Monthly newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
General Secretariat for Finance
English and Portuguese-speaking Africa’s Continental Assembly
The continental assembly for provincial and delegation treasurers was held in Lilongwe (Malawi) from 31 October to 5 November 2005, in accordance with the financial directives of the 2003 General Chapter. The meeting was followed by two days sharing on technical-administrative topics.
All the treasurers took part in the assembly which tackled themes suggested by the 2003 General Chapter and opted, as a continent, to discuss about self financing.
All the discussions on transparency, trustworthiness, ethically correct behaviour, the Common Fund, Fixed Assets, the Ratio Missionis, financial self-sufficiency and projects, were characterised by the desire to keep in touch with the provincial situations, which involves confreres, each with a personal history, and the Institute itself, the starting point for any plans for the future.
Regarding Fixed Assets it was emphasised that all property of the Institute should be properly maintained for future generations: on this fact depends the setting up of a restructuring and maintenance fund.
The Common Fund is not a shortcut to resolving financial, pastoral or personal problems. Its administration requires greater responsibility and willingness to share.
If the Ratio Missionis is intended to renew the members of the Institute, this cannot be achieved without rediscovering the value of poverty and detachment from material goods. The history of the Church shows that decadence is always associated with power and riches, while renewal has always begun with the rediscovery of the evangelical value of poverty.
Towards the end of the assembly, through group work, some proposals were prepared and approved to be forwarded to provincial/delegation superiors and the General Council.
Rome Renewal Course 2006
On Monday, 9 January, the Renewal Course for 2006 began at the Generalate, Via Luigi Lilio, Rome. Fifteen confreres from five nationalities, working in eight provinces of the Institute, are taking part. Ages vary from 54 to 77 years!
The community is made up of six Brothers and nine priests, each with many years of mission experience which will undoubtedly enrich the missionary journey of all.
The course aims at providing a time of ongoing formation to assist the confreres to achieve an inner renewal through weeks that have various themes and initiatives, like the Comboni, missionary and theological themes. It is a time of grace to savour and live with greater energy and enthusiasm the Comboni missionary vocation, entering into the spirit of the new approach desired by the 2003 General Chapter, through the process of the Ratio Missionis.
The course, which began with a solemn concelebration presided by Fr. Fabio Baldan, the vicar general, comprises two phases: the phase in “Rome” that ends on 18 April, the vigil of Palm Sunday, and the “pilgrimage” phase in Egypt and the Holy Land, which will run from 24 April to 24 May.
Annuario Comboniano updated to 01-01-2006
The general secretariat has sent the updated version of the Annuario Comboniano in PDF format to provincials and delegates. The latter are asked to make it available to those confreres who wish to have it.
Please check the details regarding yourselves and your province and delegation. Corrections, suggestions or changes should be sent without delay to the general secretary.
Sc. Sowah Ako Kossi Lazare (T) Nairobi (Ke) 03.12.2005
Fr. Herivelto de Sousa Marques (BNE) Imperatriz (BR) 21.01.2006
Holy Redeemer Guild
February 01 – 15 BS 16 – 28 CA
March 01 – 07 DCA 08 – 15 EG 16 – 31 EC
February - For all consecrated people that they may, with enthusiasm and creativity, renew their radical dedication to the mission among the poorest men and women of our age. Let us pray.
March - For all Comboni Brothers, that through their witness and their ministry, they may bring about greater fraternity both within our communities and among the people. Let us pray.
Fr. Vittorio Moretto, Si tuviera mil vidas. La fascinante humanidad de San Daniel Comboni, Misioneros Combonianos, MTY, N.L., México. Written in a simple but original form, this book seeks to discover how God worked in Comboni and how he responded, starting from and within his rich and many-faceted personal experience. It also presents some of the challenges which the canonization of Comboni presents today to the Comboni Institutes and their members. Those who wish to have a copy may write to: email@example.com
The referendum on the new constitution was held on December 2005. Official results indicate that there was a turn out of 60% of voters, with 84% of them approving the constitution. This was the first time it happened in the Congo. It was possible to vote everywhere, even if there were difficulties and not everything worked according to plan. The way is now open for the presidential, parliamentary, regional and local elections. We continue to work to prepare the people to assume their civil, social and political responsibilities and to build a new Congo based upon the values of justice, peace and the rule of law.
First Lay Comboni Missionaries’ assembly
On 4 January the Comboni Lay Missionaries met in Kinshasa for a day of formation. For the first time it was possible to call this meeting the “Assembly of the Lay Comboni Missionaries”. Throughout the day some aspects of the Comboni charism were studied and a plan of action for formation, mission promotion and the service of the poor was drawn up.
At the end of the Mass the various “cenacles” were presented with the “Constitutive Act”, derived from all that these groups had experienced during these “foundation” years.
The groups of Lay Comboni Missionaries began almost “by chance” through the collaboration between some lay people and some Comboni Missionaries and Comboni Sisters. They are mostly involved in a programme of formation, following the methodology of the “Cenacles of Missionary Prayer”, and in the mission promotion of groups and parishes. They are present especially in Kinshasa but also at Butembo; elsewhere there are groups that are asking to be established and seek our assistance for their formation.
Perpetual vows and ordination to the deaconate
It was an occasion for rejoicing as Markus Lorenz Körber of Pottenstein, archdiocese of Bamberg, together with two other scholastics, John Bosco Nambasi Mangeni from Uganda and Juan José Hernández Rogel from El Salvador, made their perpetual vows in Rome on 8 December 2005. About a month later, on 5 January 2006, the three of them were ordained deacons in the Abbey of Tre Fontane. Among the people present at the celebration, besides his parents and brothers and confreres from the DSP, there were parishioners of Pottenstein, Markus’ parish, who had organized a bus to Rome for the occasion.
Markus hails from a family of farmers in "Franconian Switzerland". Before studying theology he had finished his university studies in "Geo-Ecology" at the university of Bayreuth. Until July, he will exercise his ministry as a deacon in a Roman parish, completing at the same time some academic courses.
Markus’ priestly ordination is planned for 28 July by Archbishop Dr. Ludwig Schick of Bamberg, Markus’ home diocese, in the Basilica and Shrine of Gößweinstein, near his home.
The "seeing" phase of the Ratio Missionis is proceeding well,. In January 2006 a third and final section of the workshop was held in each of the three zones of the DSP, i.e. at Graz-Messendorf (for the confreres of Brixen-Milland, Innsbruck and Messendorf), at Bamberg (for the confreres of Neumarkt, Nuremberg and Bamberg) and at Josefstal (for the confreres of Mellatz, Ellwangen and Josefstal). Though the confreres had to take some of the "documents" back to their communities in order to better deal with the challenge of the Ratio Missionis, the phases of the workshop with the necessary time set aside for it have proved to be "quality time", providing true brotherly getting-together, reflection and sharing.
Assembly of the delegation
From 10 to 12 January the yearly assembly of the delegation was held at Mokattam, the retreat house of the Comboni Sisters. All the confreres of the delegation participated, with the exception of Bro. Lino Cremona, excused on account of his age (94 years).
The theme was the Ratio Missionis and to answer a questionnaire on it presented by Fr. Simon Mwaura Mbuthia, member of the Core Committee and who had taken part in the meetings of Nairobi and Rome. The work was carried out in four groups and their reports were brought to the plenary gathering.
Fr. Claudio Lurati, delegation superior, began by giving a brief report on the tragic events regarding the Sudanese that took place after Christmas and then introduced some present-day problems regarding the delegation itself. Sr. Teresa Irene Yago Abril, provincial superior of the Comboni Missionary Sisters, also addressed the participants, referring especially to the November 2005 meeting of the CMS provincials in Rome.
Two half-days of “mini-assemblies” are planned for March to complete the preparation work of the Ratio Missionis.
The opportunity was taken to welcome to the delegation Fr. Rino Rufino and Fr. José Alberto Pimentel Guzman, the first assigned to Sakakini and the latter to Aswan. Best wishes to both.
Tragic events at Sakakini
Since 29 September 2005, a group of Sudanese had been staging a sit-in in a city garden outside UNHCR premises. Their number varied from 20 on the first day to up to 2,500 during peak days. The demonstration continued with over 1,000 people permanently staying in the city garden, while thousands of others joined in temporarily. The key demand of the Sudanese demonstrators was their “emigration” to Western countries on the grounds that Sudanese in Egypt “are faced daily with discrimination, violence and violations of their human rights.” According to their statements, they also rejected voluntary repatriation and the four-freedom agreement between Sudan and Egypt. Many of their demands referred to issues that were outside the UNHCR’s mandate. UNHCR officials have met several times the leaders of the demonstration and tried to reach an agreement with them, but negotiations came to an impasse around the middle of December.
On 30 December the police decided to intervene and disperse the crowd. At that moment there were close to 2.000 people in the city garden, which is a small piece of land of about 50 by 30 metres. The police action was very violent, in spite of the presence in the city garden of many children and ended in the death of at least 27 people, most of them children below the age of ten. Hundreds of people were injured or lost all their belongings and documents in the forced evacuation.
The demonstrators were all taken to four police centres for identification. Many were released the following day, while over 600 people without documents were taken to three different prisons. In spite of the initial threat to deport all the people detained, the Egyptian government allowed officials of the UNHCR to visit the prisoners in order to provide new identity documents to those refugees who had lost them. In this way most of the prisoners were released and it is hoped that no one will be deported at all.
Between Saturday 31 December, when over a thousand people were released, and Tuesday 3 January, Sacred Heart Church (Sakakini) had to face a serious emergency. Hundreds of people arrived seeking help for food, housing and medical treatment. An appeal was sent to all the religious communities in Egypt and solidarity with the victims was promptly shown. Over 700 people were treated at the church or in the nearby Italian Hospital for fractures and injures of different kinds. The UNHCR offered medicines and 1,200 blankets. People crowded into the church compound to comfort each other and to inquire about their dear ones who were missing.
For three days over 200 people (more than half Muslims) were accommodated at the church. Eventually the UNHCR was able to provide or assist them in finding accommodation. The incidents of 30 December have left a very deep wound in the Sudanese community and have thrown a thick shadow over their future in Egypt.
Mission Promotion and Evangelization Assembly
The assembly for mission promoters of the Italian province was held at Pesaro from 9 to 13 January 2006 on the theme of: “Today’s promoters: missionaries who give reason to hope”. Our reflections were assisted by Don Olivo Dragoni, who was involved for many years in the CEIAL (presently the CUM of Verona) and director of the Mission Centre of the diocese of Lodi, and by Fr Gianni Nobili, member of the CUM team of Verona.
Don Olivo called upon mission promoters to be the leaven and the salt within the various socio-ecclesial situations, accepting our being a minority, which is willed by God, to recognise how the Spirit is already present where we wish to proclaim the Kingdom and reveal the face of the merciful God, Father and Mother, and to bring about a missionary attitude for all and by all, making people see the beauty of the gospel proclamation.
Fr. Gianni Nobili started with four questions to evaluate our experience, both positive and negative, as mission promoters. Then, going through some important passages from recent documents of the Institute, taken from both the General Administration and the Italian province, he dealt with aspects that derive from our daily lives and require precise answers.
Reports from the various sectors of Mission Promotion (CCA, Immigrants, ACSE, Lay Comboni Missionaries, GPIC, Mission Promotion in seminaries) and the secretary for vocations promotion, provided a vision of the numerous and varied areas of commitment and showed our potential which should be better directed and coordinated towards a more fruitful outcome, as stated by Fr. Mario Cerda Contreras, secretary of mission promotion of the LP, who took part in the assembly as facilitator and a most welcome guest.
Missionary Christmas Crib at Venegono
Following the tradition begun in 1948, also this year the Venegono community has prepared a missionary crib opened to the public. On the theme of “The joy of the poor”, the crib was meant to show that, even in the darkest regions of the earth, there are glimmers of hope because of the witness of those people who, like the shepherds of Bethlehem, are not afraid of the dark but are able to see and welcome the light: Jesus, who comes to renew the earth.
The preparation of the crib was entrusted to the three second-year novices, helped by a large group of lay volunteers, associated to the Comboni community by many years of friendship.
Last year there were almost 14,000 visitors. This year fewer were expected due to the fact that the holidays were shorter. The community of Venegono is, however, happy to be able to offer to so many families and parishes, schools and organisations, the opportunity of expanding their vision of the world and the mission, not only through the “beautiful crib” but also through the Korogocho (Nairobi) photographic exhibition and the display and sale of books and magazines.
San Pancrazio and Africa
The series of conferences about Africa (“Africa – a boiling cauldron”) planned in cooperation between the Comboni community of San Pancrazio (Rome) and the parish of the same name, continues.
Having dealt with Africa in general terms (J. L. Touadi), of the relationships between Europe and Africa (Silvestro Montanaro), of the street children (Massimiliano Troiani) and of magical Africa (Kipoi Pombo), in the coming months the themes will be Uganda (with the Comboni Missionary Sister Dorina Tadiello, on 3 February), Islam (Fr. Giuseppe Scattolin), lay volunteers and responsible tourism.
The initiative, held at the Nuovo Teatro S. Pancrazio on Friday evenings, is well attended by the public.
Presentation to Fr. Giuseppe Puttinato
On 13 December 2005, in the Congress Hall, the president of the republic of Sudan, Omar Ahmed al Bashir conferred the medal of the Order of Sciences and Art on our confrere Fr. Giuseppe Puttinato for his work in the field of education. Apart from a few brief periods, Fr. Puttinato has been teaching at the Comboni College from 1959, the year he was assigned to the province of Khartoum.
Fr. Puttinato may also claim the honour of having opened the new wing for “Computer Science and Technology” at Comboni College on the occasion of the canonisation of St. Daniel Comboni. The recognition which he was granted also redounds to the credit of the teaching staff of Comboni College and the college itself. The word Comboni, in Sudan, means catholic school.
Fr. Puttinato is no stranger to awards. In January 2004 he had been granted a knighthood by the president of the republic of Italy, Azeglio Ciampi and received the award on 2 June of the same year, during a reception at the Italian embassy of Khartoum.
Winds of “peace”
This year, the first time in twenty years, Christmas was celebrated in a climate of peace. In the overflowing churches everyone applauded this event. The peace process, however, is slow to take off.
There is little change in the North. Travel permits are still required even if the new laws ought to have abolished them. One event was very disturbing. Two weeks before Christmas, a Sister of Charity of Mother Teresa, Sr. Aloc Toppo, while accompanying one of her sisters to the bus station was approached by a security agent who asked for her documents. The Sister replied that she only had her driving licence and that she had left her other documents at home. Despite the protests of the driver and the Sisters, Sr. Aloc was forcibly taken away, locked for three hours in a room with neither furniture nor windows, made to walk through deserted lanes, threatened and insulted. When she was released, following the intervention of the person responsible for religious affairs, who had been informed by the other two Sisters, Sr. Aloc was in a deep state of shock and was unable to sleep or go outside the house for several days.
It seems that such abuses are the order of the day and go unpunished. The Indian embassy, having heard the Sister’s account, made an official protest to the government of Khartoum.
To begin this important year in Sudan’s history, the archdiocese of Khartoum gathered in adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament on the night of 31 December 2005 from 10 pm to 12 pm when a solemn Eucharist started. Many priests and a large crowd of joyful Catholics joined Card. Gabriel Zubeir Wako in this celebration. Indeed, the main reason of the thanksgiving was the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 9 January 2005, when the war stopped and a new era of hope began for the Sudanese, especially for the Southerners.
As the Word of God was proclaimed and reflected upon, the Cardinal emphasized “the need of being aware more than ever of God’s great love for this country, for each person, who, in spite of the many years of war and suffering, have reached an era in which PEACE can be a concrete reality in our lives. Peace is not just the absence of war. True brotherly relationships among the various ethnic groups, religions, and tribes may allow the precious gift of Peace to bear fruit and develop throughout our country. Each one has, therefore, the duty of being a builder of reconciliation and peace. This is especially true for the followers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, whose birthday all Christians have just celebrated.”
In the year 2006 the Sudanese people, and especially the Catholic Church, start a year during which several important events will take place: the 50 years of Sudan’s Independence; the 60 years’ beginning of the Diocesan Sudanese Clergy; the golden jubilee of St. Paul’s Major Seminary; the silver jubilee of the first Sudanese Priest of the Archdiocese of Khartoum, Fr. Luciano Okuc; and Card. Gabriel Zubeir’s silver jubilee as Bishop of this Archdiocese.
Baja California regional Assembly
From 9 to 11 January the Comboni Missionaries of Baja California, México, held their regional assembly in a retreat house in the city of La Paz.
The provincial and all the members of the provincial council attended as well as the provincial secretary.
The assembly comprised three parts: in the first, the confreres were helped to acquire a general view of the situation of the province of Mexico; in the second, attention was focused mainly on our presence in Baja California; an effort was made to relate the work of the region and of the whole Mexican province to the situation of the entire Institute which is involved in the important process of the Ratio Missionis.
Participation was very active and attentive and the majority of the participants afterwards expressed their satisfaction with the meeting.
On the afternoon of the third day a cordial meeting was held with Mgr. Miguel Ángel Alba Díaz, bishop of La Paz, who in the evening celebrated the Mass concluding the work of the assembly.
Visit of the Superior General to the CYOF
The Superior General arrived in Mexico on 5 January. He immediately met with the provincial and some confreres of the province and also viewed the structure of the postulancy where the Intercapitular Assembly will be held.
From 9 to 15 January Fr. Teresino Serra met with the participants in the Comboni Year of Ongoing Formation (CYOF), giving a course on Comboni spirituality and meeting with each one of them.
On 10 January he celebrated his birthday with the Comboni communities of Mexico City and ended his visit on 16 January when he left for Colombia.
On 8 January 2006 Rubén Simeón Aguirre Charre made his religious profession in the parish of San Pedro in Huánuco. The provincial superior, Fr. Rogelio Bustos Juárez, presided at the celebration with the participation of the members of the Comboni missionary community. Rubén had been making an experience of three years without vows, having finished his theological studies at Lima. After due discernment, he applied to the Superior General to be readmitted to the Institute. The celebration was an occasion of mission promotion for the novice candidates and for the many young people and parishioners who had come to know him. We thank the Lord for his positive answer to his calling.
From 16 to 20 January we held the provincial assembly in our house at Monterrico with almost all the confreres present. In harmony with the “Six-year Plan” we gave importance to the theme of basic formation and vocation promotion. Reflection on the Ratio Missionis took up a large part of our time. We proposed that we follow a programme of study of this theme to help us, during these years, to reflect on our being missionaries and doing mission.
We reflected upon the situation of our province and upon the many challenges we meet in the society in which we are working at this particular moment in time, which is so full of hope for our people.
We have just ended the provincial assembly (8-14 January) the central theme of which was the “Ratio Missionis”. The provincial, Fr. Luciano Perina, opened the assembly by welcoming all the confreres, especially the new ones in the province, and then presented the programme.
During the first two days, Fr. Francesco Pierli guided the confreres through the proposed theme, helping them to get deeper into it and to discover the importance of this work at the level of the Institute. The reflection groups involved all the confreres who shared their own experience: the knowledge of the work going on in the various missions and the awareness of the “Time of Grace” the church of Sudan is living, after more than twenty years of civil war. There is in every person a great hope that out of the ruins of war a new Sudan may grow and develop and that the vast natural resources of the country may soon offer dignity of life to all its people.
The provincial superior of the Comboni Missionary Sisters shared her experience regarding the collaboration between the Comboni Missionary Sisters and the Comboni Missionaries in Southern Sudan. After the recent visit of three sisters to Juba in order to study the possibility of starting there the implementation of the Sudan Radio Project, she told us of the great expectation of the people for this project to be implemented as soon as possible, especially for the meaningful contribution it may offer to the cause of peace and to the re-building of the whole country.
The Church among the Nuer
Another issue drawn to the attention of all was the report of the confreres working among the Nuer of the Upper Nile, probably the hardest mission in the whole of Southern Sudan, because of the vast swamps. There are no roads whatsoever and the only means of communication are local canoes made from palm trees, or endless footpaths where it may take even 11 hours walk to reach one’s destination.
Almost all the Nuer consider themselves Christians. The first missionaries among them came from within themselves. Baptized by Bro. Michele Sergi in Khartoum, on returning to their villages, they brought with them the Gospel Message.
We are present among them with two communities: Old Fangak and Nyal. It was interesting to hear the confreres who work in that region. Even though, for various reasons, the people have been abandoned by almost everyone, they are a living, growing and self-reliant Church.
New house at N’Djaména
According to the Comboni tradition, it would seem that the charcoal market is the best place for dialogue with Islam. In fact, it was in a charcoal market that Bro. Michele Sergi began his Catholic Club, at El Amarat, and it was also at the charcoal market, at Am Riguebe, that the Comboni Missionaries recently opened a new house, right in the middle of a Moslem quarter. The aim is to create a meeting point for the two communities, Christian and Moslem.
The area is fairly central with regard to the services the capital offers. It is, in fact, just eight minutes from the airport, ten minutes from the Bishop’s House, next to the Palace of 15 January (National Assembly Hall), close to the new 5-star Libya Hotel Kempinski and to the South Quarter, inhabited mostly by Christians.
Apart from the charcoal and firewood market, the quarter has numerous mosques and schools of all kinds, from kindergarten to university. For this reason a library is being completed in the mission compound, a centre of school assistance and a centre for the knowledge of religions called “Abraham’s Tent”.
Fr. Saturnin Comlan Pognon, Fr. Renzo Piazza and Fr. Paolino Tipo Deng Amayldh are in charge of the two city parishes, encounter with Muslims, Justice and Peace and university students.
Ordination of the first Comboni priest from Chad
On 26 November we were blessed with our first Comboni priest from Chad, Fr. Célestin Ngoré Gali, who, besides, is the first of the Sara-Kaba people to become a priest.
On the same occasion the bishop of Sarh ordained one Jesuit and one diocesan priest. In his homily Mgr. Edmond Djitangar said that the time had come for the local Church to give some of its sons for the mission, just as other Churches had done for the evangelization of Chad.
Fr. Célestin went to his village of Kyabé, where the Church this year celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of its evangelization, and joyfully celebrated Mass in his own language.
In the context of this year’s Eucharistic Congress, the gift of the first Chadian priest who will continue to break the bread for a new world, is a sign of the times that shows the progress of the province of Chad in the path of the Ratio Missionis.
Workshop in the province
From 28 December 2005 to 6 January 2006, the confreres of the province actively participated in the workshop organized to deepen the first phase of the Ratio Missionis.
Fr. Jesús Ruiz Molina and Fr. David Arturo Esquivel Hernández chaired the first two parts of the seminary, while Fr. Odelir José Magri led the third part that consisted in the spiritual exercises.
At the dawn of 2006, the passion of Comboni for Africa has been lit once again in our hearts and the desire to start afresh for the mission has been reborn.
Let us pray for our beloved dead
THE MOTHER: Caterina of Fr. Carlo Plotegheri (KH); Maria of Fr. Alessio Moiola (I); Cecilia of Fr. William Jansen (NAP); Domenica of Fr. Mario Balbiani (DCA).
THE BROTHER: Primo of Bro. Rodolfo Guerrino Fasolo (BNE); Giovanni of Fr. Romeo Ballan (I); Ivo of Fr. Remo Mariani (BS); Livio of Fr. Erminio Tanel (I); Nino of Fr. Jafet Bricalli (I).
THE SISTER: Marina of Fr. Lodovico Bonomi (BS).
THE COMBONI SISTER: Sr. M. Gesuina Tremolada.