MERRY CHRISTMAS and BLESSED NEW YEAR
Commission for the revision of the Formation System
The following have been nominated members of the Commission: Fr. Enrique Sánchez González (DCA, coordinator), Fr. John Peter Alenyo (U), Fr. Juan Climent Vilaplana (KE), Fr Tomás Herreros Baroja (KE), Fr. Genesio Maroso (I), Fr. Girolamo Miante (C, secretary of the general secretariat for vocations promotion and formation), Fr. Miguel Navarrete Arceo (TC), Fr. José Magri Odelir (C, assistant general in charge of vocations promotion and formation).
The following have been nominated consultors of the Commission: for anglofone Africa: Fr. Anthony Mawa Bosco (SS), Fr. John Baptist Keraryo Opargiw (MZ), Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie (ET, pro-vincial continental coordinator for vocations promotion and formation); for francophone Africa: Fr. Victor Hugo Castillo Matarrita (CA, provincial continental coordinator for vocations promotion and formation), Fr. Godwin Kwame Kornu (TC), Fr. Ngumba-Lelo Joseph (CN); per l’America-Asia: Fr. Bustos Juárez Rogelio (PE, provincial coordinator for vocations promotion and formation), Bro. Degan Alberto (EC), Fr. Vanderlei Bervian (BS), Fr. Víctor Manuel Tavares Dias (A); for Europe: Fr. Casile Carmelo (I), Fr. Rojo Buxonat Laureano (E, provincial continental coordinator for vocations and formation).
Preparatory Committee for the Intercapitular Assembly
The following were appointed members of the committee: Fr. Fabio Carlo Baldan (C, vicar general), Bro. Hernán Romero Arias (C, assistant general), Fr. Giuseppe Sandri (C, general secretary), Fr. Umberto Pescantini (C, secretary of the general secretariat for mission promotion) e Fr. Piergiogio Prandina (C). The committee’s contact person in Mexico is Fr. Rafael González Ponce (M, provincial superior).
Journeys and visits of the members of the General Council
Fr. Teresino Serra: from 4 to 15 November 2005: London , to conduct the retreat for the confreres and a short visit to the province; from 19 November to 15 December: Uganda, to conduct the retreat for the con-freres and visit the province; from 6 to 14 January 2006: visit to the Comboni Year of Ongoing Formation in Mexico City; from 20 to 30 January: Colombia, to conduct the retreat for the confreres and a brief visit to the delegation; from 3 to 15 February: South Brazil, to conduct the retreat for the confreres; from 19 to 27 April: Spain, to preach the retreat for the confreres; from 15 to 30 May: North East Brazil, for the provincial assem-bly and to visit the province; from 13 to 25 July: Eritrea, to conduct the retreat for the confreres of Eritrea and to visit the delegation. In August he will be in Rome and participate in September in the Intercapitular As-sembly in Mexico.
Fr. Fabio Carlo Baldan
: from 20 November to 15 December visits Uganda.
Fr José Magri Odelir
: from 3 November to 3 December: Togo-Ghana-Benin, to conduct the re-treat for the confreres and to visit the province; from 27 December 2005 to 25 January 2006: Chad, to preach the retreat to the confreres and visit the province; from 16 April to 14 May: to visit the province of Central Africa.
Fr. Tesfamariam Ghebrecristos Woldeghebriel
: from 14 to 30 November: Spain, to visit the communities and take part in the provincial council to be held in Barcelona from 18 to 20 November; from 3 to 18 December: visit to the London Province; January 2006: visits some communities in Italy.
Bro. Hernán Romero Arias
: from 8 to 25 November: visits Malawi-Zambia; from 26 November to 12 December: visits Mozambique.
In Pace Christi – 2006
Towards the end of November 2005, the booklet In Pace Christi was sent to all the provinces and delega-tions and to some communities. Every confrere should receive a copy. As soon as you receive them, please inform the General Secretary immediately. If it so happens that some provinces or delegations have not re-ceived their copies by the end of January 2006, we would ask them to contact the general secretary.
Office of the General Postulator
Approval of the texts in Latin and in Italian of our “Proprio”
On 1 October 2005, the Congregation for Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, with Protocol 646/05/L and 647/05/L, has approved the texts of our Calendario Proprio and a new Messa Votiva per San Daniele Comboni. We will carry on in order to complete the work, by presenting to the same decastery spe-cific sections concerning the Comboni Missionary Sisters, thus allowing us, in the not too distant future, to print in one single booklet the sections that are common to both Institutes as well as the sections that are proper to each Institute. The first booklet to be printed will obviously be in Italian, as the Italian texts have al-ready been approved.
Meanwhile, the texts to be translated into English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Arabic have been sent to those appointed to carry out this task.
Of the translation for the solemnity of St. Daniel Comboni, I have received translations into English, French, Portuguese and Arabic. These translations were sent to all the provinces and seem to have been well received and appreciated. Particular thanks go to those confreres who undertook the not easy task of translation.
In the next Familia Comboniana we hope to be able to announce the publication of the booklet in Italian to be given to each confreres, the pamphlet in a missal format as well as the various translations to be pre-sented to the competent Decastery for approval.
Finally, I would be grateful if anyone who notices errors, whether typographical, linguistic or whatever, draws my attention to these. The well-known problem of inclusive language is still taboo, so each individual should take whatever precautions are necessary but, “cum granu salis”! Thank you. (Fr. Arnaldo Baritussio)
Ordinations to the priesthood
Fr. Mehari Abraha Iskias (ET) Adrigat (ETH) 20.11.2005
December 01 – 15 U 15 – 31 CN
January 01 – 07 A 08 – 15 C 16 – 31 BNE
December – That our elderly and sick members may experience lasting joy in living out their missionary consecration day by day as hidden stones, and be a source of grace for the Institute through their life of prayer and their love for the mission. Let us pray.
- For all missionary men and women who live in difficult and tense situations caused by war, sickness or old age, that the Father may console them and renew their missionary enthusiasm. Let us pray.
Award to Fr. Aristide Guerra
On 11 November 2005, in the presence of the mayor, Veronica Botti, and the members of the town council of Bomporto, Modena (Italy), of relatives, friends and benefactors, Fr. Aristide Guerra, Comboni Missionary in Eritrea since 1952, was awarded the 2005 “Premio San Martino d’Oro”. Fr. Tesfamariam Ghebrecristos Woldeghebriel of Asmara, one of the first students of Fr. Aristide, was there to receive the award on his be-half. He met Fr. Aristide for the first time in 1964 in Eritrea, when he entered the seminary to begin his voca-tional journey.
The mayor pointed out that the award of the prize for voluntary work and civil commitment is not meant to indicate who is the best, but a symbolic way of saying thanks to those who give themselves to the service of humanity. It is an opportunity for encouraging others to do the same and to provide a moment to think about life’s difficulties experienced by so many people in the world, besides remembering those citizens abroad who give their lives to help others. It is also the first time this award has been conferred upon a Comboni Missionary, one who is deeply committed to human rights and to Africa.
Reading from the 2003 Chapter Acts of the Comboni Missionaries (42.6, 42.7, 42.8), the mayor empha-sised that there are many Comboni Missionaries who spend their lives to alleviate misery and oppression but that today this is no longer enough. It is necessary to go to the roots of these evils and heal the causes of these imbalances.
Slides were shown of Fr. Aristide’s work among adults and children in Eritrea, people still suffering from the aftermath of a long war. At the same time one of his letters was read in which he was thanking people and encouraging them to continue in this attitude of openness and sensitivity towards the suffering people of Eritrea and towards Africa.
The delegate of Eritrea had also sent a message in which he thanked Fr. Aristide for his work and the citi-zens of Bomporto for the recognition granted to him.
This is the reason behind the award: “This award is conferred on Fr. Aristide Guerra in recognition of his valued work carried out with generosity and commitment to alleviate the sufferings of the poor, the sick, the emarginated and refugees and to assist in human promotion, social development, education and health.”
The children of Bomporto were also organised. Among other things they elected a mayor and town council of their own to assist the work of Fr. Aristide. They were also present at the event. The mayor expressed admiration for their ability to say no to some of the advantages of being well off by giving up something to help people they had never met.
In his final words of thanks, Fr. Tesfamariam explained the methodology of St. Daniel Comboni who wanted the Africans themselves to be the ones to help Africa, that is, to “save Africa through Africans”. Fr. Aristide completely embodied this ideal. It suffices to remember that P. Tesfamariam is one of the choicest fruits of the missionary work of Fr. Aristide, and with him Mgr. Menghesteab Tesfamariam, now bishop of Asmara, and Fr. Tesfaghiorghis Hailè Berhane, novice master, and many other Comboni Missionaries from Eritrea and Ethiopia. The words of Fr. Tesfamariam drew a prolonged applause.
Fr. Ezechiele Ramin, “a troublesome witness”
The Padova Township (the department for youth programmes) and the Comboni Missionaries of Padova organised, in the third week of October, gatherings centred on Fr. Ezechiele Ramin, during the 20th anniver-sary of his martyrdom, dealing with the theme: “A troublesome witness”, aimed at the city, its associations and various organisations of volunteers, and the youth.
We present a summary of the initiatives carried out. On Sunday 23 October there was the celebration of a Mass in the parish of St. Joseph (the parish where Fr. Ezechiele was born) with Fr. Giorgio Padovan as the main celebrant. The mayor of the city, Flavio Zanonato, unveiled in the piazza a bronze sculpture, the work of Ettore Grego. On Wednesday 26 October, at the house of the Comboni Missionaries, there was a meeting with Mgr. Antonio Riboldi on the theme of "Prophecy and Legality" and on the missionary that was Fr. Ezechiele. Thursday 27 October, at the Verdi Theatre of Padova, a meeting with the youth of the senior schools (about 500 young people attended), on the theme “Lele Ramin, aged 32".
Reflections and testimonies were given throughout the morning by Antonio and Fabiano Ramin, member’s of Fr. Ezechiele’s family, by the Comboni Missionaries Fr. Teresino Serra, Superior General, and Fr. Giorgio Padovan; on behalf of the town: mayor Flavio Zanonato and the youth councillor Claudio Piron; on behalf of the parish: Mgr. Antonio Riboldi; on behalf of Mani Tese: Daniele Ronzoni; on behalf of the youth: the theat-rical workshop of “Martyrs today: troublesome witnesses”, directed by M. Grazia Mandruzzato.
It was a time of deep mission promotion and of hope. It is surprising how, after twenty years, the memory of Fr. Ezechiele still lives on among so many people and groups.
Missionary Institute London (MIL)
As a consequence of the decision taken by the Trustees (Superior Generals) of the seven Founding Insti-tutes to keep the students in their continent of origin for their theological training, the Board of Governors (Provincials) of the MIL, in their last meeting of 19 October 2005, made the following two proposals:
1) In light of the financial situation and the dearth of students, it would seem that it is no longer feasible for the Missionary Institute London to continue to exist. As the Board of Trustees is an integral part of the Insti-tute's existence, it is inevitable therefore that the future of the Board is that of dissolution. Because of our commitments to the present students, the terminus ad quem for the existence of the MIL would be the end of June 2007.
2) The Board felt very strongly that the dimension of continuity with the Missionary Institute London should also be part of the future. It gave a warm welcome to Fr. Danilo Castello’s initiative with the authorities in St. Mary’s, Strawberry Hill. It suggests that the constituent members of the Board of Trustees consider how they could contribute to a Chair of the Department of Evangelisation in that College (soon to become a univer-sity). It would be a way of expressing thanks to the Church in Britain for all it has done to support the Insti-tutes that make up the Board of Trustees.
We cannot envisage a better solution. Celebrating the end of an era (40 years of training of missionary students), we open up another promising enterprise, i.e. placing within a University of Catholic foundation a centre of study for Mission, aiming at bringing the missionary dimension into the study of theology and creat-ing a point of reference for research and scholarship contribution for Missionary Theology in the context of the British Isles. We see this turning of events as providential for the future of Mission in this country.
Concerning our Comboni Family, at the moment only three Comboni Missionaries (two scholastics and a priest specializing in Justice and Peace) and a Comboni Sister are attending classes at the MIL.
Honouring the dead
On 2 November, as every year, we arranged to meet in the British Cemetery with the confreres represent-ing the Lima communities to remember the Comboni Missionaries who worked in this province and who are now gathered in the home of the Father.
Fr. Rogelio Bustos Juárez, the provincial, was the main celebrant and presented Christ as the way, the truth and the life: the model for those who have gone before us and for those who still follow him as pilgrims on this earth. The concelebration, enlivened by our Lima students, made us all feel part of one single Com-boni Family, as the Comboni Sisters and representatives of the Lay Comboni Missionaries also participated.
Sunday 6 November was a day of meeting and reflection for those of Afro-Peruvian descent, on the theme Knowing Africa through Africans. More than 150 people involved in the Afro pastoral work in Lima and Callao took part.
As usual, a small group of Comboni scholastics, who shared their own memories, experiences and desires with the participants, were part of the team that organised the event. A tree is fed through its roots and so we are convinced that these experiences greatly help one to grow in one’s identity, promoting the cultural ex-change that facilitated the mixing of the races and the integration of the Afro population in the life of our peo-ple.
Meeting of the friends of the Comboni Lay Missionaries
On 5 and 12 November the friends of the Comboni Lay Missionary (CLM) gathered for their traditional meeting at the Postulancy of San Miguel and the provincial house of Monterrico.
The coordinator, Bro. Ivan Bernardi, was assisted by Fr. Javier Sánchez Vargas. In broad outline they sketched some aspects of the Comboni missionary spirituality and presented, to those who have followed us for some years, guidelines for living out their Christian commitment and the Comboni charism.
Missionary Tea Party
A Missionary Tea Party for the friends of the Comboni Lay Missionary (CLM) was organized for the after-noon of 19 November. A number of people, friends of the Comboni Missionaries, participated for the purpose of collaborating towards an initiative which aims at making the CLM known and contributing financially to-wards the expenses of their missionary experiences. We listened to music, played bingo and enjoyed our tea and cake in an atmosphere of brotherly goodwill.
Anniversary of the parish of “Christ, Missionary of the Father”
The feast of Christ the King marked the tenth anniversary of the parish of “Christ, Missionary of the Father” in Chorillo, (outskirts of Lima). In 1970 the parish of the Twelve Apostles had been entrusted to the Comboni Missionaries. After 25 years of hard work, believing it was time to withdraw, this parish was given over to the diocese and the diocesan clergy, while to us was given the responsibility of taking care of a large area that was formerly part of the parish. Thus we started a new parish very meaningful named the parish of “Christ, Missionary of the Father”.
At present this parish is made up of 18 Christian communities with 100,000 inhabitants. It is a parish which, right from the start, adopted the NPI (New Image of a Parish) of Fr. Capellaro S.J. and became an example for the whole archdiocese.
On 30 October this parish hosted the Congress of the Catholic Faith. Around 3000 people were present at the Eucharistic celebration. We thank the confreres who gave part of their lives and continue to work for the good of so many of our brothers and sisters who live in the outskirts of this large capital city.
Taking of vows and ordinations to the priesthood
From the start of the holidays we lived through very important events. This year Stefan Tudaj, Adam Szpara and Pawel Opioła consecrated themselves for the first time to the mission.
There were also the ordinations to the priesthood of Adam Zagaja (02.07.2005) and Tomasz Marek (08.10.2005) originally from the dioceses of Rzeszów and Tarnów, the dioceses of Poland most open to the missionary ideal. The ordinations were celebrated in the respective parishes of the two confreres. In that of Tomasz Marek the ceremony was conducted by Mgr. Victor Skworc, president of the Episcopal Commission for the Missions.
The two newly-ordained priests will work in Poland. Their ordinations were preceded by a week of mis-sionary animation in their parishes.
The following day there was a great feast. To understand how these feasts are celebrated in Poland one must know that the family preparations begin a year ahead of time, while the parish preparations three or four months beforehand.
Everything starts with the decoration of the church, the house of the family of the ordinand and the entire road from the house to the church. In front of the family home a high arch is erected bearing the inscription: “Here the Lord called me”. It is here that the family, friends and the band gather with people on horseback. A group of girls, one for each year of the ordinand’s age, accompany him to the church waving garlands of flowers.
All the Comboni confreres in Poland, those on holiday, the newly-professed, the postulants and, naturally, the ordinand’s family and all the parishioners participated at the ceremony, which was carried out in a very missionary setting.
At the end of Mass, the newly ordained priest blessed each of his family members, priests, confreres, reli-gious sisters and members of the congregation. It was a very moving event. Then the meal began which lasted all night. The Poles are masters of welcoming and celebrating feasts, so there is never shortage of de-licious food and cakes, all of which is accompanied by folksongs and religious hymns.
The participation of the families of the parish and the welcome they gave us as they allowed us the use of their homes during the days of preparation and during the ordination and the first Mass, was extraordinary.
After 10 years of work, Fr. Lino Agostinho do Rosário de Almeida left the province where he carried out a very good work in vocation and mission promotion. This year we have three novices in the first year at Ve-negono novitiate and two in the second. There are six postulants in the postulancy at Krakow.
In August the province was visited by Fr. Fabio Carlo Baldan, the vicar general. Fr. Fabio visited our two communities and met with all the members of the future delegation. During the meeting he had the opportu-nity to come to know well our situation.
At the beginning of September a retreat was preached by Fr. Laureano Rojo Buxonat, provincial of Spain.
On 25 October Fr. Rafał Leszczyński left for Khartoum. Poland is already sending missionaries abroad.
Mission and the Church in Poland
On 1 June a meeting took place, chaired by Mgr. Henryk Hoser, undersecretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, with representatives of the various missionary committees of male and female religious and laity, the Pontifical Mission Societies, the Centre for Missionary Formation and Fidei Donum priests.
During the meeting the necessity of greater coordination to better animate the people of God in Poland to-wards being more missionary and supportive, was stressed. The meeting had good results. On 18 June the Episcopal Conference, during the plenary session n. 332, established the National Council for the Missions. Fr. Manuel Ramón Torres Gómez was appointed member of this council.
Official opening of the inter-provincial novitiate of Cotonou
On Monday 10 October, with a meaningful ceremony, the province of Togo-Ghana-Benin opened the inter-provincial novitiate of Cotonou. In the presence of confreres who gathered from all corners of the province, the Comboni Missionary Sisters, Sisters of other institutes and lay friends, the ceremony took place in three parts.
First, Lauds were celebrated, led by Fr. Manuel João Pereira Correia, the provincial. Quotes from the Su-perior General’s letter “To Be Mission” served as introductory commentaries to the psalms.
Then, Fr. Fernando Zolli, who came to chair a meeting on the Ratio Missionis, pointed out that the Ratio was the fruit of a long experience within the Institute and of the fact that Comboni, in his Plan, did not want an individually-based, but a community-based mission. He ended with the question: “You, as a Comboni Missionary, what plan do you have?”
The second part consisted in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
The third part consisted in the Mass, concelebrated and led by the provincial who, in his homily, again took up the three aspects of the Superior General’s message and emphasised the presence of the ten novices (5 from Togo, 2 from Central Africa, 1 from Benin, 1 from Ghana and 1 from Chad). After Mass, the main cele-brant blessed the novitiate house where, immediately afterwards, a fraternal meal took place.
Workshop on the Ratio Missionis
The workshop on the Ratio Missionis, led by Fr. Fernando Zolli, took place from the evening of Monday 10 October to the morning of Friday 14 October. The earnest and constant participation of 37 confreres and a Comboni Sister is to be noted. We thank Fr. Zolli and the two confreres of the province, Fr Justin Dossou-Yovo and Fr. Norbert Rangu Mogoro, for guiding the meeting.
Third anniversary of the beatification of Daudi and Jildo
On the occasion of the third anniversary of the beatification of Daudi and Jildo, the two martyrs of Paimol (North Uganda), the archbishop of Gulu, Mgr. John Baptist Odama, held an open air Eucharistic celebration on the place of their martyrdom with more than 20 priests concelebrating and a crowd of about six thousand people.
Fr. Joseph Okumu, the director of the Catechetical Training Centre of Gulu, commented on the fact that there had been a great improvement on the road that from the sacred place leads to the main road (2 Km away), through the cooperation of the local people, the local authorities and the leaders of the Pader district.
In his homily the archbishop said: “The place where the two martyrs were killed, and on which we are standing now, is called ‘Wi polo’ in remembrance of our two martyrs. It is a holy place, so called because our two martyrs were teaching Wonwa ma itye’ wi Polo (Our Father who art in heaven). Our martyrs were pro-claimed saints in Rome on 20 October 2002 for the whole world. Today the joy of this proclamation resounds in a special way for the Acholi ethnic group and the entire people of Uganda. It is here that by their sacrifice they have become seeds for other Christians. On account of this spot, called Wi Polo, Uganda and the Acholi land have become better known all over the world.”
The archbishop underlined the difference between the blood poured at Wi Polo and the blood still being shed in many parts of Acholi land by the rebels who have entirely set aside the traditional belief in a common Father as well as the traditions of the elders.
Taking a cue from the presence of people from Kampala, the archbishop reminded all that the 22 Ugandan Martyrs of Namugongo were not all Baganda (the main ethnic group around Kampala), but some were com-ing from other ethnic groups. “Today we must say that the Ugandan Martyrs are 24, coming from all corners of Uganda.”
The archbishop then appealed to the catechists to be proud of the two martyrs: “They are the first catechist martyrs in Africa. For this reason, the late Pontiff, John Paul II, took a special interest in their beatification, so that it could take place as soon as possible. And rightly so. It is a sign that God has given to the Acholi peo-ple. In spite of our present situation, which causes sufferings similar to those caused by the rebellion that to-ok place at the time of Daudi and Jildo, we are confident that soon this land will experience God’s consola-tion.”
For the youth the archbishop had this message: “The youth should promote the good qualities of Daudi and Jildo, because they find themselves in a similar situation. They should imitate their example and be proud to carry on with the work the martyrs have left unfinished. Sharing one’s faith, even at the cost of life, is most important. The two martyrs, after their baptism, confirmation and commission as catechists, became the first African missionaries in Paimol.”
IN PACE CHRISTI
Bro. Mario Bisesti (28.07.1923 – 09.10.2005)
He was born on 28 July 1923 at Acerra (Naples). He took his first vows on 2 February 1957 in Florence and made his final profession on 2 February 1963 in Spain. He worked in Ecuador from 1963 to 1981 and from 1986 to 2000, 22 years in all. He died on 9 October 2005, in Milan.
Joining the Institute when he was already an adult, he placed his abundant energy at the disposition of the missions. Apart from 7 years in Spain and 4 in Italy, he spent the rest of his entire missionary life in the mis-sions of Esmeraldas. He was one of the first to go to Ecuador, one of the “pioneers” in those difficult begin-nings.
He had no specific profession, but possessed a good, strong and resolute character. He was intelligent and courageous. His work is not to be measured in great projects but in the faithfulness with which he lived the two main aspects: first of all, that of the traditional Brother “ad omnia”, busy with the well-being of the confreres and meeting their needs, and secondly in looking after the buildings and the other needs of the various missions.
In the places where he worked, he was known for his tireless physical activity: providing what was neces-sary for the community, cleaning, keeping good relations with the people nearby and the employees. With regard to this last point, he was always pleasant and jovial. He was the life of the community, something he showed especially during large Comboni gatherings. He always had a supply of anecdotes, riddles, and odd bits of news, carvings and drawings with which to enliven pleasant moments with the confreres or the people who had come for courses or meetings. Sometimes he would set up a display of newspaper clippings, sketches and caricatures of people present or well-known stories, showing his creative skill and intelligence in his caricatures that were both clever and good-humoured. He was very highly esteemed for this commu-nity spirit with which he would end the hours of hard manual work.
For his apostolic and more specifically missionary aspect, all the confreres remember one of his great en-terprises. He was the apostle of the “slides” or still films. On his solitary “safaris” (he almost always went alone) to the various mission chapels, he would also go towns and villages along the river carrying two large cases in which he had a huge magic lantern, an ancient model, that worked by kerosene lamp. This was his “combat weapon”. He would gather the people, young and old, by ringing a bell. Then the show would start. Almost always the entire village, including cats and dogs, would be present. Then Bro. Mario would bring out the lamp and suddenly brilliant colours appeared on a large white sheet, piercing the darkness of the tropical night.
The main item was made up of slides of “Kikiree”, cartoons about a black boy in the wilds of Africa whose adventures always had a positive and edifying ending. Bro. Mario enlivened the show with different tones of voice to represent the various characters in the story, the whole show accompanied by the required sound effects. Then there followed slides about the catechism, the sacraments, the commandments, sacred history, the Rosary and other subjects. The hours would slip by as if by magic as the people burst their sides laugh-ing or listened in respectful silence. At the end, all present would applaud and loudly ask for more.
In this way, never before seen in those parts, Bro. Mario evangelised the villages one after the other, along the Onzole and Santiago rivers around Quinindé, Atacames, Santa María de los Cayapas, Rioverde, as far as the “Ciudad de los Muchachos” and some urban parishes. These journeys involved great hardship, with little food, sleepless nights and long treks: the work of a front-line missionary to add to his day-to-day re-sponsibilities.
Twenty two years of such work show how he lived fully his missionary life. And we must not forget his in-tense work of personal contacts, the giving of good example by word and deed, the occasional counselling word to people, his labour directed towards a great number of friends, office workers, bricklayers and work-ers of all kinds, simple people with whom he was always in contact. His good humour, his creativity and his spontaneous remarks were sustained by a deep religious life, by piety and availability.
Esmeraldas may thank God for having had a missionary Brother of the stature of Bro. Mario.
He became ill at 78 years of age and spent the past four years at the Centre for The Sick and Elderly in Mi-lan, preparing to meet the Lord, the Lord of the great, though unknown, missionaries.
Fr. Giorgio Stefani (12.05.1965 – 20.10.2005)
Born at Montichiari di Brescia (Italy) on 12 May 1965, Fr. Giorgio Stefani is survived by his parents, his two sisters and two brothers. He was the youngest of the family.
He entered the Comboni seminary at the age of 14 and in 1989 made his religious vows in Venegono (Varese) and completed his theological training in Chicago (USA).
Ordained priest on 11 September 1993, Fr. Giorgio went to South Africa soon after his ordination and served in the pastoral field in the parish of Mount Ayliff (Eastern Cape) for seven years. In June 2001 he was asked to take charge of the training of young candidates to the priesthood for the Comboni Missionaries, at the Study Centre in Wapadrand (Pretoria).
In January 2005 Fr. Giorgio was appointed as parish priest of St. Augustine’s in Silverton (Pretoria), where he still carried on his task as formator of the candidates to the priesthood, since the latter had also been transferred to Silverton. Fr. Giorgio committed himself with all his heart to his work for the community of the parish, caring for each person in a special way until his unexpected death.
The morning of 20 October Fr. Giorgio climbed on the roof of the house in an attempt to get rid of a nest of bees and was stung by them. Having returned to the house without showing any symptom because of the stings, some time later he was heard calling out to Fr. Efrem Tresoldi to go and help him, saying that he was feeling very ill. Fr. Efrem rushed to his room where he found Fr. Giorgio lying on the floor and feeling com-pletely exhausted. He immediately called an ambulance and Fr. Giorgio was taken to hospital where the doc-tor tried to revive him, but all to no avail. To know what caused his death it is necessary to wait for the results of the autopsy, which are not yet available.
Here follow some testimonies about Fr. Giorgio from people whose lives have been touched by him and by his committed missionary life.
Mgr. George Francis Daniel, Archbishop of Pretoria: “We all know Fr. Giorgio enough to feel confident that he was on the way to salvation, and that as he continues his journey on the distant shore, he will still be walking with the Risen Lord who accompanied his journey up till now, who opened up the scriptures to him and made himself known through the Breaking of the Bread. Through his ordination Fr. Giorgio had a share in the prophetic Ministry of the One who said, ‘I am the Truth’. He exercised this ministry to great effect, so much so that people flocked to hear him preach. Through ordination Fr. Giorgio had a share in the pastoral ministry of the One who said ‘I am the Way’. This ministry he exercised especially in recent years through the formation of those who believe that they are called to live a life of consecration through the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus. Since the beginning of this year he was parish priest of St. Augustine’s in Silverton and much loved by the parishioners. Through his ordination, Fr. Giorgio also shared in the priestly ministry of the One who said, ‘I am the Life’. He was no stranger to suf-fering. He had come to realize that according to the Scriptures it was ordained that Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory. He had suffered physical disabilities which did not prevent him from being a good priest. In fact it enabled him to be just that. There was a double meaning in the words he recited daily, ‘This is my body which will be given up for you’. Those of you who viewed the face of our beloved Fr. Giorgio lying in the coffin must know that when we’ll see him again, after the resurrection, we will probably not recognize him immediately. Like his Lord, he will be transfigured. We thank Fr. Giorgio’s parents for the sacrifice they too did by offering one of their sons to God, and to the South African Church.”
Sister Jennifer Slater, dean of studies at the National Seminary St. John Vianney, Pretoria: “Fr. Giorgio was involved in many activities, he was also a colleague of the staff at St. John Vianney Seminary, he as-sisted in the Pastoral Department in the practical art of preaching, namely, homiletics, and he helped in the spiritual formation of students by providing spiritual direction, days of recollection, and if we had our way, we would have had him as a full time formator to the students. Fr. Giorgio was a living example to the young priestly students of St. John Vianney Seminary in this sense that despite his own physical vulnerability, he was a man of joyful commitment, always a smile on his face and the willingness to be of spiritual and pas-toral assistance to anyone.”
Anthea van der Byl, parishioner of St. Augustine’s parish, Silverton, Pretoria: “Fr. Giorgio was parish priest of Silverton only for a very short time. He was with us for only ten months, and yet in that time the impact he had on the parish was very great. In the space of ten months he had become a much loved and very popular parish priest. Besides his unconventional preaching method, his popularity was also due to his humility as man and priest. We were truly blessed and privileged to have known a person like him. Fr. Giorgio, your death to us is a big loss, but it would have even been a bigger loss should we have never known you.”
Fr. Fabio Carlo Baldan: “I may add with gratitude that Fr. Giorgio has allowed himself to be led by Christ’s love, by Christ’s caring attitude to all. He always lived his life to the full, faced it with the enthusiasm with which he tackled everything. He did not measure out his life, but challenged it and offered it with a generosity and thoroughness that were specifically his. The experiences he went through and accepted in faith in the course of his life and of his mission, made him sensitive and caring about the needs of all those he met along the paths of life. With his words he would touch the heart of his listeners; with his friendship he would make himself close to those in need.” (Fr. Efrem Tresoldi)
Fr. Angelo Rodorigo (05.03.1924 – 07.11.2005)
Fr. Angelo Rodorigo was born on 5 March 1924 in Italy, at Avezzano, a charming Abruzzo mountain city. After his third year of theology he moved from the diocesan seminary to the Comboni novitiate of Florence where he took the religious vows on 19 March 1948. He was ordained priest on 6 June of the same year.
After studying Arabic in Lebanon he was appointed to the circumscription of Egypt. In 1950 Fr. Angelo went to Hélouan as bursar and teacher at the “Collège de la Sainte Famille”. In 1958 he was appointed headmaster of the school, a post which he would occupy until his departure for the Sudan. He was also par-ish priest of Hélouan parish. From 1972 to 1975 he was regional superior of the circumscription of Egypt.
In 1976 Fr. Angelo was appointed to El Obeid in Sudan where he was headmaster of “Comboni Boy’s School” and then Parish Priest at El-Nahud, but still in charge of the Comboni schools. While he was there, in 1981 he was stricken with a tumour at an artery. He was sent back to Italy and underwent an operation at Verona hospital. A long section of the artery was removed and substituted with an artificial one. He was given a year or a little more to live. Instead, in 1982 he was already back in Hélouan, Egypt, where he gave himself to missionary service for another 23 years. He was again placed in charge of the schools and ap-pointed superior of the community. In 1988 he moved to Zamalek, Cairo, in the pastoral service of the parish of St. Joseph until 1996. He spent the last years of his life in the community of Cordi Jesu as rector of the Shrine and as bursar.
From 1950 to 2005, except for the five years in Sudan, Fr. Angelo lived in Egypt, mostly at Hélouan, where his name is associated with the Holy Family School to which he instilled an extraordinary attitude of serious-ness and love of learning.
Apart from Italian, Fr. Angelo spoke French, Arabic and English well. He was reserved by character with noble and lovable traits. Strict with himself before being strict with others, he expressed his opinions clearly and directly with a frankness that never concealed resentment.
At the beginning of September, following a fall, his health began to deteriorate: obliged to use a walking stick, he never failed to make his friendly presence felt in the Shrine which evokes St. Daniel Comboni’s vis-its and the start of his work for the salvation of Africa. It was here that the Lord took Fr. Angelo to himself on the evening of 7 November 2005, when his heart suddenly stopped beating.
His funeral was solemnly celebrated in the afternoon of 9 November in the packed church of “Cordi Jesu”. Because Fr. Angelo had spent almost half of his missionary life at Hélouan, about a hundred people from that area were present, including the former headmaster and many teachers from the school. Also present at the funeral were Mgr. Makarios Tewfik (Coptic Catholic Bishop of Ismayliah), Mgr. Andraos Salama (Coptic Catholic Bishop of Guizeh) and the Maronite Bishop Mgr. Joseph Dergham. The delegate, Fr. Claudio Lurati, and twenty other priests concelebrated. Fr. Claudio spoke in his homily of Fr. Angelo’s life and missionary service in Egypt and in Sudan. He then described his last days when he prepared himself for his final jour-ney.
We remember him in the Lord with gratitude and we entrust him to his mercy.
Fr. Luigi Peranzoni (06.04.1916 – 12.11.2005)
Fr. Luigi Peranzoni was born in Verona in the “Paradiso” district, the last of four brothers. His father was a government employee and his mother a housewife. While still a boy he attended a Centre of St. Camil-lus’s Spirituality, which had its headquarters nearby. He was a very lively lad who loved sport, was spiri-tually committed and able to attract other young people to behave well. At his funeral some “Paradisini” made moving tributes.
After primary school, Luigi enrolled in the Technical Institute and, in the examinations held after he ac-quired his diploma, he came second in the whole of Italy. This guaranteed him a good job with Alfa Ro-meo as a mechanical designer. When he was old enough he was called up and was sent to Alto Adige with the rank of officer. He once again showed the spirituality absorbed from the Camillians. Since the parish priest of the town refused to hear the confessions of Italian soldiers, Luigi would go to other towns in search of someone to nourish his soul with the sacrament of reconciliation. This was a good example for his comrades in arms.
Italian soldiers were viewed with disdain by the people of the place since they were seen as excommu-nicated and godless. What a surprise it must have been for the parish priest when, on the feast of Corpus Christi, as the procession emerged from the church, he found the Italian soldiers’ platoon arrayed in two lines, standing to attention and saluting the Blessed Sacrament as it passed. From that day on relations between the soldiers and the local Catholics improved.
When the war was over, Luigi returned home and expressed his desire to become a missionary priest to his spiritual director (a Camillian). Understandably, the priest suggested he become a Camillian, but at that time the Camillians of Verona had no missions, while Luigi insisted on a missionary life. “Well then, go to the Comboni Missionaries” answered the priest.
Luigi entered the novitiate at Venegono in 1939 and on 29 June 1945 was ordained priest. Meantime, because of the war, he had to remain in Italy until it became possible to travel to the missions. In 1946 he was one of the first to embark for South Sudan. He was sent as a teacher to the technical school of Torit. Highly talented and deeply motivated by a sense of responsibility and discipline (something which would stay with him all his life) he instilled a decisive drive to the school.
Bro. Ottorino Gelmini wrote: “I too had the good fortune to live for a time with Fr. Luigi. He was teaching mathematics in the technical school where I also worked. I always admired the importance he gave to his teaching, as well as his reliability. Each day he would scrupulously prepare his lessons. As well as being an example for all to follow, he also greatly encouraged me with his appreciation of the work I was doing. One day, for example, he told me he found the boys I was teaching very well prepared.
Such appreciation was like an injection of enthusiasm for me. With the care and attention he gave to the boys, Fr. Luigi greatly assisted Fr. Fernando Sembiante, the headmaster of the school, in maintaining discipline and regularity of timetable.
In 1955, when the government passed from the British to the Arabs, a conflict broke out between the soldiers of the South and the Arabs of the North, which caused the sudden closure of the schools. Fr. Luigi and the school staff had to move to the mission of Isoke. I can say that the stay of Fr. Luigi at Isoke brought serenity, in spite of the frequent visits of thieves. He was good company for our little community and a great support. I also admired his humanity. When on holidays he would always visit my family.”
After his experience in Sudan, Fr. Luigi spent ten years in Uganda, always teaching, and six years with the Apostles of Jesus in Kenya. He returned to Italy in 1986 and stayed first at Venegono, then at Limone and finally at Verona. There he spent the last years of his life at the Centre for the Sick and Elderly, spreading serenity by his optimism. A broken hipbone made him go into hospital. He was operated, but the illness which he was already suffering from, together with his advanced years, did not allow him to re-cover from the shock. Fr. Luigi breathed his last at 2 o’clock in the morning of 12 November 2005 in the hospital of San Bonifacio.
His remains now rest in the Comboni Missionaries‘ burial place in the cemetery of Verona. (P. Lorenzo Gaiga)
Let us pray for our dead
Alberto OF Bro. Armando Ramos González (M).
Olivia of Fr. Ramón Reyes Luna (M); Colleta Amboi of Fr. Fred Ahiro (T).
José de Jesús of Fr. Alfredo Del Toro Rodríguez (NAP); Giuseppe of Fr. Pietro Ravasio (C); Enrique of Fr. José Jesús Silva Ortega (M).
Veronica of the Sc. John Bliss Boadi (T); Teresa of Fr. Raffaele Tessitore (†); Odile of the Sc. Lazare Ako Kossi Sowah (CN).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS:
Sr. Gaudenzia Dionese; Sr. Stefanella Minusso; Sr. Valen-tina M. Sosio; Sr. Rosamaria Guglielmi; Sr. Florinda Cremonesi.