life in this country.
We thank the Divine Word Missionaries for their cooperation and assistance. We have, mean-while, planned the second missionary seminar that will take up the conclusions of COMLA/CAM, so that we may continue in our common reflection.
National meeting on Afro pastoral ministry
From 12 to 15 August, at the Daniel Comboni Centre in Carcelén, Quito, we have held the na-tional XVII EPA (Afro Pastoral Meeting). There were over 90 Afro pastoral agents coming from the various provinces of Ecuador.
Mgr. Eugenio Arellano Fernández, bishop of Esmeraldas, opened the meeting. He spoke of the variety of Afro movements in Ecuador. Within this variety, the Afro pastoral meeting had to help discover its specific contribution and identity. In this regard, said Mgr. Arellano, the main purpose of the Afro ministry was to direct individuals, people and culture towards the living God. The con-tent of this pastoral approach may be summarised in three points: the goodness of God, the nearness of Christ as our brother and community spirit.
We had four inputs on four themes: identity, creed, ethno-development and collective rights of the Afro-Ecuadorian population. Each presentation was followed by group discussions. At the end of the meeting, each diocese put forward the activities they intended to undertake during the following year.
At the end Fr. Marillo Spagnolo, responsible of the Afro pastoral ministry at national level, in-formed the participants that he intended to visit the fourteen diocesan seminaries in the country to present to the seminarians the purpose of the Afro pastoral approach.
Meetings on the General Chapter at zonal level
During the month of August our communities met, together with the provincial, to reflect and contextualise the experience of the Chapter in our present reality. We have tried to underline the priorities at zonal level and three priorities for each sector. The synthesis of such a work was sent to all the communities as material for study and to prepare for the next provincial assembly, during which we shall draft the six-year plan.
Second regional seminar of “America Missionera”
In agreement with one of the aims of the movement, which is the formation and follow up of the groups at national level, the team of “America Missionera” has concluded its second regional semi-nar in the parish of San Lorenzo, from 10 to 12 September, with the participation of 170 young people representing 13 parishes of the Vicariate Apostolic of Esmeraldas.
Fr. Byron Gustavo Brito Carvajal, national assistant of the movement, has spoken on the motto: “No one loves what he does not know” and the theme: “To know myself in order to serve.” Satur-day 11, the proposed theme was developed from the mission viewpoint and, through interactive skills, we reached some practical conclusions for the growth and missionary commitment of the young participants.
It is important to underline the possibility the young people have been given to celebrate the sac-rament of reconciliation. Meaningful was also the participation of Mgr. Eugenio Arellano Fernández who presided over the Afro liturgy during the Eucharistic celebration held in the parish together with the community of San Lorenzo.
On Sunday, we met briefly for the evaluation of the meeting and the group future programme, which was followed by the Eucharist presided over by our provincial, Fr. Enea Mauri. We grate-fully thank St. Daniel Comboni for this meeting that we held with missionary enthusiasm, starting from the reality of the cultural and youthful vision of the people of Esmeraldas.
25th anniversary of the martyrdom of Fr. Silvio Serri
On 11 September the parish of St. Ambrose in Monserrato (Cagliari) celebrated the 25th anniver-sary of the death of Fr. Silvio Serri, murdered in Uganda in 1979. The parish priest, a friend of Fr. Silvio, and the town mayor decided to commemorate their missionary and remember him in a sol-emn way. The memory of Fr. Silvio is still very much alive in the parish community. Fr. Silvio, in fact, has left among his fellow citizens a deep priestly and missionary imprint. Many young people attended, even though many of them had never known him personally. This means that the grown-ups have passed on to the youth the memory of a missionary who touched the people’s heart.
Fr. Teresino Serra, Superior General, presided over the solemn concelebration attended by about 15 priests, many of them having been students at the regional seminary of Sardinia where Fr. Silvio had begun his priestly formation as a diocesan priest. On that occasion, the town mayor uncovered a bronze bas-relief of Africa on which were inscribed the following words: “To Fr. Silvio Serri, Mar-tyred in Uganda. The community of Monserrato.” The square in front of the parish church was also renamed after him, as the town mayor said: “Fr. Silvio Serri lives on in our midst: from generation to generation we will hand down his message of love and of a life committed to the poorest.”
Closing of the Caravan for Peace 2004
The journey of the three Caravans for Peace, that had started on 7 September from Limone sul Garda and from Alessano (LE), ended on 18-19 September at the ancient basilicas of Cimitile (Nola) and Pomigliano d’Arco (NA) with some meaningful and inclusive activities. The three Cara-vans, made up of Comboni Missionaries and Sisters, young people of various GIM, representatives from Brazil, Congo, Kenya and immigrants who have been in Italy for several years, covered 7000 km and touched 24 cities (North-East: Gorizia, Treviso, Cesena, Jesi, Teramo-Pescara; North-West: Varese, Como, Torino, Modena, San Martino a Mensola (FI), Roma; South: Alessano, S. Maria di Leuca, Mesagne (BR), Palagiano (TA), Taranto, Rossano Calabro, Locri, Licata-Agrigento, Pal-ermo), under the challenging banner of: “Full life for all: now, not tomorrow - a journey of libera-tion for the Church and for civil society.”
Saturday, 18 September. The 50 members of the Caravans, warmly welcomed by the families of Cimitile, gathered for a lengthy and well attended prayer vigil, opened by the words of welcome from Bishop Beniamino Depalma of Nola: “A welcome to you, tireless prophets of peace. Welcome to you, who remind us that peace is colourful, alive, always young, always calling us to an active, simple, effective and inclusive commitment.” Many young people and entire families lingered on and prayed on the tomb of St. Felix with the prophetic texts of St. Paolino of Nola.
Sunday, 19 September. A Eucharist, celebrated by Bishop Giancarlo Bregantini and over 20 priests, was held in thanksgiving for the thousands of people met along the way. The bishop, taking from the Gospel of Luke said: “To proclaim peace is the duty of all believers. To proclaim the peace of Jesus means to be rooted in the hearts of the poor as a special place of conversion and practice, to be shrewd administrators of all that is good by engaging in alternative life styles that are evermore inclusive, and to learn how to live the spirituality of the Caravan as an experience that en-hances our aims.” The celebration, held in joyous climate, closed with a surprise sending off cere-mony of two Comboni Missionaries introduced by Fr. Francesco Antonini. The two are about to leave for the missions and will take to Kenya and Peru the message of peace and justice through the solidarity they themselves had received. In the afternoon the Caravan gathered at the seminary of Nola where it produced a final document, using the collective writing method of Fr. Lorenzo Mi-lani. Production of the document was coordinated by Prof. Giuliana Martinari and it is available at www.giovaniemissione.it.
The day ended in Pomigliano d’Arco with a gathering during which time was given for reflection. The gathering was attended by Fr. Alessandro Zanotelli, Fr. Luigi Ciotti, Giuliana Martinari, J. L. Touadi, Beppe Grillo and the young members of the Caravan, about 7000 in all.
The journey of the young people and of the Comboni Family was concluded at the National Mis-sionary Congress held at the end of September, where the Peace Caravan witnessed to its dream of a missionary Church in front of the delegates from all over Italy. This type of promotion and getting together gives voice to simple people and gathers throughout Italy the signs of hope coming from the grassroots. Only in this way we will witness to the resurrection and shape the new world as God dreams it.
Special thanks go to Fr. Dario Bossi and the young people of the general secretariat, to the young folks who took active part in putting together the Caravan and to the hundreds of people who gave of themselves for the success of each phase.
Papers put together by the Caravan (Le prime comunità cristiane e la pace, Le prime comunità cristiane e lo straniero, Le prime comunità cristiane i poveri) are now available.
For further information, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or look up the website www.giovaniemissione.it
Consecration of the Archdiocese of Khartoum to the Sacred Heart
On 14 September 2004, feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Archdiocese of Khartoum witnessed a historic event. Card. Gabriel Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum, renewed the con-secration of the archdiocese to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, just as St. Daniel Comboni had done ex-actly on 14 September 1873, 131 years ago. It turned out to be a very important spiritual and pas-toral event, especially in the light of what Comboni did and wrote when he first reached Khartoum as apostolic pro-vicar, namely as the one responsible for the mission of Central Africa. Even before reaching Khartoum, Comboni had acknowledged “the enormity of this divine undertaking” and had measured the “huge gap” between the means at his disposal and the challenges offered by this huge mission field, Central Africa, “the largest and most inhabited mission in the universe.” For this rea-son, under inspiration from on high, he decided to gather missionaries, the faithful and all available means under the banner of the Sacred Heart. An act of humility and trust in that Heart which, “pierced by the enemy’s lance, had showered its treasures of grace on all peoples, Africans in-cluded.”
From the times of our Founder down to today, the situation in the Sudan has not changed much. The challenges and difficulties of those days are still ours. Forced removals, internal conflicts (see the war in Darfur), resistance to Christianity and forced islamisation, poverty, disease… all these things can only cause, both in individuals and in Christian communities, a feeling of emptiness and discouragement.
By renewing this act of consecration the Archbishop of Khartoum wanted to respond to all of this.
The solemn celebration was preceded by a novena to the Sacred Heart, during which the faithful of all the parishes in the archdiocese were prepared for this important event through a deepening of their spirituality, drawing from Sacred Scripture and also more directly from the writings of our holy Founder.
The precise meaning was then revealed by the cardinal in his homily and in the wording of the act of consecration that he himself wrote. In a nutshell, the cardinal, beginning from the readings of the day, explained how the mystery of the cross is the foundation of his spirituality and the source of great trust, something the Sudan desperately needs at this time. The love of God is stronger than any degree of despair. To consecrate ourselves to the Heart of Christ means to feel infinitely and forever loved by him. The hymn to the love of God, taken from Romans 8: 13-39, made up the conclusion of the act of consecration. “If God is for us, who will be against us… what will separate us from the love of Christ?”
The square in front of the cathedral, which, since the Jubilee Year, has become the open-air ca-thedral, was packed with people, sisters, religious and concelebrating priests. With this act of con-secration our shepherd has shown once again, not only that he is a worthy successor of the founder of this Church, St. Daniel Comboni, but also that he has made his own Comboni’s spiritual inheri-tance and the inspirations from on high. (Fr. Norbert Stonfer, mccj)
The situation in Nyala, Darfur, is still precarious due to the failure and lack of clarity in the peace talks between the government and the rebels. The NGOs are working in the area and more of them are coming in. Renting houses has become a big business as these workers begin by renovating the houses they rent: in a short time we might have a completely new and nice looking town. One NGO group has even brought 40 new Cruisers, which will need drivers. In this way, the English language has become an asset, as domestic employees, drivers and workers will have to speak English. As a matter of fact, the evening English classes at our Comboni School are now packed with students.
It seems that all together about 60 groups of NGOs have moved into the area, at least judging by the post-boxes that have been put up. It seems also that there is more freedom of movement and things are improving at the refugees’ camp. In one of their meetings, though, someone had re-marked: “The NGOs are now quite numerous, and yet we don’t quite see what they are all doing.” It is true that with so many of them and the red tape one has to go through it is not easy to get organ-ised. Some of their members, indeed, seem to have taken a course in the art of how to look busy without actually doing anything.
The Catholic Church in the meantime carries on looking also after the refugees who do not live in the camps, where privacy and health conditions are very poor. Many people, in fact, have refused to settle in these camps where, among other things, children’s mortality is high. They prefer to find accommodation with friends and relatives. Some families have swollen to sometimes 20-25 people packed in a single home. The NGOs are not so aware of such a large number of “unlisted” refugees.
The NGOs don’t go to remote areas or where there are no good roads. We recently visited the Sanaam Anaga area, chosen for resettlement. Even though the population is Arab by birth, a group of it speaks a language different from Arabic, which is enough to cause further division and con-flicts. We have brought some relief to them and plastic sheets for the houses. Though the place is only two and a half hour journey from Nyala, no NGO has yet reached this area.
Comboni Missionaries’ presence on Catholic TV station
11 June 2004 was the start of a missionary programme on the Catholic TV station called “Maria Visión”, which broadcasts in the whole of Mexico, United States of America, Central and South America. The programme, which since its first show was well received, is run by Fr. Arturo Velásquez González and Fr. Gabriel Estrada Santoyo, so that it is entirely a Comboni Missionaries’ programme.
It is aired live every Friday, from 21.30 to 22.30, a peak viewing time for Mexican TV. In the broadcast of 20 August Fr. Teresino Serra, Superior General, was a guest. In 45 minutes 51 people phoned in. We hope that this kind of missionary animation may last long.
Bro. Salvador Orozco Madrigal
On 8 September Bro. Salvador Orozco Madrigal celebrated his 75th birthday. We congratulate him for being the first Mexican Comboni Missionary Brother to reach such an age. May the Lord grant him good health and strength to continue for many more years to witness the missionary voca-tion of the Comboni Brotherhood.
Continental assembly of VP and BF
The continental assembly of Vocation Promotion (VP) and Basic Formation (BF) was held at the provincial house of Monterrico on 18-27 July. Thirty-two delegates from America and Asia at-tended. The assembly had been planned for the formators of the postulancy, the vocation promoters, most of the provincial secretaries of VP and BF, two members of the General Council and a speaker who gave various inputs.
The assembly took place in a climate of fraternal communion that helped to evaluate the progress made since the last assembly of 2001, to coordinate the efforts and share worries in order to im-prove the missionary service in the field of formation of postulants and of vocation promotion. At the end it was recognized that we are faced with many challenges and we are undergoing a difficult moment that demands from us creativity, commitment and love for the task of guiding our young candidates.
Spiritual exercises in the province
Taking advantage of a lull in the academic and pastoral activities, the confreres of the province gathered on 2-9 August to hold the yearly retreat. They were guided by Fr. Simón Pedro Arnold, OSB, who has been working in the South for many years and has also contributed to CLAR as a theologian. About 40 participants gathered at the provincial house: priests, brothers, sisters, some theology students and novices. The theme of the retreat was: Religious life as exodus from Egypt. We had the opportunity to deal with issues of religious life: baptismal, prophetic and missionary vocation; community life, evangelical counsels and, above all, we tried to detect in our daily life the active presence of God and of Jesus Christ: starting from the least, the little ones, the dispossessed, in order to give credibility and meaning to our presence in society and in the Church in which we live. We were spurred to open ourselves to new situations and to realise that the present moment is a time that requires from us clear and sensible answers, greater attention to inculturation in the world of the young and the presence of women in society, the discovery of what some groups are struggling for, to overcome the anguish that besets many people and to attempt to propose ethical values that will lead us to live in a true Gospel style, understood as Good News for humankind.
Pilgrimage to Limone
From 10 to 21 August, Limone sul Garda, the birthplace of St. Daniel Comboni, was the destina-tion of a pilgrimage of 11 young Portuguese members of “Faith and Mission (Grupo Fé e Missão), led by two Comboni Missionaries.
The pilgrims, who wanted to get to know Daniel Comboni up close and live the experience at a deeper level, also stopped for a few days in Lourdes and Taizé.
The group spent two days in Limone. Beside having a deeper contact with the place, life and spiri-tuality of St. Daniel Comboni, they held a day of recollection on the mountain behind the birthplace of St. Daniel, reflecting on the vocation of the first disciples and of Daniel, the founder of the Com-boni Institutes. They also visited Verona.
During the trip, the participants found time for payer, reflection and sharing. The sharing was great and the pilgrims made an effort to experience fully the various stages of the pilgrimage and to deepen their friendship.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Bro. Abramo Sirtoli (07.08.1933 - 22.09.2004)
Bro. Sirtoli was born in Redona, Bergamo. At age 15 he joined the Comboni Missionaries with the clear purpose of becoming a Brother. We know that he had to struggle with his family in order to follow his vocation. He spent the first few years in Thiene where he learned tailoring and carpen-try, but then, later on in life, he ended up doing other jobs.
In 1952 and 1953 he was a novice in Florence and then in 1953 and 1954 we find him in Sun-ningdale, England. On 9 September 1954 he took his first vows and stayed in England for a while to work on Comboni building projects that, at that time, were flourishing. In 1956 he was back in It-aly, but in 1957, after a short stay in Spain, he was finally able to leave for the missions.
His first and only assignment was the province of Ecuador where he was to spend most of his life. His stay in Latin America can be divided into three stages: Esmeraldas, for the first few years; Quito, the mature experience; Colombia, as formator of the Brothers at the CIF.
Bro. Sirtoli arrived in Ecuador at the very beginning of the Comboni Missionaries’ presence there, when everything had to be started. Those were difficult times, with meagre resources, and they had to adapt to whatever they could find. Today it is even hard to describe how things were then. In Ec-uador Bro. Sirtoli was also mission procurator, a position that put him in touch with many people.
He only returned to Italy for some holidays with his family: this is why in his own country he was practically unknown, while in Ecuador he was a personality that marked in a positive way the Com-boni Brothers’ presence in that country.
In Ecuador, Bro. Sirtoli and Bro. Giuseppe Zordan were excellent points of reference for genera-tions of Brothers: individuals well adjusted in their vocation, true missionaries who, in different ways, placed their consecration at the service of the people.
Bro. Sirtoli was well thought of because of his kindness in dealing with people. At times he be-moaned the fact that he had never been a missionary in the bush, because his superiors always wanted him in the city. Probably they had discovered his talents earlier on and always assigned him to communities that had many confreres passing through and where patience and availability were a must. One of Bro. Sirtoli’s traits was his ability to welcome people. Rich or poor, he dealt with all of them with the same respect and attention. Wherever he was stationed, people remembered him even after many years.
He knew Spanish very well and could play on words so as to create a friendly atmosphere. He had become a true Ecuadorian. He used his time to be with the people. He was extremely patient and always tried to please the confreres. At times he was reproached for being too accommodating. He knew how to appreciate the good done by others and forgive their faults. Often he would wait up, with a warm supper, for his brother priests who were returning home late from their ministry.
In Esmeraldas he worked at the Santa Cruz centre, a set of buildings designed by Bishop Angelo Barbisotti for the training of leaders of the Christian communities of the vicariate. There he shared community life with Fr. Raffaello Savoia. They were responsible for this centre that still functions.
For many years, Bro. Sirtoli was the superior of the provincial house in Quito, and was also the director of a private grade school belonging to the parish, which was then run by the Comboni Mis-sionaries. For a time, he was also provincial procurator and treasurer, making up with his common sense for his deep aversion to numbers. Later on the accounting was handed over to Fr. Luigi Marro, while Bro. Sirtoli carried on with the other activities.
Bro. Sirtoli was also great in the kitchen: whenever he cooked, the provincial assemblies were more successful! Being a humble man, he never bragged about himself. He preferred to stay with the people as their brother, he took care of the poor, was a good listener, held his own in conversa-tion, especially when he could share his experience of faith.
He had a word for everybody, and with the people he knew he loved to remember people and facts, thus renewing friendships. In this way, many doors were opened for the Comboni Missionar-ies. Whenever he went to the various government offices he spent more time greeting people than waiting for a signature on a document.
He worked a lot with the young people of the schools both in Esmeraldas and in Quito, but he cared above all for the formation of the Comboni seminarians and Brothers. He was a truly good man, patient and extremely charitable.
Bro. Umberto Martinuzzo writes: “I never saw him get upset, even when what he had to do was onerous: he often had to go from one government office to another, take a sick confrere to the doc-tor while at home the community was waiting for supper. For the time the rule allowed it, he was the appointed superior of the provincial house and, when this possibility was repealed, he kept on being the superior with the silent assent of the Superior General.
Bro. Sirtoli was always available. He did not drive, so he had to ask other people for this service, but no one ever refused him, knowing that, if the Brother asked for this favour, it was for a serious reason.
His religious formation was still the one he had received in the novitiate, even though in the course of his life he had nurtured it: he used to read a lot, keep updated and pray. Through his life he projected a deep trust in God’s mercy.
He was gifted with a nice character, an optimist and always had a joke ready to minimize tense situations.
He taught us to love people and spend time with them without hurry, to love the Institute and to appreciate each confrere for what he was doing, always looking at the positive side. He taught us to love God as a Father who wants all of us to be brothers, without distinction.”
He returned to Italy in 2000 when health complications made him leave the front line. His illness turned into cancer, but it never impaired his serenity and his optimism. He died at the Ambrosoli Centre in Milan on 22 September 2004. After the funeral in the church of Our Lady of Fatima, the body was taken to his hometown for burial.
Let us pray for the deceased
THE FATHER: of Fr. Paul Djago (TGB); Giulio of Fr. Benito Buzzacarin (KH).
THE MOTHER: of Fr. Giuseppe Messetti (PE).
THE BROTHER: Franz of Fr. Silvestre Engl (DSP); Francesco of Fr. Marcello Panozzo (I).
THE SISTER: Felicita of Fr. Martino Besana (I).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. M. Iginia Romanato; Sr. Glicera Masetti; Sr. Doro-tea Galli; Sr. Laura Mazzoldi.