Monthly newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
Copies of the special issue of the MCCJ Bulletin n. 223 (July 2004) have been sent to provincials, delegates and to some communities. This issue of the bulletin is a joint publication of the Comboni Missionaries and the Comboni Missionary Sisters.
Additional copies may be requested from the office of the secretary general of the Comboni Missionaries.
Soon we will be sending also the MCCJ Bulletin n. 224 (October 2004), the supplement n. 224 of the deceased confreres and the Prayers of the Comboni Family for 2005 in the various languages.
The draft of the Annuario Comboniano, updated to 1 August 2004, sent by e-mail to provincials and delegates, has been greatly appreciated. It is advisable that provincials and delegates make it available to their confreres who wish to receive it. We remind everyone that to receive the Annuario it is necessary to have installed “Adobe Acrobat Reader”, at least version 5.
The secretary general thanks all the confreres who have sent him updates or corrections and hopes that this cooperation will continue in view of the printing of the Annuario Comboniano at the beginning of 2005.
Pictures of confreres and of Comboni Houses
The secretary general keeps on receiving photographs of confreres and of houses. Many thanks to all those who have sent them.
In our files we are still missing the photographs of 550 confreres. Also we have received the photographs of only 44 Comboni houses out of a total of 382. We encourage the confreres to make an effort to satisfy this request.
Appointments of new provincials and delegates
and elections of their councils
The process of consultation and appointment of the new provincials and delegates and the elections of their councils proceed as expected. We hope that all the provinces and delegations will have completed this process by 31 December 2004 as planned.
Thanks from the new General Council of the CMS
Sr. Adele Brambilla, Superior General of the Comboni Missionary Sisters (CMS), and her Council are grateful to all the communities and Comboni confreres for the many messages of congratulations and support sent to them on the occasion of their election as the new General Council.
Secretariat of Evangelisation
Committee for the Ratio Missionis
Following the proposals that emerged from the Intercontinental Assembly of Evangelisation on the Ratio Missionis held in Rome last May, the General Council has chosen these confreres as members of the restricted committee: Fr. Jeremias dos Santos Martins (P), Fr. Enrique Javier Rosich Vargas (E), Fr. Anton Schneider (DSP), Fr. Giacomo Palagi (I), Fr. Fernando Zolli (general secretary for evangelisation).
The Council has also appointed the following confreres as member of the enlarged committee: Fr. Benito De Marchi (LP), Fr. Miguel Navarrete Arceo (TC), Fr. Mbuthia Simon (EG), Fr. Jon Baptist Opargiw (MZ), Fr. Carlos Ba-scarán Collantes (BNE), Fr. Daniel Cerezo (A).
The fist meeting of the restricted committee has been scheduled from 3 to 5 November 2004 at the Generalate in Rome. The agenda will cover proposals for planning of activities, subsidies and activities that will involve the provinces and the delegations during the entire 2005.
New issue of “Archivio Comboniano”
The new issue of “Archivio Comboniano” (Year XLII–2004–1–n.82) has been printed and shipped to all the provinces and communities that have renewed their subscription.
In this issue, in the section on Studies and Research, we have published an article by Prof. Fulvio De Giorgi, which is very meaningful and challenging for the issues it raises concerning the experience of Fr. Daniele Sorur. The author writes: “Fr. Daniele Sorur Pharim Den was in many ways a spiritual son of Daniel Comboni. He was most probably the one that best represented the ideals and aspirations that Comboni had expressed in the Plan for the Regeneration of Africa and that he had nurtured through his entire life.” Analysing the writings of Fr. Daniel Sorur, Prof. De Giorgi helps us understand that “…the biography of this African priest shows quite clearly the complex character of intercultural relationships in which the evangelising and pedagogical activities of the missionaries were inserted.” There are also two articles on the Eastern slave trade and the activity of Daniel Comboni.
In the section on the Sources, the publication of the Scritti of Comboni is resumed, fruit of an unfinished work by the late Fr. Aldo Gilli and completed by Fr. Fidel González Fernández.
And finally, in the section on the “Memoria Comboniana” we point out among others the report of Bro. Alberto Parise on the Congress that took place in Nairobi to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Social Ministry.
Sc. Kondo Komivi (Antoine) (T) Kinshasa (RDC) 10.10.2004
Sc. Marcelo Fonseca Oliveira (P) Kinshasa (RDC) 10.10.2004
Sc. Ngoré Gali Célestin (TC) Kinshasa (RDC) 10.10.2004
Sc. Zagaja Adam (C-PO) Kinshasa (RDC) 10.10.2004
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 Baluma (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
Fr. Matthew Remijo Adam Gbitiku (KH) Wau (SD) 03.10.2004
Fr. Mayik Nyok Jervas Mawu (KH) Khartoum (SD) 24.10.2004
Holy Redeemer Guild
November 01 – 07 SS 08 – 15 TC 6 – 30 T
December 01 – 15 U 15 – 31 CN
November - That in union with St. Daniel Comboni, our elderly missionaries, both men and women, 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 suffering lived in the contemplation of the Pierced Heart of Jesus. Let us pray.
December - That through the intercession of St. Daniel Comboni, the contemplation of the God-made-man may give us the grace to live in poverty, simplicity and hope in order to witness the Love of the Father to all, but in particular toward those who endure the hardest and most difficult realities of human existence. Let us pray.
Fr. Lorenzo Gaiga: “Missione senza sconti”. As the canonisation cause of Bishop Antonio Maria Roveggio is resuming, the postulator general has published a new short biography of the servant of God. Publisher Iride (VR), 96 pages, cost € 2.00. Copies may be requested from Fr. Arnaldo Baritussio, Via Luigi Lilio 80, Roma.
Fr. Antonino Orlando: “Faraoni Neri” (the kingdom of Meroe between Egyptian domination and Christianity), Ananke (TO) 2004. The book can be otained from the Publishing house Ananke, Via Lodi 27/C, 10152 Torino, Italy (also via Internet), or from Centro di Distribuzione Editoriale, Via del Podere C. Battisti, 00166 Roma. The publication is dedicated to Daniel Comboni and intends to introduce to the general public the history of the Nile basin.
Fr. Lorenzo Gaiga: “L’apostolo dei Sidama - P. Emilio Ceccarini” “who for 26 years has shared in the sufferings and joys of the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia”. Published by Iride (VR), pp. 160, price for Comboni Missionaries € 5,00. The book can be ordered from the General Archivist, Via Luigi Lilio 80. 00142 Rome, or from the Italian province, Bologna address.
First continental meeting in Chad
For the first time N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, was the venue of a Comboni continental meeting. From 13 to 17 September we hosted the sub-continental meeting of Mission Promotion for French-speaking Africa. The participants were: Fr. Patrick Benywanira and Sr. Maria Areia Dalva (CAR), Fr. Victor Kouande Adekoun (TGB), Fr. Eliseo Tacchella and Fr. Fermo Bernasconi (Congo), Fr. José Delgado Domingo and Fr. Jesús Ruiz Molina (Chad), and the general secretary of mission promotion, Fr. Jaime Calvera Pi.
They met for four days at the Betel Centre, 10 km from the capital, to share their work of mission promotion and plan the next meeting of people involved in mission promotion due to take place in Kinshasa in August 2005. Aside from the humidity, the heavy rains, rumours of a coup d’état, suspension of flights, nocturnal birds and the fauna that disturbed our gathering… we may consider it a positive meeting, hoping that it will happen again and that this province will host other continental meetings.
St. Daniel Comboni
Once again this year the Comboni Missionaries and the Comboni Missionary Sisters of Chad gathered to celebrate the feast of St. Daniel Comboni, particularly meaningful this year on the first anniversary of his canonisation. Despite the abominable state of the roads, attendance was close to 90% with a total of 45 people, including 6 postulants. Some of the confreres covered 800 km to take part in this family gathering. The first day was given to group sharing of missionary experiences; in the afternoon there was a reflection on the Eucharist as the source of missionary activity. Sharing, prayer, rest and celebration where the pillars of our gathering. These occasions help us all to live our missionary vocation and strengthen our belonging to Comboni.
Perpetual Vows: The first Comboni Missionary from Chad
On Sunday, in Kinshasa, in a family atmosphere but not less solemn, the scholastic Celestin Ngoré Gali made his perpetual profession. Born in the Kyabé area, he is the first Comboni Missionary from Chad to take perpetual vows. There are two more young people in formation in Chad and three novices in the inter-provincial novitiate of Cotonou. We also have six postulants. Slowly but surely Comboni is taking on a “Chad-look”.
50th anniversary of the Legion of Mary in Esmeraldas
On Sunday, 12 September, the Legion of Mary celebrated the 50th anniversary of apostolic service in the parishes of the vicariate of Esmeraldas. The ceremony was preceded by a novena celebrated by the members of the Legion in 69 churches and chapels. Throughout the Vicariate the Legion has 69 chapters with 821 members, 115 auxiliaries (consisting of the elderly and the sick) and young people.
In the morning a two-hour procession wounded its way through the city and up to the cathedral, while the people recited the rosary and sang Marian songs. 422 members of the Legion had arrived from the interior to join the 500 from the city. Mgr. Eugenio Arellano Fernández was the main celebrant at the concelebrated Mass that was enriched by popular songs and prayers, typical of the popular religiosity of the area, executed with such faith and enthusiasm never before seen in the cathedral.
In the afternoon, the solemn ceremony, directed by the chaplain Fr. Giuseppe Mariani, took place in the amphitheatre of the “Sagrado Corazón.” It ended with the choreography of 55 children standing behind the statue of the Blessed Mother, dressed in white tunics and in sashes with the colours of the missionary rosary.
Provincial meeting of local treasurers
On 20 and 21 October, all the local treasurers of the various communities gathered at the provincial house together with the provincial to delve more deeply into the spirituality of finances and to attempt to make their own the spirit and the reflection of the XVI General Chapter.
On the first day, Fr. Alberto Degan spoke on the “Economy: the right to hoard or the right to life?” Following the methodology of “see, judge, act” we first analysed the consequences of the “right to hoard” of the neo-liberal system. In the next part, the “judge” part, we tried to understand how this type of economic system, based on anti-Gospel principles, was born in fact in Christian countries. In reality, many “Christians” have approved the vision of classic liberalism, that the economy is an independent reality governed by its own laws, where the values of the Gospel cannot and must not enter. And finally, the “act” part, where we reflected on some pronouncements of the Pope, with questions for group work.
Finally, we underlined the need to keep ourselves up to date on these topics and the necessity to sensitise the local Church by proposing concrete activities of critical consumption. It was also proposed that the provincial assembly of 2006 deal with finances and issues of justice and peace.
On the second day, the provincial treasurer explained the financial situation of the province. Among other things, it was also mentioned that the General Chapter insists on the importance of the Common Fund and, to take a step in the right direction, the proposal was made to increase the monthly contribution of each confrere to the province.
Presentation of the video on “Afro-Ecuadorian ethno-tourism”
Following the yearly custom, also this year on the first Sunday of October, Quito celebrated the National Day of the Afro-Ecuadorians with a march, a thanksgiving ceremony and the performance of musical and folkloristic groups. Many Afro groups and organisations attended.
The previous week, in Quito, there had been several commemorative and cultural events. The Afro-Ecuadorian Cultural Centre was part of this programme with the showing of its video on ethno-tourism. This video, continuing an activity that had started with the Agenda 2004, shows the areas of Ecuador where the largest concentrations of Afro-Ecuadorians are, with the landscapes, the cuisine and the local folklore that are available to tourists. The showing of the video, much appreciated, was one of the most important events of the week.
The provincial assembly took place in Betania from 4 to 9 October. It had been preceded by two area meetings on the theme of the General Chapter in preparation for the six-year plan. A report of the proceedings has been gathered in a booklet by the title “En camino…”
Following a reflection on the present state and future projections of the province, done together with the provincial, we listened to remarks from the assistant secretary of the bishops conference of Ecuador on the current state of the country and on the role of the Church in this disastrous situation. The vicar general of the archdiocese of Quito helped us reflect on the challenges of the moment and on the role of Institutes, especially those that are missionary in nature.
In a group work the reflection was deepened and motions and priorities were discussed in view of preparing the six-year plan. The assembly ended with a reflection-report by the provincial who encouraged all of us to live to the fullest the gift of 50 years of our evangelising presence in Ecuador. Various interesting proposals emerged, a sign that we are already committed to and living out this moment of grace.
Comboni Day celebrations
This year we had the good fortune to celebrate the Comboni Day on Monday, 11 October, together with the members of the continental council of mission promotion gathered in Quito for their assembly and with the entire Comboni Family: postulants, novices, seculars, etc. After a time of prayer, we had Mass, with Fr. David Kinnear Glenday as the main celebrant, followed by supper. We thanked God for the opportunity we had to make our cooperation all the more heartfelt and effective.
The first parish in Eritrea to be dedicated to St. Daniel Comboni
On 17 October, Fode parish in Barentu Eparchy was dedicated to St. Daniel Comboni. The blessing of the new Church was presided by Mgr. Tomas Osman, the Eparch of Barentu. It was a great celebration as it is the first parish in Eritrea to have St. Daniel Comboni as its patron saint.
It was a historical event witnessed by more that 2000 local Kunama Christians and others coming from various parts of Eritrea. There were many Comboni Missionaries and Comboni Sisters, the postulants of the Comboni Family, regional and local politicians, military commanders and a good number of civil servants. The parish priest, Fr. Mussie Abraham Keflezghi, expressed his gratitude for the collaboration of the local authorities both for the organisation and the assistance given for the occasion.
The peak moment of the liturgical celebration came during the offering of gifts presented by the Kunama. They offered several gifts, products of their fields and of local craftsmanship. A pumpkin of 23 kg provoked a long applause and ululation. Another moment of applause was when the Eparch placed the relic of St. Daniel Comboni on the altar. The relic and the certificate of authenticity had been sent to us by our postulator general, Fr. Arnaldo Baritussio. The choir of the parish, with their traditional dances and songs, gave a real touch of local culture. Mgr. Tomas during the homily stressed that no one could do what Comboni did for Africa unless prompted by love. Fr. Sebhat Ayele Tesemma, the superior of the delegation, underlined that Comboni must be seen as an African product and that he has become a symbol not only for the Africans, but also for all the peoples of the world who find themselves in situations similar to those of the Africans.
After lunch the youth of Fode parish staged a play on the life of Comboni. The celebration went on throughout the day. Indeed, the Kunama sang and danced in honour of Comboni till the onset of the deep-blue night over the desert.
Meeting of former professed Comboni Missionaries in Padova
Thanks to the initiative of the ever active Severino Mastellaro, the first gathering of former professed Comboni Missionaries took place in Padova. Twelve individuals and their families attended, but over 30 more, who could not be there personally, wrote or called in to support the event. At the end of the meeting the participants drafted a statement in which they thanked the community of Padova for the generous hospitality, expressing their attachment to the Comboni Family from which they inherited “a living core of values inspired by the charism of Comboni” and, with a vigorous “Behold, here we are,” asked for proposals leading to a “concrete missionary cooperation.”
Fr. Mattia Bizzarro
Fr. Angelo D’Apice has written a biography of Fr. Mattia Bizzarro, “Un Uomo dal Cuore Grande” (A Man with a Great Heart), edited by Comunitá in Cammino (Troia). The book has 400 pages plus a valuable photographic insert. In the introduction by Fr. Teresino Serra we read: “There was nothing ‘bizzarro’ (eccentric) about the man, except the name. Of Matthew he had the enthusiasm of the apostle. If we want to define the personality of Fr. Mattia Bizzarro, the word missionary says it all.” A missionary with disarming simplicity. A missionary who loved and believed in his people. A missionary ready to face the most difficult and dangerous situations. A missionary who was poor in spirit, always mindful of the “cry of the poor,” disorganised in material things, but not in his love. “It will be difficult to forget his great heart!”
Copies may be obtained from Fr. Angelo D’Apice (Casavatore, Italy), price € 10,00.
10 October 2004
10 October 2004 marked one of the most important dates in the history of the Church in the Sudan. The Church of Khartoum decided to close in the most solemn way possible the Comboni Year that had started on 5 October 2003 with the canonisation of St. Daniel Comboni in Rome. By now in Sudan Comboni has become the saint par excellence together with St. Josephine Bakhita. The love for St. Comboni is now a reality deeply felt and lived by our Christians.
A concrete sign of this devotion had already been evident on 14 September 2004 on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross when Card. Gabriel Zubeir Wako of Khartoum had repeated the charismatic gesture of Comboni by renewing the consecration of the archdiocese to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Another concrete indication of love for Daniel Comboni was the active participation of all the parishes in the novena in preparation for the feast of 10 October.
A very large crowd gathered on the open space of Comboni Grounds. The feast was all the more solemn thanks to the participation of illustrious guests: the bishop of Verona, Mgr. Flavio Roberto Carraro, OFM, accompanied by a few priests and lay people from his diocese; the vicar general Fr. Fabio Carlo Baldan and the assistant general Bro. Hernán Arias Romero. The guests had purposely scheduled their visit to the province of Khartoum to coincide with the celebrations in honour of St. Daniel.
A typically Comboni event took place close to the end of the celebration. A group of 19 catechists, having completed a three-year course, celebrated the conclusion of their “Qualification to Proclaim the Word of God” with an official recognition on the part of the Church and an invocation rite of the Holy Spirit on their future missionary activity. The cardinal had specifically wanted this ceremony to remind the faithful of the prophetic vision of Comboni to “save Africa by means of Africa.”
At the end of the celebration Fr. Fabio expressed his admiration for the joyous faith of Sudanese Christians, thanking God for having shown him first hand the fulfilment of Comboni’s deathbed prophetic words: “I die, but my work will not die.” Then the bishop of Verona addressed the faithful in Italian. The people were deeply touched by his simple words overflowing with faith.
Priestly Ordination of Matthew Remijo Adam Gbitiku
The ordination of a new Comboni priest is always a joyous event in the Institute, but the ordination of Fr. Matthew Remijo Adam Gbitiku had a very special importance and meaning. In fact, he is the first priest ordained from the Ndogo tribe, which was evangelised by Fr. Angelo Arpe. We all know the story of this extraordinary Comboni missionary who went to Bahr el Ghazal in the early days of the evangelisation of South Sudan that started exactly 100 years ago. Fr. Angelo founded among the Ndogo the mission of Mboro and was killed by an enraged teacher on 1 November 1946, feast of All Saints. His apostolic zeal and the sacrifice of his life were crowned with great success, as the Ndogo converted in large number to Christianity.
Fr. Matthew was ordained in Wau on 3 October together with Andrea Naro, a deacon from the diocese of Wau. Their ordination coincided with the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress, held to prepare the National Congress that will take place in Wau on 21 November, solemnity of Christ the King.
The ordination took place in the large square in front of the cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians, at the hand of Bishop Rudolph Deng of Wau, in the presence of Fr. Fabio Carlo Baldan, Bro. Hernán Arias Romero and our provincial Fr. Luigi Cignolini.
The celebration started at 9 in the morning and lasted until 12:30. A very large number of people attended and took part with joyous faith and great enthusiasm. During his homily the bishop stressed the providential link between the celebration of the Eucharistic Congress and the ordination of new priests. The Church entrusts to them the mission of turning the programme of the Congress into reality, namely to foster Christian life trough the sacrament of the Eucharist, “gift of Christ to heal divisions and fractures in his Body.” The afternoon was alive with African dances and songs, in the large amphitheatre built many years ago by Fr. Ivo Ciccaci.
On 10 October, Fr. Matthew celebrated his first solemn Mass in the new parish of Wau, dedicated to St. Daniel Comboni and entrusted to the Comboni Missionaries, currently staffed by Fr. Isaac Martín Arnanz, Fr. Salvatore Pacifico and Fr. Elia Androgo Morsal Juma. It was a very lively celebration, enlivened by joyous songs and dances and by the tribute of praise and veneration for our Founder, St. Daniel Comboni.
Pilgrimage to Limone
Last year's pilgrimage for the Canonisation of our Founder, was a great success: 150 people from England alone, apart from the other two groups from Scotland and Ireland, led by four of our confreres from the London Province, made their way to Verona, Limone and Rome. So, this year too, Fr Franco Mastromauro and Fr John Troy led a small group of people from England, Scotland and Ireland to Limone. Our coach trip started on the evening of 4 October from Victoria Coach Station in London. Having crossed the English Channel by night, on the following morning we made our way through France, Belgium and Ellwangen (Germany) to where we stopped for the night. On the following day we proceeded through Germany and Austria up to Bressanone where we spent two nights at "Cusanus Akademie", a residential Conference Centre of the Diocese of Bressanone. After spending a full day in beautiful Val Gardena, we reached our Comboni House in Limone on Friday 8 October. On the following day, Fr Gianni Nobili gave our group a very educational tour of St Daniel Comboni’s birth-place and the adjacent museum. The tour was the equivalent of a day of recollection on the life and work of our Founder.
On Sunday, 10 October, liturgical feast of St. Daniel Comboni, we took part in a solemn concelebrated Mass in the Chapel of the house, together with the confreres of the Limone community and some faithful from the town of Limone itself. There was also plenty of time for our group to enjoy the beauties of Limone and Lake Garda. On the following Monday we paid a visit to the Mother-House in Verona. We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Comboni communities of Ellwangen, Verona and, especially, Limone for their kind and generous hospitality.
PERU – CHILE
First anniversary of Comboni’s canonisation
One year after the canonisation of our Founder, the province of Peru-Chile decided to follow the invitation of the General Council and celebrated this first anniversary in a solemn way. In the parish of Chorrillos (on the outskirts of Lima) all the pastoral agents of the Christian communities received a copy of the celebration of the liturgy so as to be able, on 10 October, to gratefully celebrate the gift of our Father and Founder.
On the evening of the 9th, Comboni Lay Missionaries (CLM) and Lay Friends of Comboni Missionaries (LFCM) organised a prayer vigil that took most of the night on the patio of our parish, “Christ Missionary of the Father.” To everyone’s great surprise, lots of people showed up to take part in this celebration that was characterized by a solid preparation and richness of symbols. A good number of people remained until dawn with hearts full of joy for having come to know a little better about the life and work of the Comboni Family.
On 10 October, the representatives of our Comboni communities of Lima, the delegates from CLM and LFCM, and the benefactors of the parishes where we have worked, were invited to the celebration. The chapel of our provincial house was overfilled by the large number of people who had accepted the invitation. Bishop José Antonio Eguren, auxiliary bishop of Lima celebrated the 5 a.m. Mass surrounded by a dozen Comboni Missionaries. In his homily the bishop commented on some passages from our Founder, applying them to the pastoral work the Comboni Family is doing in Peru. He thanked God for our magazines, for the quiet but fruitful witness of many missionaries who have been working in Peru for over 60 years. He also brought the greetings and congratulations of the archbishop of Lima. The celebration concluded with refreshment for all the participants.
Aguiluchos: 25 years of service in Mission Promotion
On 1 September 2004 the Peruvian edition of Aguiluchos celebrated its Silver Jubilee, 25 years of service in mission promotion among children and adolescents of the province of Peru-Chile. Its founder and fist editor was Fr. Albert Mohn who, a few months earlier, in April 1979, had founded Misión sin Fronteras, the magazine for adults. In this fashion the Comboni publications could reach all the age levels of the Christian communities in Peruvian society.
In this way, as it was commented by the present editor, Fr. Juan José Tenías Fenollé, in the September commemorative issue, “without going to the 2004 Olympics of Athens, we have won two silver medals: one for our Misión sin Fronteras, and the other for our Aguiluchos.”
The celebrations for the 25 years of the latter consisted of two important events. At the national level there was a competition among readers and sympathisers concerning drawing, calculus and acrostic on the magazine, the missions and St. Daniel Comboni.
In Lima, the morning of 2 October, in the theatre Don Bosco, we held the “Festival Aguiluchos: 25 years,” that saw the participation of 26 schools and various groups of the Holy Childhood. About 1,000 children and adolescents celebrated this event interacting with Humonegro and Flip, the popular characters of Aguiluchos.
For the occasion, the editorial staff prepared an issue that was special both for its contents and for the number of pages, together with a stick-on of the more significant characters that have appeared in the magazine over the last several years.
Even though it is addressed to children, Aguiluchos is the Comboni publication that is received and spread throughout the country with greater sympathy and the one that best represents the Comboni Missionaries. Best wishes!
During the entire month of August in the church of the Virgin in Gdansk we had a mission exhibit. The church, a jewel of Polish gothic architecture, is a museum of paintings from this artistic period. The exhibit displayed Comboni material on most of its panels plus eight maps on different themes prepared by our magazine staff, and also a number of pieces of African art and toys from Congo.
The exhibit was inaugurated by the bishop of the local diocese. Among the visitors, 500 a day, we counted the presidents of Poland and Lithuania and their wives.
Departure of five novices
In August we celebrated the departure for Italy of five novices. They will be improving their knowledge of Italian in Venegono.
Visit of the Superior General
Fr. Teresino Serra, Superior General, directed the retreat of the “quasi-delegation.” We thank him for the atmosphere he created among us and for the enrichment he brought to us by sharing his faith and strengthening ours.
Postulancy: opening of a new residence
For logistic reasons, quality of teaching and home and city environment the postulancy was moved to Krakow.
On 11 October, Cardinal Franciszek Macharski of Krakow joined us to celebrate the feast of our patron saint and the opening of the postulancy. In his homily he reminded us that Africa still calls out to us: “Save me”, as it did to Comboni.
Awards to media professionals
Mani Unite (Joined Hands) gave out awards for Press, Radio, Television and Posters that are assigned every year to professionals in the field of media who have distinguished themselves for their effort to educate Spanish society on the reality of the so called Third World and the unbalance between North and South.
Among the recipients of the awards for the “digital press” we have the News Bulletin of Mundo Negro. Gerardo Gonzalez, editor in chief of Mundo Negro received the award. The TV award was given to the documentary “A Forgotten War” (North Uganda) produced by Vida Misionera of the Comboni Missionaries. Fr. Longinos Lópes Fernández received the award. The ceremony took place in the theatre of the “Casa de América” in Madrid.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Fr. Guillermo Gasco Alarcón (14.04.1955 – 01.10.2004)
Born at Lajas, Cajamarca, in South-central Peru, he joined the novitiate of Huánuco from the postulancy of Lima; he took his first vows on 3 May 1987 and was assigned to the scholasticate of Rome where he studied theology. After his ordination at 36 years of age he was assigned to Peru, his province of origin, where he arrived in 1992.
Following a long dialogue with the provincial, he decided to continue his pastoral work as a Comboni priest outside the community. On 18 July 1994 he was the victim of a serious car accident that fractured his skull, injuring the encephalic stem, inducing coma and bilateral cerebral injury.
From that day, his home was the Trezza clinic of Lima and then, for the last five and a half years, the hospice for homeless seniors run by religious Sisters. In these places he lived through the last ten years of his life, cared for day and night by the medical staff that, in moments of physical crisis, helped him recover. Four months before his death he developed a kidney infection from which he never recovered. On 1 October 2004, at 5 a.m., in the presence of Sr. Esther who was taking care of him, Fr. Guillermo was freed from his illnesses and returned to the Father’s house, the first Peruvian Comboni Missionary to leave us permanently.
Fr. Guillermo had been a priest for thirteen years, ten of them spent in a coma, practicing a mysterious priesthood by which he offered to God, as a unique offering, the painful condition that limited him, made him totally dependent and nailed to the cross of his illness. He spent ten years on a painful Calvary, chained to a body broken by an accident that did not allow him to have a conscious life.
Many among us have taken notice of the meaningful date that Fr. Guillermo chose to begin his new life: 1 October. The date is meaningful for many reasons both for Comboni Missionaries and for Peruvians: it is the beginning of the mission month, it is the month of St. Daniel Comboni, it holds the feast St. Therese of the Child Jesus, patron of missions and missionaries, it is also the month of the Lord of Miracles, the highest expression of Peru’s popular religiosity. There are few days of the year as laden with meaning as this one. So many coincidences cannot be the fruit of a random happening. It was a day he purposely chose and a gift of the Lord to him to turn this date into a celebration that gives meaning to Gulliermo’s life, so consumed by suffering.
During these last ten years we often asked ourselves whether Fr. Guillermo was ever conscious. We are not sure, but in some instance we think he did. I believe that, in the end, he wanted to answer our uneasiness and, by making an effort to reach 1 October, he had intended to express the mystery of his inscrutable situation and tell us that his life was missionary and that he passed away as a Comboni Missionary.
Death is only a passage from this life to a new, superior and final life. It is the definitive step, when the individual feels its own deepest and radical powerlessness and performs the greatest act of trust in the creative and regenerating love of God. Fr. Guillermo took this step into the next life without human support and explicit awareness. The long illness purified him to the point of depriving him of all support except for the hands of the Father, in whom he took the great leap in a spirit of abandonment and full trust for all eternity.
The funeral Mass was celebrated at the provincial house in Monterrico, with the participation of about 150 people representing the Comboni communities of Lima, local religious Institutes, relatives and friends of Fr. Guillermo. He was buried in the British cemetery of Callao where eight other Comboni Missionaries who gave their lives for the missions of Peru are buried. May our brother Gulliermo rest in peace! (Fr. Conrado Franco Lorenzo)
Fr. Giovanni Morazzoni (21.09.1928 – 10.10.2004)
All those who have followed Fr. Giovanni in his long and painful illness were foreseeing that he would die on a meaningful date. Thus, it seemed that he was going to die on the feast of the Assumption, then on 12 September (Name of Mary). The next important date was the feast of St. Daniel Comboni, and that was the day he passed away, crowning a life spent in the Institute he deeply loved and in the missions, which were always present in his mind throughout the days and years of suffering.
Born in Barlassina (Milan) in a large and well known family, on 1 October 1944 his parents introduced him to the Institute with this peculiar note: “In sorrow for the great sacrifice… we give to you, Lord, our beloved son so that, according to your will, he may become father and shepherd of many souls…” After completing his primary school, he had attended a technical school and then had entered the seminaries of Seveso and Venegono Inferiore of the archdiocese of Milan. He started his novitiate with the Comboni Missionaries in Venegono Superiore on 14 October 1944 and took his first vows on 15 August 1946. His health soon began to affect his studies, and from the scholasticate in Rebbio (1946-1948) he moved to Arco for medical reasons (1948-1950). He then returned to Venegono (1950-1951) and then back to Arco (1951-1952). In October 1952 he arrived in Rome where he found a climate that better suited his health. He completed his theological studies at the Urbaniana. In the scholasticate community of St. Pancrazio he was of good example to all and promoted unity, thanks to his kind and understanding character. He was ordained priest in Rome on 9 April 1955.
He was assigned to basic formation by his superiors as spiritual director first at Carraia (1955-1958) and later at Brescia (1958-1965). He felt the weight of his role and, fearing of not being up to it, he asked to be relieved of this responsibility. In this way he was able to dedicate himself to pastoral ministry (Milan, Via Saldini), which greatly pleased him and for which he was loved and appreciated. Those years (1965-1974) were interrupted only once by a stint as associate to the master of novices in Gozzano (1966-1969). During the summer of 1974 he was called to Rome to assist in the renewal course. Also in this role he was well liked by all because he understood the expectations and the needs of his confreres. In 1977, however, he contracted trigeminal neuralgia, which progressively incapacitated him and lasted, between one treatment and another, up to his final day: 27 years as a missionary marked by pain.
There was a search for suitable places that could provide specific treatments for his illness until 1978, when he reached Civenna (Como) and the Oasis of the Carmelite Sisters of St. Teresa. Here he stayed until a week before his death. Juridically he belonged to the Curia community till July 1988, when he was assigned to the Italian province, as he was near to the community of Rebbio.
There was always an extensive dialogue between Fr. Giovanni and his superiors and between these and the Carmelite Sisters of St. Teresa. In 1982 the Sisters’ Superior General wrote from Turin to the Superior General of the Comboni Missionaries: “I wish to assure you once again about our dear Fr. Giovanni Morazzoni, whom I know personally and whose submission to the will of God and interior richness I have had the opportunity to appreciate on several occasions: gifts he knows how to share with all those who meet him. Having him staying with us is a grace we all appreciate.” Also the superior of Civenna wrote among other things: “Fr. Giovanni’s illness is serious and the doctor has given you a report personally. In all sincerity, there are days when Fr. Giovanni, even though wanting to be healed, looks truly pitiful… despite all this he is serene and cheerful. What an example for us… We will continue to do all that will be necessary because truly, as our Superior General has told us, he is a gift of God.”
The interior picture of Fr. Giovanni can be summed up in the core of a letter he wrote from Civenna in 1978 to Fr. Tarcisio Gastonia, Superior General: “I am keeping up my treatment for trigeminal neuralgia; the Lord gives me great inner peace; I place myself in his hands to be a missionary as he wants me to be, wishing only to be of service to the world, the Church and the Institute… not according to my plans but to His, which may consist in showing His power through my extreme weakness. I keep to the treatment, naturally, but without becoming obsessed over my health; I do the little I can do and leave it to Him to carry through what I can’t… At time I have doubts: Is this kind of ‘spirituality’ merely an alibi? But then I tell the Lord: ‘You know of my desire to work even physically, if I had the strength!’ In any case, I trust in obedience to be sure that I am on the right path.” (Fr. Pietro Ravasio)
Fr. Franz Xaver Schmid (18.12.1913 – 19.10.2004)
Fr. Franz Xaver Schmid was born on 18 December 1913 into a large family in Oberschneidheim, diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart. Out of 11 children, five chose religious life: two became Comboni Missionary priests, one became a Capuchin Brother and two of the girls became religious Sisters.
Franz Xaver attended grade school in Unterschneidheim. In 1927 he entered the Josefinum school of the Comboni Missionaries in Ellwangen, where he attended secondary and junior college classes.
On 9 September 1931, feast of St. Peter Claver, he received the religious habit in Brixen and started his novitiate. He studied philosophy and theology at the seminary of Brixen. On 25 December 1937 he took his perpetual vows and finally he was ordained a priest in the cathedral of Brixen on 29 June 1938.
From 1940 to 1946 he was in Russia, first as a soldier in the German army medical corps, then as prisoner of war. In March 1946 he returned from Russia and, soon after that, he was sent to the parish of Bad Mergentheim, where he worked zealously in the pastoral field.
From 1947 to 1964 he was parish priest in Neuses, in the area of Bad Mergentheim. From 1964 to 1985 he was given the care of the parish of Wachbach. In 1985 he retired and spent ten years in our house of Josefstal in Ellwangen. Here too he made himself available for ministry inasmuch as possible. Within the community he always made himself useful with his humble demeanour and availability. No work was too demeaning for him. In 1995, when his energies began to decline, he was moved to the “House for the elderly and sick” of Ellwangen, where he spent his last years with the sick and elderly confreres.
Fr. Franz was an upright person, a good parish priest, very practical and always helpful, sincere in saying what was in his mind.
On the occasion of his 40th anniversary of ordination a daily paper published an article with this title: “Fr. Franz Xaver shows that Christianity can not only be taught, but also lived!”
The journalist gave us a very good description of him: we, his confreres, fully agree with what he said. His example as a priest and a religious was indeed valuable.
He was so dedicated to his task as a parish priest that, even when he was home on holiday, he was always willing to help in the parish.
Fr. Fanz Xaver had an ecumenical spirit. At Neuses and Wachbach he always preserved good and fruitful relations with the ministers of the Evangelical Churches. Many people, both in the Catholic Church and in the Evangelical Churches, remember him with gratitude. May the Lord reward him in heaven. (Fr. Georg Klose)
Mgr. Armido Gasparini (19.08.1913 – 21.10.2004)
Bishop Gasparini died peacefully, conscious to the very end and fully aware of his imminent meeting with the Lord. He was in his 92nd year of life. He lived 52 of them in Eritrea and Ethiopia, his two countries of adoption and where he bore witness to his faith.
Born in Lizzano in Belvedere (Bologna), he was blessed with an exemplary and caring family. He attended grade school in his own town and showed a precocious intelligence. At the end of his grade school, he took a decision about his future life.
The parish priest (it was 7 October 1927) concluded his letter of presentation to the superior of the minor seminary in Brescia with these words: “... and he shows a great inclination to the missionary life. This is the honest truth. Signed: Rev. Alfonso Montanari.” He sailed through school with top grades and, on 12 September 1930, he was admitted to the novitiate of Venegono, where he took his first vows on 7 October 1932.
As a scholastic in junior college he attended the diocesan seminary of Verona for three years and, starting in 1934, he studied theology at the Urbaniana University in Rome. During those four years, besides studying the required subjects, in his spare time he indulged in the personal hobby of learning various languages to be able to communicate and understand peoples and cultures.
He was ordained in Rome on 16 April 1938. By October he was already in Gondar (Ethiopia) where Mgr. Pietro Villa, who had been his superior when he was studying in Rome, was Prefect Apostolic. In those busy and difficult years, due to the political situation and the war, as secretary to the Apostolic Prefect, he deepened his knowledge of Amharic and had contacts with Orthodox clergy and monks. In 1940 he became superior of the community.
During the exodus from Gondar to Asmara, while other confreres were sent to other countries as “prisoners of war,” he stayed with Mgr. Villa. From these painful circumstances the new idea of a secondary school in English was born. It took shape in 1947 and it became a prestigious institution with the cooperation of a large community of confreres. This institution became an important part of the history of Eritrea.
The General Chapter of 1959 decided to move him to Rome as General Procurator. There he stayed for a period of 13 years, during which he worked tirelessly to help the confreres and to keep in touch with the Holy See, where he was held in great esteem. In June 1960 he was appointed consulter of the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches. We must remember during this time the important role he played in managing the paper work for the building of the General Curia in Via Luigi Lilio, in Rome. He deserves our lasting gratitude for this.
In 1973 he turned 60. In a letter of that period he wrote: “The course of my active life - humanly speaking - is heading towards the last phase. But I feel full of energy and - why not - abilities.” He enjoyed another 31 years of active life.
On 16 February 1973 he was appointed Apostolic Administrator “ad nutum Sanctae Sedis” for the Apostolic Prefecture of Awasa (Ethiopia). He reached there in June of that year and began an apostolic activity that Pope John Paul II recognized by upgrading Awasa, on 15 March 1979, to an Apostolic Vicariate and by making Mgr. Gasparini a bishop, with the title of the Magneto.
In order to describe briefly these years of grace it will be sufficient to quote passages from a personal letter Pope John Paul II wrote to Bishop Gasparini on 12 March 1988, on the occasion of his 50th anniversary of ordination: “Your merits and your work are well known to us. Through them you have shown your apostolic zeal and attachment to the people of Ethiopia. Thus, in Ethiopia you exercised in a worthy and consistent manner your priestly duties and have also worthily exercised your office as general procurator of the Comboni Missionaries here in Rome. We are truly impressed by how much, in these years, the name Catholic has spread under your guidance in the Church of Awasa and in the Sidamo region. Just to name a few facts: the concern that the sacred liturgy be celebrated in the languages of the various regions; the establishment and administration of various educational, health and evangelising structures; the organisation of bodies and other structures necessary for the teaching of catechism and for Catholic apostolate…”
On his 75th birthday he was asked to continue his ministry, which eventually came to an end on 20 December 1993, at age 80. He spent the remaining years in Awasa and Addis Ababa, in the houses of formation of the “Handmaids of the Church” who had been founded by him as a Pious Society in 1988.
In announcing his death, Fr. Teresino Serra wrote: “The Institute of the Comboni Missionaries thanks the Lord for the long and active missionary life granted to this exemplary confrere who has served the Church and the Mission with generous fidelity. It offers and invites others to offer memorial prayers that the Lord of the harvest may grant to our dear bishop and confrere the reward reserved to the workers of the Gospel.” (Fr. Pietro Ravasio)
Let us pray for the deceased
THE FATHER: Florencio of Sc. José de La Cruz Hinojosa (M).
THE MOTHER: Anna of Fr. Valentín García Andrés (E); Maria de Rosario of Fr. José Barranco Ramírez (E); Olga of Fr. Bruno Guardini (†).
THE BROTHER: Gian Battista of Fr. Antonino Orlando (I).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. Luisa Paola Martinelli; Sr. Tarquinia Gianola; Sr. Rosangelina Cassina.