Monthly Newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
Preparatory Commission for the General Chapter
During the Consulta of 30 June, 2008, the General Council appointed the “Preparatory Commission” for the General Chapter. The members are: Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilassie, Fr. Daniel Cerezo Ruiz, Fr. John Michael Converset, Fr. Enrique Sánchez González, Fr. Giuseppe Filippi and Bro. Daniele Giovanni Giusti.
The committee will meet in Rome from 3 to 7 November, 2008.
During the June Consulta the General Council made new members and confirmed old ones, so that the Administrative Council and the Scientific Committee are composed as follows:
Administrative Council: Director: Fr. Joaquim José Valente da Cruz (President of Studium Combonianum); Secretary: Fr. Antonio Furioli; Treasurer: Fr. Claudio Lurati; Councillors: Fr. Fabio Carlo Baldan (Vicar General), Fr. Piergiorgio Prandina (General Archivist), Fr. Romeo Ballan, Fr. Fernando Domingues, Fr. Alois Eder and Fr. Pietro Ravasio.
Scientific Committee: Mgr. Camillo Ballin, Fr. Reinhold Baumann, Bro. Aldo Benetti, Fr. Carmelo Casile, Fr. Danilo Cimitan, Fr. Mario Cisternino, Fr. John Michael Converset, Fr. J. Antonio Fraile, Fr. Jorge Oscar García Castillo, Fr. Benedetto Giupponi, Fr. Fidel González Fernández, Fr. John Ikundu, Fr. Fidèle Katsan, Fr. Palmiro Mileto, Fr. Gianpaolo Pezzi, Fr. Francesco Pierli, Fr. Ayele Sebhatleab, Fr. Hailé Tesfaghiorghis, D. Mario Trebeschi, Fr. Josef Uhl, Fr. Bervian Vanderlei, Fr. Giovanni Vantini and Fr. Franz Weber.
General Secretariat for Finance
Continental Assembly of Treasurers and Procurators of America and Asia
The treasurers and procurators of America and Asia met at Pesaro from 11 to 13 September, 2009, in continental assembly in preparation for the general assembly which took place the following week. They analysed the economy of the Comboni Institute in the continent from the point of view of our local needs and options and those of the Church. The theme of economic ethics was given prominence with the help of the presence and interventions of Dr. Riccardo Milano, an expert in Ethical Investment.
The motions emphasised the various needs which emerged, especially that of a sound formation for treasurers, the commitment to continue to seek to establish the Provincial Common Fund, the commitment to use funds not only for the mission but also to use ways and means compatible with Christian ethics and in conformity with the humanitarian programmes of the peoples with whom we share our faith.
General Assembly of Provincial and Delegation Treasurers and Procurators
Forty three confreres representing the entire Institute attended the meeting at Pesaro from 16 to 25 September.
It should be noted that all of these were Europeans with the exception of one from Mexico. The new generation of Africans and Americans is not to be found in this sector. If it is true that we really ought first to have provincial and delegation superiors from other continents, it is equally true that the matter of preparing to hand over is becoming urgent. It cannot be left until the last minute.
Fr. Teresino introduced the themes using two images: “As in the case of every Institute, we have the odd Pharaoh with his pyramids and slaves. But mostly we have confreres who share their five loaves and two fishes with everyone. We are, therefore, bound by the logic of sharing. Let us remember the words of Comboni: ‘The difficulties and discomforts necessary for this mission are incredible. We, however, may be more hopeful than others since we are poorer’. (W 207-208).
The days were spent according to various themes: the continental social and economic situation, economy and ethics, economy and the Comboni charism, evangelization projects, fixed assets and the general directory for economy.
Interventions were directed towards the ethical coherence of our economic behaviour and planning for the future. In both cases we allowed ourselves to be challenged by external society, which may judge our actions according to criteria of life of the people, and by our confreres within the Institute to whom we propose a journey for the future, requesting that they commit themselves to undertake this journey together with us.
Three documents emerged: the revision of the General Financial Directory and 25 motions (these first two points will be submitted for approval to the General Council) as well as the presentation of principles and applications of a Comboni economy according to recent Comboni tradition, from the Rule of Life to the 2003 Chapter Acts (to be presented to the 2009 Chapter Preparatory Commission).
The motions reflected the concerns of the treasurers regarding the following themes (in order of urgency): Projects – the Sick and the Elderly – Basic Formation – Investments – Treasurer Training – the use of the www.comboni.org website – the Deontological Code – the preparation of financial supplements – the Total Common Fund.
The Assembly had a positive outcome for the development of the Institute and its mission: it was a concrete manifestation of the unity of the Comboni mission in the world.
Sc. Ladu Peter Alphonse Loro Khartoum (KH) 09 October 2008
Sc. González Santafé Alejandro Bogotà 10 October 2008
Sc. Ivardi Ganapini Filippo Padova 10 October 2008
Holy Redeemer Guild
November 01 – 07 SS 08 – 15 TC 16 – 30 T
December 01 – 15 U 15 – 31 CN
November - That the life witness of our deceased sisters and brothers may hearten us to give ourselves without reservation to God’s mission. Let us pray.
December - For our parents and families who accompany us in our vocation and mission: that Christ the Emmanuel may grant them abundant blessings. Let us pray.
Fr. Antonio Furioli has published an interesting book on St. Justin de Jacobis under the meaningful title “Vangelo e Testimonianza”, St. Paul Editions, 560pp, price € 19,00. The book may be had from the San Pancrazio community, Rome. A note on the cover says: “In his experience Justin made operative the missionary spirituality of the Church. His referential example must lead us to the fundamental relationship with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, the true protagonists of the mission. Justin is one of the most interesting and successful examples of acculturation of the XIX century”.
Fr. Vincenzo Santangelo, on the fifth anniversary of the canonisation of our Founder has published his fiftieth book “Daniel Comboni, a ousadia de um santo”, Ave Maria di São Paulo Editions, Brazil, 224pp. It consists in an interview with the holy founder who replies to the questions with words from his many writings. The preface is by Fr. Alcides Costa, provincial of Brasile Sud. One of the aims of the book is to motivate the youth to embrace the Comboni ideal.
Bangui: feast of St. Daniel Comboni
The occasion was celebrated in two moments, one spiritual and the other festive. In fact, on 6 October, all the Comboni communities of Bangui (Fathers, brothers and Sisters) met at the provincial house for a moment of prayer and meditation and to celebrate the Eucharist.
Fr. Léonard Ndjadi Ndjate presented a reflection entitled “The holiness of Comboni: perceptions and convictions” putting the thought-provoking question: how faithful are we to the mission? Comboni is a saint because of his daily faithfulness to his missionary vocation: an entire life consumed to the last drop without ever being distracted, discouraged, deflected or giving up. Fidelity to the mission ad gentes, ad pauperes and ad vitam.
On Friday 10, at the Sisters’ house, a solemn Mass was celebrated with Fr. Godefroy-Médard Longba as the main celebrant. In his homily, Fr. Médard showed the passion of Comboni for learning languages in view of a twofold communication: the communication of the mysteries of God and communion with the culture and situation of the people.
In the diocese of Mbaiki, the Comboni bishop Mgr. Guerrino Perrin and Bro. Sergio Matarese joined the Comboni Sisters at Zoméa mission to celebrate the feast of the Founder in joy and simplicity. After the Mass, a missionary meal was shared by the missionaries and the Christians of the village and, thanks to St. Daniel Comboni and the witness of his Sisters, both Bantus and Pygmies sat down to eat together.
Tumaco: Comboni campaign for Life
Tumaco is a small port city in the South of Colombia not far from San Lorenzo (Ecuador). With 95% of its inhabitants of African descent, it is, for Colombia, a symbol of geographical periphery and social emargination. In the margins of this city, the Comboni missionaries are present in two ways. Fr. Gordon Paul Rees and Bro. Claudio Pietro Parotti live in a small rented house in the quarter where they are trying to organise a living parish which might become a beacon of evangelical light for the area. In the same area of the parish there are two other Comboni missionaries Fr. José Luis Foncillas Bernáldez and Fr. Francesco Nascimbene whose aim is to identify new ways of evangelization starting from daily work of concrete service to the people. The two groups form one community: they pray and reflect together and do their best to see that the Gospel may bring life to the thousands of people of the city districts who live in extreme poverty, in every sense of the word.
For some time, one of the main concerns of the community has been the high incidence of violence: not just the numerous murders but also domestic violence, exploitation, abuse etc.
As a result of reflection and prayer and starting from the concrete situation, the community has decided to launch a “Campaign for Life”, distributing leaflets, T-shirts, CD’s with songs about life, making radio broadcasts etc. Already more than one hundred people have offered to become “missionaries of life” and to go house to house to propose a simple but effective motto: “We want life in abundance”, a paraphrase of the Gospel of St John (10, 10).
The campaign will take place from October until Christmas and the confreres already have the impression that they have begun an initiative which will greatly impact the city quarters. The evangelizing activity is moving out of the temple and into the streets and houses just like the saving waters in the dream of Ezekiel.
Bogota: religious profession
On 10 October, the Comboni family of Bogota celebrated the feast of St. Daniel Comboni during which the young man Alejandro González Santafé made his first religious profession. His large and united family was present and joined in the celebration. Jorge Benavides e Jáider Pinzón had already made their religious professions before him. All three did their novitiate at Huanuco and are now starting their theological studies at Lima e a San Paolo. Vocations promotion in Colombia is somewhat difficult but excellent fruits are becoming apparent. Those in this sector are working with a good spirit and with method. We entrust their efforts to the Lord of the harvest.
Cali: a new presence
The feast of St. Daniel Comboni was celebrated in a special way by the Comboni community of Cali. On that day they moved into a small house belonging to the diocese attached to a small church which sprung up in one of the poorest of the city quarters. The aim is to live alongside the poor as was decided in the delegation assembly last January. By means of this proximity it will be possible to discover which sort of evangelization is necessary and which sort of missionary animation may be carried out in the archdiocese. We ask St. Daniel Comboni to guide the community in this new missionary “adventure” by his ability to love and his apostolic courage.
A Feast of Comboni Solidarity
This celebration of solidarity has already become a tradition: this is the third consecutive year that such a feast is celebrated at Josefstal around the feast of our founder, St. Daniel Comboni. The confreres who prepared the feast together with members of the parish of Josefstal described it like this: The feast will be an event of information concerning certain countries and their people and the commitment of confreres and lay missionaries there. It will be a great occasion of meeting people. This time it will be a feast of focussing on the situation of the people of Togo, Peru and South Africa. And it was a celebration of two days, inside and outside the church, which gave the opportunity to the people of Josefstal to meet and share and get to know better the situation and culture of other peoples.
The celebration of the liturgy was presided over by the dean of the area, Dr. Pius Angstenberger, who happens to be a past student of our minor seminary at Ellwangen. His parish has maintained a good partnership with the parish of Mt. Ayliff in South Africa. In his homily he underlined the fact that God brings out the talents within people and that there is the need of a new approach in the mission field.
A Comboni Century at Graz-Messendorf (Austria)
It was a hundred years ago, in 1908, that due to political instability in South Tyrol and the uncertainty surrounding our house in Brixen-Milland, that the Institute felt the need to open a house in Austria. Since then Comboni Missionaries have lived and worked in Graz-Messendorf. Originally the house was an important centre of the German speaking area. Since 1997 it has housed, in the old building, asylum seekers from Africa. In 2001 Missio Styria was welcomed to stay there and to use a number of rooms. This again offered the chance to carry out mission promotion in South Eastern Austria together with Missio. Two confreres are doing (missionary) pastoral work within the immediate area of our house. Another confrere accompanies our friends and benefactors. In this way the house at Messendorf is really breathing a missionary spirit.
Celebrating the jubilee there meant celebrating from 10 to 12 October, 2008. The motto was "Go out to teach and to honour all nations". In this way we underlined the importance of mutual respect and acceptance. Besides talks and discussions, the theme was also presented in a fine exhibition of missionaries’ photographs, the "pioneers of God", taken during the last 100 years. The exhibition was prepared by the director of Missio Styria and his co-operators. Another highlight was the well-prepared celebration of the Eucharist as a service of thanksgiving on Sunday morning, 12 October. It was presided over by retired bishop of Styria, Johann Weber. This event made it clear that also in Messendorf there are many good people ready to cooperate in such celebrations.
Kuwait: news from Mgr. Camillo Ballin
A “Comboni House” in Kuwait
Just about 20Km from the capital of Kuwait stands the city of Abbassiya, where many thousands of Indians and other Asian Catholics live. Many are illegal immigrants and cannot come to the cathedral. Due to this situation, our faithful often fall victim to the various groups of Protestants, Pentecostals and Muslims. Especially when there are family problems, the Pentecostals come to the house and invite the family to their meetings. When a family member dies they rush to perform long prayer sessions at the home of the deceased and gradually attract the entire family. What could I do? I have rented two adjoining apartments and prepared them as a residence for three priests: two Indian Carmelites and one diocesan Syro-malankara priest due to arrive soon. These good priests are there with no parish and no church. I told them they are in a truly missionary situation where they will start from zero! To whom should I dedicate this new community? I thought it opportune to turn to a great missionary and I suggested St. Daniel Comboni. This was immediately approved. A picture of Comboni dominates the house and a folder is available to those going to visit the priests. On Monday 13 October (we had to postpone the day for practical reasons), in the evening, together with all the priests of the Vicariate and the Nuncio, we shall have a liturgy of the Word using the readings of the solemnity of St. Daniel Comboni. The priests have christened that residence “Comboni House”. I have given Comboni five years to find land and a church for us. Failure to do so will result in his removal!
Congress of the UEAI, Lipsia, 24-28 September 2008
Fr. Giuseppe Scattolin took part in the 24th Congress of the UEAI (European Union of Arabists and Islamists), held in Leipzig from 24 to 28 September, 2008. He gives a short report of it.
“The UEAI Congress is held every two years and gathers professors and scholars of the Arabic and Islamic world from all European universities. This year there were about 160 of them. It is an opportunity to present research done in the different fields of Arabism and Islamic studies, and take part in discussions.
I think it important for us missionaries to be informed about such studies that very closely touch a world with which we are in constant contact. It is useful to hear the different readings of it, readings many a time far from our point of view. All this can help us in overcoming many prejudices we are still carrying in ourselves, it can help us in finding new paths of meeting and collaboration. One has to remark too that now, in these congresses, there is an increasing presence of ‘European’ Muslims (i.e., of Muslim who teach in our European universities). This is a new reality. I find it difficult to understand the reluctance of our institutions of ‘Catholic Education’ (universities and institutes) to attend such important meetings.
This has been my sixth time to have taken part in the UEAI congresses and I have presented my research on Islamic mysticism, or Sufism, being always received with deep appreciation and interest. This time I presented research done in Cairo preparing a Muslim student for his MA in Sufism. I presented a Sufi, not widely known but quite important for the formation of Sufi tradition in Islam.
In such meetings one can make new acquaintances, start new relationships and new ways of collaboration with many scholars of the Islamic world. Such relationships will be very useful in the work of dialogue and exchange with the Islamic world”.
Official Opening of Asmara Scholasticate
On 11 October, the Asmara Scholasticate was opened on a temporary basis in the vicinity of Sembel Kidane Mehret Parish. The Delegation rented a house to host the Scholasticate in a poor area of the town, respecting the values and criteria of “insertion”. The opening celebration consisted in the celebration of the Eucharistic and a sober supper, during which Fr. Sebhatleab Ayele Tesemma, the delegation superior, read the letter of the Superior General which mandates the opening of the “Temporary Scholasticate”. During the homily, Fr. Sebhat underlined that, in spite of the limits imposed by the situation, the delegation and the formator, Fr. Estifanos Helafu Weldeghiorghis, will try to give the scholastics the values of internationality and cross-culturality. Meanwhile we pray that things may change in the country, so that our scholastics can follow the normal formation journey of the Institute.
The three scholastics are attending school at the Theological College of Asmara run by the three Eparchies and the religious Institutes. The Brother student, Yemane Teclit Woldeghiorghis, while belonging to the Scholasticate community, attends school at the Institute of Religious Studies, run by the De La Salle Brothers. The scholastic Woldemichael Meskel Frezghi, who has finished his theological course, is at Fode Mission for mission service.
The opening ceremony was attended by some confreres, the provincial superior of the Comboni Sisters with her council, the parish priest of Sembel Kidane Mehret Parish and friends. The Delegation wishes the scholastics and Fr. Estifanos a fruitful formative journey.
In a related event, three candidates officially initiated their novitiate on 27 September, the feast of the Holy Cross according to the Geez liturgy. At the same celebration, four novice candidates of the Comboni Sisters also participated. The simple rite took place in our minor seminary of Dekameré, in the context of the celebration of the Word of God. The Delegation wishes the novices and the novice master, Fr. Tesfaghiorghis Hailè Berhane, God’s blessings.
Expulsion of four expatriate missionaries
On the 2nd of October, the Office for Religious Affairs informed by phone the Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat that the government had asked four Catholic expatriate missionaries (2 priests and 2 nuns) to leave the country. On Monday morning the immigration
office called three of them (the fourth was on home leave) and told them verbally that they had to be out of the country within seven days. On Monday afternoon a delegation sent by the bishops went to the Immigration offices as well as the Religious Affairs’ office and presented its grievances. Three of those missionaries are in possession of a residence permit that expires next year, between February and September.
Both offices underlined that they received orders and that they were not in a position to tell who gave the orders or the reasons for it. They continued to repeat that it was just the implementation of the policy of the government which was overdue. The Religious Affairs’ officer tried also to calm our delegation by saying that the policy applied to all other religions, not just to the Catholics. Such rhetoric, of course, did not convince anyone.
The Bishops wrote a strongly worded letter asking for the decision to be reversed, but after two weeks there was still no reply and the Immigration office asked the four missionaries to return their exit visas and leave the country. The Church asked for a written order, which was denied.
We believe that this is yet another move to weaken the Church by isolating it from the Universal Church. It may also be true that the policy is for other religious denominations as well. We, nevertheless, are convinced that the main target is the Catholic Church.
Kalma refugee camp
The army incursion into the refugee camp at Kalma at the end of August certainly marked an escalation of violence. Kalma is the largest camp for internal refugees in the entire Darfur region. It has about 90,000 refugees from various ethnic groups. They are people who have fled from the war zone and live almost totally on international aid.
The camp is located between Nyala and the town of Bileil which straddles the railway connecting both localities.
On 25 August, about sixty vehicles loaded with government soldiers surrounded the camp to clear it, they said, of the arms the rebels were hiding there. The residents’ reaction developed into a real battle lasting two days. The dead count reached 35 (some say more) and there were many wounded. The seriously wounded were taken to hospital at Nyala with the help of Doctors without Borders who run a medical post in the camp.
Two weeks passed before the camp returned to normal.
Maintaining law and order in the camps is the job of the United Nations African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), UN soldiers sent to monitor the peace (and oftentimes war) between the forces in the camp. When the troops surrounded the camp at Kalma the UNAMID forces simply looked on. That is their job. To observe and then report what they see. In the event, they said nothing more than that the government response was disproportionate.
The attack on Kalma refugee camp was the starting point for a whole series of inter-connected incidents.
On 27 August, while the battle of Kalma still raged, a group of Darfur rebels diverted a Boeing 737 to Libya after it had left Nyala with 87 passengers and 8 crew. The highjackers stated their objective was the governor of South Darfur, Ali Mahmud, suspected of having ordered the attack on Kalma camp. He was expected to travel on that plane but, at the last moment, changed to another flight due to leave earlier and so avoided capture. It seems he has not yet returned to Nyala.
Military plane and helicopter shot down
On the following day, 28 August, the rebels of Sudan Liberation army (SLA), one of the strongest armed groups in Darfur, announce that they had shot down a spy plane of the Sudanese government in the area of Jebel Marra.
A month later, on 29 September, a helicopter used by UNAMID was brought down close to Kalma refugee camp. At least two UNAMID soldiers on board were killed. No rebel group in Darfur has claimed responsibility (to avoid becoming enemies of UNAMID) but the finger of suspicion is pointed at them. The incident is used by the government to show that armed groups connected to the rebels are working in the camp.
Assassination attempt on minister for agriculture
Lastly, on 30 September, an attempt was made to assassinate the minister of agriculture Omar al Fur, the representative of the SPLA within the regional government: the Comprehensive Peace Agreement has allocated 10% of regional government posts to the SPLA. The attack took place on the road from Nyala to Ka’s, about an hour’s drive from the capital. Those responsible could not be named but it is commonly believed that they were Janjaweed militias connected to the government. The investigation was carried out by the SPLA, not the police.
Clearly, the situation has worsened. Unamid troops, which should number 26,000 are still around 9,000 and are, substantially, those same troops who worked under the authority of the African Union. Only the name has changed (“Hybrid Forces”, instead of “African Union Forces) and the colour of the berets (now green). Apart from the question of numbers, the UNAMID troops have shown themselves to be practically irrelevant.
Insecurity reigns not only at Kalma but also at Nyala. People disappear and the authorities do not even bother to investigate. In Nyala, it has become dangerous to venture out in the streets even in the afternoon. Private cars are rarely seen, particularly those of the kind useful to the rebels for their operations or to thieves who steal them, drive them to the border with Chad and sell them.
The Comboni Missionaries, three priests and one Brother, work in the parish of Nyala. Pastoral activities are confined to the city. Bileil, next door to Kalma, is the only out-station where missionaries say Sunday Mass. It is becoming ever more difficult to visit it because of the increasing number of road blocks and the risk of being caught by a stray bullet fired by opposing militias or unidentified bandits.
Celebrating the feast of St. Daniel Comboni
“Mission Alive!” was the theme for the week long celebration of the feast of St. Daniel Comboni at the Cincinnati Comboni Mission Center. People came throughout the week for guided tours of the museum, and, on October 10, there was a beautiful Mass in honor of St. Daniel. The focus of the welcome and introduction by Fr. Peter Ciuciulla was the legacy of St. Daniel. The provincial superior, Fr. Louis Gasparini, spoke in his homily of how that legacy is being carried out through the members of the Comboni Family today – “Mission Alive!”
Following the Mass, there was time for sharing food and stories, then a lively and very well received performance by a group of Peruvian dancers, all members of San Carlos, the Hispanic parish where Fr. Bill Jansen serves as parish priest, assisted in the parish ministries by Fr. Ochoa Gracián Jorge Elías and Sc. Mario Alberto Pacheco Zamora.
The Kitchener community in Canada also celebrated the feast of our Founder with friends, benefactors, and members of the parish community of St. Joseph’s Church, the parish administered by the Comboni Missionaries. The parish choir sang at the Mass, which was celebrated by the members of the community and Fr. Juan Montoya, who is the pastor of the Hispanic Community.
Following the Mass, guests “broke bread” together around a table. After dinner, Don Toomey Vanspall and his wife Bernadette shared their experiences as Comboni Lay Missionaries in Kenya and Uganda. Don, Bernadette and their two children, Anna and Joseph, are active members of St. Joseph’s Parish. The hall where the celebration meal took place was decorated by the youth of the parish. They painted a banner and displayed mission posters and an exhibit of the life of St. Daniel Comboni. Promotion literature was made available to the guests. There was a draw for handcrafted items from Malawi.
In addition, we celebrated the 80th birthday of Fr. Denis Wilkinson with song and cake. The success of the evening stemmed from the giftedness of the many people who were brought together to share in the charism of our Founder and the work of the Comboni Missionaries.
“Joseph Schmidpeter” Swimming Pool
On 13 March, 1969, Fr. Lorenz Unfried, a Comboni of the German branch, was appointed auxiliary bishop of Arequipa: the beginning of our presence in the white city.
Soon afterwards we assumed responsibility for the parish of Spirito Santo in the Alto Selva Alegre district where we worked for a number of years. When the time came to leave, in pure Comboni style we handed the parish over to the diocesan clergy and opened a community in the Nueva Independencia district, an area even more needy than the former one.
On 4 October last, the commune of Alto Selva Alegre inaugurated a municipal Olympic-sized swimming pool dedicated to "Joseph Schmidpeter”, a Comboni missionary who spent a great part of his life in this mission and whom the people remember with great affection. The ceremony was attended by the civil authorities and Frs. Lorenzo Díez Maeso and Jakob Wellenzohn of the Comboni community in Arequipa.
There was a very moving moment when, during the blessing, we heard Fr. Joseph speaking to us over the phone, expressing his thanks for the initiative and urging everyone there to take part in sporting activities and to cultivate the memory of St. Daniel Comboni in the work of his missionaries.
The seeds sown long ago are beginning to bear fruit in the hearts of these brothers and sisters with whom we have shared some moments of our lives.
Families get together
It was in 1994 that this province first called together the families of our Peruvian confreres for a fraternal encounter; since then we have continued to gather as a Comboni family in October, the month in which we celebrate the feast of our Founder, with the purpose of helping our dear ones to participate in the journey we are making as an Institute and to inform them of the situation of their missionary sons.
This year, for the first time, on 8 October, the meeting was held in three different places: Trujillo (Northern Zone), Lima (Central Zone) and Arequipa (Southern Zone), with many participants. We see it as a way to thank God and the families for the gift of the missionaries, remembering what Comboni wrote to his parents: “You are the first missionaries since you have given to God that which you hold most dear in life”. We ask God to protect all our dear ones while we try to accompany them along the journey of life.
Blessing of a bust of St. Daniel Comboni
Five years ago, as the XVI Chapter ended, we witnessed with great joy the canonisation of St. Daniel Comboni. For our Lay Comboni Missionaries this was an unforgettable experience, especially for those who were present in St. Peter’s Square. For more than a year they have been thinking of doing something to commemorate the event. Like the people of Israel, who, when they witnessed a theophany, would raise an obelisk or an altar in memory of that great grace, they set to work. They contacted a sculptor, requested permission from the local authorities and brought things about so that, on 10 October, we were able to set up a beautiful bust of Comboni in the public square near the provincial house.
While the bust was being brought in procession from the nearby parish church to the sound of the State Police band playing, the people stared from their windows to see what was happening. The blessing, performed by Mgr. Salvador Piñeiro, was attended by the civil authorities, a representative of the Italian Consulate, a number of Comboni missionaries of Lima who had gathered for a half day of reflection, and many friends from the parishes where we have worked or are still working such as St.. Pius X, he Twelve Apostles, ENTEL-FONAVI and Christ, Missionary of the Father.
The Lay Comboni Missionaries, organisers of the initiative, were very happy to have realised their dream after so many months of preparation, thus showing their great love for the work of the Comboni missionaries.
Seventy years of Comboni Presence in Peru
In 1938, while Germany was under the Third Reich, three missionaries of the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Sacred Heart (Comboni Missionaries of the German Branch) left their homeland to bring pastoral assistance to the German colony in Peru. They were: Fr. Alois Ipfelkofer, Fr. Andreas Riedl and Fr. Michael Wagner. It was thus that a door was opened in the new continent for those pioneers who, followed by a long line of missionaries, gave their lives in the province of Peru-Chile. It was a completely new experience for those who had been in Africa, a historical chapter which contains many pages of dedication, availability and fidelity to the poorest of this country, especially in the central sierra.
To all of these, in the year in which we celebrate seventy years of presence in Peru, we express our gratitude and invoke their intercession from heaven on those who continue to struggle in this part of the world.
This year, 2008, the community of Santarem celebrated the return of the novitiate, not just for Portugal but for the whole of Europe, on the occasion of the solemnity of the Founder, 10 October.
This is a historic event for the province of Portugal. In the coming years it will receive young men, aspiring to the missionary life, from various European countries. We have begun with two: Cristóvão, a Portuguese who did the first year of novitiate in Venegono (Italy), and Arturo, a Spaniard who has finished a period of missionary experience and discernment in the province of Mozambique. Fr. Fausto Beretta will be their accompanying formator.
The day began at 10am with the official opening of the novitiate and the reception of the two novices. In the afternoon the community of Lisbon joined that of Santarem for a moment of reflection directed by Fr. Ivo Martins do Vale on the theme of “Certainty of the call, availability in the response in St. Paul and St. Daniel Comboni”.
The celebration of the Eucharist then followed, led by the provincial superior Fr. Alberto de Oliveira Silva, and concelebrated by Comboni missionaries from the two communities of Santarem and Lisbon with the participation of friends, acquaintances some lay people who collaborate in the work of missionary animation. After Mass there was a multimedia presentation by Fr. José Domingos Sousa Tavares, superior of the community, on St. Daniel Comboni, an example and pioneer who challenges us.
The event was fraternally concluded with a supper for close friends of the Comboni missionaries, the novices, the formation team and the members of both communities. The day marked the beginning of a new era both for the Institute and the province and especially for the community of Santarem.
Soweto: Residing in Zola, but responsible for three parishes
On 5 October, in the presence of Fr. Giuseppe Sandri, the provincial superior, Fr. Stefano Giudici and Fr. Damiano Guzzetti from the CYOF, Fr. Benno Singer and Fr. Francis Thuli Manana were welcomed joyfully to the Parish of Zola in Soweto by seven to eight hundred people filling the local church. Fr. Benno and Fr. Francis will reside in Zola being responsible for the three nearby parishes: Zola, Zondi and Phiri. Fr. Francis has taken care, part time, of the parish of Phiri since March 2007 and has been recently appointed dean of Soweto by Most Reverend Buti Tlhagale OMI, the Archbishop of Johannesburg.
The establishment of this new community in an urban area is in accordance with the Six Year Plan of the South African Province that aims at strengthening our urban presence while reducing that in rural areas. In January next year we are handing back to the Archdiocese of Durban the parish of St. Martin de Porres in Woodlands (Pietermaritzburg) and that of Glen Cowie to the Diocese of Witbank by the middle of 2010.
The Provincial Council sees moving into Soweto, the famous township of Johannesburg where around three million people live, as a step towards a more meaningful presence as Comboni Missionaries in the most populous Archdiocese of South Africa. Our Provincialate has been situated there since 1991 and only 6% of the population is Catholic. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) started all three parishes: Holy Cross in Zola in 1960, Phiri in 1969 and later Zondi. The OMI, the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) and diocesan priests have cared for these parishes in the past.
In dialogue with the Archbishop, we chose these three parishes because, for want of priests, they were not adequately cared for during the last few years. They include some of the poorest areas of Soweto and some large squatter camps, ground for real first evangelization. Language-wise, Zulu is prevalent in Zola and Zondi, while Zulu and Northern Sotho are equally used in Phiri. Shangaan, Southern Sotho, Tswana and Xhosa are also spoken and can be used in pastoral work and the liturgy everywhere in Soweto, where there are people from all over South Africa and Africa (Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, etc.). English is becoming more and more the lingua franca.
The main challenges that Fr. Benno and Fr. Francis will have to tackle is witnessing and proclaiming the Gospel in a township where there is a lot of unemployment (especially among the youth), crime, teenage pregnancy, breakdown in family life, AIDS, division of Christians in thousands of different churches and sects and the growing presence of Islam. They will have the cooperation of two permanent deacons and of many willing lay leaders in strengthening the various parish structures by starting with Small Christian Communities, Parish Councils, Financial Councils and the numerous Catholic associations for children, young people and adults. In spite of the many problems, Soweto is economically, socially and culturally a vibrant township, with a lot of gifted people, as one can tell from the lively and inspired Sunday liturgies and the many activities in which the laity are involved.
We entrust this new commitment to St. Daniel Comboni.
Feast of S. Daniel Comboni
The entire province agreed to meet at the Adidogome postulancy on 10 October. The postulancy was chosen as the venue as it is celebrating its silver jubilee. There were hundreds of people at the celebration between confreres, novices, postulants and some representatives of lay friends associations and collaborators.
As usual, the morning was devoted to spirituality with a meditation preached by Fr. Giuseppe Simoni, the new assistant at the interprovincial novitiate at Cotonou, followed by the Eucharist led by Fr. Cesare Pegoraro, who is celebrating fifty years of perpetual profession this year. After the meal, in a moment of joyful Comboni life-sharing, we met to exchange “items of family news” and to present officially the “new” arrivals in the province.
The eleven first-year novices (6 from DCR, 4 from TGB and one from Central Africa) introduced themselves and won thunderous applause with their ingenious “show”. Together with the eleven in the second year, they make two excellent football teams. The new postulants (8 candidates to the priesthood and one Brother), too, received due applause. The postulancy for candidates to the priesthood is now entering a new phase. Since it was opened in 1983, up to 2007-2008, 163 postulants entered. Of these, more than half (83) fell by the wayside but 28 were ordained priests and the others are continuing their formation itinerary. Praise the Lord!
The new pastoral year is bringing some changes. Two parishes have been handed over to the diocese (Akoumape in Togo and Toffo in Benin), in view of a new opening in Northern Benin. Almost all communities were affected by internal and external rotation. Thanks be to God, all of them are “canonical” for the first time in many years. There was special applause for the team preparing for the new Comboni presence in the diocese of Djougou, in the north, a typically Muslim situation (Djougou, a city of 40,000inhabitants is 98% Moslem and has 150 mosques!). The ‘captain’ of the group is a veteran of the province whom we recovered after almost thirty years ‘gallivanting’ around the Comboni world: P. Juan José Tenías Fenollé.
This year the feast of Comboni had a special ‘flavour’. The Bishops’ Conference of Togo promulgated in the Liturgical Ordo that 10 October is to be a feast for the Church in Togo. As well as this, the bishop of the diocese of Aneho, Mgr. Isaac Jogues Agbémenya Kodjo Gaglo, dedicated the new diocesan Middle Seminary to St. Daniel Comboni (Moyen Séminaire St. Daniel Comboni). It was inaugurated precisely on 10 October at Vogan. On Sunday, 12 October, the bishop invited us to meet at our parish of Tabligbo to celebrate the feast of Comboni at diocesan level. At the end of the solemn and beautiful Eucharist, he addresses words of friendship and gratitude for the work of Comboni – accomplished through his sons – in his diocese. In fact, almost two out of every three parishes in the diocese were either opened or served by Comboni missionaries. We are now present only in Tabligbo, having recently handed over Akoumape. Fidelity to the mission takes us elsewhere but the joy of seeing the growth and development of the local Church, where many confreres sowed the seed of the Word and watered it with their own sweat and blood, is a reason to give praise to God. Comboni, too, must be happy with this.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Bro. Giuseppe Restani (16.12.1916 – 20.08.2008)
Fr. Vito Coser (14.03.1920 – 13.10.2008)
Fr. Angelo Dell’Oro (28.12.1911 – 13.10.2008)
The obituaries of the following confreres will appear in the next issue:
Fr. Luigi Bano (16.01.1933 – 27.08.2008)
Fr. Alberto Marra (19.04.1930 – 03.10.2008)
Bro. Ulderico Menini (13.05.1922 – 26.10.2008)
Let us pray for our beloved dead:
THE FATHER: Carlo, of Fr. Cosimo De Iaco (U).
THE MOTHER: Antonia, of Bro. Armando Ramos González (MZ).
THE BROTHERS: Armando, of Fr. Manuel Gutiérrez Juárez (M); Ivano, of Fr. Vincenzo Balasso (EC).
THE SISTER: Margret Kiden, of Sc. Evaristo Ravo Christopher (KH).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. M. Ondemilla Alberti, Sr. M. Benedetta Bedont, Sr. Paola Belloni.