Monthly newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
Nominations and assignments in the Curia community
Fr. Arnaldo Baritussio, who continues as Postulator General, has been appointed Procu-rator General to the Holy See, replacing Fr. Romeo Ballan who ended his assignment at the CIAM and has been assigned to the Italian Province from 1 July 2005, but continues as Procurator General until the end of September of this year.
Fr. Michele Sardella, while remaining Personal Secretary to Fr. General, has been ap-pointed to the post of Curia Librarian as from 1 October 2005, replacing Fr. Mario Salvatore Cis-ternino who has been assigned to the Italian Province as from 1 July 2005.
Bro. Guerrino Baldo has been assigned to the Italian Province as from 1 July 2005. He has been replaced by Bro. Domenico Cariolato.
Fr. Gian Paolo Bandera, a member of the Italian Province but assistant to the General Archivist for the past year, has moved to the community of Rebbio.
Fr. Fidel González Fernández has come to the end of his term of office as Rector of the Pontificio Collegio Urbano. Having been assigned to the Italian Province on 1 July, 2005, he now re-sides at San Pancrazio and continues as professor at the Pontifical Urbanian and Gregorian Universi-ties and as consultor to the Congregation of the Causes of the Saints.
Fr. Fernando Domingues was appointed, on 1 August 2005, Rector of the Pontificio Colle-gio Urbano, where he resides, while still a member of the community of the Curia.
Fr. Luciano Benetazzo, who concluded his mandate as director of Mater Ecclesiae Mis-sionary College of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples at Castel Gandolfo, has been appointed superior of the Paris community as from 1 September 2005.
Sincere thanks to all the confreres who are leaving the Curia community for the work which they have done during these past years on behalf of the Institute and of the Church. We wish them every grace and blessing for the future.
A warm welcome to those confreres who recently joined the Curia community and good wishes to those appointed to the various offices.
“The Holy Father has appointed Fr. Camillo Ballin, MCCJ, Vicar Apostolic of Kuwait (area: 17,900 km2; population: 2,650,000; Catholics: 158,500; priests: 10; religious: 13; permanent deacons: 1).
The bishop elect, hitherto director of the Centre for Arabic and Islamic Studies “Dar Comboni”, in Cairo (Egypt), was born at Fontaniva (Padova) in 1944, took his final vows in 1968 and was ordained in 1969.
Bishop Camillo Ballin succeeds Bishop Francis Micallef, OCD, whose resignation from the pastoral governance of the same Apostolic Vicariate, given for reasons of age, has been accepted by the Holy Father.”
(Vatican City, 14 July 2005 VIS)
Mgr. Ballin was ordained bishop on 2 September in Kuwait City.
Secretary General: Annuario Comboniano 2005
It is to be hoped that all provincials and delegates received their printed copies of the Annuario Comboniano 2005 before the end of August. They should make sure that every confrere (including those with temporary vows) has received a copy.
Provincials, delegates and various confreres were also sent, via e-mail on 20 July, two versions, ZIP & DPF, of the Annuario Comboniano, abbreviated (without maps) and updated to 1 July 2005. Any provincial who has not yet received these should inform the general secretary immediately.
Confreres wishing to receive either or both versions should ask their provincials or delegates who will forward them by e-mail, floppy or CD.
Once again, each confrere is urgently asked to check the Annuario Comboniano 2005 especially to see if the details regarding himself and, above all, his home details, are correct. All corrections, up-dates or suggestions for improvements should be sent to the Secretary General by the fastest means possible.
General Secretariat for Evangelisation
Preparation of the Animators for the Ratio Missionis
From 25 to 29 July a meeting of the animators of the English-speaking provinces and delegations of Africa was held in Nairobi. Those present were: Fr. Sebhatleab Ayele Tesemma (delegate for evange-lisation in English-speaking Africa), Fr. Anton Schneider and Fr. Fernando Zolli (animators), Fr. Ri-naldo Ronzani (KE), Fr. Rafael Rico Hernández (KE), Fr. Ivo Martins do Vale (ET), Fr. Nicola Di Iorio (ET), Fr. Edward Kanyike Mayanja (MZ), Fr. Tiziano Laurenti (MZ), Fr. Elia Pampaloni (U), Fr. Günther Ludwig Hofmann (RSA), Fr. Andrew Wanjohi Thumbi (RSA), Fr. Guillermo Aguiñaga Pantoja (SS), Fr. Luis Alfredo Estrada Meza (SS), Fr. Joseph Okello Yala (SS), Fr. Norberto Stonfer (KH), Fr. Simon Mbuthia Mwaura (EG), Fr. Mussie Abraham Keflezghi (ER). The Mozambican representative was ab-sent due to an airline strike.
All the participants took actively part in the meeting and became aware that provinces and delega-tions must also be involved in animating their members and become active in the process of the Ratio Missionis. It was stressed on several occasions that in this first phase of our journey we are called to clarify our missionary being and acting; after the Intercapitular, instead, we will have the phase of evaluation and discernment in order to plan for the future.
In a climate of great brotherhood and spontaneity, the workshop evidenced the richness of the mis-sionary experience of the Institute, attained in our work on four continents. The Ratio Missionis must take into account our tradition and be inspired by the example of so many confreres, Fathers and Brothers, who carried on the Comboni mission in history. At the same time, the workshop identified some of the problems which prevent us from facing the challenges of an ever more globalized world. For example: the lack of planning and continuity in our missionary work, the resistance to any stimulus towards renewal, the difficulties of living in communities which are more and more international and intercultural, the use of money to carry out personal rather than community or provincial projects
All the participants, assisted by the provincial and delegation commissions, will animate the work and gather material to send to the General Secretary for Evangelisation. Finally, the continental as-sembly of English-speaking Africa was planned to take place at Kampala from 1 to 6 May 2006, to evaluate the work and the continental contributions for the first draft of the Ratio Missionis.
General Secretary for Formation
Assembly for Formators
The Assembly for formators in the Novitiates, Scholasticates and C.B.C. (C.I.F.) was held at Palen-cia, Spain, from 10 to 30 July 2005.
It follows the Pesaro Assembly held in 1999. Forty-one confreres participated: 15 from the Noviti-ates, 15 from the Scholasticates and 4 from the C.B.C., 2 representatives of the provincial superiors, 2 of the Brothers and some members of the General Administration.
Over a period of three weeks, in an atmosphere of fraternity and sharing, three important stages were lived out:
The First Stage dealt with Ongoing Formation and a common approach in the Institute (Chapter General 2003) and in the Church (Vita Consacrata), with the participation of several confreres who animated the assembly on the different days.
Right from the start and through the input of the Superior General, we faced a reality at once beauti-ful and difficult, complex and challenging. Clearly and frankly, and without any beating about the bush, Fr. Teresino Serra shared his analysis of the situation concerning Comboni formation in the life of the Institute. He invited us to identify the “Achilles heel”, the weak point in the process of formation, and the aspects that prevent - or have prevented - a fruitful journey in preparing for the Mission and the total giving of self.
The Second Stage dealt with the evaluation of the formation journey as implemented during the past seven years, keeping as the point of reference the Pesaro Assembly (1999) and the document on the evaluation of formation (2001). Each formation community presented its report, emphasising the rich-ness of daily life. Many challenging areas came to the fore and these will require a different new ap-proach.
The Third Stage was a very important moment of reflection aimed at formulating new, meaningful and especially concrete proposals for our journey during the coming years.
The Achilles heel - or weak points - in the Comboni system of formation became then pretty clear to the assembly.
• We are quite aware of lack of basic “requirements” in our accompaniment and discernment through the various stages of formation.
• The interiorisation of the values does not reach the heart or the life of the persons involved.
• We are faced with a dichotomy, a separation between language and life.
• The formation journey lacks continuity: the gradual moving from one stage to the next is either not achieved or it is not apparent.
• The very structure of formation - like the venues and buildings, the planning and passage from one stage to the next, - require, therefore, a re-thinking in order to find new answers to the today of our history.
• Formation and mission do not express unity in the lives of the persons: we feel the need for a unified course in which human, Christian and Comboni growth may find in the mission its “natural” place in order to achieve a clear and mature identity.
• We formators also feel the urgent need to cultivate more our own formation, in order that our own lives may be the first witness, the expression of self giving, for our youth on a formation journey.
Thus, the proposals formulated during the assembly and worked out with courage by all the forma-tors, are meant to be today’s response, both sincere and concrete, for a new direction in formation in the Comboni Institute.
Some of these proposals have been presented to the General Council, so that, through further dis-cernment, they may be evaluated and speedily implementation.
The conclusions of the assembly are available on the Comboni website www.comboni.org, reserved area, in the secretariat of formation’s section.
Sincere thanks to the province of Spain and to the Comboni community of Palencia for their wel-come and unstinting assistance in making everything run so smoothly.
The following were awarded magna cum laude licentiates in “Arabic and Islamic Studies” at the P.I.S.A.I.:
Fr. Antonio Núñez Baldenebro: “Arabic Renaissance and the Narcissistic Wound - A Cri-tique of George Tarabishi of Contemporary Arabic Islamic Radicalism”.
Fr. Dominic Eibu: “Religious Freedom in Islam - A general over-view of Religious Freedom in Islam according to 'Abd al-Muta'ali al Sa'idi”.
Fr. Onesmas Godfrey Otíeno: “The Political Perspective and the Caliphate in an Arab/Islamic Civilization - Extracted from Dr. Ahmad Al-Baghdadi’s Book (The Renovation of Religious Thought: A call for using the mind)”.
Fr. Zagaja Adam (PO) Wólka Niedźwiedzka (PL) 02.07.2005
Fr. Kondo Komivi (Antoine) (T) Atakapamé (TG) 03.07.2005
Fr. Marcelo Fonseca Oliveira (P) Sobral (P) 24.07.2005
Fr. Kakwata Kigwaya Séraphin (CN) Kinshasa (RDC) 31.07.2005
Fr. Kibira Anthony Kimbowa (U) Masaka (UG) 06.08.2005
Holy Redeemer Guild
September 01 – 15 NAP 16 – 30 PE
October 01 – 15 P 16 – 31 RSA
September – That St. Daniel Comboni may grant courage and perseverance to all the members of the Comboni Family who are proclaiming the Gospel in areas under the influence of Islam and in situations of particular difficulty, violence and war. Let us pray.
October – That we may proclaim the Gospel while retaining an attitude of profound respect and appreciation of the values and religious experiences of the peoples we serve. Let us pray.
Fr. Pasquale Crazzolara is still the most important expert in the study of the peoples of the Nile Valley, even according to any academic or librarian expert in African studies. It was more than right, therefore, that a fellow countryman should undertake to brush the dust of the years off his life and works and restore his memory:
“P. Pasquale Crazzolara e la sua Africa”, Franz Vittur, edited by the Ladino Institute “Micurà de Rü”, 176 pages.
This booklet by Vittur is light and pleasant, with a substantial content and very much in Fr. Pasquale’s style, a real tiny jewel. Those interested should contact: Istitut Ladin “Micurà de Rü” - 2005 San Martin de Tor (BZ), Italia. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
The closing days of August and the early days of September this year mark a significant moment for the Comboni missionary project in Asia with the visit of Fr. Teresino Serra, Superior General, accom-panied by Fr. Tesfamariam Ghebrecristos Woldeghebriel, to the communities of Taipei and Macau, and the subsequent visit of Fr. Tesfarmariam to the communities of the Philippines (Fr. General visited them early last year). Apart from having the opportunity to meet the confreres, the visitors will be able to meet the local Christian communities, the bishops and members of other Missionary Institutes serv-ing in this part of Asia.
During the visit, a three-day meeting of all the Comboni Missionaries working in Taipei and Macau, hosted by the confreres at St. Joseph the Worker’s Church in Macau itself, will take place. The first meeting of its kind in six years, it will aim at evaluating the Comboni-China journey thus far, and mak-ing plans for the future. One important item on the agenda will be the various ways in which the con-freres can become more involved in the Church in Mainland China.
Golden Jubilee of Priesthood
Ordained in 1955 by Cardinal Montini, Fr. Franco Sesenna celebrated his fifty years of priesthood on 26 June at Balsas, Brazil.
Having been in Brazil “Nordeste” since January 1965, Fr. Franco spent more than thirty years at the service of the diocese of Balsas.
Our Lord said: “He who loses his life for my sake finds it”. Fr. Franco seems to have made these words his life project, trying to be faithful to the Gospel and to the poor, according to the charism of Comboni.
The celebration was most meaningful. For example, during the penitential rite Fr. Franco tore up the old tunic he had always worn and put on a new one, presented to him by the parish communities. Then there was the arrival of a peasant on horseback, carrying a book of the Gospels in his haver-sack. The book of the Gospels was presented to Fr. Franco during the liturgy of the Word as a symbol of the journeys, discomfort and difficulties which the early missionaries had to endure in order to reach the more distant communities.
The province thanks Fr. Franco for having spent his life in the service of the Gospel.
Courses and Continental Assembly
The month of July was both very intense and fruitful for the Delegation of Central America. The Mis-sion Promotion course for the provinces and delegations of America and Asia, in which the Comboni Missionary Sisters also took part, was held from 5 to 20 July. These were days of great involvement, deep formation and lots of enthusiasm for continuing in the work of animators according to the style of St. Daniel Comboni.
July 19 and 20 were days dedicated to the Continental Assembly of Mission Promotion during which the participants shared their concerns and plans towards making mission promotion more effective in the American and Asian continents.
Meeting of Young Confreres
On Monday 25 July the meeting of the young confreres took place with the participation also of Bro. Alfredo de Jesús Aguilar Cedeño, now in Costa Rica where he is preparing to leave for the Comboni year of Ongoing Formation in Mexico.
The meeting, which lasted a full day, was directed by Fr. Enrique Sán-chez González who shared on being a Comboni Missionary today.
Time was also allocated to the confreres for sharing their own experiences, to reflect on the present situation of the delegation and to evaluate our work in the places we serve. The day was concluded with a joyous entertainment together.
The Yearly Assembly of the delegation took place from 26 to 28 July with, an unusual thing, all con-freres attending.
On the first day we reflected on the situations the confreres have to face in such diverse places of the delegation.
We identified the challenges confronting us and became aware of the good that is done in Central America through our presence. We gave thanks especially for the gift of vocations, seeing the encour-aging number of postulants in San José.
On the second day, the assembly began to work on the Ratio Missionis. This was considered the most fruitful part of the meeting, as we tried to identify our basic aims and future direction.
The third day was taken up with more practical problems. Among the proposed commitments, we underlined the decision to look more seriously at the implementation of the common fund. Concerning this, a commission has been set up to draft norms that have to be ready by the end of January of next year at the latest.
On the last day, 29 July, all the local superiors gathered to share their experiences, using as a guide the reflections contained in an article by Fr. Manuel Augusto Lopes Ferreira on the theme of leadership.
The delegation may be small, but it certainly continues to be a place where the passion of St. Daniel Comboni sets many hearts alight.
Propaganda Fide closes “Mater Ecclesiae” college
The decision by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe to close the college for the formation of catechists at Castel Gandolfo brings to an end the collaboration between the Comboni Missionaries and Propa-ganda Fide, which had lasted for twenty years.
"Mater Ecclesiae" was founded in 1978 by Cardinal Agnelo Rossi and was based at Castel Gandolfo in the building that, for many years, had been the summer residence of the Pontifical Urban College, and previously an ancient Franciscan convent.
The college received young catechists coming from all the countries of the missionary world: Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and East European countries. At first the training lasted two years with around 60 students. Afterwards, at the request of the university, the course was extended to three years with around 90 students. More than 30 countries were represented.
Teaching was guaranteed by the Pontifical Urbanian University for a very diversified group of stu-dents. There were men and women, religious and lay people, following a programme devised to intro-duce them to philosophy, theology and some of the human sciences. Besides the resident students there were also many from outside who would come only for lectures: the majority of these were pos-tulants or female novices from the houses of religious formation in the neighbourhood.
The first Comboni Missionary to work at the College was Fr. Alberto Marra who arrived in January 1986. He was the first spiritual director and later rector up to 1993. He was succeeded by Fr. Luciano Benetazzo who worked there until the end of July 2005 when the college was closed for good.
As regards spiritual direction, Fr. Domenico Ghirotto served in that field for eleven years, up to Christmas 1999. He was succeeded by Fr. Stelvio Benetazzo, the brother of Fr. Luciano.
Plans for the College have now changed: it is to be entrusted to the “Communion and Liberation” movement and to the Catholic University of Milan for the training of economists, company directors and the like. The house is being renovated while a rector is being appointed and a new formation framework provided.
Course of formation for missionary animators
The course for missionary animators took place at Kimwenza (Kinshasa) from 7 to 21 August 2005. Fourteen confreres, ten CMS and four laypeople, a total of 28 persons from French-speaking Africa (Togo-Ghana-Benin, Chad, Central Africa and Congo) participated.
The course was animated by our confreres and CMS, but above all by Africans both as regards the vision of Mission and communication techniques. This, too, was a sign that gave us food for thought.
The reflection started from the mission in the Bible and in the documents of the Church, especially of the African Churches. We were then helped to form our own vision of the mission. This provided us with useful points for our mission promotion and helped us to see the specific service of animation as an integral part of our Comboni identity and as a service to evangelisation.
We took care to allow ourselves to be challenged by the socio-cultural and ecclesial realities of our countries in order to place our mission promotion in its proper context. Having studied the charismatic dimension in Comboni, our tradition and the recent documents of our Institutes, we tried to find the best means of communication and groups’ animation.
The remaining days were devoted to the formulation of our vision of mission promotion for French-speaking Africa, its main objectives, content and methodologies and to the search for the means to accomplish that service.
Each province prepared points for the implementation of all this. The general conclusions of the as-sembly hinge upon human resources, the formation of animators, material and financial resources, availing of the Centre of Mission promotion Studies and Formation required by the missiological con-gress of July 2004 and that which will result from this meeting.
The experience was deemed positive by everyone: we departed “animated in order to animate”.
Lay Comboni Missionaries
There was something new in the yearly conference of the Lay Comboni Missionaries held at Pesaro from 21 to 24 July.
Starting from the Comboni charism, whose basic elements were clearly summed up by Fr. Joaquim José Gonçalves Oliveira Valente da Cruz, the “galaxy” of the Lay Comboni Missionaries in Italy, in dan-ger of fragmentation, rediscovered itself in the following cornerstones: mission promotion, evangelisation, justice and peace, migrants... through a network of individuals and families dedicated to combining mis-sionary spirituality with practical choices of sobriety, welcoming and sharing.
Fr. Alberto Pelucchi, the provincial superior, also participated. He engaged in dialogue with the vari-ous groups and underlined that national coordination should take account of the new reality so as to represent not only the zones but also the various sectors: from the young Lay Comboni Missionaries coming from the GIM to the Comboni community families in formation.
A beautiful gesture during the final Eucharist showed the spirit of the Lay Comboni Missionaries: the presentation of the crucifix by Fr. Alberto to Christophe, Andrea, Claudio e Andrés who have decided to leave for the mission.
This is the title of the summer camps that the GIM teams of Naples, Padova and Venegono proposed to the young participants during the summer holidays. “Remain within” means challenging the youth to face up to the reality in which they live without running away or seeking great experiences, which then lack continuity.
Gathered in the outskirts of great cities, at the soup kitchens, in rehabilitation communities, in environ-ments characterised by the challenges of immigration and the various mafias, scores of youth every day dedicated extended periods to reflection on Bible texts, the service of the marginalised and to encoun-ters with great personalities.
This was indeed a real missionary journey in the country of Italy which seems full of contradictions but also contains signs of hope. Following these camps, the GIM returned to their normal routine with re-newed enthusiasm.
The theme for 2005-2006 is: “Seeking the Risen Lord Today”.
The events narrated were reported by Fr. Mariano Tibaldo and witnessed by Fr. John Kofi Tasiame.
On 12 July at 7.30 am, Fr. Janito Joseph Aldrin Palacios had left Sololo to go to a meeting at Mar-sabit with two catechists, their wives and their children, ten people in all. They did not know that on that same morning a group of Borana had attacked the village of Torbi in an area of their parish of So-lolo, killing 21 people of the Gabbra tribe, including women and children, and wounding many others. During the journey they heard of the massacre. They also heard other bits of news but nothing certain.
Aware that the situation was confused and dangerous, Fr. Aldrin asked his fellow passengers if they wanted to proceed. When they answered that they did, he continued the journey to Marsabit.
At Bobisa they found an improvised roadblock organised by the local people. Fr. Aldrin stopped and alighted from the vehicle explaining that he was a missionary priest like those of the area and known to the people and emphasising that his passengers were Christians.
Meanwhile, a large crowd of people started to approach him while those manning the roadblock be-gan to accuse the people who were with Fr. Aldrin of killing their people, since they were Borana. Fr. Aldrin, seeing that the situation was getting out of hand, jumped into the vehicle and tried to flee only to find a lorry in his path. Beaten with a club, he was violently dragged from the vehicle and kicked repeatedly. Some of the elders forced him to kneel down and watch how they would kill “his” Borana. Fr. Aldrin again tried to approach the vehicle surrounded by a crowd of people throwing stones. The two catechists, their wives and children were dragged from the vehicle and killed. Their bodies were later taken and abandoned in the desert.
Meanwhile, Fr. Aldrin had been taken to a nearby chapel. The elders wanted to kill him but the women and the young people were against it. By chance a European, whose motor cycle had broken down on his way to Marsabit, arrived on the scene.
Fr. Aldrin gave him the keys of his vehicle, asking him to go with it to Marsabit and inform Fr. António Alexandre da Rocha Ferreira or the Bishop about what was happening. Thus his confreres were informed about what had happened that same day. The Comboni Missionaries at Marsabit, see-ing the sorry state of Fr. Aldrin’s vehicle, became very worried but could not go to his assistance, as it was getting dark.
The following morning Fr. Alex and the Comboni Sister Maria Elisabete Lourenço Almendra went to Bobisa and succeeded in bringing Fr. Aldrin back with them. Later on Fr. Alex returned to retrieve the bodies of the catechists and their families and take them to their villages.
Khartoum’s reaction at John Garang’s death
The news that John Garang, the first Sudanese Southerner to be elected vice-president of Sudan, had died with 12 other passengers in the helicopter that was flying him back to Juba after a visit to Uganda, was an unexpected and terrible blow. After the enthusiasm for the signing of the peace agreement, the whole peace process seemed to have collapsed.
The anger of the Southerners in Khartoum exploded immediately. They went on the rampage, breaking, destroying and burning whatever they could in the streets of the city. They did not believe that Garang’s death was an accident, but just another ploy of the ruling Arab party.
Several markets were completely destroyed. A number of Arabs were targeted and killed. The capi-tal, from the time the death was announced at around 8.30 in the morning up to 4.00 in the afternoon, when the army took again control, was in complete disarray. The bridges were closed. People barri-caded themselves inside their houses.
The following days the Arabs took their revenge. Calling for a “holy war”, they attacked and killed Southerners at random, especially in the outskirts of their three towns. Sometimes even the police joined in. Many were arrested and it is said that many have disappeared. Appeals for calm were made by the president, parliamentarians, chiefs, religious personalities, among whom Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako. Thank God the sermons on the following Friday in the mosques were much restrained and, if not appealing for peace, at least were not encouraging disorders. The situation calmed down but the army and the police continued to surround the outskirts and search the Southerners’ houses.
The swearing-in of Salva Kiir as vice president, to replace Dr. Garang, brought hope that the peace process would continue, in spite of provocations.
May the Lord help the Sudan to continue in the peace process that has just started.
Sixty Years of Priesthood
On 26 June Fr. Peter Taschler celebrated his sixtieth anniversary of ordination, fifty of which he spent in this province. On the same day prayers were offered for ten other members of the province who, on the feast of SS. Peter and Paul, celebrated the anniversary of their priestly ordination.
Fr. Peter wrote: “I attribute my vocation to my mother who, as it often happens, had desired and prayed ‘from a mother’s womb’ (Jr. 1, 6) that a son of hers would become a priest. The parish priests and my parents used to take me, as though on a pilgrimage, to visit the diocesan seminary and, later on, the major seminary.
Due to the Second World War, I was the only one to be ordained on 29 June 1945 in the cathedral of Bressanone. I remember there were many people to receive the blessing of a newly ordained priest, an event that had not been seen for years.
I also owe my missionary vocation to my mother, to my spiritual director and Bishop Gargitter who, af-ter I had ministered for seven years in his diocese, allowed me to leave for the mission. In the two years of novitiate I prepared for my new missionary life, even when doing the washing up.
Aboard the ship on which I sailed to America I celebrated Mass for 700 passengers and 22 Spanish priests, as concelebration was unknown.
I have been a missionary for fifty years and I have worked, not in three continents, but in the three regions of Perù: in the Selva, visiting the 67 communities of Pozuzo, riding on a donkey or on foot, sometime celebrating five Masses a day; in the Sierra, at Tarma and Huánuco, having a 102 religious classes a week; on the Coast at Chimbote, Chincha and Lima, where, among other things, I directed five radio programmes a day. In recent years I have lived at the provincial house, writing my memoirs and serving the parish community of “Cristo Redentore”, the place where I would like to be buried. St. Daniel Comboni pray for me and for the missions”.
New Comboni Community
On 3 July, in Jorge Alessandri de Renca College (on the Northern outskirts of Santiago, Chile), the Eucharistic celebration of the induction of Fr. Mosè Mora, the new parish priest of “María Misionera”, and of the curate Fr. Nelson Edgar Mitchell Sandoval took place.
Mons. Ricardo Ezzati, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of Santiago, presided with Mgr. Javier Francisco Manterola. Fr. Rogelio Bustos Juárez, provincial, and his delegate to Chile, Fr. Gianluca Roso, concelebrated with them in the presence of the whole Comboni community of Santiago and more than 500 parishioners.
In his sermon Mons. Ezzati emphasised the importance of evangelisation in a large town, especially in its outskirts, where one could learn from the Good Shepherd to search untiringly for the lost sheep.
“To have a new parish priest, said Mons. Ezzati, is a great gift, a gift for everyone. It means knowing that you have a pastor who loves you and who is concerned with your journey as an evangelising community.
“The love of the Word, the celebration of the sacraments and devotion to the poor creates a com-munity, a new People of God, able to grow more and more each day in its journey of faith towards the contemplation of the face of God.
“Live your Christian lives with dignity and do not be afraid to open the doors to Christ: it is He who sends us to our brothers and sisters to make of this world a more worthy home for all.”
The more important moments of the celebration were accompanied by signs which symbolically highlighted the specific duties of the new parish priest: the profession of faith, the presentation of the baptismal font, the confessional and the Gospel for the proclamation of the Word and the altar for the sacrifice of the Mass.
The keys of the parish church were not presented since the parish, with 40.000 inhabitants, has no parish church as yet. Many people showed their affection and closeness to the new priests, not only by the liturgical celebration but also by sharing together a simple refreshment prepared by the parish pastoral council.
The situation in Juba following John Garang’s death
As soon as the news reached us that John Garang had died in a helicopter crash, Juba - the capital of South Sudan - and many major towns witnessed massive riots, not seen in decades. In Juba things took a turn for the worst when it was rumoured that the archbishop, Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, was also dead. Fortunately it was just a rumour.
After being flown round the vast southern region of bush and mountains, so that local people could also pay him homage, Garang’s body was taken to Juba for a memorial service and burial. Here a huge crowd paid its last respects to former rebel leader who had done so much to forge the peace agreement in Africa’s largest nation. Many people were wailing in grief and shaking green leaves, the traditional symbol of mourning. In chaotic and emotional scenes, tens of thousands of people packed the streets of Juba as Garang’s body was taken first to the small cathedral for the funeral service and then to the burial ground, next to the military training grounds and opposite the BJS (Bahri el Jebel) parliamentary buildings. Throughout the town the crowd waved banners honouring Garang, saying: “Garang will remain alive through his vision, thoughts and principles”; “Long live his struggle for the marginalised”; “Garang (Moses) is gone. May Joshua (Kiir) lead his people with courage!”
Mgr. Giuseppe Franzelli consecrated bishop of Lira
On 1 July 2005 the Apostolic Nuncio announced through the local radios that Fr. Giuseppe Franzelli had been appointed bishop of Lira Diocese. The announcement was greeted with joy, especially by the lay people of Lira and by the Apostolic Administrator Mgr. Paul Kalanda, bishop emeritus of Fort Portal.
It was on 12 July 1968 that the Holy See first detached the Lango District from the Gulu Diocese and erected it into the Lira Diocese, naming Fr. Caesar Asili as its first bishop. He was consecrated and installed as bishop of Lira on 27 October 1968. He was succeeded in 1989 by Bishop Joseph Oyanga, who retired in 2003.
Mgr. Franzelli arrived at Entebbe airport on 3 July, welcomed by a delegation of Lango people, rep-resenting the Lango communities of Entebbe and Kampala. His journey to Lira on 6 July will be long remembered. He found a large crowd of people, headed by Mgr. Paul Kalanda, at Kandini Corner, at the border of the Diocese of Lira: he was welcomed with songs and prayers. He was asked to bless them and was offered some food. He then drove on the main road to find at every crossroad crowds of people coming from the different parishes of the Diocese. A great welcome was given him especially at the important crossroad of Aber, Teboke, Aboke and Bala. When he arrived at the outskirts of Lira town, the regional centre of the Lango group, he was accompanied by a motorcade first through the slums of Lira and then along the main road up to the Cathedral. Someone commented, and the com-ment tells it all, “Not even president Obote (the first Ugandan president and belonging to the Lango group) had received such a welcome from the Lango people”.
The consecration took place in the stadium and was presided over by Archbishop John Baptist O-dama of Gulu, Mgr. Paul Kalanda, and the bishop emeritus of Lira, Mgr. Joseph Oyanga. Almost all the bishops of Uganda concelebrated, including Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala and the Apostolic Nun-cio to Uganda, Archbishop Christophe Pierre. Present were also a brother, a sister and a niece of Mgr. Franzelli, representing his family, and the Vicar General of the Comboni Missionaries, Fr. Fabio Carlo Baldan, who read a message from the Superior General. A huge crowd attended the ceremony, with representatives from all the parishes of the diocese led by their priests.
Mgr. Franzelli addressed the crowd in Acholi (similar to Lango), inserting a number of Lango sen-tences, showing his determination to speak the language of the people to better work with them. He asked for everyone’s collaboration, because a family is built up with the active participation of all its members.
Archbishop John Baptist Odama closed the day by drawing the crowd’s attention to “the miracle” that had happened on that marvellous day; “A son of Daniel Comboni, formed by the Comboni Mis-sionaries, has been ordained bishop in Uganda.” Indeed the seed of the Word of God, sown by many missionaries, has brought about abundant fruits.
We wish Mgr. Franzelli success and God’s blessings in his new ministry.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Fr. Gabriele Marcon (01.01.1925 – 09.07.2005)
As a young man, Gabriel was awarded a teacher’s diploma; he was active in the Catholic Action Youth and as a parish catechist. During the war he was called up for military service. When the war was over, in the confusion that followed 25 April 1945, Gabriel, to avoid being caught up in the net of the small Republic which the Fascists were trying to create, deserted from the army and, since he had no money for the train fare, crossed the river Adige on foot and reached his home.
At that time Fr. Pietro Villa was visiting the parishes looking for vocations. Gabriel heard the Lord calling him. He was asked to teach mathematics at Trento, in the junior school of Muralta. He did his novitiate at Gozzano (1953-1955) and theology at Venegono (1955-1959). He was then ordained and asked to teach mathematics again, this time to the Comboni Brothers candidates at Pellegrina.
In 1960 he left for Brazil. At Balsas he occupied such posts as secretary to the bishop, administrator of the prelature, formator of the Brothers and rector of the seminary, not to mention his pastoral com-mitments.
Faithful to his religious practices, he was always available for celebrations such as those for various groups of students and those for the school-year-end. He loved to celebrate Mass for the sick and the elderly. He worked in the following missions: Alto Parnaíba, São Raimundo das Mangabeiras, Açailândia, Timon (São Antonio). He also spent a while in Portugal as formator in the house of Coim-bra. Shy, intelligent, simple and witty, he spoke well and with great simplicity. The people were very fond of him.
He had an extraordinary memory and could recall the names of people he met years previously, even if he went to visit them rarely, as he was afraid of becoming too emotional in meeting old friends.
Always ready to obey, he never complained when he was transferred. He was skilled in many fields: manual tasks, building maintenance, cars, and electronics.
He was a happy person and liked to make others happy with his jokes and funny stories. He never lost his ability to teach and catechise which he had had since he was an adolescent among the Youth Catholic Action.
Brought up according to the customs of the Church and having experienced the struggle between Catholic Action and Fascism, he had a great love for the Church and wanted it to be perfect. He could not stand criticism of the hierarchy. He suffered a lot when he heard of a confrere who wished to leave the priesthood or the Institute. For him fidelity to accepted commitments was such a great responsibil-ity that there was no room for weakness or giving up.
He was kind towards his confreres and did everything to make them welcome when they came to see him. Everyone enjoyed the meals which Gabriel prepared with great care.
He could not tolerate speaking behind a person’s back. He was always ready to calm tensions with one of his pithy phrases, like the time when an animated discussion took place on the theology of lib-eration: “I want to die a slave!” he said. It was like a cold shower and the discussion ended then and there!
He spent his final years at Timon (São Antonio) in the community of the postulants. One of them wrote: “Fr. Gabriel was an example of acceptance of and witness to the Kingdom. He was of great help to us postulants in understanding the radical call to the charism and mission of St. Daniel Com-boni. Fr. Gabriel encouraged us with the missionary experience and wisdom of a great man.
We noted in him three talents. Firstly, he valued the community. As superior of the house of forma-tion he was especially concerned that all should feel at ease. Community encounters, such as meals and special celebrations, were occasions of real joy and happiness.
Secondly, he loved personal and community prayer. He almost always led the community prayer and told us that love and zeal for prayer were the two pillars of his missionary vocation. Every morn-ing, before it was time to go to the chapel, the light was on in his room and one could hear a quiet voice murmuring: it was Fr. Gabriel praying.
Thirdly, he trusted in the Lord. He made us enthusiastic with his deep love for and total trust in the Lord. Sometimes he would tell us interesting events of his life and personal experiences. For example, on his first visit to the communities of the rural areas of Balsas, alone, on horseback, exhausted by the heat, suffering from thirst, he began to think: ‘What am I doing here, far from my family and country? I felt like crying. At a certain point tears flowed down onto my lips and tongue. In that very moment I felt that the Lord was with me. This trust in his presence stayed with me all my life.’”
Recently Fr. Gabriel had moved to São Luís, in order not to be a burden to the community of Timon. At the hospital it was found that his liver was not functioning properly. He left for Verona hoping to have an operation and then return. He simply wanted to die in Brazil. By e-mail we kept in contact with him. On the morning of 9 July we were notified that his earthly journey had come to an end. In the communities where we celebrated Mass for him, many people wept as they remembered Fr. Gabriel, a very fine person, esteemed and much loved.
It had been nice to have lived with him who was always so happy to be the “faithful servant of Our Lord Jesus Christ”, as he used to call himself, paraphrasing his own name of Gabriel. That was how he always lived: he was a humble and happy confrere, a man of God and of the poor. The witness that Fr. Gabriel left us makes us understand that he gave himself without reserve to the Lord and to the mission, just like St. Daniel Comboni. (Fr. Candido Poli)
Fr. Paolo Serra (30.01.1937 – 15. 07.2005)
Born at Mores, Sassari, on 30 January 1937, he had begun to follow his priestly vocation in his home diocese when he entered the novitiate at Gozzano in 1957. On 9 September 1959 he took the religious vows and went to Venegono for theology. In 1964, just ordained priest, he was sent by the Superior General to Uganda, where he remained until December 1996.
He learned English and Luganda well and soon showed a passion for his missionary life in the ser-vice of the diocese of Kampala. He faced the violence of war both in the North and South of Uganda without fear. On the contrary, on more than one occasion he showed the soldiers and rebels that meekness of heart with which he was gifted.
Fr. Paolo found interior peace in prayer, especially in meditating on the Psalms, which he often re-cited alone in church before community prayer, “to savour completely the spiritual depths of each psalm”.
It was also due to Fr. Paolo, together with Fr. Pierli, that the scholasticate was started in Uganda. It was a pioneering initiative that saw the light of day in 1975. Fr. Paolo took care of pastoral and mis-sionary formation, involving the scholasticate and the parish of Mbuya. Fr. Francesco attended more to the academic aspect, teaching in the national seminary of Gaba where also the Comboni scholas-tics studied theology.
It was the first Comboni scholasticate in Africa with students from America, Eritrea and Uganda. With the arrival of Fr. Lorenzo Carraro, mission promotion and vocations promotion were started.
Youth ministry was at the centre of his concerns. In the nineties, the Ugandan Episcopal Conference placed Fr. Paolo in charge of the Catholic laity, a ministry that he carried out with passion and skill, emphasising, in all the dioceses he visited, the urgency of the ‘ad gentes’ mission of every baptized person.
The YCS (Young Christian Students) provided the methodology and the contacts with the groups of young Christians both in Africa and in Europe. As we well know, Fr. Paolo’s special involvement with the youth reached its apex between 1985 and 1995, when he was responsible for the pastoral care of the youth in Uganda.
As regards the pastoral care of the parish, he cared especially for the poor who were quite numer-ous. The social pastoral work was directed by a committee inspired by the Comboni Sister Gabriella Crestani. It reflected not only her directives, but also her piety and open-mindedness.
In order to involve the entire parish in helping the poor, Fr. Paolo would organise three penitential services a year with all the small communities’ members coming to the central church for the sacra-ment of reconciliation. On those occasions, all the Christians were invited to provide for the needs of the poor. Everybody remembers the mountains of “matoke”, bananas, cabbage, flour, pineapples and beans placed in the middle of the church.
The make up of Mbuya parish was complex, partly agricultural and partly industrial, with many refu-gees from Rwanda. There was also a notable increase in the number of conversions to Catholicism. The missionaries did some research to discover the reason. The answers converged on two aspects: first, the Catholics prayed, participated in the celebrations and sang nice hymns; second, the Catholics helped the poor.
Fr. Giorgio Previdi joined Fr. Paolo and Fr. Francesco when, with the growth of the scholasticate and the parish, it was necessary to have a third full-time priest. Cardinal Emanuele Nsubuga consid-ered Mbuya a pilot parish in the complex pastoral life of his archdiocese.
Fr. Paolo passed the last eight years of his life in Rome in charge of ACSE (Comboni Association at the Service of Migrants and Itinerants). Greatly valuing “his great human, Christian and priestly gifts”, Mgr. Agostino Marchetto, Secretary of the Pontifical Pastoral Council for Migrants and Itinerants, wrote of Fr. Paolo: “Missionary of the Comboni Family, Fr. Paolo bore witness with his life to his calling to service, evangelisation and charity, both among the people of Uganda and the immigrants of Rome.
“The apostolic soul of Fr. Paolo found a means of expression in the more than thirty years of pas-toral activity in Africa, from where, significantly, the Lord called him to Himself.
“Also in Rome Fr. Paolo gave his best, especially in welcoming the immigrants who knocked at the doors of ACSE, continuing, with enthusiasm and self denial the providential work begun many years ago, in 1969, by the late Fr. Renato Bresciani. Fr. Paolo leaves us all a great inheritance because he invites us to imitate his apostolic zeal, to become, following the footsteps of Christ, and in the heart of the Church, peacemakers, ministers of welcoming, generous servants of the Gospel proclamation and tireless builders of authentic communion, without leaving room for compromise or superficiality.”
Not by accident it is possible to read on the Internet the presentation of his last work, a kind of last will and testament: forty six files for a true journey of faith for the immigrants, a series called: “Together for Life”.
In the last long conversation Fr. Paolo had with a confrere, he confided his desire that ACSE should one day become a source of African vocations for Africa. We may call it a spiritual intuition, a utopian gamble, which this great missionary leaves to each one of us.
The Lord willed that in March 2005 Fr. Paolo should return to Africa and then call him to Himself from that land he so dearly loved. A cerebral haemorrhage ended his life in a matter of hours. His re-mains, brought to Italy, now rest in the cemetery of his hometown.
Bro. Duilio Beltrami (28.02.1927 – 26.08.2005)
The necrology of Bro. Duilio Beltrami will be published in the next issue of Familia Comboniana.
Let us pray for our dead
THE FATHER: Matthia of Fr. Emmanuel Ssempeera Njuba (U); Bekit Sliman of the Sc. Tes-faab Bekit Sliman (ER); Jan of Fr. Adam Zagaja (PO); Odibert of Fr. Jacques Théodore Monsengo Pwobe (CO).
THE MOTHER: Sudelia of Fr. René Alfonso Oñate Rebolledo (BNE); Caterina of Fr. Anto-nio Radice (M); Maria of Bro. Valentim da Ponte Rodrigues (P); María Guadalupe of the Sc. Juan Apolinar Palomar Alcántar (M).
THE BROTHER: Jorge Fernandes of Fr. José de Sousa (P) and Fr. Rogério Artur de Sousa (P); Christian of the Sc. Jean-Marie René Aholou (T).
THE SISTER: Bernadette of Fr. Jakob Sodokin (MO); Maria of Fr. Emilio Ragonio (BNE); Maria of Fr. Lino Venturini (I); Ottilie of Bro. Ludwig Kästel (DSP); Gesuina of Bro. Antonio Marchi (I); Maria Andreina of Fr. Vittorio Trabucchi (I).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. Anna Clara Chiesi; Sr. M. Immacolata Deriu; Sr. Ruth Ann Bryden; Sr. Pierantonia Regonesi; Sr. Bianca Maria Carta; Sr. Giovanna Maniero; Sr. Gian-franca Viviani; Sr. Pia Teresa Ogliari; Sr. Micaelita Butti.
THE SECULAR COMBONI MISSIONARY: Rosetta Sciacoviello.