Monthly newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
General Secretariat for Vocation Promotion and Formation
Aspirants and Pre-postulants: 137, with 70 seminarians (minor seminary) and 67 pre-postulants (introductory stage). We have 4 minor seminaries (1 in Mexico, 1 in Portugal, 1 in Eritrea and 1 in Mozambique) and the pre-postulancy (introductory) stage, in various modalities, is now present in many provinces and delegations of America and Africa and is doing well.
Postulants: 211, with 191 candidates for the priesthood and 20 for the Brotherhood. We have 24 postulancies (12 in Africa, 7 in America, 4 in Europe and 1 in Asia). Two postulancies are for candidates to the Brotherhood only (Layibi and Lomé).
Novices: 78, with 71 for the priesthood and 8 for the Brotherhood. The number of newly professed this year should be 41 (35 scholastics, 6 Brothers). We have 7 novitiates: 3 in Africa (Namugongo and Lusaka for the English speaking African provinces and Cotonou for the French speaking African provinces), 2 in America (Sahuayo and Huánuco), 1 in Europe (Venegono) and 1 in the Philippines (Manila).
Scholastics and Brothers with temporary vows (TV): 171, with 144 scholastics and 27 Brothers. Distribution by continents: 101 from Africa (89 scholastics and 12 Brothers), 43 from America (38 scholastics and 5 Brothers), 24 from Europe (15 scholastics and 9 Brothers) and 3 from Asia (2 scholastics and 1 Brother). The provinces with most scholastics and Brothers with TV are Togo-Ghana-Benin (26), Congo (21), Mexico (14), Uganda (13), DCA (11), Poland (11), and Italy (10). We have 8 scholasticates and 2 CIF (4 in America, 4 in Africa and 2 in Europe). 14 confreres with TV left the Institute last year (2006-2007), (12 scholastics and 2 Brothers).
Ordinations and Brother Finalists: this year (2008) we expect 17 ordinations (8 from America, 7 from Africa, 1 from Asia). One Brother from Italy will make his perpetual vows. The Brother finalists in the CIF are 6 (3 in Africa, 2 in America, 1 in Europe). There were 11 ordinations in 2007, 3 finalist Brothers in the CIF and 6 Brothers’ with perpetual vows.
Personnel: There are 145 confreres working for vocations, distributed as follows: 63 promoters (42 full-time and 21 part-time) and 82 formators (73 full-time and 9 part-time: 50 in the pre-postulancies and postulancies, 13 in the novitiates, 19 in the scholasticates/CIF).
All communities are invited to have a confrere in charge of vocations, so that vocation promotion may become a regular activity wherever we are present.
Specializations: 6 confreres in the year 2006-2007 have attended the Formators Course provided by the Gregorian University in Rome. This year two more confreres are following the same course (TGB and MZ), while one confrere (U) is attending the Formators Course at the Salesian University in Rome. One confrere (ET) is attending a psychology course at the same Salesian University. Other confreres are attending courses in the various continents in view of service in VP and BF.
“The Institute welcomes with gratitude those whom the Lord of the harvest calls to be apostles and heralds of the Good News. It assumes the responsibility of providing them with the elements for basic and on-going formation in view of an effective missionary service in the consecrated life” (RL 80).
Holy Redeemer Guild
April 01 – 15 DSP 16 – 30 E
May 01 – 07 ET 08 – 15 ER 16 – 31 IT
April - That our life in common may be a true proclamation and incarnation of the Gospel we proclaim. Let us pray.
May - That God, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the missionary woman, may keep us faithful to his Gospel and to our vocation for the mission. Let us pray.
A new profile and a real future for the Province
It is high time that we, Comboni Missionaries of the DSP, looked at the present situation of our Province and allowed ourselves to be challenged by calls for necessary changes. Dr. Norbert Nagler, employed by and cooperating with MISSIO Aachen, has offered us his qualified assistance about a new, convincing profile of the DSP and how better to face the future. A few meetings with Dr. Nagler have already taken place. The confreres were first asked to describe the actual situation in the various fields of work and commitments (for example, mission promotion, mass media, PR and caring for our benefactors etc.). Then they were asked to identify known and obvious challenges and to set these down in writing. Naturally these meetings and reflections done in our communities are not interfering with the process of the Ratio Missionis (RM). As a matter of fact, the desired renewal draws inspiration from the RM and the drawing up of a new profile for our province is a way of bringing the renewal down to our daily life.
In charge of mass media
The Provincial Council has appointed Fr. Anton Schneider to be the one in charge of the mass media of the DSP, as far as his health allows. At the moment he is picking up the “reins” of this wide field of work. Moreover he has started, in cooperation with the confreres concerned, to produce printed material. Fr. Anton has been in charge of the website homepage since its beginning - nine years ago – so it will be nothing new to him but rather a continuation of his previous work. New aspects of the mass media will pose special challenges, such as power point presentations and DVDs, among others, calling for specialists to be invited for cooperation.
Eritrean refugees in Egypt
The expulsion of the foreign missionaries from Eritrea, among whom were four Comboni Missionaries, is a sign of the political and social situation Eritrea is going through.
Because of this, thousands of young people are leaving the country. Many of them go to Sudan, and from there they try to enter Egypt. In recent months more than 300 Eritreans have been imprisoned after crossing the borders and sentenced to one year in jail. Once they have served their sentences they may be repatriated to Eritrea. As Comboni Missionaries, in collaboration with the members of the Eritrean community who have recently been forbidden to visit the prisons, we try to accompany them throughout this trying situation.
The Comboni community at St. Joseph Parish in Cairo is host to an Eritrean Christian community of more than 200 members, Orthodox and Catholic, who have several activities together, both spiritual and social.
A bridge for dialogue between the Vatican and Muslims
Several initiatives involving the Vatican and Al-Azhar University (Cairo), the main theological point of reference for Sunni Islam, have been discussed and decided in Cairo in the last weeks. Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, met Abd al-Fattah Muhammad Alaam, president of the “Committee for Dialogue of Al-Azhar University”. Meetings that were going on in the past had been discontinued after the controversial speech of Pope Benedict XVI in Ratisbonne.
The Cardinal visited Dar Comboni where he discussed some of the initiatives taken for continuing the dialogue. In addition to fixing a date to resume the discontinued meetings, (the first will be in Rome from 24 to 25 February 2009), there was another achievement: a meeting of the Catholic-Muslim Forum, which will take place from 4 to 6 November, also in Rome, with the participation of 24 religious leaders and scholars from both sides. The purpose is to continue exploring the relation between the love of God and the love of neighbour as grounds for mutual enrichment.
XX Meeting on Anthropology and Mission
Taking as its motto “Cooperate, Serve, Share and Love”, the XX Meeting on Anthropology and Mission was held at the headquarters of Mundo Negro magazine on 23 and 24 February. During the encounter, the Premio Mundo Negro a la Fraternità 2007 award was presented to Fr. Pedro Opeka, an Argentine Vincentian missionary who has worked in Madagascar for more than 30 years.
Speaking at the presentation, Mundo Negro director Fr. Ismael Piñón López noted that the motto was chosen because “We believe that cooperation is not only money, but ‘working with’, a cooperation starting from service, a sharing of life and, above all, understood as and based upon love for one’s neighbour”.
The first intervention was by Signora Begoña de Burgos, president of the Catholic ONG Manos Unidas, who spoke of the Pact against Poverty, which was proposed by the CONGE (Coordinator of Spanish Development ONG) and signed in 2007 by all political parties represented in parliament. It is an important document which demands commitments regarding the quality of official development aid, the amount to be donated (the goal is 0.7 percent of GDP) and issues of fair trade with the developing world and debt cancellation.
The round table discussion on the theme of “Cooperation as seen from both sides” began with a short speech by Sr. Brígida Moreta, a Carmelite Missionary who worked for more than thirty years at the hospital of Mtengo wa Nthenga, in Malawi. A nurse and obstetrician, Sr. Brigida helped countless mothers to give birth and dedicated herself to the help of orphans and victims of AIDS.
The next speaker was Feliciano Jesús Mendoza who worked for thirty years in Chad as a lay co-operator with OCASHA – Christians for the South of the World. Feliciano stated that, after his experience in Chad, which enriched him but left him feeling poorer, said to himself: “I can never be the same again after what I have seen”. In his view, cooperation is far too much in one direction.
The next to intervene was Alfonso Armada, journalist, author and a great lover of Africa, who quoted several writers on cooperation, the problem of Africa, corruption, the controversial and the much discussed “Africa Plan” and the inconsistency of western governments.
In the afternoon Fr. Javier Molina, a diocesan priest, spoke brilliantly about development cooperation on the part of missionaries, something ignored by official data. Fr. Molina gave abundant figures regarding works carried out by missionaries.
The highlight of the day was the testimony given by Fr. Pedro Opeka on the situation in Madagascar. The absolute poverty and harsh reality of waste dumping in Antananarivo shocked him deeply. “I am lost for words – he said – something must be done”.
Fr. Daniel Cerezo, the provincial, presented him with the Award consisting of an inscribed plaque, a diploma stating the reason for the award: “Your immense work of solidarity and your example of effective cooperation on behalf of the poorest of Madagascar” and a cheque for €6.000.
The meeting ended on Sunday with Mass in the chapel of the Comboni Missionaries with Fr. Pedro Opeka as the main celebrant.
Steps towards a Catholic University in Sudan
On the day of the canonization of St. Daniel Comboni, 5 October 2003, Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum, made an appeal in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in view of establishing a Catholic University in Sudan. Some steps have been taken in that direction.
As a matter of fact, the beginning of the project goes back to the year 1992, when the Comboni Teachers’ Training College (CTTC) was started at the initiative of Fr. Camillo Ballin, now bishop and Vicar Apostolic in Kuwait, although without the approval and recognition of the Sudanese Ministry of Higher Education. In 1999, when some parents who had their sons attending the Comboni College in Khartoum (CCK) expressed the desire that CCK should become a university, the principal at that time, Fr. Giuseppe Puttinato, took the suggestion seriously and started a reflection about it first among the staff of the College and then outside. Steps were taken in order to assess the viability of the project.
A provisional approval of a college from the Sudanese Ministry of Higher Education was obtained on 9 February 2000. The final approval arrived on 5 April 2001. The first 4-year program leading to the Bachelor’s degree in computer science was started in November 2001 with 27 students. Two programs of information technology (IT), accounting and business administration, were added with the approval of the Ministry in 2004. Because of this addition and the possibility of further developments, the name of the College was changed with the approval of the Ministry from Comboni College of Computer Science to Comboni College of Science and Technology (CCST).
On 21 November 2007, a provisional approval from the Ministry of Higher Education was granted also for CTTC on condition that it went under the umbrella of CCST as a program of Education and Religious Sciences (ERS). This program will lead to the BA degree in 4 years. Financially, ERS will be the responsibility of the Khartoum Archdiocese, while the other programs are the responsibility of the Comboni Institute. The building of the premises of ERS, which is the “meaningful work” spoken of on the occasion of the beatification of Comboni and to which many of the Comboni communities have contributed, will be started this year, hopefully - as we are still waiting for the government’s final approval -.
Another program leading to a diploma and bachelor’s degree in the English language is under consideration. In Sudan, a College can apply for the title of university status only after it has graduated 4 batches of students in each of the 5 programs. We are still a long way from that. Yet, as a human being starts its existence 9 months before birth, so the Catholic University of Sudan can be considered extant even 9 years before its official approval by the Sudanese Ministry of Higher Education.
Obviously, a fully developed university cannot be the responsibility of a single Institute.
In fact, the project of the Catholic University of Sudan is in the hands of the Sudanese Catholic Bishops Conference and initiatives are being taken to open colleges outside Khartoum, for example in Southern Sudan. It is hoped that a college of science and technology will be started in Juba before the end of 2008.
In the CCST, the diploma and degree students this year are 315 (besides one thousand students doing short courses in the English language, computer knowledge and Italian language): one third of them are from Southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains, one third from Northern Sudan and Darfur and one third from abroad, mainly Eritrea. The harmony that reigns in the CCST among students and teachers from many ethnic groups and different cultures and religions is a model of and a contribution to peace in Sudan.
The gender ratio is at present 35%, but the policy is to increase it at least to 40% in one or two years. “To regenerate Africa by means of Africans” was the motto of our Founder. The teachers at the CCST, except for an Iraqi Ph.D. holder, are all Sudanese. The graduates of the first and second batch have all found employment almost immediately, according to their qualifications. Apart from their personal advantages, they will surely offer a contribution to the development of Sudan.
Uganda mission tour
Fresh from a trip to Uganda, along with Roxanne Schorbach and ten friends and benefactors, Fr. Angelo Biancalana calls the experience a missionary pilgrimage because the Comboni Missions there are holy places sanctified by the blood of several Comboni martyrs.
The group, connected with many Comboni priests, brothers, sisters and dedicated laity, saw evidence of a gradual handing over of leadership to the local church in Northern Uganda. Ninety-seven years of Comboni presence is now coming to fruition and stands as one more proof that Africa can be saved with African people.
The visitors saw at first hand the challenges of missionary life, the demands of ministering to the poor, the fruits of their prayers and financial support. While everyone enjoyed a warm, hospitable welcome, Fr. Angelo found his visit to be a wonderful home-coming after 27 years of absence.
All those who were a part of this Ugandan experience found it to be awesome and unforgettable.
St. Daniel Comboni’s celebration
On the occasion of the birthday anniversary of St. Daniel Comboni, the community and staff at the Mission Center in Cincinnati attended Mass together in Monroe Chapel. Fr. Peter Ciuciulla was the celebrant, and his homily served as a reminder that God is shaping the history of the Comboni Missionaries, the Institute, and each of the members of its family. He is shaping the history of salvation among the poorest and most abandoned and calling all of us, religious and lay, to take an active part.
Comboni Lay Missionaries
The Comboni Lay Missionary Program (CLMP) for the NAP is pleased to receive invitations to have lay missionaries serve in various provinces. Fr. David William Bohnsack and JoAnne Harbert, the Associate Director of the CLMP, will be visiting possible sites in four provinces: Ethiopia, Uganda, Southern Sudan and Malawi/Zambia from April 11th to May 7th.
Another step on the Ratio Missionis Journey
On Friday, 14 March 2008, the eve of the birth of our Founder and in preparation for Easter, the five communities of Lima gathered at the provincial house of Monterrico for the regular zonal retreat that is usually held during the important liturgical seasons and in October (in preparation for the feast of St. Daniel Comboni). Almost all the confreres of each community were present.
In agreement with the communities, it was decided to undertake another step in the Ratio Missionis’ process, that of discernment, in a retreat environment. The theme of the day was Save Africa with Africa. Our meeting was led by Fr. Rodolfo Coaquira Hilaje and began with a brief presentation of the theme followed by reflection and personal prayer.
During the time set aside for sharing, there was a good degree of participation by the confreres who contributed to the discussion. The concluding Mass was led by Fr. Mario Mazzoni and the meeting ended with a fraternal agape.
The animators’ reflections and the confreres’ contributions showed how necessary it is to deeply revise our manner of being present among the people and to know how to recognise the active presence of Our Lord among the poor, just as Comboni did in his time. The importance of making it possible for our people to feel they are the protagonists of their journey was stressed, as well as the need to avoid, on our part, paternalistic attitudes, and assume instead an attitude of listening and respect, of trust and cooperation, of friendship and optimism. Comboni teaches us that only the true disciple is able to recognise Jesus in the concrete history of the peoples and to move at their pace. In this sense, the invitation presented by Aparecida “to become missionary disciples”, becomes once again relevant in our time.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Fr. Eugen Kurz (26.10.1930 – 08.02.2008)
Fr. Giuseppe Simionato (19.06.1924 – 27.02.2008)
Fr. Febo Gabriele Chiodi (05.03.1914 – 16.03.2008)
His eulogy will be published in the next issue.
Let us pray for our beloved dead
THE MOTHER: Dorina Gale, of Fr. Marcello Romano Monyo (KH).
THE BROTHERS: Giuseppe, of Bro. Libero D. F. Ribelli (C); Giancarlo, of Fr. Alberto Ferri (EC).
THE SISTERS: Sr. Maria Teresina (missionary), of Fr. Alberto Villotti (DCA).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. M. Johanna Nerozzi; Sr. Custodina Mariani; Sr. Erasmina Quaglio; Sr. Lucia Agnese Seraglio; Sr. M. Leonia Viglino.