Monthly newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
Fr. David Kinnear Glenday has been appointed secretary general of the Union of Superiors General (USG). His task will be to coordinate the activities undertaken “in common” by the Institutes and Religious Congregations in harmony with the Congregation for Consecrated Life. Fr. Glenday will reside in Via Luigi Lilio as from 3 March 2009.
Fr. Miguel Angel Llamazares González, vice delegate, will lead the Asia Delegation ad interim from 1 January 2009 until the appointment of the new delegate.
Our sincere good wishes and thanks to Fr. Glenday and Fr. Lllamazares.
Fr. Korir John Kipkemoi (KE) Kericho (KE) 06.12.2008
Holy Redeemer Guild
January 01 – 07 A 08 – 15 C 16 – 31 BNE
February 01 – 15 BS 16 – 28 CA
January – That the rulers of nations and worldwide humanitarian organizations dedicate themselves to preventing wars and the traffic of weapons and, together, we may commit ourselves to promoting peace with justice. Let us pray.
February - That the deep love of Saint Daniel Comboni for the poorest and most abandoned may help us to discover in them the face of God, to embrace their sufferings and to live with Gospel realism our vow of poverty. Let us pray.
The fourth diocesan pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Ngoukomba, 23 Km from Bangui, was held on 4 and 5 December 2008. At the request of Mgr. Paulin Pomodimo, Archbishop of Bangui, the Catholic faithful and religious communities, including Protestants and some Muslims, set out for this place, now considered sacred by the people of God in Central Africa.
The theme of this year’s pilgrimage was that of conversion and reconciliation. The evening of the vigil was dedicated to catechesis on confession and to the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation.
In the morning, the solemn Mass was celebrated by the Archbishop of Bangui, surrounded by about eighty priests. According to estimates, pilgrims numbered 50,000. Last year, all the pilgrims saw the sign of the cross in the clouds. This year, the celebrant asked the pilgrims to write that same sign of the cross in their hearts and be converted. Conversion, reconciliation and peace: three prayers and hopes of the people of Central Africa on the eve of inclusive political dialogue. One pilgrim, regrettably, died on the journey but the event also saw the birth of two babies.
Feast of the Immaculate Conception
The Comboni family celebrated the feast with two important events. On Monday, 8 December, the Holy Mass, presided by Fr. Godefroy-Médard Longba at the house of the Comboni Missionary Sisters, was especially important for the latter. During the Mass, the Sisters renewed their consecration to God and the mission, following the path of St. Daniel Comboni and on the example of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary Immaculate.
After the Mass, a fraternal lunch was served. Priests of the parish of St. Anthony of Padova also participated. On Wednesday, 10 December, a retreat was held at Maison Comboni for both MCCJ and CMS. The retreat director was Fr. Benedetto Giupponi, who guided the meditation on the attitudes to be assumed and lived during the time of Advent, to welcome the coming Lord.
Inclusive political dialogue in Central Africa
As we were celebrating the Immaculate Conception, the National Assembly began the work of inclusive political dialogue. All the more active forces of the country, especially the political parties, the opposition and civil society met together. In this they were encouraged by the international community and deeply challenged by the great sufferings of the population. They aimed at engaging in talks together, and, as a family, to seek the ways and means by which to help the country out of the complex crisis which threatens to become the order of the day.
For this purpose, the permanent committee of the Conference of Bishops of Central Africa issued a vibrant appeal to the participants: “We again appeal to all those taking part in this dialogue not to fail the hopes of this land. To do so would bring upon us the judgment of history”. The bishops ask the people of Central Africa “that each person, whatever position he/she may occupy, should work to bring about the success of this meeting, so important for the future of our country. After all, in one way or another, we shall all be affected, for better or worse, by the outcome of this dialogue”.
As we journey towards Christmas, we pray that Our Lord may inspire the reflections and exchanges of the participants in order to restore justice and peace among all the citizens of this wounded land.
“¡Piensa!”, a new Lírica Oscura CD
On 4 June, 2008, the Afro-American Centre of Guayaquil (Alianza Francesca) held a press conference to present “¡Piensa!”, a CD by Lirica Oscura, a group of young Afro-American rap singers. The CD features both songs with a message and religious songs from the “Rap Mass”, by which Lirica Oscura appeals to the youth to reflect upon the direction they wish to take in life.
Various representatives of the media were present, one of which was GamaTV, one of the main television broadcasters of the country. It broadcast a document-interview on the event during the eight o’clock news on the evening of 6 June. In conjunction with the press conference, the youth who take part in the formative activities of the Comboni Missionary Centre, explained the meaning of the name Lirica Oscura: from the darkness of the ghetto and marginalisation, they wish to launch their music, their light, their song of protest and love towards the whole of society.
The CD is used in our city quarter missions since the language of Lirica Oscura immediately touches the hearts of the youth. Some members of the group, having completed their catechumenate and baptism, are now personally involved in the plan of evangelisation which the Afro-American pastoral is implementing in the various quarters of Guayaquil.
Their first ‘hit’ song was “La vida es una ruleta” (Life is a lottery). In it, life is seen as a reality to be faced every day by the Afro-American youth of Trinipuerto: death due to AIDS, to the violence of criminals or police, to drugs, etc. Faced with the reality of death, Lirica Oscura suggests allowing God to enter permanently into our lives so that He may guide us on our journey, and not to turn to God only when we are in dire need: “When God knocks on your door, you refuse him entry. When you are in trouble, you remember him. You call him and beg him to save your life. And he often weeps, because you refuse to change”. They express implicitly a missionary longing, the restless desire to make God known to all the ‘lost’ people who have never heard anyone speak to them of God: “We forget the living who are lost. In their dark world of drugs on the streets, all is confused. But God exists and nobody ever told them”.
The Afro-American Centre of Guayaquil is trying to recognise the value of the voice, songs and the creativity which these young Afro-Americans place at the service of evangelisation, so that they may be missionaries among their own people.
First meeting of the Families of Comboni Missionaries
On Saturday, 3 December, the first meeting of the families of Ecuadorian Comboni Missionaries in temporary and perpetual vows, was held at the provincial house. The invitation of Fr. Claudio Zendron and the OGF committee was well received. Together, starting from our missionary experience, we discussed the meaning of what it means to be Catholic. St. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians (3, 18-19), speaks of the catholicity of the love of God as shown in Christ. The missionary lives deeply this dimension which comes from the Holy Spirit, by promoting unity in diversity, universality and the fullness of life.
It is our commitment to grow in this spirituality and become leaders and promoters and not simply to remain inactive, or for people to be satisfied to have a son or a brother in the missions.
We shall gather annually and, in the meantime, we shall try to create a network of benefactors among our families, friends and fellow parishioners. Faith grows as it is shared. This has become our war-cry.
150th anniversary of the birth of Mgr. Roveggio
This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Servant of God, Mgr. Antonio Maria Roveggio (1858-1902), the first religious of the then new Congregation of the Sons of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (FCCJ, 1885). He took his vows in Verona on 28 October 1887, in the second house of the Institute, a house in Via del Seminario which had been bought by St. Daniel Comboni himself. Fr. Roveggio afterwards (1895) became bishop of the Vicariate of Central Africa and was the second successor of Comboni in the see of Khartoum.
The Servant of God was born at San Sebastiano di Cologna Veneta, a town in the province of Verona but in the diocese of Vicenza. He was baptised in the church of San Sebastiano where a plaque above the baptismal font, a bust and a lamp were set up in his memory. At Cologna Veneto, a fine oil painting of Roveggio is preserved in the sacristy and the local Liceo Scientifico Statale also bears his name.
To prevent the memory of this great missionary being forgotten and in order to promote his reputation for holiness, the community of the Mother House of Verona contacted the parishes of San Sebastiano, Sant’Andrea (Centre of the Pastoral Unit) and Cologna Veneta to initiate pastoral missionary activities, such as the preaching at the Sunday Masses on 30 November and 14 December, catechetical lessons for children of the primary and middle schools, and the widespread distribution of holy pictures as well as the biographical booklet of Roveggio by Fr. Lorenzo Gaiga, entitled: ‘Missione Senza Sconti’ (The Full Price of Mission). Each of these activities included a prayer for the beatification of the Servant of God.
It is hoped that during 2009, the parishes, the dioceses, local businesses, our General Postulation and Studium Combonianum will organise an official commemoration, including studies and research on the personality and his times, remembering the beginning of the African mission to the Sudan, the first decades of the life of the Institute and, at the same time, the developments and missionary challenges in the light of the new African Synod in October and our General Chapter of 2009. Doubtless, revisiting the missionary and spiritual life of Roveggio, may well offer a new stimulus towards harmonising the non-negotiable values of mission, spiritual life and consecrated life.
Assembly of Superiors
From 1 to 4 December, the superiors of the 23 communities of the Italian province, together with the members of the provincial council, the sector secretariats and the Chapter Delegates met at Pesaro to spend some time devoted to ongoing formation and sharing on the journey of the province. The general theme of the meeting was “Life in its fullness in our communities”. It was first developed by Fr. Giovanni Taneburgo who presented some biblical images of the missionary community. He was followed by Fr. Lorenzo Frattini who presented the Code of Conduct as a means to the growth of charity and justice in community relations. The Dehonian priest, Fr. Giuliano Stenico, spoke of welcoming confreres in difficulty or the victims of various forms of addiction. The provincial superior and sector secretaries (mission promotion, evangelisation, ongoing formation, the committee for the elderly and the sick, and finance) presented brief reports. The secretariat for vocations promotion, a sector at present in transition due to various departures and insufficient personnel replacements, was not represented. The provincial council and the superiors examined the varied problematic of the province and renewed their commitment to make of our communities a significant missionary presence in the territory, through communion and corresponsibility.
Christmas Message of Cardinal John Njue
“There are situations that tend to distract us from the values of the Kingdom”, the archbishop of Nairobi, Cardinal John Njue, remarks in his Christmas message to the people of Nairobi. He clearly refers to “the violence we experienced at the beginning of this year and the continuous cry for justice especially from the brothers and sisters still residing in camps of internally displaced peoples”. He however stops short of speaking of the more recent development in the life of the country, such as the turmoil of the unsolved problems, the worries due to spiralling food prices and the uneasy relationship with the politicians who exempted themselves from paying taxes and, out of revenge, passed a law to gag the press that exposed their greed, corruption and indifference to the wellbeing of the Kenyan people.
The Cardinal says: “Christmas is known to be the annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus, but it has become a secular celebration… We have to come back to the original meaning, which is to recognise that God is among us.”
Referring to the history of Israel, Cardinal John Njue describes the joy of the Israelites who, by God’s intervention, were set free from the bond of slavery, left Babylon and returned to Jerusalem, only to face disillusion and pain. They were met with hostility and considered intruders by the ones who had remained in Judea after the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem. “The question of land, power sharing, property and wealth stood in between”. With this subtle hint at what is happening in Kenya, the Cardinal says: “Today, here in our country, we are facing a situation similar to the one experienced by the people of Israel in the year 530 BC. We see that the promised social, political, economical, and spiritual liberation is incomplete”.
In the present critical situation nothing is said to politicians, members of parliament and authorities of the State. But the underlying message is quite clear also for them.
Priestly ordination of Fr. John Kipkemoi Korir
Our province has yet again a reason to celebrate a merrier Christmas this year, following the gift of John Kipkemoi Korir’s priestly ordination on the 6 December, 2008. The ordination ceremony took place in Roret, his home parish in the Diocese of Kericho. The vocation promoter took this opportunity to animate the parish a week before the ordination. Visiting several out-stations of the parish, he spoke to both the youth and the adults who showed a commendable desire to know more about the Comboni Missionaries and their work. It was a great joy for all of us to see a large, cheerful and participative congregation of both parishioners and outsiders who came to witness the great day of John’s ordination. The Comboni Amakuriat Mission, where John has been serving both as a scholastic and deacon, was well represented especially with their stylish Pokot liturgical participation. A strong presence of about 25 Comboni Missionary fathers, brothers, scholastics and sisters, among other diocesan clerics, graced the occasion. In his homily, the ordaining Bishop Emmanuel Okombo spoke encouragingly and at length. At one point he reminded the gathered congregation that through Fr. John Korir, the local Church of Kericho “has given birth to a missionary-apostle whom she is sending out to the world to proclaim Christ”.
The following day, Fr. John celebrated his first Mass in the parish church and another colourful thanksgiving ceremony in his home on 8 December. Fr. John’s next assignment is to Egypt.
Zone Charters for the province of Kenya
The Comboni Missionaries’ presence in Kenya is divided into four different zones: Marsabit, Turkana, Pokot and Nairobi. The zones of Marsabit, Turkana and Pokot are situated in the northern part of the country which is largely occupied by semi-nomadic people and pastoralists. Nairobi on the other hand, is a modern Africa city in the central part of the country, the seat of the government, the location of the headquarters of several United Nation agencies, diplomatic missions and banking and business enterprises. Nairobi is a metropolis of over four million people, most of whom, 60%, live in the slums.
Each zone has its own characteristics in terms of ethnic composition, plurality of languages, customs, religions and structures. Each of them presents challenges, opportunities and priorities to the evangelisation work, so that each zone requires an appropriate pastoral methodology and plan.
For some time the MCCJ of each zone were engaged in the study of the situation, the problems and the expectations of the people and of the evangelisers and finally they came up with a kind of road map, to guide them in their work, helping them to face the challenges and to select the priorities. Thus, the Zone Charters were born.
Another Comboni tradition revived by Cardinal Zubeir
After the consecration of the Vicariate of Central Africa to the Sacred Heart (14 September 1873), Comboni consecrated the Vicariate also to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. In a Pastoral Letter written in Delen on 24 October, 1875, Comboni gave motivations for such a pastoral act (W 3990-4001). Mary is seen as the key that opens the door to the treasure hidden in the Sacred Heart. The Consecration (W 4002-4005) took place on the feast of the Immaculate Conception 1875.
Just as the tradition of renewing the act of consecration to the Scared Heart got lost with the passing of years, so did the consecration to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Five years ago Archbishop Zubeir renewed both of them. As from the year 2004, every year we have in the archdiocese of Khartoum the renewal of these two consecrations: to the Sacred Heart on 14 September and to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
This year, the consecration to Our Lady had a special meaning: it marked the return of the Cardinal from Europe where he had spent more than two months for medical treatment. He wanted to be back for the occasion and the faithful saw in it a sign of the protection of Our Lady. But the prayer of consecration itself had something new: the last part was in the form of a Prayer of the Faithful and the concrete needs of the community and of the society were brought in. The other thing was the connection of the consecration with active charity: at the moment of the offertory, instead of the usual gifts, people offered durra, lentils, sugar, oil, salt and other goods for the street children for whom Deacon Kamal has opened some communities in the diocese and which at present are running short of food.
Approval of ERS Program
The breaking news arrived on 2 December, 2008, brought by Fr. Giuseppe Puttinato, the rector of the Comboni College of Science and Technology (CCST): “At last, ERS (Educational and Religious Sciences), ex CTTC, has been finally approved by the Federal Ministry of Higher Education”. Mgr. Daniel Adwok, auxiliary bishop of Khartoum, passed the information on to the Cardinal, who was in Italy for treatment, and to the faithful of the Archdiocese: “Dear all, we congratulate ourselves for obtaining the official recognition of the CTTC from the Government. Whatever name the ministry may have suggested, I think that it will be up to us to call the College in a manner that is fitting to the vision and mission of our program. Many thanks to all who have contributed to the effort to obtain the approval.”
The approval by the Government comes as a conclusion of a long journey. The College was started in 1992 at the initiative of Fr. Camillo Ballin, now bishop of Kuwait, with the name “Catholic Teachers Training College” (CTTC). The aim was to prepare qualified personnel to teach the Christian religion. Up to now more than 300 students have graduated in the College. In order to get the approval, the CTTC had to introduce some adjustments to the syllabus, which are reflected in the new name: “Educational and Religious Sciences”. The adjustments give those who graduate from the ERS the possibility of teaching other subjects beside Christian religion. The approval does not mean that ERS is a new college; the college remains one (CCST): ERS is a new program, the 4th, under the umbrella of the CCST.
This year 62 students graduated from the Comboni College of Science and Technology: 32 received Bachelor Degrees in Computer Science and 30 received Diplomas in Information Technology. Those who finished the 4th year course at the CTTC (now ERS) were 40.
The traditional and animated Nativity Display in Cincinnati
The year, 2009, will mark the 70th anniversary of the Comboni Missionary presence in the United States. In 1947, just eight years after their arrival, they opened an animated Nativity Display at the Comboni’s Sacred Heart Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. It started in an old carriage house on the seminary property, and through the years it has grown in size, improvements, and popularity. Today it is housed in the main building, and fills an entire room.
The display has served as a constant connection to the Comboni Missionaries for countless people in the area who have made it a part of their Christmas tradition through the years. The experience takes participants back in time to Bethlehem where, through lighting, music, animation, and narration, the story of Christmas comes to life.
It’s common to see grandparents, parents, and children enter the display room together, find a good viewing spot, chat with each other, point at the many Bethlehem figures, and discuss them until the lights dim. Then the room becomes still and the town of Jesus’ birth comes to life. For fifteen minutes the material aspects of the holiday season melt away, the stress of shopping, planning and budgeting disappear, all replaced with the holy, peace-filled reminder of what Christmas is all about.
Code of Conduct Formation
The Comboni Missionaries of the province of Portugal gathered at Coimbra house on 2 and 3 December 2008, for a formation session on the recent document of the Institute, the Code of Conduct. In his introduction, the provincial superior, Fr. Alberto de Oliveira Silva, defined the meeting as a moment of ongoing formation aimed at assisting every Comboni Missionary to understand better the gift of his vocation and live it responsibly.
There were interventions by Fr. Manuel Augusto Lopes Ferreira, who presented the general content of the document and Fr. Samuel Rodrigues, Judicial Vicar of the Patriarchate of Lisbon, who gave a brief introduction and replied to questions by the confreres.
In his presentation, Fr. Manuel Augusto emphasised that the central question of the Code is that of personal responsibility and the need to accept the consequences of all one’s actions.
On his part, Fr. Samuel Rodrigues spoke of the originality of the document in the context of the Portuguese Church and its usefulness. Full acceptance of the document, however, will be a gradual process: this is the beginning of a long journey, he said.
In conclusion, the participants commented positively on this time devoted to formation, underlining the fact that they felt motivated to read, study and accept the document in question.
The President visits Lomin Comboni College
On 2 December, 2008, Salva Kiir Mayadit, the President of the government of South Sudan, paid a visit to the Comboni Comprehensive College in Lomin, while on his way to visit Kajo-Keji County to flag off the 75 - Mile Road reconstruction works between Kajo-Keji and Juba.
President Kiir was received by the school director, Fr. Eugenio Magni, and all the teachers and students from the Comboni Comprehensive College, primary school and kindergarten. The President told the students that they are the generation that is going to build the New Sudan and urged them to study hard and listen to their teachers. He recalled that the Comboni Comprehensive College was started in the year 2000. At that time students and teachers had to take cover if they heard overhead the Antonov planes of the Sudanese Air Force, as these were ready to drop bombs. President Kiir added: “Now there is peace and people will have to vote in 2009 and, again, in 2011 to choose their future through a referendum on self determination. Don’t forget who your enemy was when you will be voting.”
The Lomin Comboni Comprehensive College has 450 students in seven secondary school grades, 26 full time teachers and 7 part time.
Celebration of 75 years since the arrival of the faith in Karamoja
Great festivities were held in Moroto on Saturday, 22 November, 2008, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the arrival in Karamoja of the first Catholic missionaries.
The solemn Mass was presided over by Achbishop Paul Tschan In-Nam, Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda, with Mgr. Henry Ssentongo, Bishop of Moroto, Mgr. Paul Kalanda, former Bishop of Moroto and Mgr. Emmanuel Obbo A.J., Bishop of Soroti. The very colourful six-hour ceremony attracted a large number of faithful from all over the diocese, all the local clergy, many missionaries and many former Fidei Donum priests who had served in Moroto diocese over the last thirty years or so.
The Comboni Family was very well represented with many Confreres and Sisters present, led by the provincial superior of the MCCJ and the vice-provincial of the CMS.
The presence of such large numbers of the faithful and their very active participation in the festivities points to the achievement and maturity of the local Church, notwithstanding the good deal of work that still remains to be done to consolidate and make the local communities vibrant and self-reliant. We have cause to rejoice that the Almighty has blessed our efforts with considerable success.
The itinerant Cross is presently in Kotido Cathedral, awaiting for the closing celebration on 9 December. Bishop Emeritus, Paul Kalanda Lokiru, will be presiding over for this celebration. The Cross will be then taken to Kangole, its place of origin.
Mgr. Franzelli in Rome for the Synod of the Bishops
Mgr. Giuseppe Franzelli was elected, together with the African archbishop of Mbarara, to represent the Ugandan Episcopal Conference at the XII Synod of Bishops in Rome on the theme: “The Word of God in our life and in the mission of the Church”, which took place in Rome from 5 to 26 October 2008.
In one of his reflections, Mgr. Franzelli describes the feelings which overtook him one evening in Rome. Here are his words: “I was admiring the square and the Basilica of St. Peter, full of lights in this Roman night. How far and how different it is from the humble cathedral of Lira, which has become too small to hold all the faithful who, in a few hours, will go to pray on the day of the Lord! But it is, though, the same Church, the family of God to which we all belong and to which the Lord has entrusted his Word, the good news of the Gospel that we have been asked to announce to all the world.”
Mgr. Franzelli intervened in the Synod to plead with the Bishops not to forget Africa, just like Comboni did during Vatican Council II. The great meeting in Rome made Mgr. Franzelli think of the humbler meeting at the end of March that took place in Juba, South Sudan, for the signing of the peace agreement between the LRA rebels and the Uganda government. Unfortunately nothing came of it, as Kony, the leader of the LRA, failed to turn up.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Fr. Giuseppe Buffoni (19.03.1930 – 07.12.2008)
Bro. Amorino De Gaspari (19.12.1920 – 13.12.2008)
His obituary will appear in the next issue of Familia Comboniana.
Let us pray for our beloved dead:
THE FATHER: Edward, of Fr. Tomasz Marek (PO); Joseph, of the Sc. John Hanson P. K. Agboli (T).
THE MOTHER: Carlotta, of Fr. Maurizio Balducci (U).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. Ottavia Ottaviani; Sr. M. Alfreda Tessaro; Sr. Stavrula Manudaki.