According to the Founder’s original inspiration the Institute is composed of priests and Brothers. This makes the Institute’s ecclesial character more complete and its activity more fruitful, through the variety and complementariness of its services.

1. The context: Where we are
1.1 The paradigm shift in Mission Theology
. The context of the work of Brothers has changed much in the past years as well as our whole Institute as such. There is a shift from the “implantation of the Church” - as a policy until Vatican II - to the Missio Dei. This had a strong impact on the Brothers’ fields of work and types of commitment. The shift goes from the work restricted to parish structures to various ministries within a wider local Church and society: from task-orientation to relationship-orientation and from Church-focused to Reign-focused; from putting up an infrastructure for parishes, the province and the Institute and keeping it going to the vast and complex areopagi of modern world. No “Factotum Brother” is any longer able to cope with the complex needs of today’s life. However there are still many Brothers in the classical fields of work and needed there. The service rendered by Brothers in the social apostolate is a genuine and a true lay ministry (“setting prisoners free” Lk, 4:18).

For sharing and reflection
- How did Brothers experience the changes of needs in the Mission, in the local Churches and in the parishes, provinces/delegations and Institute in the past 30 - 40 years?

1.2 Mission is happening on different levels and not synchronically. The local Churches on the four continents (Africa, Europe, Asia and America) differ considerably. They will not develop synchronically and in the same direction. We Comboni Brothers are working on a broad range of different mission realities on four continents. For example:
- first evangelization in parts of Africa and Asia;
- putting up infrastructures for the local Church, provinces/delegations, social projects, community buildings;
- commitment among the very poor (situations of misery) in suburbs and slums;
- formation of local Christian communities and human promotion,
- Justice and Peace expressed in the promotion of human rights, civic education initiatives, active commitment to integral human development and ecological sensibility;
- mission animation and redefinition of the North-South relationship in the local Church and societies through mass media;
- need to create new models of development because of the demands of ethical economics and politics (RL 16).

For sharing and reflection
- The tasks and the preparation of Brothers are much more complex than ever before. What priorities have to be taken into account when it comes to formation?
- How does rotation in these complex and different fields of work become a real and challenging issue for a Brother?

1.3 The Brothers belonging to Comboni’s feature of Mission
“The Comboni Missionaries share the same life with equal rights and duties except those deriving from the sacrament of Orders” (RL 10). The Brother’s vocation and the vocation of the priests are complementing each other like the two wings of a bird. We are one family. However we find in some communities a gap between the Brothers and the priests, between the old and young, between the confreres originating from different countries and cultures with different training and upbringing. “Save Africa with Africa” becomes at times an empty slogan because of lack of mutual respect, trust and appreciation.
The horizon and fields of work for the Brothers are broader and more interesting than ever, but in actual fact the number of Brothers is declining faster than the number of priests. In 1990 we had 341 Brothers, in 2005 we have 287 Brothers.
The reasons are many and not all are accountable to the Comboni Institute. According to the Founder’s original inspiration the Institute is composed of priests and Brothers. This makes the Institute’s ecclesial character more complete and its activity more fruitful, through the variety and complementariness of its services (RL 11).

For sharing and reflection
- How can we promote within our Institute a greater clarification of the roles (Brothers and priests) in order to foster their identity and to stress their mutual complementariness in the service of the Mission?
- What can we do to foster mutual respect, trust and appreciation among ourselves to minister better?
- How do we guarantee (safeguard) Comboni’s vision of Mission: total liberation (RL 61) as a concern of the whole Institute?

2. Our identity and how we live
2.1 The spirituality of universal fraternity
. The vocation of a Brother is a religious vocation for the Mission and his being and doing needs to interact. Mission is relationship: ad vitam, ad extra, ad intra, and ad pauperes. At the heart of a Comboni Brother is the identity of brotherhood (fraternity). This is a thread that runs throughout our history. Many of our Brothers have become real brothers to the people (Col, 3:11). Fraternity is an essential pillar of the holistic mission of our Founder, who - from the beginning - was looking at the whole person and his total liberation (RL 61). Fraternity is universal and expressed in concrete attitudes towards the people we minister to and to our own confreres. But we also know that community life is not easy and it presents us with many challenges due to differences in character and temperament, upbringing and multiculturalism, differences in the vision we have of mission. But this should not discourage us. In community we are confronted with different points of view that can help us to be more aware of our own and invite us to a growth process enabling us to live and minister as a family. Therefore fraternity is accompaniment and facilitation, empathy, empowerment and love. It touches on people’s hopes and anguish. It aims at transformation of the person and the society by awakening of conscience and community. What we do in fraternity, we do as an evangelising community.

For sharing and reflection
- How can we deepen fraternity among ourselves as a basis to become a brother to everybody?
- Our way of life (living), the use of means and our way of doing and relating determines our fraternal relationships. What are obstacles and avenues to fraternity reaching out to others?

2.2 Brothers as community builders ad intra and ad extra. Fraternity has to be the very soul of community life. Brothers have played a role in building the Comboni community as well the community they have been sent to (ad gentes). However at times circumstances and big structures have taken the confreres away form the community and the people. To dialogue in equality in order to form community in one charisma and the same spirituality is not common standard and understanding.
Comboni wanted holy and capable missionaries, but this comes only through formation and dedication to the mission. Nevertheless many Brothers - in their simplicity of heart - made a wonderful journey with the people. The example of St. Joseph has given many Brothers a clear and good orientation for their life and ministry and has led them to Christ and to see Christ in the people.

For sharing and reflection
- What do we do to form the Brothers to become holy and capable?
- Which elements do Brothers of different generations have in common? Should have in common?

3. Our missionary and ministerial apostolate
3.1 The Brother is a missionary: his methodology is insertion and respectful prophecy

The pastoral and human insertion of the Brother finds its expression in the nearness and togetherness with the people. Being lay the Brothers have generally a good entry point into the reality of the people. However the social roles need to be reflected on and reconsidered periodically, because frequently the focus of the work is on the infrastructure and not on the person. And we find again and again priests who do the work of Brothers even if a Brother is at hand.
Real insertion needs a very good knowledge of the language and culture, an openness to encounter and much more. In this way we hear the cry of the people and pay attention to the signs of the spirit. With respectful prophecy the Brothers struggle side by side with the people. “Your good shall be mine, and your sufferings shall be mine too. I shall make common cause with everyone of you. The happiest of my days will be the one when I shall be able to give my life for you" (Homily of Comboni in Khartoum, 11 May 1873).

For sharing and reflection
- Does our process of formation favour insertion and respectful prophecy?

3.2 Basic formation, collaboration, to make common cause with…: All steps of formation are important to prepare young Brothers. There is: professional training, formation in the postulancy, noviciate and formation in the Brothers’ Centre (Social Ministry, social pastoral and religious science). The basis of everything is a solid and ongoing religious formation and consecration.
We do not underplay the importance of profession as an element of the identity of the Brothers in the implementation of specific roles and tasks, but that is to be tuned with the realisation of their own ministry. The ministry of the Brother should find ways to integrate different dimensions together, e.g. profession, spirituality, social work, etc. around the core element of fraternity. The formation through Social Ministry/Social Pastoral opens up to the vast dimensions of needs in today’s world. Collaboration is a key element.
A Brother might start to work in his profession. He encounters people. Slowly he sees the needs which go beyond his professional training and he ventures out into them. Or his profession must be “translated” in another “language”. In this way the profession is only the entry point to his broader Mission. The formation through Social Ministry/Social Pastoral is then of great help. It shapes our Mission tasks and gives an orientation on the person. But without a profession we can not talk about real Social Ministry.

For sharing and reflection
- How can we nourish our consecration for the total dedication for the mission ad gentes?
- The understanding of the meaning and the helpfulness of Social Ministry (Nairobi) and Social Pastoral (Bogotá) needs still a good effort. How can this process be facilitated within the whole Institute?

3.3 Teams of Brothers in Mission. This proposal is based on CA ’03, 50 and the Assembly on the Formation of Brothers (Limone’99). We need significant centres (projects) of human development formation ministered by Brothers. To render more visible this new presence of the Brothers in the field of evangelisation, here we bring forth some suggestions and criteria for their actualisation:
- To ask the secretary of the general secretariat for evangelisation to see that social dimension has a greater share in our methodology of evangelisation and in the pastoral programme or in our communities.
- To qualify some of the Centres headed by our Brothers, stressing their social dimension and making them radiating centres of human promotion and development.
- To open new centres in three continents (Africa, America, and Europe) keeping in mind the following criteria:
· the commitment is to be a significant MCCJ work;
· to be carried out and on by a team of Brothers;
· Centres placed within challenging social background = insertion;
· to be prophetic, showing in action our missionary methodology;
· collaboration with the local Church, NGOs, civil institutions.

The idea that Brothers are working in teams is not a new one. Presently we have 5 teams: Guayaquil, Carapira, Lunzu, Chikowa and Mapuordit. An evaluation of their experiences of work, community life in the Comboni Family (priests and Brothers) and insertion would be of help.

For sharing and reflection
- The provinces with teams of Brothers are asked to evaluate their experience of the past years.
- We name new and feasible areopagi for Brothers in the different continents and provinces/delegations.
- How will Brothers relate with their confrere priests in this context?

Appendix: CA ’03, 121 proposes to change no. 12 of the Rule of Life by committing ourselves to arrive from a “clerical” to a “mixed” Institute.
This is not just a question that from now on the Brothers are entitled to be appointed superiors. There are far more reaching implications. There is a change in the idea of mission. As a matter of fact the wording ‘mixed Institute’ does not grasp at all the meaning of the idea behind it. It would be better to call it ‘multi ministerial Institute’. Clerical is basically the ideology behind the traditional model of mission, where the priest is the minister and all the other missionaries – sisters, lay people and Brothers – participate in that ministry of the priest but without having a ministry of their own (“coadjutors”). A clerical understanding of mission reduces ministry to proclamation and sacraments.
Changing the status of the Institute would be an official recognition of a shift in our vision of mission. It opens up the concept of mission beyond the walls of the parish. Therefore other types of mission may spring up.

For sharing and reflection
- We have to form one voice in order to make this proposal heard. How?

Rome, 16 December 2005
Bro. Johann Eigner, mccj

Sources for this Paper: RL; CA ’97 & ’03; Missionary Reflections on the Comboni Brother, Emakoko (Ongata Rongai) from 5 to 6 March 2005; Limone ’99 conclusions.
Ratio Missionis: paper n. 7