Monthly newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of he Heart of Jesus
Course for Vocations Promoters and Formators
The first course for vocations promoters and formators was held at Sao Paolo (Brazil) from 10 July to 5 August 2006. It took place at the provincial house with 18 confreres, promoters e formators from the provinces and delegations of America, of whom four were from Peru, four from Mexico, three from Central America, three from Brasile Nordest, two from Brasile Sud, one from Ecuador and one from Colombia.
Throughout the course there was a heartfelt spirit of fraternity and communion with a full schedule followed by all with interest and personal commitment.
The 2003 General Chapter (CA ’03, 62.1) indicated the need to foster the Ongoing Formation of those confreres involved in vocations promotion and basic formation. The General Council also created an ad hoc committee to carry out this proposal of the General Chapter.
And so we made a start! The purpose was to offer some practical help to ensure that our educative work as formators should be conscious, clear and effective. This is our reaction to the situation of the youth, while remaining faithful to the Comboni charism, a gift of the Spirit for the mission of the Church today and progress within a common formative project. Formation must assist the youth in his discernment and his response to the call of God.
It is necessary to offer to the youth the means necessary to identify, purify and understand his vocational motivation while he grows in freedom and maturity towards a deeper encounter with Christ, following and assimilating Gospel values within the contest of the Comboni charism. The educator is at the service of this vocational growth of the candidate.
The course aimed at providing both promoters and formators with the means necessary for effective educational action with the personal involvement of the educators themselves in this process of personal, vocational and Comboni missionary growth.
The conclusions reached gave us hope, not simply because of the general satisfaction with the outcome, but especially because of the programmes dealing with a more intense and qualified future on the personal, community, secretariat and provincial levels, with a set of proposals and initiatives at the continental level.
The Sao Paolo course was the launch pad for the following meetings in 2007: in Uganda for Anglophone Africa (July) and in Togo for Francophone Africa (August).
Our sincere thanks go to the province of Brasil Do Sul and the community of the provincial house for their marvellous hospitality and helpfulness.
MISNA and La Civiltà Cattolica Foundation
On 26 July the MISNA-ONLUS Foundation was established. Its purpose is to maintain the activities of MISNA. Apart from the founder-members (Missionary Institutes), there are also supporters and honorary members. Cardinal Ersilio Tonini willingly accepted to be one of the latter. The Foundation’s seat is the present location of MISNA.
“La Civiltà Cattolica” published a ten-page article (284-293) on MISNA in the August 2006 issue.
Bro. Eluma Nsele Jacques (CN) Kinshasa (RDC) 23.06.2006
Bro. Abule Kabungi Philippe (CN) Mungbere (RDC) 09.07.2006
Sch. Atitse Kokou (Donatien) (T) Lomé-Kodzoviakopé (TGO) 06.08.2006
Fr. Kakule Muvawa Emery-Justin (CN) Butembo (RDC) 16.07.2006
Fr. Körber Markus Lorenz (DSP) Gößweinstein (D) 29.07.2006
Fr. Sowah Ako Kossi (Lazare) (T) Lomé-Agoényivé TGO) 12.08.2006
Fr. Jemil Araya Jemil (ER) Keren (ER) 05.08.2006
Fr. Ndjadi Ndjate Léonard (CN) Kisangani (RDC) 13.08.2006
Fr. Hernández Rogel Juan José (DCA) Cojutepeque (ES) 26.08.2006
Holy Redeemer Guild
September 01 – 15 NAP 16 – 30 PE
October 01 – 15 P 16 – 31 RSA
September - For the Comboni Missionaries gathered for the Intercapitular Assembly, that in the light of the Plan of Comboni, they may wisely verify and energetically re-launch the directives of the XVI General Chapter. Let us pray.
October - That the example of St Daniel Comboni, the great missionary animator, may so inspire our missionary animation that the local Churches may be open to the mission ad gentes and to cooperation among the Churches. Let us pray.
On the occasion of the elections in the DRC
Rome, 27 July 2007
Peace and strength in the Lord.
After 15 years of violent transition and two wars that have decimated and destroyed the population of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on this coming 30 July there will be the Political and Administrative Elections.
The Catholic Church and the other Evangelical Churches and Civil Society have worked hard in assisting the people to grow towards a civic awareness and to take freely part in this event so important for the future of this Nation.
Echoing the declaration of the Permanent Committee of the DRC’s Episcopal Conference (20 July 2006), we wish the Congolese people a truly peaceful and happy conclusion of the transitional period, even though - the bishops underline - conditions of security, transparency and organization leave a lot to be desired.
I invite all the confreres to intensify their prayers of intercession, so that this event may bring peace and the hope of a new life for the poor, for our Comboni confreres and the Comboni Sisters who are sharing in the life of the people, and to the entire Great Lakes Region.
Fr. Teresino Serra
Analysis of the situation
The most important event of this moment in time is, without doubt, the upcoming presidential and legislative elections. The situation is not at all clear: there are some who are opposed to the elections while others are in favour in order to gain power and yet others, perhaps, who hope the elections will renew the nation and the life of the people. Some candidates are jockeying for position in order to bargain for a position of power. A section of the population is in danger of allowing itself to be corrupted and to regress to an almost tribal attitude.
The organisational side of it is not at all transparent. The Church, some ONGs and civil society are involved in preparing the population to carry out the elections properly. On the other hand, freedom of speech, although it has improved, cannot be taken for granted.
In some areas, people run the risk of voting more against some personalities who have done much harm and little good, rather than in favour of people capable of dedicating themselves with conscience and competence to the rebuilding of Congo.
There are also fears for the aftermath of the elections, given that it has not been possible to integrate the army while the former warring parties still have their own armies.
After these elections, care must be taken to ensure that provincial and local elections may take place because it is at this level that the concrete problems of the people will be tackled.
In this context it is necessary to bear in mind the intrigues between the military and many authorities, as well as the calls for strikes which have greatly harmed the lives of the people, especially the strike by doctors.
It is necessary to continue the work of political and social education in view of the rule of law and the formation of a new conscience.
From 28 to 30 June 2006, in Guatemala City, The DCA held its annual assembly. The meeting provided the opportunity to see what progress we are making and the challenges that the Central American situation, in which we carry out our missionary service, continually poses.
With half a day spent analysing the situation, we again uncovered a situation obscured by violence and the poverty of our people. The despair and frustration in which the people live, as well as the indifference and abuse on the part of the very people who should be concerned with the poor, provoke and challenge us in our missionary service.
We are aware that the work of the Ratio Missionis is beginning to bear fruit, but we have also understood that we must become more involved in this moment of grace that is being experienced by the Institute.
During these days we were able to share and live together peacefully, rejoicing in the presence of new confreres appointed to the delegation. We are thankful to God for his many blessings and especially for the upcoming priestly ordination of the scholastics Juan José Hernández Rogel and Luis Filiberto López Pastor.
We have become better aware of the serious challenge facing us in better organising our vocation promotion and in qualifying our missionary service of animation.
Shortly before the end of the meeting we listened to reports by the delegation bursar and we launched the adventure of the Common Fund, confident that Our Lord will be close to us and help us to grow in the true spirit of communion and transparency.
Convinced that Central America has much to give to the Institute, we wish to continue to work with enthusiasm.
Elections of new provincial
Early in August the General Council accepted the resignation of the provincial superior of the DSP, Fr. Anton Schneider, due to health reasons which do not allow him to exercise his office. After a number of heart problems, a long period in hospital and heart surgery, the cardiologist strongly advised Fr. Anton to avoid stress and heavy commitments, such as that of being provincial. A reasonable rest for about a year is the normal requirement for anyone to recover after such surgery. This has not been an easy decision to make, as the province is going through the process of renewal. The confreres of the DSP will soon begin the procedure for electing a new provincial.
Priestly ordination of Fr. Markus Lorenz Körber
Fr. Markus Lorenz Körber, after his studies in Rome and his ordination as a deacon last January, was ordained priest at Goessweinstein ("Franconian Switzerland"), Archdiocese of Bamberg, by the local ordinary, Archbishop Dr. Ludwig Schick, on Saturday morning, 29 July 2006. The marvellously restored and beautiful shrine, located only a few kilometres from the home parish of the newly ordained priest, was packed with family, faithful, friends and, of course, a good number of Comboni confreres. In his homily, Archbishop Ludwig basically followed the liturgy for the ordination to the priesthood, dwelling particularly on the meaning of "vocatio", "optio" and "missio". The archbishop pointed out that a missionary priest, like any other priest, has to hear the call from God, which again requires the option to follow Christ as a friend, in order to be sent by the Lord to stay and work in his mission. Often quoting our Founder, Archbishop Ludwig showed his intimate knowledge of St. Daniel Comboni, giving a particularly missionary touch to the celebration.
The feast continued the following morning, when Fr. Markus celebrated his "Primiz", his First Holy Eucharist in his home parish of Pottenstein. The church was again crammed with people and many could not fit inside. Numerous people (parishioners, neighbours and guests) wanted to meet Fr. Markus personally. We had two jubilant days between the day at Goesweinstein in Pottenstein and the day in the little town of Mandlau, where Fr. Markus and his large family originally come from.
Fr. Markus will soon take up his missionary commitment in the province of South Sudan.
Visit of the Superior General
The Superior General, Fr. Teresino Serra, conducted an official visit to the Eritrean delegation from 15 to 28 July 2006. The visit, though short, undoubtedly made a strong impact on the members of the Delegation. Apart from visiting the communities, he also preached the spiritual exercises to the 34 Comboni Missionaries and Sisters and the novices of the Comboni Sisters at Embatkala Retreat Centre.
During his visit he met the Eparch of Asmara, Mgr. Menghesteab Tesfamariam, a Comboni Missionary. He also met with the aged parents of some of our confreres of Asmara. The old parents were moved when he told them that “they were the real missionaries”!
The spiritual exercises preached by Fr. Teresino were highly appreciated by the participants. His input dealt with “Comboni missionary spirituality”, corroborated by the Word of God. He managed to make us appreciate and value more the simple things that we perhaps take lightly. Many of us admired his straightforward approach and sense of humour.
Fr. Teresino was impressed during his visit to the missions of Fode and Delle in Gash Barka zone, 270 km north of the city of Asmara. He was moved by the poverty of the people who totally lack infrastructures for development. For the last 11 km there was no road, but just a footpath. The two missions have one primary school each and a water well for clean water that has been provided by the Comboni Missionaries. Health centres, shops, grinding mills, junior/senior schools, roads, entertainment centres, etc, are totally non existent in the area. It is indeed a fertile ground for first evangelisation in the Comboni sense!
Fr. Teresino thanked us for being with the people in such difficult areas and, furthermore, at this particularly difficult moment for Eritrea. He encouraged us to walk the road traced by the Lord and by Comboni. He said: “The feet of the missionary are beautiful when they are wounded and stained”. Thank you, Terry! Come again to visit Eritrea!
Priestly ordination of Fr. Jemil Araya Jemil
5 August 2006 was a day of grace for the Eritrean delegation in particular and for the local Church of Eritrea in general. Fr. Jemil Araya Jemil was ordained priest at the hands of Abune Kidanemariam Yebio, the Eparch of Keren. The celebration, which took place in the cathedral of Keren Eparchy, was witnessed by several Comboni Missionaries and Sisters, diocesan priests, religious, as well as by many of our candidates and the faithful of the cathedral parish. The whole celebration and rite of ordination was an intense moment of missionary animation. The event was graced by the presence of Fr. Tesfamariam Ghebrecristos Woldeghebriel, assistant general.
The ordination day was preceded by missionary animation in several parishes of the Eparchy, organized by two Comboni Missionaries, Fr. Estifanos Helafu Woldeghiorghis and Fr. Alazar Abraha. In particular, one week of intense missionary animation was done in Diggi, the home parish of Fr. Jemil.
During the celebration of the Eucharist, the gifts were presented by a group of Christians from the Kunama ethnic group in Barentu Eparchy. They put on their traditional attire and the gifts they offered were typically Kunama products of “mother earth”. The whole celebration had a missionary implication. Another meaningful and emotional moment was when the parents of Jemil presented to him missionary symbols: a globe, sandals, the cross and the bible. The people who witnessed the event admired this meaningful gesture as well as the announcement of the delegate that Fr. Jemil was going to Egypt for his work of evangelisation. Hence, the day of his ordination signified the “official sending on of Fr. Jemil”. During lunch, several poems and traditional Ge’ez chants were staged to entertain the newly ordained priest and the public. The song had a missionary and Comboni feature.
In the afternoon, at 5.00 p.m., Fr. Jemil was officially welcomed in his village parish by a crowd of about a thousand people. In our traditional religious culture the first Mass is celebrated in one’s village. It is the responsibility of the family and the parish to organize the celebration and meal. There were three choirs from the surrounding parishes and many more traditional choirs chanting in Ge’ez. The Comboni Missionaries, the Comboni Sisters and many diocesan priests and religious accompanied Fr. Jemil.
On 6 August Fr. Jemil celebrated his first Mass in his own parish and the church was fully packed. Fr. Tesfamariam Ghebrecristos delivered the homily, whereby he underlined the importance of preaching the Good News beyond one’s home boundaries. He thanked the family and the parish for giving to the Universal Church a missionary priest.
The delegation praises the Lord for the gift of Fr. Jemil. We have all been renewed by the “events of grace” that have happened in the “last days”. A Comboni Sisters’ postulant commented: “It takes 12 years to prepare a priest and just a few minutes to ordain him. But the self-giving remains for ever”. Indeed it remains forever like the order of Melchizedek.
First anniversary of the death of Fr. Paolo Serra
The first anniversary of the death of Fr Paolo Serra was solemnly celebrated at Mores, his home town, in Sassari Province, Sardinia, on 8 July, 2006.
The whole town, led by the mayor and the town council, was unanimous in agreeing to name the square by the council offices after their missionary Fr. Paolo. In the presence of family members, the Superior General Fr. Teresino Serra and representatives of ACSE, the mayor unveiled a plaque bearing the inscription: “To Paolo Serra, Missionary”. The mayor also briefly mentioned the figure of our confrere and presented him as “an example to follow”, especially for the youth.
That same morning Mass was concelebrated in the parish church attended by the whole population.
Fr. Teresino in his homily thanked God for the missionary example of Fr. Paolo. Speaking also in the Sardinian dialect, he said: “Ecco la fotografia di Paolo: unu coro mannu in carena minoredda (“Here is the picture of Fr. Paolo: a great heart in a tiny body)”.
If we wish to describe the personality of Fr. Paolo, the word missionary says it all. Fr. Paolo was a special missionary: one of those missionaries who live in the missions even when holy obedience requires them to work in Europe for a while.
Comboni Symposium at Limone
At Limone sul Garda, from 10 to 13 July, a symposium was held under the title: The Mission Today, Revisiting Comboni. The main, original purpose of the meeting, organised by the Italian Province in collaboration with the General Secretary for Evangelisation, Fr. Fernando Zolli, and the European Group for Theological Reflection (GERT), was to offer a reflection upon the hermeneutics employed in “reading” Comboni. The starting point was, therefore, the great need, felt by many, for hermeneutical approaches (theological, pastoral, anthropological, missiological) different to those usually preferred by the Institute. This explains the choice of the relators and the themes presented: The Hour of Africa and the signs of the times (Fr. Alessandro Zanotelli); The Mission ad the compassion of God (Fr. Benito De Marchi); The Plan of Comboni in relation to ministry (Fr. Francesco Pierli and Sr. Maria Teresa Ratti); The ministerial response of the small Christian communities as the gift of the mission (Fr. Franz Weber); The Hour of Africa in the Plan of Comboni and of Today (Fr. Guido Oliana); The Brown Pearl (Fr. Giampaolo Pezzi); Comboni and the first women who went to Africa (Sr. Maria Vidale); Experience-based Dynamics of the encounter with Comboni and Mission Today (Fr. Danilo Castello).
Each relator was asked to highlight how he or she has lived and does live their approach to Comboni, and according to which criteria: literary, interests, objectives etc., obviously starting from their professional fields, their personal experience of Comboni and their understanding of mission.
Using the workshop method of research, the group, composed of relators (members of GERT and guest speakers) as well as invited guests, about fifteen persons in all, endeavoured to respond to the second part by deriving from the material presented and discussed motivations and indications towards a missionary spirituality and commitment in Europe and in the world (inspired by Comboni and his charism and carried out in the world of today), as well as seeking to establish what to say and how to speak about Comboni to those of our time who question us. Neither is the common iter of the Institute towards the Ratio Missionis to be ignored.
Our first aim was to agree upon how to conduct and present future meetings at Limone. In this we succeeded, to a good degree, with a very positive evaluation by the participants as regards the usefulness of the meeting and the interpretations presented.
The number of participants in this first symposium was necessarily limited due to the need to clarify the aim, the themes and the method of such an approach. Clearly, the choice of relators could not be complete enough to do justice to all those Comboni Missionaries and others, who down through the years have made valid contributions and studies concerning our Founder.
We wish to carry on this initiative by making this symposium an annual event. A small group of the participants, led by Fr. Zolli and backed by the Italian Province will examine how to present the material, starting points and paths of study presented by the symposium to a wider audience and how to continue on this line.
Handing over the Lokori parish in Turkana
On 11 June 2006 the feelings of the people of Lokori were mixed. They were happy and grateful to have known so many Comboni Missionaries who had worked there and spent part of their life among them and, at the same time, sad because the Comboni Missionaries were going away and, with them, the dedication and zeal of the priests and brothers who had shared everything with them, planting the small seed of the values of God’s Kingdom. Now the time had come for them to allow the Comboni Missionaries to go elsewhere to share the same faith to others.
Lokori was initially an outstation of Katilu parish, which the Comboni Missionaries started visiting in the early seventies. It was established as a parish in 1991.
The people organized a nice celebration of farewell for the Comboni Missionaries and of welcome for the Incarnate Word Fathers who were taking over the parish to carry on the work of evangelisation. It was also a sad day for as we were leaving Lokori and so many friends. We were touched by the way the people organized the Eucharistic celebration and the farewell party. It was amazing to see them arrive for the celebration, some after walking up to 65 km. For us it was a sign that they wanted to be with us on the day of our leaving, so that we would keep them always in our hearts. For sure they will continue to be in our memory and prayers.
During the Eucharistic celebration, while we were handing over to the new priests the bread, wine and the scriptures, symbols of unity and love in God’s family, people were crying. Another most touching moment was when we gave the keys of the house and of the church to the Incarnate Word Fathers, saying that from now on it would be their turn to continue the work of evangelisation in the sun-scorched Lokori area.
The people told the Incarnate Word Fathers that they would collaborate with them the same way they did with us. Their farewells and best wishes gave us strength to face new commitments and challenges.
Starting afresh in a new place always causes feelings of uneasiness, and yet this is the mission and the challenge we have been given by Jesus and the example of Comboni. As missionaries, we are called to go and start anew again and again.
May Comboni help us to keep always in mind that, as missionaries, our work is only provisional; we are preparing people until they can help themselves to grow in their faith.
Fr. Raffaele Cefalo a Traumatic experience
We are often told here in Africa, both by religious and civil authorities, that in the case of a road accident, we must not stop but go immediately to the police. Otherwise, instead of, say, one fatality, there may be two. However, it can happen, especially to one with Christian feelings, that the “Good Samaritan” attitude decides otherwise.
On Tuesday, 1 August 2006, at about four in the afternoon, having left Nairobi in the morning, I was driving back to my mission of Nakwamekwi in Turkana. I was travelling alone. A few km before Kitale I could see something in the middle of the road and a vehicle to one side. I slowed down and saw the body of a little girl of about seven years.
I immediately pulled over without a moment’s hesitation. There was a woman crying who began to scream. I approached the child and saw she was already dead. A middle-aged Indian alighted from the parked car. “Father, I am very sorry. It was not my fault. The child just ran out in front of me”. The woman, seeing the child was dead, sounded the traditional African cry of alarm. In a matter of seconds an angry mob gathered. I told the Indian to make his escape and to call the police. He barely managed to get away driving the car stained with the blood of his victim.
Once he escaped, the mob turned on me. “Mzungu (European), murderer, murderer!” I was trembling in my boots and thought I was finished. During almost fifty years in Africa, I have witnessed bloodcurdling lynchings and been unable to help. I shouted out that I was not the driver and had only stopped to help.
I barely managed to get into my car and lock the doors. Fortunately, the angry crowd had not yet gathered sticks or stones and their blows to the windows and bodywork did little damage as they tried in vain to open the doors. I prayed to my guardian angel as never before. After several attempts I just managed to get away as I pressed the accelerator all the way down to the floor.
I slept at Kapenguria that night. Slept is hardly the word as it was a recurring nightmare. I could see myself being killed by being punched, kicked and beaten with sticks.
Sadly, here in Africa, the best policy is to “pass by on the other side” and leave the Good Samaritan for better times. (Fr. Raffaele Cefalo)
In spite of the peace accord signed between the Government of National Unity and the Darfur rebels in Sudan, the situation is still tense, insecure and dangerous. There is insecurity not only in the front line, where the warring parties are fighting, but also in the big cities which so far had not experienced the ravages of war. Gunfire can occasionally be heard even within the cities, considered to be secure and stable places, like Nyala. Armed-robbery is still practised and threatens people's lives in Darfur.
When war breaks out, of course, security, peace and respect for property disappear. Everything and everyone is vulnerable. Our farm in Nyala was one of the victims of this insecurity and came under attack by armed men. It was Monday night, 26 June, when a group of seven armed men burst into our farm using two carts (pulled either by a donkey or a horse). Their intention was, as usual, to loot, kill and destroy. However, God intervened and they did no harm to people apart from beating the watchman and tying him to the ground till morning. They carried away with them 13 goats and 2 sheep as well as some farming tools. The attack was reported at the police station in Nyala and a number of policemen were been asked to go to the farm for further investigation. They never turned up and nobody why.
We know the facts by personal experience but we also get distressing news from the African Union security forces: for the people it is much too early to speak of true and lasting peace in Darfur. It would much better for the whole Sudanese people to really work together and put the interest of the country before individual interests. Only this could ensure stable and lasting peace in Sudan, whereby no one is again robbed, killed or displaced.
The provincial assembly took place in a climate of brotherhood, with great confidence and a high degree of participation. Fifty-two confreres from all over Mexico, including Lower California and representing the various sectors, took part. The entire PC was present at the assembly which was held at the Xochimilco Postulancy from 31 July to 3 August 2006. The method used was that of seeing, judging, acting.
On the first day we assessed the situation of Mexico, especially the effects of neo-liberalism and globalisation on Mexican society, in the light of the conference given by professor Rodrigo Guerra.
On the second day we made the same sort of analysis but applying it to the Comboni province.
The third day was devoted to judging, or rather discerning the situation as it was presented and deciding what concrete actions to take.
On the final day we moved towards putting the assembly’s proposals into practice. Each provincial secretariat suggested concrete steps to be taken during the coming year. The numerous proposals presented in the assembly were recorded and will be reviewed when the six-year plan is being made.
Before beginning the assembly, we had a weeklong retreat directed by Mgr. Eugenio Arellano Fernández, Comboni Bishop of Esmeraldas, Ecuador. During the retreat we had the grace and the joy of having with us the relics of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. A prayer vigil was held in the presence of the relics.
The assembly was closed with a Eucharistic celebration and, as is our common practice, the invitation to proclaim the “Ite missa est”, inaugurating a new missionary period.
Golden jubilee of priestly ordination
On 24 May 2006, Fr. Riccardo Mele marked fifty years of priesthood with a Eucharistic celebration in the parish of “The Twelve Apostles” at Chorillos, Lima, thanking the Lord for this achievement.
The Eucharist was presided by Fr. Fiorentino Lafuente Hernández, representing the province, and attended by many of the faithful.
Fr. Riccardo worked in this parish from 1972 to 1986, first as curate and later as parish priest. In November 1995 “The Twelve Apostles” was handed over to the diocesan clergy. The Comboni missionaries are still present in the adjoining parish “Christ the Missionary of the Father”, which comes under the above-mentioned parish.
Even though Fr. Riccardo had been away from the parish and province for many years, a good number of his friends gathered to pray for his well-being and to thank the Lord for all the benefits received during his priestly life.
Feast of the Sacred Heart
On 23 June, the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the members of the Lima communities gathered to pray and reflect upon the meaning of this liturgical feast. Fr. Gaetano Beltrami, director of ongoing formation in the province, presented some spiritual insights into the spirituality of the Sacred Heart. We then celebrated the Eucharist and were fed with the word of God.
Among those present were Fr. José Irenio Chinguel Núñez and Fr. Abel Noé Torres Cuyubamba, on holiday from the mission. They briefly told us of their experience in the African continent. In the evening, the postulants and students of theology celebrated the memory of our Founder at the Postulancy.
Annual Retreat of the Comboni Lay Missionaries (CLM)
The annual retreat of the CLM in Perù was held on the last weekend of June. About 25 people from Lima, Arequipa e Huánuco continued the study of their call by God to missionary service.
There was a nice atmosphere and we noted that each day the group becomes more aware of its place in the church and in the Comboni family.
Meeting of confreres originally from the Province
On 31 June, a meeting was held for the first time of those originally from Perù and Chile. It was an occasion to get to know each other better, share experiences and reflect on the common provincial plan. Not all managed to attend, but those who did were pleased with this initiative.
As has been done for some years now, the majority of the confreres of the province met at Monterrico for the annual retreat. There were 40 participants, including a fair number of our students (novices and theologians), in what was truly a grace-filled experience.
Fr. Carmelo Casile, director of the Renewal Course in Rome and with a vast amount of experience in such matters, guided the retreat. He succeeded in guiding the participants, with skill and competence, during this important moment of their spiritual life. We are deeply grateful to Fr. Carmelo and all who helped to make this experience possible.
Meeting of candidates in formation
For the first time in the province, on 12 August we celebrated a meeting of all our candidates in formation. Aspirants, postulants, novices and theologians, accompanied by their respective formators, gathered at the Postulancy in order to share their vocational experiences. The participants spoke of the unease and the desires of the new members of our Institute. The initiative was well received and it was requested that it should be repeated, increasing its time duration.
Priestly ordination of Fr. John Bosco Nambasi Mangeni
On Saturday, 1 July 2006, deacon John Bosco Nambasi Mangeni was ordained priest by Mgr. James Odongo of Tororo Archdiocese. Fr John is the first Comboni Missionary from this archdiocese, a mission area traditionally assigned to the Mill Hill Fathers. On that occasion three other diocesan deacons were ordained priests and four candidates were ordained deacons. The celebration took place in the square next to the cathedral and was attended by a large crowd of people from various parishes of the archdiocese.
Our provincial and vice-provincial and a number of confreres were present and it was an occasion to make the Comboni Missionaries known to the people of the area. Sr. Rocio Sandra, mission animator of Arua zone, represented the Comboni Missionary Sisters. Mgr. James in his homily, based on “Christ yesterday, Christ today and Christ always”, reminded the newly ordained that their mission was to make Christ always present through the celebration of the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, and through the exercise of their ministry as good shepherds, willing to shun privileges and ready to put their gifts and life at the service of the people. The provincial, in a short address, underlined the missionary spirit of Fr. John as a sign of the missionary spirit of the Church and hopefully of the Church in Tororo.
A number of confreres surrounded Fr. John when he presided over his first Mass in his home parish in Lumino, a celebration that was well attended by many Christians. Fr. Edward Kanyike Mayanja delivered a touching sermon in the Luganda language. The parish priest underlined the importance of having a missionary from the parish and how through him the parish had established a closer relationship with the Comboni Missionaries. To Fr. John our best wishes and blessings for his future mission in Kenya, where obedience has assigned him.
Peace talks in Juba
There is a moderate optimism about the peace talks between Joseph Kony, the leader of Lord Resistance Army (LRA), Riak Machar, the president of South Sudan and the Uganda government. Joseph Kony has been accused by the International Tribunal of Le Hague of crimes against humanity. His rebel movement has been the main cause for the civil war that has destabilised the Northern Districts of Uganda for the last 20 years. On the ground, unfortunately, little has changed and people are still crammed into camps, living a miserable life and surviving on the handouts of international organisations.
Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala resigns as Archbishop
The Osservatore Romano of 20 August 2006 announced that the Holy Father has accepted the resignation as Archbishop of Kampala (Uganda), offered by Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala, in accordance with canon 401 § 1 of the Code of Canon Law.
Fr. General sent the following message to the Cardinal: “We received the news that the Pope has accepted Your resignation and relieved You of the heavy duty of the pastoral care of the Archdiocese of Kampala which You have carried on Your shoulders so well and for so long. Together with You, we give thanks to God for the wonderful things we have witnessed during Your tenure, especially for Your efforts in building greater understanding among the members of the various religions in Uganda, for being outspoken on national issues and for having always stood faithfully by Your priests and Your flock. Your humble demeanour has surely attracted many to the Kingdom of God. We Comboni Missionaries are particularly grateful for the support You gave us in the process of canonization of our Founder, St. Daniel Comboni, and we therefore recommend to his powerful intercession this new period of Your life.”
Appointment of Mgr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga
On the same day, L’Osservatore Romano also announced that the Holy Father has appointed Mgr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, hitherto Bishop of Kasana-Luweero, as Metropolitan Archbishop of Kampala (Uganda).
Fr. General sent Mgr. Cyprian Kizito the following message: “We Comboni Missionaries congratulate You upon this promotion. We are proud of having worked for some years under Your leadership in Kasaala and assure You that we shall continue to collaborate with You faithfully in the ministry, as You witnessed in Your former diocese of Kasana-Luweero. We shall continue also to accompany Your ministry with our prayers, so that the Lord may grant You the wisdom and the strength to follow in the footsteps of Your holy predecessors at the helm of the most important Archdiocese of the country. Our saintly Founder, Daniel Comboni, must be greatly rejoicing in heaven as he sees his dream of ‘Saving Africa with Africa’ now so visibly and so validly implemented. We recommend You and Your Archdiocese to his powerful intercession.”
IN PACE CHRISTI
Bro. Mario Pariani (18.06.1925 - 18.07.2006)
Bro. Mario Pariani was born on 18 June 1925 at Magnago, Milan, the son of Antonio e Rosa Luigia who had eight sons. When Mario left home for the novitiate he also left his work in a hardware shop and was well on the way to becoming a good mechanic.
A form which he filled in when he joined the novitiate reveals the motivation behind his vocation: “To save my soul and the souls of the pagans”. “For six months - his parish priest wrote - Mario has been coming to daily Mass before going to work. His behaviour is faultless and his companions are among those who frequent the ‘Oratorio’. I trust he will be accepted, also because he was born in 1925 and could be called up for military service at any moment”.
On 14 February 1944 Mario entered the novitiate at Venegono where Fr. Antonio Todesco was novice master.
On 19 March 1946 he took his first vows and was immediately sent to Thiene as a cook. He stayed there for six months before being sent to Brescia as “general factotum”.
In those days, the Brothers in the minor seminaries used to go arounf the farms and ask the peasants for some food contributions for the seminarians. Bro. Mario was so successful in this work that Fr. Emilio Ceccarini, responsible for all the junior seminaries in Italy, wrote in 1950: “Bro. Mario is indeed a likeable person. He has many skills, is generous and intelligent. His way of dealing with people endears him to others. He behaves well with externs, is esteemed by all, and is given everything he asks for. During the past four years he has been collecting food with true self-denial, sacrifice and success. He is suitable for the missionary life, and is skilled in mechanics, gardening and woodwork.”
In August 1950 the gateway to Africa was opened for Bro. Mario. His first appointment was to Mupoi mission in Southern Sudan. It was an impressive mission with schools, laboratories and workshops and a tendency to expand. Bro. Mario thrived on it all, especially in the carpentry department.
In 1955 he went to Maringindo mission, again as a carpenter. In 1957 the government nationalised the schools and placed severe restrictions on the construction of churches. At Kpaile there was as yet no church. One day in 1956 a committee went to Wau to propose a suitable spot for the new church on a small hill, but the endeavour came to nothing.
Meanwhile, a severe drought struck the area resulting in hunger and poverty. Chief Dakon gathered the witch doctors to consult them. Their explanation was: “The cause of the drought is due to the fact that people are not listening to the abuna (the missionaries) and do not attend church.” On the following Sunday the church was packed to overflowing with Christians, pagans and chiefs. The following night abundant rain fell and the missionaries were allowed to build the church.
A year later, in 1956, we find Bro. Mario at Rimenze where there was another church yet to be built. By making bricks, keeping the carpentry shop in full swing and digging wells, Bro. Mario tried to keep up with the requirements of the apostolic work of his priest confreres.
In 1959, after nine years of missionary work, Fr. Mario returned to Italy for his holidays and to rest a while. He wanted to get back as soon as possible to the missions where he had worked but things were changing fast in Sudan. It was the beginning of the expulsion of the missionaries from Southern Sudan.
Bro. Mario stayed in Brescia for four years (1959-1963), taking up where he had left off when he went to Sudan. Looking ahead to the mass expulsions, the superiors had accepted new missions in Burundi and in Congo. Bro. Mario asked to be sent to Congo. His request was backed up with two reasons: Congo shared a border with the Zande people and Bro. Mario knew their language as well as their customs. The second reason was that many Christians from southern Sudan had sought refuge in Congo.
Bro. Mario left for his new appointment with the second group of confreres made up of Fr. Remo Armani, Fr. Evaristo Migotti and Fr. Ferdinando Colombo. They sailed from Venice on 13 February 1964 and reached Congo via Uganda. Bro. Mario was appointed to Ndedu.
The community of Ndedu comprised Fr. Pasquale Merloni, Fr. Remo Armani, Fr. Ferdinando Colombo and Bro. Mario. The latter wrote to Fr. General on 5 July 1964: “Allow me, most reverend Father, to thank you once more for having chosen me for this mission to work for the Kingdom of the Sacred Heart and his glory. We are working flat out: making bricks, getting firewood for the brick ovens as well as collecting stones. The sawyers fall mahogany trees and saw them by hand to provide wood for the new buildings. The forest is full of timber and we have every necessary permit to cut what we need”.
Meanwhile, things were getting bad in Congo. The new People’s Republic of Stanleyville put a stop to everything. The ranks of simba hordes were growing and becoming evermore threatening. There was severe persecution throughout the region with many deaths. Bro. Mario succeeded in reaching home in one piece together with his mission companion, Fr. Pasquale Merloni.
Back in Italy after such a traumatic experience, he was sent to the peaceful house of Gozzano, home of the novitiate. There, in an atmosphere of prayer and silence, enlivened by the presence of so many young novices, he managed to regain his health and strength.
Then peace returned to Congo and, in 1968, Bro. Mario could return and was sent to Rungu as director of the technical school.
One of the first things he did was to visit the place (the bridge over the Bomokandi river) where his confreres Fr. Lorenzo Piazza, Fr. Evaristo Migotti and Fr. Antonio Zuccali had been killed. On that same occasion, Bro. Carlo Mosca, Director of the technical school, had survived by pretending to be dead.
In a letter dated August 1969, Bro. Mario wrote: “Here all is well. The situation is very peaceful and allows us to carry on our apostolic work untroubled. I have already been to see the spot where I ought to have died on 29 November 1964...” He would work hard for another 35 years at Rungu, Dakwa, Bomokandi and in other missions where they needed a Brother who was available, capable, always smiling, always happy and always ready to help anyone in need.
In 2002 Bro. Mario’s health had become precarious and he had to go home to Italy. He went to Milan and then to Rebbio. In 2003 he tried the missionary life one last time and went to Kinshasa-Kingabwa and to Duru, as a Brother of the community and a “praying Brother”. In 2005 he returned for good to Milan where he waited for the reward which the Lord reserves for his faithful workers. He died of pneumonia on 18 July 2006 and was buried in his hometown. (P. Lorenzo Gaiga)
Fr. Angelo Confalonieri (22.03.1932 - 01.08.2006)
Fr. Angelo Confalonieri was born at Seregno, a small town in the province of Milan. The spirit of initiative, so common among those people, would reinforce the great faith which he received from his family and the Christian community. It would become his trump card as a man and as a missionary. At seventeen he entered the novitiate at Venegono and two years later consecrated himself to God and the missions by his religious profession.
He went to the Verona Mother House for three years of high school. After that he went to Venegno for theology. On 31 May 1958 he was ordained priest in the Cathedral of Milan by Cardinal Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI. At the age of twenty-six he left for Sudan but it was the time when missionaries were being expelled from that country.
In 1963 he was again in Italy working in vocations promotion and formation, based at Barolo, in the house that was intended, with Carraia, to become the second high school for Comboni candidates in Italy.
In 1969 he left Italy for Canada (Brossard, Québec), where he worked in missionary animation until he was appointed to the then region of Togo (1978). He made many friends who were of great help to him in Ghana in financing social works. Today he would be called a ‘loose cannon’ but for him it there was no doubt whatever: it was a question of helping the poor.
Informing his regional superior, Fr. Nazareno Gaetano Contran, of his imminent arrival, he wrote: “I have been told that I shall be going to Abor. I am happy to hear about it (I am not sure if the others will be so happy!). I shall, however, do my best. In a way I was sorry to leave Canada, but deep down I was happy to do so. Better to have only happy memories of Canada.”
He was forever asking Fr. Contran for news about Abor mission or Ghana in general: “The situation regarding religion, politics, social situation, poverty and so forth. Before leaving I would like to publish something in the local paper at Seregno. If you prefer, just write the article, about two newspaper columns. I will be forever grateful. You know well I am no journalist.”
On 20 September 1978 he arrived in the Region of Togo. He worked in Ghana, since he already knew English as well as French. In Ghana, and especially at Abor, he dedicated the best years of his missionary life. He really fulfilled his missionary dream.
He threw himself into the work of evangelisation with dedication and zeal, busying himself with the catechumenate, the formation of catechists and visiting the communities in his continual search for contact with the people.
His was a somewhat traditional missionary method but it bore spiritual fruit with the birth of new communities and material benefits in the form of churches, schools and other buildings. He was unusually creative and with his feet firmly on the ground and with clarity of vision, he worked ceaselessly and untiringly.
He wanted things done right and paid attention to detail, making sure that buildings were not only well built but also beautiful to look at. That was how he worked, up to the end. It was to his credit that the buildings for a new parish at Mafi Kumasi, a subsidiary community of Adidome, were begun. He was always ready to welcome others, to listen to them and make them feel at ease with him. This he did so despite his neuralgias and consequent headaches, which for years made his life a Calvary of suffering. When he was in pain, he would never bother others, but he simply used to withdraw until the pains eased and then carry on as if nothing had happened.
He gave his all, especially to the poor and the needy, in particular to handicapped children. He started the St. Theresa Centre for the Handicapped at Abor which assists children until such time as they are able to fend for themselves. The Servants of Charity (Guanellians) took over this work from him at his request. This shows the provisional attitude by which he lived, and his detachment from things he might well have regarded as his own.
Fr. Angelo proved himself able to conceive of other ecclesiastical resources, which could take his place and do even better than he was doing. He knew how to translate human development into action and founded the craft school of St Agnes, helping needy students and apprentices and cooperating with the social services (education and health).
It was he who first thought of a Comboni presence at Accra, the capital. He bought a small house at Kaneshie to ensure that those confreres who came from the Volta Region for shopping would be welcomed and have a place to rest. Little did he know that, after some time, the Comboni Missionaries in Ghana would establish precise at Kaneshie their Centre for missionary animation.
He felt he belonged to the province and even if he was not always present at general meetings, he studiously participated in zone meetings. He preferred to show he belonged to the province in more “sensible”, if hidden, ways. Whenever he was asked to contribute financially to provincial projects, he never refused. One example is sufficient to demonstrate this: the acquisition of the site at Cacaveli where the provincial house and the Brothers’ postulancy were built. The complete list would be very long.
Putting aside a speculative approach, he lived his membership of the local Church by cooperating very generously with the bishop and diocesan clergy. When he was asked to contribute to the economy of the diocese, especially to the establishment of the new diocese of Keta-Akatsi, he placed himself at the service of the of the entire diocese and of its bishop, Mgr. Anthony Adanuty Kwami. It was Mgr. Anthony who visited Fr. Angelo at the Ambrosoli Centre in Milan, where he had been admitted, and stayed with him right through the last five days of his life. Fr. Angelo regarded the diocesan priests as his brothers and knew how to be there for them and to help them. The cathedral church of the diocese of Akatsi is due to his interest, while the architectural expertise is due to Bro. Virginio Negrin.
Fr. Angelo had the gift of creative intelligence, which led him to foresee and organise, step by step, the self-sufficiency of the projects and works he established with particular attention to the needs of the people, so that they might, by their own means, run things independently.
He had a missionary style which may no longer be fashionable today, but the testimonies of his African confreres are unanimous in their praise of a man who understood people. He easily became involved in Comboni vocation promotion and in all priestly and religious vocations, both male and female. Some of our African confreres received the faith from him through baptism and it was his example that inspired their calling to the missionary vocation. He welcomed the Comboni candidates and knew how to use their talents in the work of evangelisation. The novices who spent time with him will not easily forget him. He will certainly intercede for us from heaven that the Lord of the harvest may send Comboni missionaries from Ghana who are both holy and capable.
Fr. Angelo could see the funny side of his own and others’ limits. He spoke his mind openly and did not hesitate to say what he thought.
Having built up a wide circle of close friends, in Italy and in Canada, he never lacked financial means. He dedicated his free time to his friends, writing personally and promptly to thank everyone who helped. Fr. Angelo succeeded in this way to involve a great number of people in his missionary work, presenting it to them with enthusiasm. This assured the growth of support for the work he was doing. He also inherited the friends of Fr. Cuniberto Zeziola, his predecessor at Abor, and these became benefactors of the Comboni Missionaries and friends of the local Church. He was never afraid to send requests for financial assistance, like our Founder, when it was a question of helping people in need.
We have inherited the example of a man who was faithful to the mission and who gave his all for the sake of the Gospel. His final days of suffering were a period of purification from those human faults and failings which make evangelisers into persons specially privileged by God’s merciful love. (P. Aurelio Boscaini)
Fr. George Adiang Kur Nok (28.11.1961 - 15.08.2006)
On Tuesday morning, 15 August, the Feast of the Assumption of our Lady into heaven, we received the news of the tragic death of Fr. Gorge Adiang Kur Nok. He was on a bus from Zimbabwe where he had preached a retreat to the Sisters of the Precious Blood. Just outside Polokwane the accident happened in which Fr. George was severely injured and died soon afterwards.
Born in 1961 in Renk, diocese of Malakal in Sudan, Fr. George did his novitiate in Namugongo (Uganda) and his scholasticate in Elstree (UK). For his ordination in April 2001 he went back to Sudan.
Fr. George was appointed to the South African province in 2001, where he arrived on 10 October, the feast of our Founder St. Daniel Comboni. After visiting the different communities and confreres, he went to Glen Cowie to learn Northern Sotho and then was sent to Burgersfort to start his missionary service. For three years he lived and worked in Burgersfort. In 2004 he was appointed to be vocation promoter and moved to Pretoria.
He was supplying in different parishes and had many encounters with the young people. He encouraged them to express what was on their mind. He was not happy to have them repeat what others were saying, but wanted to make them aware of their own thoughts and enable them to share these with others.
Fr. George, a man of deep faith, was positive in his outlook on life and in his encounter with others. He did whatever had to be done in the mission of Burgersfort or in any other place of the parish with a big and generous heart. He was always ready to reach out to anybody at anytime. He shared in depth about his experiences as a missionary and also about very personal matters with confreres, without hesitation. His cheerfulness, warmth and goodness as well as his prayerful life were there for all to see.
How he could laugh and at the same time bring out a very strong point. Even those who never stayed in the same community with him can remember how, when he was presiding at the Eucharist in small groups, he often began to chant a refrain of his own, and how gradually it was possible to pick up the refrain and sing along with him, always creating a very prayerful atmosphere.
Fr. George lived in that spirit of freedom and joy that comes from knowing that we are God’s children, in close relationship with the Father. He was relaxed, never forcing an issue, saying what he had to say with simplicity and cheerfulness. Even when it was difficult to understand exactly what he wanted to say, because he used the words in his own way, his message was coming through.
When there was something he didn’t agree with, he freely expressed his mind, giving the reasons why he thought otherwise. This attitude led him to be open and not to bear grudges to anyone in his heart and also enabled the others to open up to him and to find a common understanding.
Only a few months ago, while he visited Mount Ayliff, his car was stolen and stripped. Another unpleasant incident happened earlier in the year, as he was driving through Pretoria. He saw a man at a traffic light, apparently selling roses. Fr. George in his kindness opened the window of the car to tell him that he did not need roses. The man immediately showed him that he had a gun concealed among the roses. He told Fr. George to open the rear door of the car. The man got inside and demanded from him his cellular phone and his money. Fr. George complied to his request. Then the man asked him what kind of work he was doing. At his reply: “I am a priest”, the man needed a further explanation, for he did not know who a priest was. Only when Fr. George pointed at his liturgical vestments lying on the back seat of the car, he was in fact on his way back from a funeral, did the man understand. Then he said: “What have I done? Will God forgive me for this?” In his simplicity Fr. George replied: “How would I know? I am not God”.
Fr. George was blessed in that a great deal about the kingdom of God was revealed to him. For this reason, he was able to take up the yoke the Lord had placed on his shoulders and to follow him. In imitation to Our Lord, Fr. George was gentle and humble of heart and a good shepherd to the people he served.”
The funeral of Fr. George took place at Maria Trost, Lydenburg, on 26 August 2006. The Eucharist was presided by Mgr. Paul Mandla Khumalo, bishop of Witbank. Participating were one of Fr. George’s brothers and the vice-provincials of Khartoum and South Africa, many other confreres, friends and faithful.
(The obituary is based on the funeral homily delivered by Fr. Bernhard Josef Riegel)
Let us pray for our beloved dead
THE FATHER: of Fr. Abel Gueli Komi (TC).
THE MOTHER: Dora, of Fr. Giuseppe Tonino Pasolini (U); Albina, of Fr. Marco Canovi (I).
THE BROTHER: Antonio, of Fr. Michele Bonfitto (I); Hyppolite, of the Sch. Elysée Laye Ayikoue Mawutodji (T); Tomaso, of Fr. Giuseppe-Zeno Picotti (EG); José, of Fr. Homero Gerardo Ramírez Ramírez (M).
THE SISTER: Sebastiana, of Fr. Salvatore Calvia (I); Sr. Evelina, of Fr. Alfonso Cigarini (BNE); Manna, of the Sch. Weldeyohannes Tesfay Weldeyohannes (ET); Weyni, of the Sch. Berhane Fidane Kashay (ET).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. Epifania Rizzoli; Sr. M. Celeste Milani; Sr. Clemens Marin; Sr. M. Celinia Cominelli; Sr. M. Jolanda Pellegrini; Sr. Lettecristos Ghebreghiorghis.
Visit our Website: http://comboni.org