Monthly newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
Secretariat of Formation
Thematic commission for reflection on formation
As part of the preparation for the special ordinary Chapter in 2009, the General Council has created several thematic commissions to study situations and particular themes. The thematic commission for reflection on formation met in Rome from 3 to 10 January for their first encounter and endeavoured to focus on the orientations proposed by the GC.
Those taking part were: Fr. Girolamo Miante, General Secretary for Formation, Bro. Marco Binaghi (Bogotá CIF), Fr. Stéphane Kamanga Mutombo (Kinshasa scholasticate), Fr. Giorgio Padovan ( Padova postulancy), Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie (Provincial of Ethiopia), Fr. José de Jesús Villaseñor Gálvez (Casavatore scholasticate). Fr. Odelir José Magri, Assistant General, accompanied the work. There were periods dedicated to meetings with Fr. Teresino Serra, Superior General and Bro. Umberto Martinuzzo, Assistant General.
During the first day’s work, the commission went over the progress made in the last decade, bringing out those aspects still requiring attention and reflection.
With all the meetings and assemblies held during these years, there were many opportunities to make deep analyses of the social, youth, ecclesial and Comboni situation which allowed us, on the one hand, to focus resources and priorities in order to qualify our missionary service and, on the other, to identify the Achilles heel of Comboni formation (Palencia 2006, no. 3). The formation documents contain valid policies and pointers but it is their implementation that has proved weak and fragile.
There was full agreement with the first stage of the Ratio Missionis process which confirmed our research and analysis (Report: “Reviewing the Mission by Renewing Ourselves” RM 2007).
The indications of the GC to the commission were then taken up.
1. Ratio Fundamentalis Studiorum: to include in the text the decisions of recent years regarding the vocational and formative journey. 2. To study some aspects regarding the decisions of the GC (letter on formation of 8 April 2007). 3. To reconsider the initial time (stages) of the Comboni journey. 4. To study how to give continuity to the progress made in the on-going formation of promoters and formators. 5. To invite the confreres involved in vocations ministry and basic formation to collaborate in the reflection.
As we prepare for 2009, we think it necessary that the refection should develop around some central themes which may become a turning point in the formation system and in continuity with what has been done in the past. We ought to stress especially the central role of the “persona” in the Comboni formation plan and its methodology.
In line with this, the commission prepared “a working letter”, presenting four main themes: 1. The youth. 2. The educators (vocations promoters and formators). 3. The community. 4. The Comboni formation plan. All provinces and delegations are invited to present their reflections and proposals regarding these themes and in collaboration with the secretariats of vocations promotion and basic formation. Material should be sent to the Secretary General for Formation before 16 June next.
The GC, in a letter issued on 1 November 2007, regarding the journey of preparation for the 2009 General Chapter wrote: “A Chapter will be ineffective if it is not accepted by the Institute. In general, it may be said that it can only be accepted in so far as all have succeeded in actively participating in its preparation and to the extent that all have managed to contribute to the elaboration of a new common consciousness, renewed by the vocation and charism of the Institute”. This is what we, too, hope will come about.
Fr. Recalde Randito Tina (A) Mayapa, Laguna, RP 26.01.2008
Holy Redeemer Guild
February 01 – 15 BS 16 – 28 CA
March 01 – 07 DCA 08 – 15 EG 16 – 31 EC
February - That the Comboni family may be blessed with vocations that are generous and willing to offer themselves completely to the service of God’s Mission. Let us pray.
March - That in the contemplation of the crucified, risen and living Lord, we may face with faith sufferings, obstacles and misunderstandings we encounter in our missionary service. Let us pray.
Antonio Rosa: “Abuna” Mario, una vita donata all’Africa, pp. 142, published by “La Terra Promessa scs onlus – Novara”. A biography of Bro. Mario Pariani, a Comboni Missionary who, having lived for nine years in Sudan (1950-1959), spent almost the rest of his life in Congo. In 1964, he was taken hostage by the Simba and was fortunately released. However, he was subsequently forced again to take refuge in the forest from rebels and various groups of soldiers.
The initiative to publish came mostly from the urgings of the people of Bro. Mario’s home community, especially his family members but also from the missionary group of his home town. The asked the author to write the book in order to keep alive the memory of Bro. Mario’s missionary vocation and love for the mission.
Copies are available from Fr. Lino Spezia at our house in Milan.
Daniel L. A. Nabuya: Evangelization of Karamoja in the 20th and 21st centuries, the contribution of the Comboni Missionaries throughout decades of efforts and blessings, pp. 329. Fr. Daniel, a priest of the diocese of Kotido, recounts, in English, the missionary endeavours of the Comboni family (and others) from their arrival in that territory (1933) to the martyrdom of Fr. Mario Mantovani and Bro. Godfrey Kiryowa (2003). Copies are available from the provincial of Uganda.
“Award Padre Carlos Crespi”
The Catholic Association for Communication Signis-Ecuador has given the “Award Padre Carlos Crespi”, for the video category 2007, to the Comboni Missionary Fr. José Barranco Ramírez, for the documentary entitled “Francis in the XXI Century”, which is about three missionaries who look after the poor and the tramps of Quito.
In Ecuador Fr. Barranco works since the eighties, as he had been doing in Spain from 1997 to 2003, in video production on the life of missionaries. The videos are shown on a number of national and private television networks in Ecuador. From September 2007 these videos have also been shown in Bolivia on some television networks. The Daniel Comboni Centre of Carcelén in Quito makes copies of the videos for a number of Comboni provinces in Latin America.
Recently many young people, after seeing the videos on TV, contacted our houses in Quito for discernment on missionary vocation. This work of mission promotion will undoubtedly be useful in the preparation of Comla 8 or Cam 3 which will be held in Quito in August this year. Congratulations to Fr. Barranco for this mission promotion service.
First Comboni Website in the Arabic Language
The Website (www.comboniegypt.org) of our Delegation, which came into existence in the English language at the beginning of September 2007, 150 years after the first arrival of Comboni in Egypt, already had a section “ebooks” with some books about Comboni in the Arabic language. During the first three months, half the users who had visited our website showed interest in the documents in Arabic. They were mainly from Arab speaking countries (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Jordan, Oman, and Bahrain).
By the end of December, the website took a step further as it became available also in Arabic. We can say that this is the first Comboni Website in the Arabic language. In this way, we hope that the website may be a good instrument for mission promotion in Egypt and in those Arabic speaking countries where we are not present.
Furthermore, the Comboni Missionaries working in Arabic speaking areas now have easily downloadable material about Comboni which can be used in pastoral service.
From 2 to 4 January 2008, our Delegation held its annual assembly. All the confreres present in Egypt, apart from Fr. Zeno Picotti who was recovering from an operation, gathered in Moqattam for the second stage of the phase of discernment of the Ratio Missionis. We also discussed the Code of Conduct and the implementation of the Total Common Fund.
The assembly’s methodology followed that of community discernment and it was conducted in a climate of prayer and fraternal listening, as we searched for the will of God in communion.
A grave crisis
The situation in Kenya at the moment is critical. There has been violence in major cities, with the danger that the violence, already resulting in deaths in tribal conflict, may become worse. Here in Korogocho we have been through dramatic times. Our community is located in the very centre of the area where the warring tribes live. Tribal hatred, encouraged by misinformation, has been the cause of attacks by either side.
This is a brief account of how events unfolded in recent days.
27 December 2007: the long-awaited election day. The elections passed off peacefully.
28 December: everyone is waiting for the announcement of the winner as the votes are counted live on state and private TV. Raila (the opposing party) seems to be in the lead with a million votes more than his rival.
The announcement of the winner is delayed several times by the electoral commission and then scheduled for the following day.
29 December: tension mounts in the cities from early morning and there are fights in Kibera, the constituency of Raila. Disorder grows as the Kibaki votes (the ruling party) increase, match and overtake those of Raila the following morning. There is disorder during the night in various part of the city, especially in the slums. We count seven Luo dead in Korogocho, among whom are two children.
30 December: we are waiting for the announcement by the electoral commission but everyone knows there has been trickery on the Kibaki side. It seems unbelievable as the big losers include 21 ministers and several MP’s of the Kibaki side. It just does not seem possible that the Kenyan people should have voted so badly. Kibaki is sworn in late in the evening behind closed doors at State House before a small number of representatives. The country is now in a state of political and social crisis. The announcement of the new president is immediately followed by violent clashes with the police in many cities such as Kisumu, Eldoret and others which result in the death toll rising to 124 in a single day.
31 December: at six in the morning, the Luo of Korogocho launch an attack against the Kikuyu to avenge the seven people killed.
This situation remained unchanged in recent days. Together with Fr. Daniele Moschetti and other pastors of the zone we try to start peace negotiations and engage in a peaceful procession shouting: “amani kwa wote wakenya” (peace for all Kenyans) and trying to dialogue with all the groups of young people armed with machetes and clubs whether to defend themselves or to attack others. The atmosphere is filled with anger and tangible tension while the group of pacifists becomes, understandably, more demanding. We are aware that this is a war among the poor who have been used by the politicians who are happy to use divisions to dominate others. Furthermore, among the youths infuriated by electoral fraud there are those who take advantage of the situation to steal and loot.
At last there is peace and total silence during the night of St. Sylvester, an unreal silence: not even a single voice crying out in joy as the New Year 2008 makes its first whimpers heard.
There are attempts at dialogue all over, except at the top where Kibaki is saying nothing.
1 January 2008: there is still a lot of tension ad only a few people come to Mass at St. John’s church where we celebrate the Mass for World Peace Day. Few people venture out on the streets. There are food shortages with shops, some already looted, closed out of fear; the women who usually sell their beans and maize (Githeri) or fried fish are not to be seen on the roads. The situation is confused and there are rumours of attacks by gangs from outside which create alarm in the community. There are violent attacks against both the Kikuyu and the Luo. The worst incident takes place in Eldoret (a city in the North-west) where 200 Kikuyu take refuge in a church of the Assemblies of God. The church is set on fire and fifty people are burned to death. Many among them are women and children.
With all that is happening and the official declarations of fraud, given the strategic position of Kenya in North-east Africa, it is felt that the international community must intervene.
As a missionary, I feel that I have done in these dramatic days only what is normal for any Christian: to stay with the people in their joys and sorrows in order to bear witness to the presence of the Emmanuel.
We do not yet know if the worst is over or is still to come, but we feel that the future cannot be written without the poor or the excluded. International politics should learn from difficult times such as these, whether in Kenya or Rwanda, the Congo or the Middle East, etc., to promote political action capable of becoming “an exalted form of charity”, as Giorgio La Pira and Paul VI both said.
I thank those who are praying for us missionaries in Kenya and are thus helping us to be a sign of hope and of the loving kindness of God. (Fr. Paolo Latorre)
Second Diocesan Synod
The Archdiocese of Khartoum recently concluded its second diocesan synod, a process taking six years in all. Unlike the first which took place in the nineties and was largely the work of pastoral agents, this was the synod of the parishes. Cardinal Zubeir, the main promoter of the synod, endeavoured to involve most of the faithful in the process by listening to them, helping them to reflect about themselves and encouraging them to taking an active part both in making decisions ad in their implementation.
Much of the work was entrusted to the parishes, making parish priests, curates, parish councils and the synod committees set up in all parishes aware of their responsibilities. The results were extremely varied according to the degree of interest and understanding of these local organisations. At the diocesan level there were periodical general assemblies to gather the parishes together, examine the information collected, the progress made and suggest methodologies to be followed in the various stages of this long journey.
Te Synod began with the “seeing” stage. By means of a questionnaire, seven areas of interest were identified: evangelization, the family, unity and communion, Islamisation and Arabisation, war and injustice, the Church and the government. Each parish organised meetings and gathered the opinions of the faithful on these themes. All the material was then discussed at diocesan level, in a general assembly, where the reports of each parish were heard.
In the judging phase, out of the seven areas presented, four priorities of special significance at the diocesan level were chosen: evangelisation, the family, the liturgy, unity and communion.
The work then went back to the parishes for further discussion. The purpose of this phase was to try to discover how God sees and judges our reality and, from this starting point, to try and see the mission which God entrusts to us in each of these areas in order to achieve a vision that may lead us to the next phase of acting.
At the conclusion of the various phases, four possibilities were outlined, one for each priority, and a general theme for the progress of the diocese: “Called as a family in Christ to be holy and witnesses of the Kingdom of God”.
The components of this vision, the call of God, unity in Christ, holiness and witnessing to the Kingdom of God, were studied and meditated and then presented to the faithful in the act phase. In short, these are the elements which must be constantly borne in mind before making the pastoral plans for the next five years. The power of this vision lies in directing the progress of the various parishes towards a common goal, even if the ways followed are different, since they are based upon the local situation. In this phase, as it was repeatedly said, it is necessary to “think diocesan and act locally”.
There was a common effort to establish the objectives to be aimed at by each priority during the next five years. For evangelisation: “To qualify pastoral agents to make the word of God come alive for the community of the faithful”. For the family: “To make of the Christian family a domestic church that may evangelise other families”. For the liturgy: “To make the liturgical celebrations occasions of conscious and active participation in the mystery of Christ, propitious moments of salvation, a deepening of the faith and proclamation”. For unity and communion: “To plan and work together with a group spirit, fidelity and the distribution of roles among members”.
Each parish has the task of fixing intermediate objectives as steps towards the final goal. Each parish sought to outline a pastoral plan to guide the journey up to 2012, the year when the country, through a referendum, will decide whether the South will continue to be part of one Sudan or to be separate from it. This is a decision which will have great repercussions for the Church in North Sudan and will probably give rise to a third diocesan synod. (P. Angelo Giorgetti)
Commissioning Mass for Comboni Lay Missionaries
The Comboni Missionary family continues to grow in number and commitment. On December 16th at St. Louise de Marillac parish right next to the Comboni Mission Center in La Grange Park, Illinois, a commissioning ceremony was held for four adults and two children.
The Mass was concelebrated by Fr. David Bohnsack, Fr. Angelo Biancalana, Fr. Angel Camorlinga, and Fr. Michele Stragapede. The lay missionaries each wrote their own personal statement of mission, which was read during the ceremony. They all received blessings and mission crosses made of olive wood from a fair trade cooperative in the West Bank.
Fifty-sixty people were present, most of them friends and family of the lay missionaries, but also CLMP board members and local friends of the program. A reception followed afterwards at the Comboni Mission Center.
Mike Florino, one of the commissioned, was set to go to Nairobi, Kenya on January 1, but his trip was delayed because of the current political unrest in that country. He is now in Tanzania for language school until May. Mike is familiar with Africa, having served for three years in Uganda as a volunteer missionary teacher, and he is eager to return to mission work there despite the serious situation in Kenya. He will join Susan Coopersmith, who plans to renew her 3-year contract with the Comboni Lay Missionaries this summer.
Susan continues to venture out into the slums each day despite the danger and despite the fact that she herself was the victim of a robbery during this chaotic period in a usually stable country. She meets with people in her small Christian community for prayer during these difficult times. Susan has been speaking with the CLMP about renewing her contract for another term. She returns to the USA for a few months of home leave in April 2008.
A husband and wife team commissioned with Mike in December, Bart Hisgen and Cynthia Miller, with their two children, will be going to Peru in April 2008 where they hope to serve in health care, parish ministry and community development.
Dave Parrilli, the other recently commissioned CLM, has a background in education, and this plus years of experience working as a leader of summer camps, will be useful as he joins the Comboni community in San Luis, Guatemala. He moves there in April 2008.
We thank God for these dedicated lay missionaries and pray that they remain in His care as they work in the spirit of St. Daniel Comboni to bring the Good News to the poor and most abandoned of His children. (Mary Bertolini)
Meeting on people trafficking
The business of trafficking in women amounts to twenty-five million Euro, world wide. The figure was revealed by the International Organisation of Migrations (OIM). The conference of Religious Institutes in Portugal (CIRP) has established a Support Commission for the Victims of People-trafficking, for the purpose of making the Religious Institutes open to this emerging problem. As a follow-up, the Commission organised a formation meeting which took place at Fatima on 12 January 2008 on the theme of “people-trafficking”. Around sixty people took part, mostly sisters but also priests, religious and lay persons who work in institutions that help women victims.
During the meeting, Dr. Rui Marques, High Commissioner for Immigration and Cultural Dialogue, presented the “National Plan for the Fight against People-trafficking” that was developed by the government and recently published. The Plan is based on the basic idea of “zero tolerance towards traffickers and total support for its victims”. The High Commissioner outlined the work which Church institutions are carrying out in this field, describing it as “irreplaceable”. With words of encouragement and motivation, he invited the religious institutions to continue in the same way, even if in a hidden way and without official recognition.
In answer to this challenge, Sister Júlia Barroso, president of the above-named Commission, reaffirmed the commitment of the Church in this field. The strategy to be adopted, said Sister Julia, is that of “joining forces and working in a global and unified manner”. Sister Julia concluded by saying: “It is necessary to work along the lines of prevention among adolescents, the youth and children.”
Also taking part in the meeting was Dr. Ana Margarida, a lawyer, who explained the legal aspects of the Plan.
The meeting ended with a report by the President of the Commission and the sharing of work experiences with victims of people-trafficking by some sisters and lay people.
Campaign for Darfur
The Comboni Missionaries have launched a campaign against the genocide of the black population in the Darfur region. The Além Mar magazine, together with MissãoPress (organisation of missionary magazines) has published a special issue on the situation in Darfur. The campaign ran from June to December 2007 and enjoyed the collaboration of other civil and religious organisations which united to create a “Platform for Darfur”. The purpose of the campaign was to mobilise public opinion and increase awareness of the problem in schools.
The “Campaign for Darfur” aimed at ensuring that the humanitarian drama of this region be accepted as a priority on the agenda of the Europe-Africa summit held in Portugal from 8 to 9 December 2007, and that the European Union should reach a global agreement for peace in Sudan, putting an end to the impunity of those responsible of war crimes and crimes against humanity in this region.
On the part of the Comboni Missionaries, the young layman Filipe Pedrosa worked courageously with other young people to complete a series of activities promoted by the “Platform for Darfur”. Among these was a press conference on 5 December which saw the launch of a CD on 28 themes, recorded by artists from countries in solidarity with the people of Darfur. Profits from the sales of the CD will go towards humanitarian projects on behalf of the children of Sudan.
Other participants were: Mgr. Daniel Kur, Sudanese bishop, Salih Mahmoud Osman, a Sudanese lawyer and Sakharav prize-winner, as well as other personalities representing the organisations forming part of the “Platform for Darfur”.
The campaign also had the objective of financing the project: “A School for Nyala”. This project was undertaken to guarantee food and education to more than 200 children. Our Portuguese confrere, Fr. Feliz da Costa Martins, is working at Nyala mission and is coordinating the project.
Golden jubilee of Glen Cowie church
On Sunday, 20 January 2008, the Catholic community of Glen Cowie, in Witbank diocese, celebrated with great festivity the 50th jubilee of the blessing and consecration of their church, “Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary”. Fr. Franz Koch, the rector of the mission from 1949-1967, and the Brothers saw the need for a larger church in this mission station since the number of Catholics were increasing and the previous church, built in 1931, was becoming too small. The present church was blessed by Mgr. Anthony Reiterer, MCCJ, in 1958.
Over one thousand people were present. Two bishops, ten priests, and one permanent deacon led the Jubilee Mass celebration with song and dances to give thanks to God for this temple. The church was packed to capacity; two big tents were erected in front of the Church to accommodate the excess of people who could not fit inside the church.
In his homily the Bishop of Witbank, Mgr. Paul Mandla Khumalo, CMM, commented: “The Church of Glen Cowie is one of the most beautiful churches in my diocese and I wish it was the cathedral, due to its beauty and size”. He asked the people to use this time of the 50th anniversary to reflect on their spiritual growth and challenged them by asking them what they had produced in these years especially in terms of vocations and self-sufficiency. In the end he thanked the Comboni Missionaries for their continuous presence in the parish.
After Bishop Khumalo’s homily, Mgr. Paul Mogale Nkhumishe, Bishop of Pitersburg and former Bishop of Witbank diocese for 19 years, expressed his joy to be present during this celebration and thanked all the missionaries who had built the church in Glen Cowie, both physically and spiritually. He reminded the people that they themselves were the living temple of God and that they were called to be the salt and light at all times.
At the end of the Mass, Fr. Joe Sandri, the provincial of South Africa, gave a word of gratitude to all the work the Comboni Missionaries and the Loreto Sisters had done in Glen Cowie and he noted that we Comboni Missionaries must be like John the Baptist: We have to decrease, so that the local Church and clergy may take over.
After the final hymn, there was the crowning of the statue of our Lady, Queen of the Holy Rosary, with a golden crown and a prayer of thanksgiving as a sign of gratitude to God and to Mary for her maternal protection to the church dedicated to her. Afterwards, the brass band led the solemn joyful procession with dance and singing.
Among the invited guests were the representative of different churches, traditional chiefs and civil authorities.
This celebration is a year long celebration. The “Jubilee Year” of Glen Cowie was officially opened by Mgr. Nkhumalo on 10 June 2007 and it will end on 29 June 2008. Every month for a weekend the parish has organized renewal retreats for different groups and talks to help the parishioners to be renewed during this Jubilee year. Next year 2009 the Mission of Glen Cowie will celebrate 80 year of its foundation, which was 10 April 1929, with the arrival of the first five missionaries.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Bro. Alois Hintner (13.05.1920 – 14.01.2008)
Fr. Carlo Giana (01.10.1937 – 20.01.2008)
Bro. Alessandro Pelucchi (22.02.1928 – 22.01.2008)
Let us pray for our beloved dead
THE FATHERS: Gregorio, of Fr. Juan Manuel Valdovinos Valencia (M); Cosimo, of Fr. Antonio D’Agostino (EC); Adolfo, di P. Daniele Nardin (PE).
THE MOTHERS: Ana María, of Fr. Francisco Gaspar Rodríguez (EC); Lucia, of Fr. Rinaldo Ronzani (KE); Clementina, of Fr. Angelo Anzioli (EG).
THE BROTHERS: Cristobal, of Fr. Antonio Guirao Casanova (KE); Agostino, of Fr. Antonio Valdameri (I); Antonio, of Fr. Raffaele Minurri (EC); Lino, of Fr. Carlo Faggion (BS).
THE SISTERS: Rita, of Fr. Giuliano Chistè (U); Gemma, of Fr. Mario Locatelli (I).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTER: Sr. Laurentina Moretto.
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