Monthly newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
Ethiopian Millennium Celebrations: 12 September 2007
“Everything that happens in the world happens at the time chosen by God. There is a time for giving birth, a time for dying; a time for planting, a time for harvesting; a time for loving, a time for forgiving; … and, finally, a time for peace” (Qoh 3).
On 12 September, 2007, a year of grace will start for the people of Ethiopia. As Comboni Family we start the Millennium in communion of prayer with you and with all the beloved people of Ethiopia.
May this Millennium be a time:
1. Of thanksgiving to God our Father for the blessings and graces he bestowed on Ethiopia in these past years, for those He is bestowing today and those He is keeping for the future.
2. Of listening to the Lord. The Lord will speak and we have to listen to what He wants to tell us, in order to behold a society of faith, unity and peace.
3. Of listening to our people. Our people have a lot to tell us: God will speak through them, telling us how to serve them with a heart like that of the Good Shepherd.
4. Of love for the mission ad Gentes. May this new Millennium be a time of grace and renewed commitment to our Comboni mission. Millennium means a new time for a new grace and a new mission.
5. Of grace for the poor. We have to make sure that each one of us becomes hope and courage for those who suffer. Do not expect others to help them. Be the first to serve those that Jesus served.
6. Of grace as a Cenacle of Apostles. To celebrate together the Millennium means to be missionaries together and to remain together in the Lord (John 15).
As we begin the Millennium celebrations, let us remember the words of the Lord: “And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Mt 28, 20).
Fr. Teresino Serra (Superior General) and his Council
General Secretariat for Formation
Two courses for vocations promoters and formators
During July and August of this year, two courses for educators (vocations promoters and formators) of English-speaking and French-speaking Africa, were held at St. Daniel Comboni Spirituality Centre in Layibi (Uganda) and at the Comboni novitiate at Cotonou (Benin).
The courses were intensive and lasted four weeks. Twenty-four confreres attended the course in Layibi and 18 that in Cotonou. This was a continuation of the plan of the 2003 General Chapter to increase ongoing formation among those in the Institute involved in vocations ministry during the following six years.
Including the Sao Paulo course (July 2006), attended by 18 confreres from the provinces and delegations of America, a total of 60 confreres have now completed the course: more than half of these work in vocations promotion and basic formation. In is an important investment in personnel which, doubtless, will bear fruit.
Both the 2007 courses were well attended, in an atmosphere of brotherhood, dialogue and sharing: the experiences of each one translated into precious gifts for all. The co-ordinating committee, appointed by the GC, marked out the path to be followed, concentrating the content around the theme of accompaniment and discernment. The aim is to gradually achieve a common plan of formation with clear objectives and sound points of reference which, through the creativity and commitment of each confrere, will assist the human, Christian and vocational growth of the young candidates.
In this way, the common formation plan is continually becoming more clear according to the formation model of integration by which the entire person, in its concrete experience, is the focus of attention towards a growth that takes into account the various dimensions of which it is made up, in view of a response to a true, authentic and freely given call of God.
This is the Comboni journey already outlined in the Pesaro 1999 Assembly and which, to a degree, was presented in the document The Verification of Formation of 2001. In the process, the reflection became and is still becoming more defined, pointing towards a methodology which makes the work of education more effective and deep.
We have used the term “Comboni educators” in order to include everyone in this process of personal growth: vocations promoters and formators. The first to experience growth are indeed those who are called to work in vocations promotion and basic formation. Insofar as we attend to ourselves as persons, as consecrated people and missionaries, we will be credible travelling companions to other young people. At the end of the courses all the participants stressed the importance of this challenge of personal growth.
The weeks spent together thus brought about a deeper understanding of the journey of integration by applying it first of all to ourselves and, at the same time, provided useful tools for discernment, accompaniment of candidates, formative talks, a new understanding of life experience, the personal life project, the assimilation of values and motivations evaluation. All of this was in view of acquiring true self-knowledge and self-acceptance so that, within an experience of faith, one might respond to the call of Christ.
The Comboni Institute, faced with the many problems in the fields of vocations promotion and basic formation, which have arisen in recent years, is deeply committed to reflection in the quest for answers to the requirements of formation and mission today. Some of these answers have to do with structures. Some choices have been made as a means to finding new ways.
What has been lived out during the courses in America and in Africa opens up a new approach for us: the personalities of the educators and the candidates are at the centre of attention. It will be worthwhile continuing on this path as there is still a long way to go!
The week-long courses at Layibi and Cotonou were lived in an atmosphere of intense personal and community prayer, with moments of brotherhood and sharing the missionary experience of the confreres who carry out their work in Northern Uganda (Gulu, Lira) and in Benin.
There were also times of relaxation, such as the two-hour visit to the Nile, under the watchful eyes of the hippopotamuses and crocodiles, or the visit to the lagoon village of Ganvié (Benin), the Venice of French-speaking Africa.
Sincere thanks to the provinces of Uganda and Togo-Ghana-Benin for their hospitality and for making sure that everything went well.
Unfortunately the two confreres from Eritrea, who ought to have taken part in the Layibi meeting, were unable to do so, not having been granted by the government permission to leave the country. We accompanied them with our prayers and our sincere solidarity in this very difficult and delicate time for their country.
The foundations have been laid for an experience which must certainly continue at the level of the person, the provinces and the Institute. The conclusions reached by the confreres, forwarded to the GC and to their respective provincial and delegation superiors and their councils, constitute the launch-pad of a Comboni future that we trust full of hope and which will find new impetus in the next General Chapter.
Fr. Ibercio Armengol Rojas Zevallos, on 10 August, 2007, was awarded a Canonical Degree in Sacred Theology at the faculty of Pontifical and Civil Theology of Lima, defending the thesis: “The ecclesiology of St Daniel Comboni, his consecration to the mission of Africa”. Congratulations!
Sc. Zieliński Maciej Mikolaj (PO) Cracovia (PO) 14.09.2007
Fr. Calongos Maslucán Gilver (PE) Jumbilla (PE) 08.09.2007
Fr. Dunn Álvarez Henry Oswaldo (DCA) Limón (CR) 22.09.2007
Holy Redeemer Guild
October 01 – 15 P 16 – 31 RSA
November 01 – 07 SS 08 – 15 TC 16 – 30 T
October - That justice, peace and the integrity of creation may be increasingly seen as essential aspects of the proclamation of the Kingdom and of Comboni charism. Let us pray.
November - That the Comboni Missionary Sisters, gathered for their Intercapitular Assembly, may continue to be open to the Spirit of God and make their own the spirituality of daring, in order to live the service of the Mission more authentically and radically. Let us pray.
Fr. Enzo Santangelo: “Cristo, rispondi?” a supplement for youth catechesis published by Grafica Campana, 2007. The original title, in Portuguese, is “Você procura respostas? Pergunte ao Mestre!”. This is Fr. Enzo’s 48th publication.
The representative assembly of the province took place from 27 August to 1 September. The first three days were spent evaluating the document of Aparecida, with the help of Fr. Ferraro. It was noted that the document has kept the option for the poor, confirmed the method of seeing, judging and acting and renewed its commitment to the small Christian communities. Fr. Ferraro explained that, in order to understand the text, it was necessary to know the pre-text and the con-text from which the document derived, the result of tensions and mediations within the Church which, even so, has lost none of its prophetic character. It is one of the most homogenous documents and presents no particular difficulties to the reader.
During the following days, bearing in mind the Six-year Plan, the continental proposal of the provincials as a contribution to the Ratio Missionis process, we held workshops on discernment with the purpose of giving new impetus to our presence in the Nordest, with Justice and Peace and Youth for Peace as catalysing elements.
The assembly ended with the straw ballot for the provincial and with the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of ordination of Fr. Giacomo Molinari, a member of our province since 1958.
First anniversary of the death of Mgr. Franco Masserdotti
The first anniversary of Mgr. Franco Masserdotti occurred on 17 September. We have heard that various celebrations were held in different places both in Brazil and in Italy.
On Sunday, 16 September, a vocational pilgrimage was held, beginning at 4 a.m. at the spot where the accident occurred and ending at the cathedral where it concluded with Mass. All the parishes of the diocese participated. Around 4,000 people were present.
On Monday, a Mass was held at the cathedral with Mgr. Erwin Krautler, bishop of Xingu and president of the CIMI as the main celebrant. Referring to the book Missionários do Reino, he emphasised the boundless missionary character of Mgr. Franco.
In the auditorium of the Marists, formerly Pius X Seminary, a public ceremony was held in the presence of the civil society for the purpose of conserving the legacy of Mgr. Franco.
T-shirts, calendars, a DVD of Radio Boa Notícia and a book with the messages of sympathy and homage on the occasion of Mgr. Franco’s death were prepared.
As regards the full story of the accident, we feel we are the victims of delayed justice in our state
The first parish-based forum for youth was organised by the parish of Notre Dame de Fatima, Bangui, from 22 to 26 August 2007, on the theme: the roots of my life. The opening Mass was presided by the Apostolic Nuncio in Central Africa Mgr. Pierre Nguyen Van Tot. After the parish priest, Fr Gabriele Perobelli, formally opened the forum, the 115 participants gathered at Notre Dame de Chartres College where, for four days, they prayed and reflected together on the concrete problems of their daily life and their personal relationship with Christ. By means of interventions, testimonies and films they focussed on their reality in order to be guardians of human and Christian values in the present situation.
These were the main topics discussed: an analysis of the reality of Central Africa, youth and witchcraft, youth and abortion, guiding one’s emotional and sexual life and meeting again Jesus Christ, Saviour, friend and well adjusted human being. Among those presenting their testimonies were a religious woman, a priest, a couple married in church, a woman suffering from AIDS, and a young man who lives in this complex situation and shared his way of dealing with it.
Every evening, after prayers led by Fr. Léonard Ndjadi Ndjate, chaplain to the youth, a film was shown dealing with the topic discussed during the day to involve more deeply the conscience of the youth in the dynamic of reflection, debates and testimonies. On Sunday morning, 26 August, a round table conference was held during which the 40 girls and 75 boys separately discussed once again the main problems of their daily lives. They then together agreed resolutions for a life no longer based on sentimental or groundless reasons but on the person of Jesus Christ and on human values. The Eucharist which concluded this first youth forum was presided by the Provincial Superior Fr. Victor-Hugo Castillo Matarrita. In his homily, he invited the youth to choose definitively, “with the power that is in them”, the taproot of the love of Christ which is immersed in the love of the Father and to live a life of non-violence. Daring, humility and holiness are the human values which make up the new pathways of a generation and a humanity that renewed and deep-rooted.
The third millennium
The 12 September 2007 marked the official passage to the third millennium in Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s calendar is almost eight years behind the rest of the world, which follows the Gregorian calendar, as this country, the only one, follows the Julian calendar, according to which Our Lord was born 2000 years ago.
The Ethiopian government of Meles Zenawi skilfully transformed the millennium celebrations into a grand occasion to re-launch on the international scene the image of a country undergoing deep transformation and to regain support which in recent years, especially after the disputed elections of 2005, had hit rock bottom. The decision, during the run-up to the millennium celebrations, to free the most prominent members of the main opposition party, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, as well as almost 18,000 other prisoners of all the states of the Ethiopian Federation, was well received by all. The civil celebrations both in the capital and other cities of the country, were accompanied by numerous religious and ecclesial initiatives .
The Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches focussed their attention not so much on the profane aspects of the celebrations but on the proposal to all the Christian communities to live the dawn of a new millennium as a real jubilee of thanksgiving. The discourse of the religious authorities of the various churches emphasised the jubilee themes going back to the experience of the people of Israel in the Old Testament: a year of grace, mercy, solidarity, reconciliation, social justice and the redistribution of goods and freedom from the chains of oppression. In fact, the above mentioned freeing of prisoners was interpreted by the churches as a jubilee gesture on the part of the government.
The Catholic office of the Millennium Celebrations Coordination Committee (NMCO), in a message of good wishes, expressed very clearly the spirit shared by all the churches as well as the Islamic authorities: “The celebrations for the Jubilee of the year 2000 and the New Millennium must not allow us to forget the situation of so many of our people: thousands of Ethiopians are still refugees or seeking refuge in bordering countries; millions still live in poverty and hunger. A great number have suffered unjustly and are still innocent victims. The homeless are also very many. A large number do not have access to basic services such as education, medical care, clean drinking water, transport etc. Many have lost dear ones in the AIDS pandemic and there are millions who receive no treatment for the virus which afflicts them.
Meanwhile, speaking as the NMCO, we hope that the dawn of the New Millennium may move the churches to work so that the great social divisions in the population may be removed and the unity of the country promoted.”
There have been lengthy and colourful liturgical celebrations, full of jubilee gestures and symbolism, organised by the different churches.
The celebrations by the Orthodox Church in Addis Abeba on the eve of the New Year in the presence of the Patriarch Abune Paulos and many bishops, deacons, choirs and the faithful who, in a spirit of prayers took part in a Bible vigil late into the night by the light of the hundreds of candles distributed to the participants, were especially meaningful and well attended. The liturgy, which included the traditional wazema chant, the slow psalmody sung in Gheez and the litany prayers, created a deeply spiritual atmosphere. The official Eucharistic celebration by the Catholic Church took place on Sunday, 16 September. The Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Ababa, Abune Berhane Yesus Surafiel, presided at the Mass in the presence of the bishops of the dioceses, vicariates and apostolic prefectures of Ethiopia, as well as a great number of religious pastoral workers and members of the faithful from all over the country.
Another deeply moving event was the consignment to the representatives of each of the ten ecclesiastical jurisdictions of the country of a crucifix carved according to the original crucifix by an artist from Addis Abeba. It had been blessed by the Pope at the recent gathering of youth at Loreto and brought to Ethiopia by Abune Musè Gebreghirogis, bishop of Emdebir, one of the Ethiopian dioceses. The crucifixes will be taken from one parish to another during a pilgrimage lasting the entire year of the jubilee, to underline the vocation of every Christian to be an instrument of peace, reconciliation, justice, forgiveness and love to the point of giving one’s life, following the example of Jesus Christ. The prayer sent up to Heaven by all is that both Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa and also the whole of the continent may at last enjoy that peace which, up to now, has remained only a dream. (Fr. Giuseppe Cavallini, mccj)
Commemorating Mgr. Gianfranco Masserdotti
On the first anniversary of the death of Mgr. Masserdotti (17 September 2006), the Brescia Comboni community organised a commemorative service.
The event had two parts. It began at 8 p.m. with a Eucharistic celebration at the church of the Good Shepherd next to the Comboni community house. Mgr. Francesco Beschi, Auxiliary Bishop of Brescia, was the main celebrant, accompanied by Mgr. Serafino Spreafico, Capuchin and Bishop Emeritus of the diocese of Grajaú, near Balsas, Mgr. Antonio Menegazzo, Apostolic Administrator of El Obeid (Sudan), and many Comboni and diocesan priests. Two assistant generals, Fr. Tesfamariam Ghebrecristos Woldeghebriel and Bro. Umberto Martinuzzo, were also present.
During the Mass, letters were read from Fr. Teresino Serra, Superior General, and from Fr. Antonio Guglielmi, administrator of the diocese of Balsas. With deep emotion, Mgr. Beschi told of his meetings with Mgr. Franco and emphasised the credibility and clarity of his missionary witness. Afterwards, the book “A braccia aperte”, compiled by Fr. Carmine Curci, was presented at the Comboni house. It describes the life, the figure and the spirituality of Mgr. Franco. A large portrait was also unveiled, showing Mgr. Franco dressed in his robes as bishop and wearing the insignia of his office, while in the background there is the church of the Good Shepherd in Brescia and the face of a young Brazilian. The attendance clearly showed that the memory of Mgr. Franco is still very much alive in the church of Brescia, where he was born and brought up. He remains for that community a strong stimulus to openness and solidarity with the missions and the poor.
Fr. Alessandro Guarda
Fr. Alessandro Guarda, General Bursar in Rome, came for a visit to the NAP in August. While the main focus was on finance, Fr. Alessandro had the opportunity to spend time on a broader basis with communities in Cincinnati, Chicago and California. The experience was positive on both sides.
Immigration problems hit home
One hundred and fifty members of St. Charles Borromeo’s parish in Cincinnati, where Fr. William Jansen is pastor, were recently arrested for being illegal aliens and are being held in jail. The Comboni Missionaries are doing their best to stay in contact with these latest victims, but the authorities make it difficult. Please pray for a just and swift solution to this problem.
Visit by Fr. Teresino Serra
Fr. Teresino Serra, Superior General, was with us from 6 to 19 August 2007. During the first week he directed the annual retreat with over forty participants. He shared with us some of the fundamental aspects of our Comboni spirituality. It was really an experience of grace and animation. Subsequently he met the members of the provincial council and a good group of representatives of all our communities to present to us the main challenges which, as an Institute, we are facing at this moment in history. Due to lack of time he was only able to visit the communities of Lima: postulancy, theologate, CAM, the Chorillos and the provincial house. We thank the Lord for those days which helped us to strengthen our bonds with our Comboni Family.
Earthquake in Peru
We will never forget what happened on 15 August, during the earthquake. Two parishes in the most affected zones are administered by us: El Carmen and Sunampe. There were many injured and serious material damage. We must also say that a chain of solidarity was created during the disaster. Many hands joined together, both in Peru and abroad, to come to the aid of these needy brothers and sisters. We saw at first hand how the Holy Spirit reveals his presence in many hearts to alleviate suffering.
Most of the churches were extensively damaged as well as the residence of the missionaries at El Carmen. Fortunately, no one was hurt. They are surveying the damage with a view to a plan of action. Fr. Lorenzo Bergantin, the parish priest, carried out a much appreciated work of coordination and animation among his parishioners and is doing whatever is humanly possible to be close to all the communities, especially those most affected. Even now we wish to thank the Comboni provinces and the many people who are helping us as much as they can. A fund has been set up for those harmed in any way.
On 8 September, Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, our province was blessed with the priestly ordination of Gilver Calongos Maslucán. The ceremony was carried out in his home town of Jumbilla in Amazonas, North East of Peru, in the diocese of Chachapoyas. There were ten Comboni Missionaries, priests, Brothers, scholastics and Sisters, to accompany the new missionary.
Fr. Gilver is the first priest of that community. The parish priest welcomed us with open arms, not to speak of the people. It was a real event in the town prepared beforehand by visits to the schools and local radio stations. The people of the nearby villages were also invited and great crowds came to celebrate the first ordination of one of their sons.
The ordaining bishop, Mgr. Emiliano Cisneros Martínez OAR, a person especially close to his faithful, praised our confrere and gave a very missionary sermon. He said it should be well noted that the first priest of that town was a Comboni missionary and asked all those attending not to turn a deaf ear to the call of the Lord to follow him as religious, priests and/or missionaries, ready to travel the roads of the world. Fr. Gilver has been appointed to the province of Togo-Ghana-Bénin.
50 years of priesthood
Fr. Peter Magalasi celebrated his priesthood golden jubilee in the Comboni House at Juba on 1 September 2007. Fr. Peter was born 77 years ago in Tombora, South Sudan. He was ordained on 7 July 1957. He presently works in Duru (Congo).
Fr. Peter presided at the community Eucharist in the morning, during which he recalled the beginnings of the communities at the Comboni House in Hai Amarat (Juba), their joyful sharing of resources and gifts in good and bad times. He also expressed his joy for the return to the Archdiocese of Juba of the Comboni Missionary Sisters and Comboni Missionaries after fourteen years of forced absence. He asked the two communities to work closely together, to put Christ at the centre of their lives and not to overwork themselves on account of shortage of vocations. Fr. Peter spoke with enthusiasm about his apostolic work in Duru.
The celebration was resumed in the evening with a festive dinner. Archbishop Paolino Lukudu Loro, one of Fr. Peter’s students, his secretary deacon Onesimo Kenyi and Bro. Augusto Lopeta from St Martin de Porres Institute joined Fr. Peter and the two communities for the evening gathering.
Thirtieth anniversary of Comboni presence
The province of Tchad was born out of the expulsion of the Comboni Missionaries from Sudan in 1964 and with the arrival of the Sudanese refugees in Central Africa. On 15 August 1977 the first three Comboni Missionaries arrived in Tchad from Central Africa: Fr. Claudio Gasbarro, the now Mgr. Miguel Angel Sebastián Martínez and Fr. Domingo José Delgado.
On the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary, the provincial council met at Moissala, our first mission, to celebrate with the people. For five days we celebrated with the Christians of Moissala, taking part in various activities: a missionary display, a video on Comboni, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, concerts by the choirs, round table discussions, radio broadcasts and a meeting with the pastoral committee during which we discussed future prospects.
The celebrations were brought to a close with a Mass attended by all the representatives of the sectors of this vast parish. We thank God for having allowed us to work in this part of his vineyard. We thank the Christians of Tchad who believed the Word which we proclaimed to them and made it bear fruit, and all those who played a part in this Comboni mission in Tchad during the past thirty years.
Sowing on the borders of Sahel: 30 years of Comboni history
Five years ago we began to collect material in order to write the history of the Comboni Missionaries in Tchad. In order to keep the memoriam! The book Semer aux frontières du Sahel: 30 ans d’histoire combonienne au Tchad, by Fr. Enrique Javier Rosich Vargas has just been published. We thank the province of Spain which largely financed this work. We have sent a copy to each province and delegation as a gift on our thirtieth anniversary.
This book is the history of the Comboni Missionaries who have worked in Tchad for the past thirty years. “Sowing on the borders of Sahel” represents the daring typical of those who believe and allow themselves to be led by the Spirit of Jesus, rather like the parable of the sower in the Gospel who sows among rocks and weeds, along the roadside and on fertile ground, “welcome or unwelcome”, as St. Paul would say. Sowing in spite of all human logic. More than 65 Comboni Missionaries have sown the seed and spent the best part of their lives in this frontier of Sahel in the South of Tchad.
Thirty years of joy alongside a people who responded as they heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. Thirty years of apprenticeship and evangelisation alongside peoples of such rich cultures and with so many complex languages.
Thirty years with one passion: “to sow the seed”. To sow because we know that the seed is not ours and that it brings life for the people of Tchad.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Bro. Antonio Gasparini (25.02.1924 – 25.07.2007)
Fr. Paolo Longo (08.12.1928 – 10.09.2007)
Let us pray for our beloved dead
THE FATHER: Francesco Saverio, of Fr. Donato Goffredo (LP); Emilio, of Bro. Giuseppe Parise (KH); Edward, of Sc. Miąsik Maciej Tomasz.
THE MOTHER: Adele, of Fr. Marco Martinelli (I); Dolores, of Bro. David Enríquez Sánchez (M); Marie-Claire, of Bro. Simon Zissou Tsoklo (CN); Oliva, of Bro. Alberto Visintin (CA).
THE BROTHER: Leonel, of Fr. Ignacio López Toro (M); Anteo, of Fr. Severino Crescentini (I).
THE SISTER: Caterina, of Fr. Aleardo De Berti Jn. (I); Giacomina, of Fr. Lorenzo Tomasoni (KH); Maria, of Fr. Egidio Melzani (BS).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. M. Caterina Baldisserotto; Sr. Serafica Colombo; Sr. Tranquillina Conti; Sr. M. Dionisia Collizzolli; Sr. Rinalda Franchin.
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