Monthly newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
Appointments of vice provincials and vice delegates
Once again we remind the new provincial and delegation councils that, at their first meeting in 2005, they must elect the vice provincials and the vice delegates. Plan your meetings in such a way that the “results of the elections will be sent to the superior general and his council for confirmation” before the end of January. Please, send the information to the secretary general.
General Assembly of provincials and delegates
As previously announced, the General Assembly of provincials and delegates will take place in Cairo, Egypt, from 13 to 27 February 2005.
The participants are asked to arrive in Cairo before 6 p.m. on 13 February. The programme of the assembly will be mailed in the near future.
General Secretary’s office
Fr. Giuseppe Sandri, secretary general, and Fr. Enrico Redaelli, his assistant, thank all the provincials and delegates who have reached the end of their mandate for the cooperation and communion they have offered during these last few years. We wish them a fruitful apostolate in the future. Thanks go also to those who have been confirmed in their office. Let us ensure that our cooperation will improve evermore. To the new provincials and delegates we pledge our full cooperation.
We also express our heartfelt gratitude to all the confreres who have contributed to the preparation of Familia Comboniana, the letters of the General Council and other documents and to those who have translated these documents into the various languages. We will always need your cooperation and your help. We feel certain that your availability to this important contribution, which makes internal communications so much more efficient, will continue in the future.
Annuario Comboniano 2005
On 1 February 2005, the preparation for the printing of the Annuario Comboniano 2005 will begin. Between now and then you still have time to send us changes, corrections and suggestions to be inserted in the final text.
However, the secretary general updates daily the computer programme from which the Annuario is printed. Therefore, as soon as there are changes, it is your duty to send them immediately to him by the fastest possible means.
We renew our appeal to those confreres who have not yet sent their photos to the office of the secretary general, either personally or through their provincials/delegates, so that they may begin the new year with an act of good will in this respect. We are waiting for their photos, passport size.
We also renew our other request, already repeated several times, to provincials, delegates and local superiors who haven’t done it yet, to send to the office of the general secretary good and useful colour pictures of our houses.
General Secretariat of the Economy
Continental assembly of the treasurers of Europe
From 22 to 27 November we held at Coimbra (Portugal) the continental assembly of the treasurers of Europe, followed by a technical meeting. It was a very good meeting, with many positive features: a warm welcome, nice weather, fraternal gathering and fruitful sharing.
The various topics proposed were discussed and clarified.
The Stable Patrimony, in particular, which has developed from a rather fuzzy initiative set against a background of fear in the face of the future, is beginning to appear in a more positive and comprehensible light and it is proving to be a useful effort for steering us toward setting an important and responsible foundation for the future.
Individual and provincial responsibilities also took up a good amount of our time when reflecting on the guidelines of the Chapter Acts 2003, n. 101-104, which invite us to be ever more at the service of the Mission.
The journey undertaken by the Institute concerning the Ratio Missionis was another topic that the Assembly discussed.
The treasurers also shared ideas and suggestions on how best to serve the missions through material means.
Concerning the Scholasticates/CIF Fund and the General Sick Fund, the approved contributions requested from the provinces and delegations are the same as in 2004.
Comboni Year of Ongoing Formation (CYOF) in Mexico
The journey of this ninth CYOF, the fifth held in Mexico, began three months ago. Following tradition, the opening of the course was celebrated in a solemn way at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where we were given a warm reception.
The course is held at the provincial house in Xochimilco. Both the province and the community of the provincial house have welcomed us with open arms and are doing their best to ensure that the course will be a success. Despite the fact that we come from very different places, we feel very much at home and can experience the truth of the famous Mexican saying: “My house is your house (Mi casa es su casa).”
This year we have 19 participants coming from all over the world, both as country of origin and as missionary work. The rich diversity can be appreciated just by looking at the confreres’ passports: Italians who have worked in Uganda, Peru and Chad; Portuguese coming from South Africa, Mozambique and Brazil; Congolese from the Sudan; Beninois and Peruvians from Central Africa; Ecuadorians from Ethiopia; Spaniards from the Philippines, Peru, Congo and Chad; Costa Ricans from Uganda; Mexicans from Mozambique and Ecuador… And this without counting the three members of the team: Fr. José Manuel Casillas Hernández, Fr. Siro Stocchetti and Bro. Guillermo Casas Rosell. A potential Babylon changing into a beautiful group, ready to share and to enrich one another.
The morning is given to lectures and seminars on various topics: from self-knowledge and one’s experience of God, to the Mexican reality and the history of our ancestors during the Mahdi revolution in Sudan, moving on to body awareness and health. The afternoon is taken up by study, personal reflection and spiritual and psychological guidance.
Saturdays are free and on Sundays we help in the neighbouring parishes, which gives us the opportunity to share our missionary experience with our hosts.
Once a month (or whenever the opportunity arises) we go on a tourist-cultural trip to learn the history, the culture and the reality of Mexico. Fortunately, in the group we have local confreres who act as tour guides wherever we go. There are even sports events. Actually, we have at our disposal the sports facilities of Cruz Azul, a top league professional soccer team, especially the swimming pool with instructors and everything else that goes with it.
Despite the diversity, the general atmosphere is very good. For life sharing we are divided into small groups of four or five confreres who meet once a week to have a more personal and a deeper sharing, which does not hinder a wider sharing during liturgical celebrations and community meetings that we hold twice a month.
The main objective of this CYOF is that each one may be able to know and face himself, his own reality, his own experience… The deep personal awareness each one experiences is the primary goal of what we are doing here. We could say that the top priority, the backbone of the course, is this personal experience that will allow us to return to our missions, or to move on to a new assignment, with renewed energy and with body and soul in top shape. (Fr. José Manuel Casillas Hernández)
Fr. Teresino Serra. With a letter dated 22 November 2004, His Eminence Card. Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State, announced that His Holiness John Paul II had appointed Fr. Teresino Serra to be a member of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Congratulations!
Bro. Eigner Johann (DSP) has been appointed to the core committee of the Ratio Missionis.
Fr. Cerezo Ruiz Daniel (A) and Bro. Cruz Reyes Joel (EC) have been appointed to the enlarged committee of the Ratio Missionis.
Sc. Kakwata Séraphin (CN) Rome (I) 18.12.2004
Sc. Longba Godefroy-Médard (CA) Rome (I) 18.12.2004
Sc. Mehari Abraha Iskias (ET) Rome (I) 18.12.2004
Sc. Naranjo Alcaide Jorge Carlos (E) Rome (I) 18.12.2004
Holy Redeemer Guild
January 01 – 07 A 08 – 15 C 16 – 31 BNE
February 01 – 15 BS 16 – 28 CA
January – That, enticed by the love of Christ the Good Shepherd, and following the example of St. Daniel Comboni, we may take up the new challenges of the Mission with courage and creativeness. Let us pray.
February – That the entire Comboni Family, revitalized by the inspiration of the Founder, may accept with gratitude the diversity of gifts and cultures, and live with renewed passion and courage the grace of the Mission. Let us pray.
National Award for Human Rights
On Thursday, 9 December, the Centre for the Defence of Life and Human Rights of Acailãndia, Brasilia, received the National Award for Human Rights 2004, awarded because of its activities against illegal labour practices.
The president of the Centre, Carmen Bascarán, and the executive secretary, Antonio José Ferreira Lima, received the award at the Palácio do Planalto, Brasilia, at 9:00 in the morning from the hands of the president of the republic, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva.
The Centre received from the federal government the sum of R$10,000 and the award statuette in recognition of the work done by this organisation that coordinates the activities of Forem (The Forum for the Eradication of Slave Labour) in Maranhão.
Antonio Filho said: “We are very happy for the national recognition of the work we have done during these past eight years. We believe that, with a clear objective and well defined goals, we will achieve satisfactory results in our State.”
Other candidates, beside the Centre, were the OIT (International Labour Organisation), the NGO Repórter Brasil (of São Paulo), the Regional Labour Tribunal and the Mobile Group of the Labour Ministry (of Brasilia). All of them deal with illicit labour practices in Maranhão.
The centre has denounced illicit labour practices to the Ministry of Labour, has sheltered workers escaping from the estates and has supported groups involved in imposing a taxation system.
According to the regional delegate of Labour in Maranhão, Ubirajara do Pindaré, the award is very important because it gives new strength to the struggle against illegal labour practices. “The Centre of Defense of Acailandia is one of the most active organisations in the country in the struggle against this malpractice and has all the prerequisites to be acknowledged with this national award.” Pindaré was also present at the award ceremony.
After almost nine years of activity to put an end to these illegal practices, we see that the government of Brazil finally recognizes our work!
For all of us this award is extremely important, considering that only a year ago, certain elements of TV, radio and the press were saying that we were inventing these stories of illicit labour practices in order to profit from them!
We are happy and we want you to know it, because in one way or another, all of you and many other people, whose addresses we do not know, have helped us in this struggle. Thanks in the name of all the young people, the men and the women who, after having come through the Centre for the Defense of Life and Human Rights of Acailandia, have begun to believe that life is worth living! (Carmen Bascarán)
Second Mission Symposium
In order not to forget the journey we made on the occasion of the celebrations for the canonization of our founders (Daniel Comboni and Arnold Janssen) we decided to repeat the experience again this year, so as to create communion among ourselves, stimulate religious life and encourage the Ecuadorian Church to open up to mission “ad gentes.” For this reason, on the morning of 17 November we, the missionary families of the Comboni Missionaries and the Divine Word Missionaries, got together to reflect on the conclusions of the last CAM/COMLA and in preparation for the next one, due to take place in Ecuador. The slogan chosen for the symposium was: “Mission as the new springtime of evangelisation.”
We examined both the positive and the negative aspects of the documents in order to be able to propose something to the local Church and to religious life and to be more involved. In the afternoon, together with other Institutes and starting from the document, we reflected on the themes of martyrdom, simplicity and poverty, and we resolved to repeat this gathering in future years.
At the end there was a well-prepared time for prayer. We concluded sticking our hands in bowls filled with mud as a missionary sign of wanting to “get our hands dirty” as we are immersed in our reality, so as to inculturate our message ever more.
Afro Cultural Week in San Lorenzo
On the occasion of the celebration of the year in preparation for the 50th anniversary of our presence in the parish, the Comboni community of San Lorenzo organised an Afro Cultural Week from 22 to 27 November. The title of the week was: “You cannot love what you do not know: love your culture in order to love your people and believe in yourself.”
To this event took part 200 teachers, from secondary school levels to kindergarten, and 232 students. The lectures, delivered by the parish priest, Fr. Claudio Zendron, by some teachers from San Lorenzo and by the Afro Pastoral team of Guayaquil, dealt with various topics related to the history, the culture and the present situation of the Afro-Ecuadorians. In particular, we recaptured the example and the heritage of our ancestors who, in the midst of dangers and sufferings, continued to fight and to harbour dreams of freedom. To dream, in a way, means to prepare the future for our descendants: if the Afros are free today, it is because our ancestors dreamed of freedom for many centuries; which means that the dreams of our ancestors are the reason for our lives and freedom today. As formators, therefore, we must encourage the dreams of our young people, dreams that will be in line with the traditions we have inherited.
Unfortunately, it was pointed out that in the schools of San Lorenzo the history and the culture of the Afro population are hardly ever mentioned. For this reason, most of the teachers have pledged to investigate these topics with their students and appreciated the leaflets and CDs prepared by the Afro Centre of Guayaquil for students’ use.
At the end, a student of the technical school expressed his gratitude for this Cultural Week and said: “We have learned lots of things about our culture we were not aware of.” On their part, the teachers expressed the desire to repeat this experience and to invite to the cultural week also the schools in the rural areas.
National Meeting of Youth Afro Pastoral
The National Meeting of Youth Afro Pastoral was held in Guayaquil from 19 to 21 November under the title of: “Our festivities’ celebrations as an alternative political proposal,” suggested by the Youth Afro Pastoral team of Guayaquil. About 50 young people from Guayaquil, Oriente, Chota, Quito, Esmeraldas and San Lorenzo attended.
This meeting was meant to strengthen the identity of the young Afro. We have two sources, two pillars of our spirituality, to achieve this purpose: the Bible, which shows us the face of God, and the culture, which we have received as an inheritance from our ancestors.
We proposed a research, based on the Bible and on tradition, on our festivities. Ever since, celebrations and dances have been the basic elements of the spirituality and of the cultural, political and religious identity of the Afro people. The values that, against the background of the Word and of our tradition, are experienced in the celebration can be the basis for spirituality and for an alternative political proposal.
Most of the young people agreed that today we have lost the traditional meaning of the Afro celebrations, once regarded as a time of communion and of encounter among people. At the same time, however, they expressed a desire to be involved, once again, in making the celebration a time of complete sharing: food, dreams, anxieties and hopes. In the Afro tradition, the celebrations are also the time when, through merriment, singing and dancing, we can regain the richness of our cultural expressions, our creativity, our wisdom, etc. The celebrations are what enabled the Afro people to oppose a culture of death and to preserve their own identity.
With regard to the Word, we underlined how Jesus had also used celebrations for a pastoral purpose, seeing them on the one side as an occasion of mission and evangelisation, and on the other side, as a time to experience and live the full life that he came to proclaim. The communal participation in the festivities is the model of how God wants people to relate to one another.
Celebration of our 50 years of presence in Ecuador
In preparation for the official celebrations of our 50 years of presence in Ecuador, we have begun the process of motivating and animating the local Church, the province and our benefactors.
Beside the production of a miniature bust of Comboni, the work of a local artist, we have published six books:
- The first deals with the pioneers of this missionary experience: “Los que abrieron caminos realizadores de un sueño: ejemplos de entrega,”(Those who opened the journey for the realization of a dream: examples to be followed) by Fr. Alberto Doneda, which gathers the recollections of 15 Comboni Missionaries who worked in Ecuador.
- For the formation of leaders, especially “Afro missionaries”: “El rostro negro de Dios: una lectura de la Biblia desde el Pueblo Afro” (The Black face of God: a reading of the Bible from the perspective of the Afro People); and “La Danza de amor: una propuesta política alternativa desde la espiritualidad del Pueblo Negro” (The dance of Love: a political alternative from the spirituality of the Afro People), by Bro. Alberto Degan.
- In the area of Justice and Peace: “Vino a anunciar la paz: la non-violencia evangélica y sus implicaciones misioneras” (He came to proclaim peace: Evangelical non-violence and its missionary applications), by Bro. Alberto Degan; on Social Doctrine: “El valor de lo humano: elementos básicos para una pastoral encarnada” (The value of the human dimension: basic elements for an incarnated pastoral), by Bro. Joel Cruz Reyes.
- And finally: “Con pasión y audacia: historia de los Misioneros Combonianos en Ecuador” (With passion and daring: the history of the Comboni Missionaries in Ecuador), a popular history of the province.
We have also produced two radio programmes: “50 años de presencia: una mirada a la historia” (50 years of presence: a look at history) and “una provocación para el futuro” (a provocation for the future) and a missionary-vocational exhibit with nine panels. We are also in the process of organising the next National Youth Congress due to be held in Esmeraldas and other activities for the benefactors and for the communities where we work. For further information, please contact the provincial house.
For a better understanding of the Islamic world
Fr. Giuseppe Scattolin has just published through the French Institute of Oriental Archeology (IFAQ) in Cairo the critical edition of the poems of a great Egyptian sufi, Úmar Ibn al-Farid (+1235), titled The Diwan of Ibn al-Farid.” It is a valid contribution to the understanding of this mystical poet (sufi) in particular and of Islamic mysticism in general.
This work is meant first of all as an act of inculturation, namely of deep understanding of the culture of the people where we live, in our case Islam, that includes about 90% of the population of Egypt. Thus it introduces it as a valid partner on the cultural level by offering a vision of it that is more critical and more open. This work is drawing a lot of attention in Egyptian cultural environments and is opening many doors to meetings and dialogue.
We hope it will give a positive contribution to the inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue. This field is very important for the Moslem world and one of the most important ways to open dialogue with it. We also hope that this work will encourage other confreres to commit to meeting the Islamic world based on a solid and scientific knowledge of it, in order to go beyond many mutual forms of prejudice.
40th anniversary of the death of Fr. Remo Armani
On 28 November, in Agrone (Trento) there was a commemoration of the death of Fr. Remo Armani, killed in Paulis (today’s Isiro), Congo, on 23 November 1964.
The commemoration was organised by the “Fr. Remo Armani Committee,” made up of a group of young people from the area who organise cultural and informational events on worldwide topics.
Fr. Elvio Cellana, superior of the community of Trento, celebrated the Mass at 10:00, during which, both at the beginning and during the prayer of the faithful, he linked the season of Advent and the sacrifice of Fr. Remo, underlining the totality of the Christian vocation to which we are called by the words of Isaiah and of John the Baptist, our mentors during this season.
Fr. Gianni Nobili, the superior of Limone, delivered the homily that centreed on the missionary vocation, which spurred Fr. Remo to sacrifice his life for others. The Mass was concelebrated also by Fr. Luigi Parisi, by Fr. Gianpaolo, the local pastor, and by an elderly priest who was an admirer of Fr. Remo. Bro. Virginio Manzana and Bro. Roberto Moser were also present.
The official commemoration took place in the packed auditorium of the city hall at 2:30 in the afternoon, after a dinner offered by the committee for 50 invited guests. Bro. Manzana, who in the 50s lived with Fr. Remo in Mupoi, South Sudan, highlighted in a moving way the apostolic zeal and the meekness of Fr. Remo, qualities that made the confreres happy to have him as a member of the community.
The committee had also prepared a 45 minute video that recorded comments from Fr. Luigi Parisi and Fr. Italo Gheno (who had been working in the missions with Fr. Remo) and of his brother and two sisters. The latter, despite their advanced age and with typical good humor, described how meaningful the presence of a Comboni Missionary had been in the family and how his memory has been able to keep both the family and the town’s people united.
As Fr. Nobili said in his homily, we can only hope and pray that some of the young people who attended the commemoration, struck by the example of Fr. Remo, will decide to take his place.
Silver Banner to Fr. Tarcisio Pazzaglia
The festive event of Tuscany that commemorates the anniversary of the abolishing of the death penalty and of torture in the Duchy (1786) was celebrated in Florence on 30 November. To give importance to this regional celebration, on 29 November, in the gallery of the “Istituto degli Innocenti,” the president of the regional council of Tuscany, Hon. Nencini, awarded the Silver Banner to “eight men and women who are very seldom in the papers,” who dedicate their lives to ensure that “the rights of children will not only be ratified, but also implemented.” Receiving the award, Fr. Tarcisio Pazzaglia also remembered the Comboni Missionaries presently working in Uganda during this slow and difficult process of the Church and of the people, as today’s children will be the protagonists of the future of Uganda and of Africa.
The Word within you
The book of Fr. Justino Martinez Pérez, Historias para vivir, has been translated into Italian and published by EMI under the title La Parola che é in te - leggere la Bibbia a partire dalla vita (The Word within you – Reading the Bible from life’s perspective), 192 pages, €10.00. The book stresses the dimension of closeness and the power of transformation of the Word of God. With this book Fr. Justino tells us that we, Comboni Missionaries, can offer to our communities of origin a new way of reading the Bible. The Bible shines as a book that speaks of communion, of openness and of solidarity. It does not build walls, but rather bridges. Four illustrations guide us to an understanding of the text: the Bible as a family album, as a marvellous city, as X rays and as the leaven in a cake. The book has 30 chapters, easy to read either individually or as a group. Those who read the Bible, concludes Fr. Justino, discover their own identity, their roots and their mission. It is a new book both for us and for the people we meet. It is a gift of the young Churches to the older Churches.
Visit to Darfur by Bishop Antonio Menegazzo
From 26 November to 15 December I was on a pastoral visit to Darfur. I visited, in particular, the three parishes of Nyala, El Fasher and El Daein. I was also able to reach Jeneina, which is bordering with Chad, where we have a Centre-Chapel. This centre is taken care by a catechist, and is visited now and then by a priest who comes either from El Fasher or from Nyala.
The situation I saw there was awful. I visited the refugees camps near the three towns. I could see their vast extension, the countless white tents that give shelter to the families and the evident suffering everywhere, in spite of the presence of so many international organisations.
We assist the refugees through the Diocesan Sudan Aid (local Caritas) and in cooperation with Cordail-Netherlands. We distribute tents, food and various items desperately needed.
Nyala parish, which is entrusted to the Comboni Missionaries, assists especially refugees who do not want to go to the camps and, consequently, cannot receive help by the other organisations. With the help of the Salesians, we bought a house and entrusted it to the Sisters of St. Antida who will use it as a shelter for refugee girls. Cordail is also studying the possibility of starting a vocational centre for boys.
In spite of the Abuja agreements between the government and the rebels, fighting takes place every day. One may find Janjaweed everywhere. The priests cannot visit the various centres and communities to give assistance to the catechists and to the Christians. The organisations who have their offices in the area, also move around at their own risk.
I succeeded to go from Nyala to El Fasher, to Jeneina and, after returning to Nyala, also to Daein only by making use of the United Nations’ airplanes.
Due to insecurity, the goods sold in the market places have become very expensive and scarce. The trucks bringing goods from Khartoum are few, as there is always the danger of having the goods stolen on the way.
From the human point of view, we do not believe that peace is near. Meetings between the government and the rebels still go on, but even if they should reach some further peace agreements, we do not trust that these agreements will be respected.
Fr. Jaime Rodríguez Salazar, bishop of Huánuco
The Holy Father has appointed Fr. Jaime Rodríguez Salazar, mccj, as the bishop of Huánuco, Peru. Fr. Jaime was the diocesan administrator and the parish priest of San Pedro.
Fr. Jaime Rodríguez Salazar was born at La Luz, diocese of Zamora (Michoacan), Mexico, on 15 June 1939. At an early age he entered the Comboni Seminary of Sahuayo, where he finished his primary studies. In 1962-1963 he studied philosophy at the Comboni seminary of Mexico City. From 1962 to 1966, as a member of the Institute of the Comboni Missionaries, he was in the scholasticate of the Mother House in Verona, where he studied theology in the diocesan seminary of St. Zeno. He took his perpetual vows in the Institute of the Comboni Missionaries in Verona on 9 September 1965 and was ordained in Rome on 3 July 1966.
After ordination he had the following assignments: formator and then rector of the Comboni minor seminary of Guadalajara (Jalisco), Mexico (1966-1973); provincial councillor (1970-1973); pastoral work in Malawi/Zambia (1973-1978); two terms provincial superior in Mexico (1978-1984); formator and superior of the scholasticate in Lima (1978-1984); pastoral work in San José, Pozuzo, diocese of Huánuco (1992); novice master in Calamba, Philippines (1993-1996) and parish priest of San Pedro, diocese of Huánuco (since 1996). On 22 September 2003, he was named diocesan administrator of Huánuco.
(From L’Osservatore Romano, 12.16.2004)
50th anniversary of religious profession
On 8 December 1954, Bro. Kuno Stösser took his first vows in the service of the Church and, a year later he was assigned to the province of Peru-Chile. Fifty years have gone by since that time and Bro. Kuno has spent almost all of them in Peru, living them faithfully in his daily service.
For this reason, on 8 December 2004, many members of the Lima community and others who had come from afar, gathered at the provincial house in Monterrico to greet Bro. Kuno and to thank God for the good he has done. At 5 p.m., after a special dinner, Fr. Conrado Franco Lorenzo, the provincial, concelebrated the Eucharist with several priests and the participation of many religious and friends. At the end of the celebration, Bro. Kuno, who was very moved, spoke of his first journey to America from Germany, his native land: “At this moment I feel in my heart a huge gratitude. Gratitude to God and to all the people he placed on my path and who have helped me to be what I am today.”
Thanks, Bro. Kuno, for your witness of fidelity and perseverance in the missionary life.
Let us pray for the deceased:
THE FATHER: Aldo of Fr. Giovanni Nobili (I).
THE MOTHER: Giuseppina of Pier Paolo Monella (U); Senangbe Agbongbe of Fr. Fidèle Katsan Fodagni (BNE).
THE BROTHER: Giuliano of Fr. Silvano Gottardi (SS); Wendelin of Fr. Andreas Thorwarth (DSP); Hermann of Fr. Herbert Oberhofer (DSP)
THE SISTER: Angela of Fr. Giuseppe Frigerio (C).