Monthly newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
Visits to provinces
During the latter half of January and the first half of February, the members of the General Council visited various provinces.
- Fr. Teresino Serra first visited Central Africa and then South Africa where he met the confreres who are attendong the Comboni Year of Ongoing Formation (CYOF).
- Fr. Fabio Carlo Baldan visited Kenya Province.
- Fr. Tesfamariam G. Woldeghebriel and Bro. Umberto Martinuzzo spent a month in Mexico.
- Fr. Odelir José Magri took part in the Comboni meetings on the occasion of the World Social Forum which was held in Belém (Brasil).
GC programme to take part in the Continental Capitular Assemblies
The members of the GC will take part in the Assemblies in the same capacity as that of the other participants. They will participate as follows:
- Fr. Teresino Serra and Bro. Umberto Martinuzzo: European Assembly in Pesaro (14-24 April);
- P. Fabio Carlo Baldan: Anglophone Africa Assembly at Lusaka (6-17 May);
- Fr. Odelir José Magri: Francophone Africa Assembly at Lomé (3-15 May);
- Fr. Tesfamariam G. Woldeghebriel: America and Asia Assembly in Mexico City (18-26 May).
Fr. Rodolfo Coaquira Hilaje on 19 January 2009, defended his thesis: La Cristología en los escritos de San Daniel Comboni obtaining a Licentiate in Theology at the Santa Maria Catholic University of Arequipa. We congratulate Fr. Rodolfo on his achievement hoping that this may contribute to bettering our missionary service.
Fr. Kazaku Bosh Bébé Clément (CN) Kinshasa (CN) 15.02.2009
Holy Redeemer Guild
March 01 – 07 DCA 08 – 15 EG 16 – 31 EC
April 01 – 15 DSP 16 – 30 E
March - That, through the intercession of St. Joseph, the Lord of life may continue to raise men and women willing to give themselves to Christ and to the mission ad gentes. Let us pray.
April - That our Comboni Family may never know discouragement in the face of persecutions, toil and failures in mission and may know how to renew its faith in Christ who died on the cross and rose again. Let us pray.
Second Comboni Social Forum in Belém
It is the second Comboni Social Forum which gives continuity to the first, held two years ago in Nairobi. It took place in Belém, Brazil, on 26 and 27 January and on 2 and 3 February (that is before and after the World Social Forum) for the purpose of developing the theme “A new Comboni mission is possible, necessary and urgent”. It also wanted to be a sharing of experiences in the light of the World Social Forum to face the challenges of justice and peace in today’s world.
With Fr. Odelir José Magri of the General Council, there were 76 participants: Comboni Missionaries (47 fathers and brothers), Scholastics (5), Comboni Sisters (12) and Comboni Lay Missionaries (12).
Directed by Fr. Francesco Pierli, the theme of the mission, which under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit must be transforming, was considered. Basing the discussion on the previous six points made in the meeting of Nairobi, the participants, divided in groups, discussed “how to revive the call of Comboni”. The World Social Forum, with its many speeches and testimonies is an excellent means of resonance of the present realities. But for us the latter must be seen from the Comboni perspective of the mystic, ministerial service and collaboration. For instance, as far as the form of government is concerned in our Institute, what kind of government would better respond to the challenges we find in the mission?
It was decided to address a letter to all the confreres to reaffirm the commitment for justice and peace and the integrity of creation as non-negotiable elements of the new Comboni mission. The building of a different world, as expression of God’s Kingdom, is possible.
A small but real contribution to the environment in Josefstal
Our house in Josefstal has a number of flat roofs, an ideal situation for utilizing heat of the sun, so it was decided to heat the water in the house by installing the solar panels. Altogether, the solar panels cover an extension of 25 square meters and operate even on cloudy days. The work was completed on 7 February 2009. It is a small step towards contributing to the integrity of creation.
In Josefstal, however, we have introduced another way to contribute to the preservation of nature. Already a couple of years ago our heating system was switched from gas oil to wooden pellets. The amount of carbon dioxide that is produced when burning wood is easily absorbed by the trees in the area. There is no longer troublesome excess of carbon dioxide, as it was when we were using gas oil.
Meeting of the parents of our Comboni Lay Missionaries
It has already become an annual tradition to invite the parents of our Lay Missionaries working in the missions around January/February. Thus on Saturday, 7 February 2009, they came for the meeting. The group was not too large as at the moment only five Lay Missionaries are out in the missions. Nonetheless, for the parents it was the chance to come to know and to encourage one another, to share about their own fears and experiences in connection with the commitment of their sons and daughters. Furthermore, such a meeting is an opportunity to get to know the parents better and for them to get to know the Comboni Missionaries better.
Provincial Assembly 2009
At the annual Provincial Assembly, 19-23 January, the Comboni Missionaries in Kenya searched for a better understanding of the situation of the Country, of the Church and of the Institute, in preparation for the General Chapter and the annual pastoral plans of the various zones.
The archbishop of Nairobi, Cardinal John Njue, helped the participants to reflect on “what the Church expects from the missionaries”, while professor Oskar Mapopa of Nairobi University guided the reflection on “what Africa expects from the Missionary Institutes”.
A sombre note was added by the vicar general, Fr. Fabio Carlo Baldan (who was in Kenya for the official visit to the province), with a report on the state of the Institute and its declining number of personnel. In view of the General Chapter, the confreres were invited to study the Working Documents published by the preparatory commission on governance and on formation for comment and additional proposals to the Chapter.
Finally, the Assembly revised the text of the Provincial Directory incorporating the guidelines and directives issued by the General Council in the Code of Conduct. The provincial council, later, approved the changes and sent the revised edition to Rome for the final approval.
Meeting of provincials
The 2009 meeting of the Provincial Superiors of the English speaking Provinces of Africa was held in Nairobi from 26 to 29 January, with the participation of the Vicar General, Fr. Fabio Baldan. No declarations were released after the meeting.
On Friday 30th, the Provincial Superiors met as the Board of Governors of the NPMC to study the proceeds of the Centre, to examine the “Annual Editorial and Financial Report”, to discuss important points of policy and to approve the budget. The merger of New People, Worldwide and Leadership was discussed, but no agreement was reached. Informal contacts, however, are still going on and a possible arrangement could be found about a merger of some kind between New People and Leadership.
Comboni Missionaries and the pastoralists
The Comboni Missionaries engaged in the evangelising ministry among the pastoralists of bordering regions of Uganda and Kenya agree to pursue common policies and to collaborate in formulating a pastoral plan that works and stimulates the growth of the Karimojong, Pokot and Turkana.
They stated in their report: “We are still at the fact-finding stage, but we aim to improve our ministry regarding spiritual advancement and human development”. Their next meeting is scheduled for 12 March, 2009, in Moroto or Matany to share reflections, opinions and projects on “how to enhance the sense of belonging to Christ and his Church through sacramental and prayer life among the pastoralists”.
“Solidarity” group for the reconstruction of South Sudan
After the signing of the CPA in January 2005, the Sudanese Episcopal Conference appealed to both the male (USG) and female (UISG) Union of Superiors General, asking them to contribute to the reconstruction of South Sudan. The reconstruction was understood to refer both to material and personal aspects. Both Unions established a commission which visited the various dioceses and identified two extremely important sectors, those of health and education.
In the education sector, they decided to open an institute at Malakal for the training of teachers, while in the field of health they decided to reactivate the Health Training Institute (HTI) in Wau, an establishment founded in the early eighties to train medical assistants for rural areas.
A group of seven religious Sisters was formed and placed at the disposition of the HTI by four different religious Institutes. Two of these are doctors and the others are nurses or nursing teachers. The person in charge of the project is Sr. Teresa Martinelli a doctor of medicine. Sr. Esperance, a Congolese Comboni Sister, also forms part of the group.
The project is planning a three-year course for qualified nurses and six months of work in the field. It is hoped to begin by July 2009. Participants will be taken from all the dioceses of Sudan. The introductory course is expected to start with 35, later to fall to 25, with this pattern repeated each year. Eventually, there will be 100 students, all resident within the HTI. The male and female Unions of Superiors General will provide staff and funds, requiring a small contribution from the students. The government of the South has given its approval but, apparently, nothing else. Relations between the Solidarity group and the Episcopal Conference are governed by contract. The Bishops will facilitate formalities for bringing in both personnel and supplies, as well as relations with the government. They will also appoint a contact person in each diocese.
It is expected that, having finished the course, successful candidates will return to their dioceses to offer their services to the local rural communities. As for work experience, it may be carried out in the hospital that the diocese of Wau plans to open soon. Just recently, it became known that the government intends to restore ownership to the Church of the buildings until now used as a military hospital. The diocese plans to put these buildings to use as a Church-run hospital, after the necessary alterations. It will have 90 beds with basic services for out-patients, medicine, surgery, laboratories, x-rays and maternity. The diocese is in the process of finding a specialised religious Institute capable of running the hospital. Solidarity is prepared to accept the task of opening the hospital and running it for a few years, through a special agreement with the diocese.
As regards the training of teachers, everything will have to start from scratch. The only fixed point is the location – Malakal. The South is in urgent need of trained teachers. At present, most of the teachers in the South have no specific training apart from the Sudan Senior Third Certificate. In rural areas they may not have even this.
Visit by the Assistants General
At the beginning of the year (8 January-11 February 2009) Fr. Tesfamariam Ghebrecristos Woldeghebriel and Bro. Umberto Martinuzzo, Assistants General, made an official visit to the province. Their presence among us was very enriching, in large part because it was an opportunity for us to understand better the situation of the Institute as we enter the home straight of this administration and also to know what to expect from the upcoming General Chapter as it will affect the future of our missionary family.
We, all the members of the province, are grateful for this gesture of fraternity and we invoke the abundant blessings of God on the Assistants General and on all the General Administration as they conclude this final part of their service to the Institute and the Church.
Lower California Assembly
At La Paz, Lower California, the provincial sector assembly was held from 12 to 14 January. As usual, the confreres working in the various communities scattered throughout the southern part of the state gathered to share the experience of missionary life being lived by each one in the local Church.
As in previous years, the Provincial Superior was present, accompanied this year by Fr. Juan Martín Torres Alférez (provincial coordinator for JPIC), who came to conduct seminars on the theme of Justice and Peace during the periods devoted to ongoing formation.
Foundation Stone of the Church of St. Daniel Comboni
On 12 December last, the foundation stone of the church dedicated to St. Daniel Comboni in Guadalajara was laid. His Eminence Mgr. Juan Sandoval Iñiguez, Cardinal Archbishop of the diocese of Guadalajara, presided at the ceremony. Also present were various Comboni Fathers and Sisters, friends and benefactors. The church is to be built close to what is today the Oasis of St. Daniel Comboni, a home for our elderly and sick confreres. Halls for catechetical instruction have already been built. There is at present a strong pastoral movement in this city, where the ad gentes mission of the Church proceeds with vigour.
New e-mail addresses
Some months ago we changed the Internet Server (IP) at the provincial house. We had a trial period of a few months but now it is official, as are the new e-mail addresses of the provincial and secretary:
Some news about Pietermaritzburg
The Comboni community of Pietermaritzburg (PMB) has been busy over the last few weeks due to some changes in the community and in the pastoral commitment. For the past seven years we have been running two parishes: St. Martin de Porres, a coloured community, and St. Joan of Arc, a black community who live mainly in Sobantu township.
On 25 January 2009 we handed over St. Martin de Porres to the Archdiocese. The Consolata Missionaries, recently arrived in PMB with a group of six students of theology, took over the ministry to this parish.
During these years that the Comboni missionaries served the parish in the person of Fr. Bernhard Riegel, also Dean of the area, they succeeded in creating a beautiful atmosphere of mutual help, understanding and unity in the community. People were also constantly challenged to assume their responsibilities and they did so with dedication and selfless love.
Since Fr. Bernhard is also leaving South Africa to go back to Germany, the community of St. Joan of Arc bid him farewell on 15 February, in a packed church where adults, youth and children expressed to him their gratitude. Fr. José Luis Román Medina (Pepelu), a formator in the scholasticate, will now look after the parish of St. Joan of Arc.
Between these two celebrations, we had the opening of the academic year and the blessing of the extension of the scholasticate house on 4 February. The Cardinal of Durban, Archbishop Wilfrid Napier, and his auxiliary bishop, Mons. Barry Wood, asked to be present at the celebration, since they also wanted to thank Fr. Bernhard for his dedication and for having accepted various responsibilities at diocesan level.
Pastoral Letter on the occasion of the elections
As the election date for South Africa and Botswana has been set for 22 April, the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference has issued on 17 February the pastoral letter “Awake! Awake! Protect our democracy”.
The Bishops offer the catholic communities points of reflection and questions (in eight languages) to assist them in discussing their Pastoral Letter, in order to ensure a greater participation in working for justice and peace and in realizing free and fair elections.
In spite of the progress over the past years, the Bishops list the enormous challenges that still face the country, like poverty, unstable families, sexual exploitation and alcohol and drug abuse, the high levels of crime and violence, the increase in HIV&AIDS and the plight of vulnerable children, the influx of migrants and refugees and the associated xenophobia, etc.
They underline the importance of judging a party on its overall policy regarding the key values of the Gospel such as promoting life, human dignity and justice in relation to the above issues.
People – remark the Bishops – must guard against blind loyalty (“let us remember that, in a true democracy, we should not base our choice on race, language, tribe or cultural group, but on the policies and standpoints of the various parties”), intolerance and intimidation, corruption (“including favouring family members and friends for jobs, because it reverses all the gains we have made in our struggle for justice”), and doing nothing.
Finally the Bishops stress that “As Christians, we are called to work with all South Africans to ensure the growth and strengthening of democratic values and practices”. In this regard they mention the importance of promoting the central elements of the Catholic Social Teaching (respect for life and human dignity, social responsibility and the common good, compassionate solidarity with the poor and the marginalized), together with family values and the values of ubuntu (humanity) by challenging individualism and greed.
One of the suggested prayers says: “O Lord, we have squandered your gifts and have failed to use them in the service of others. The good life of some is built on the pain of many. The pleasure of a few is the agony of millions. Teach us anew what it means to be your people. We believe that our longings can be fulfilled beyond imagining and that our hope is not in vain”.
The remains of Fr. Saturnino Lohure were taken to Torit
Sudanese Fr. Saturnino Lohure was the first Lotuko to become a priest. He was killed at Kitgum in Uganda at the orders of the government of Khartoum, on 22 January 1967. He was baptised in 1931 and at the age of ten entered the seminary at Okaru, completing his studies at Gulu where he was ordained priest in 1946. For about ten years he carried out his pastoral work at Lirya but when the diocese of Rumbek was created in 1955 and entrusted to the care of the Sudanese priests, with Mgr. Ireneo Dud as bishop, Fr. Saturnino also came under that diocese.
After independence, with the permission of the Holy See, he entered politics, was elected to the Constitutive Assembly and became head of the members of parliament of the South. When the Assembly was dissolved by the military in 1958, he returned to pastoral work at Yei and Porkele while keeping in touch with other Southern politicians. He was warned that the authorities wanted to arrest him so, in 1961, he fled to Uganda where he became the reference point for the refugees from South Sudan as well as a wise and esteemed counsellor to the Anyanya liberation movement. Meanwhile, the government of Sudan kept him under surveillance and, on 22 January 1967, succeeded in silencing him for good. A Ugandan soldier killed him in Kitgum, on the Sudan border.
Forty-one years after his death, the government of South Sudan decided to honour his memory by taking his remains back to his homeland and re-interring them in a specially-built mausoleum. A plane carrying his body arrived at Torit airport, the capital of Eastern Equatoria, on 30 January. The casket was accompanied by Mgr. John Baptist Odama, Bishop of Gulu. Among the many civil authorities present were those of the national government, the government of the South and the local government. The great crowd of people bore testimony to how much the memory of this great politician and priest is still alive. The government has made available a large piece of land which from now on will be called “Fr. Saturnino Memorial Ground”. (Fr. Salvatore Pacifico)
Celebration of the World Day for Peace
About eight years ago, the Archbishop Emeritus of N’Djaména, Mgr. Charles Louis Joseph Vandame, reached a verbal agreement with the representatives of other faiths (Protestants and Muslims).
Its purpose was to organise, in turn, common prayer for the World day of Peace. This year was the turn of the Catholic Church so the Archbishop appointed a committee for reflection and preparation made up of Fr. Paolino Tipo Deng Amayldh, a Comboni priest and diocesan coordinator for Justice and Peace, Fr. Raymond Madjiro, parish priest of the cathedral and national coordinator of the Justice and Peace Commission, Fr. Martin Waïngue, rector of the major seminary, Koullo Belya, national director of Catholic Teaching and Marie Yodamine, vice president of the Sacré Cœur Secondary School and vice president of Céliaf.
Mgr. Vandame also requested that the Diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace should operate in the whole of the diocese together with all the parishes, especially that of the Notre Dame de la Paix Cathedral, the venue for the prayer.
In this context, the Archbishop declared the World Day for Peace a diocesan event, an event which must mark the commitment of the apostolic personnel in the search for lasting peace in Chad and demonstrate the desire to appeal to the varies parties of the conflict which is tearing the country apart in order to achieve reconciliation by going beyond divisions.
In order to involve more effectively the priests, religious men and women and the laity in this celebration, an informative meeting was held at the Bishop’s House on 16 December 2008, organised by the Commission for reflection.
The meeting provided an opportunity to explain to the participants the positive aspects of this celebration and especially its usefulness for the Catholic Church. Vicars and parish priests were invited to encourage their flocks to take an active part in the common prayer. It was decided to organise three days of prayer to be held before the day itself in all the parishes of N’Djaména. The Commission for reflection was charged with establishing the forms of prayer which will be used during these three days. An information sheet was sent to all parishes with the following forms of prayer: adoration, rosary, sharing the Word of God, the Eucharistic celebration, etc.
The ecumenical celebration itself was held on 1 January 2009 from 10 am to 12 noon, with the extraordinary participation of representatives of the various parishes. Among those invited were the Prime Minister and his cabinet, the President of the National Assembly and representatives of different faiths.
The celebration was held in a climate of festive joy: joyful because all Chadians in joining together, without any distinctions, and engaging in united prayer for the return of peace to Chad. During the celebration, some children recited the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi for peace and then presented doves to the civil authorities and religious leaders who released them. This symbolic gesture was acclaimed by the participants.
The ecumenical celebration was an opportunity for the politicians, religious and all the others to participate in refreshments aptly named “a toast to friendship”.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Fr. Salvatore Calvia (23.08.1924 – 13.02.2009)
Fr. Pietro Rossi (23.01.1914 – 01.02.2009)
Fr. Antonio Santinoli (16.06.1923 – 14.02.2009)
Fr. Anton Dettling (30.12.1913 – 19.02.2009)
Their obituaries will be published in the next issue of Familia Comboniana
Let us pray for our beloved dead
THE MOTHER: Ermelinda, of Fr. Jerónimo Alberto Vieira (MO).
THE BROTHER: Don Giuseppe, of Bro. Pietro Dusi (U); Giorgio, of Bro. Guido Zabeo (I).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. Amelia Candida Loi; Sr. Rosaria Vassallo; Sr. Costanza M. Hailu; Sr. Maria Rosa Magri; Sr. M. Battistina Plebani; Sr. M. Gaetana Sbalchiero.
THE SECULAR COMBONI MISSIONARY: Adele Ravagli.