Monthly Newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
THE GHOST OF ECONOMIC CRISIS
The worldwide economic crisis is mentioned every day in all newspapers. One newspaper, towards the end of March, reported a few expressions of worry and distress of average families. We read: “Food is scarce at home.” “To be able to carry on, I must ask for a loan from my father who lives on his pension”.
And again: “I have lost my job at 55 years of age. To depend on my wife gives me the feeling of uselessness.” “At home we have decided to cut down on all fronts: to use less the car and the phone. No more restaurants, no more vacations. To stay together so as to halve the expenses… and we do no longer throw away promotion leaflets. We can come out of this crisis only through commitment.”
I think about the words above and ask myself: “How do we and our communities go through this crisis?” Perhaps we have not even noticed it, thanks to the vow of poverty that enables us to live even without knowing how much we spend or, as Comboni says, without knowing “how much toil money costs” (W 2607).
Let it be clear that I do not intend to lecture anyone. I am just introducing the topic of poverty through the distress of those who are the victims of the crisis; I am introducing the topic of self limitation and the topic of a simpler and more austere lifestyle.
The President of the Italian Republic, touching on the topic of this economic crisis, spoke of an opportunity: “Let’s make of this crisis an opportunity – he said – to free us from the weaknesses and insufficiencies of our system.”
As religious, we may say that we too should take this opportunity to free ourselves from the weaknesses of a system that does not reflect the vow of poverty to the full. It is also an opportunity to return to the wisdom of our Rule of Life, to reflect on it and to make an earnest examination of conscience.
1. The Use of Goods: “In the common use of goods, the missionary models his life on the ideal of the first Christian community. He shares with his confreres both material things and his experiences of faith. He does not seek privileges for himself” (RL 27.3).
The General Chapter (CA ’03, 86) considers the sharing of goods and material means beneficial to community and missionary life.
The Common Fund, which we have adopted (CA ’03, 102, 102.2) is too often understood as an administrative mechanism. On the contrary, it is a missionary way, a practical means by which we can express and lead a missionary life that is implemented through community planning, searching for the necessary means, carrying through the approved projects and evaluating the work done. Naturally, we will be able to share what we have if we are able to share what we are.
2. Goods and Poverty: “The witness of poverty of the Institute is made manifest through communion, sharing and self-limitation of economic goods, in accordance with the spirit and practice of the early Christian communities” (RL 164).
It still happens that some confreres, regardless of obedience and rules, have at their disposal amounts of money which only the wealthy of the world can dispose of. This is neither communion nor sharing or self limitation. At this stage, let us recall a basic evangelical principle, valid for the three vows: we have to care more about being than about appearing. One may even be contrary to poverty in spirit and be able to conceal it; in the same way one can hide sums of money. Undoubtedly, the fact that we “are not” what we are supposed to be, dries up and even nullifies all our efforts and apostolic activities. We have to care about being as Christ wants us to be, to aim at the perfection to which Christ calls us.
3. All for the mission: “The practice of poverty in the Institute requires that whatever is acquired or donated is used for evangelization, for promotion work and for preparation and sustenance of the missionaries” (RL 30). Any coin not used in accordance to the Rule of Life is ill used. All money not used for mission, not converted into mission, is an offence against Divine Providence and a taking it away from mission.
4. The law of work: “The missionary lives his poverty also by serious and dedicated daily work” (RL 27.2).
In religious life, even for one who does not work, a full plate of food is always available. And not just a plate of food! Thank God, those who do not work are not many. In fact it must be said that the majority of confreres have to learn how to rest. Anyway, the law of work applies to all. To work also means doing things in the proper way, with enthusiasm and professionalism. According to the common law of work, one who does not work or works poorly is sacked. In religious life this is not possible, which is somehow a privilege that runs against poverty.
5. With the poor: “Although it is difficult to share the conditions of the poor, the missionary takes on himself their anxieties, problems and defence, joining them in their struggle to better their living conditions and to remove all forms of exploitation and injustice” (RL 28.2).
Here it is Jesus the Christ who takes us back to the Gospel’s parable of the rich man. Jesus reminds us that the right place for us is to be with Lazarus, to feel and to know what it means to survive on the crumbs that fall from other people’s table. Jesus also says that to sit at the table with the rich man is an ongoing and strong temptation. The message we send to others depends on the place we choose. For this reason, the Rule of Life once again, tells us: “The missionary chooses voluntarily the poverty of Christ, leaving everything; … he follows a simple lifestyle in order to be free to bring the evangelising message to the poorest and most abandoned and to live in solidarity with them” (RL 27).
In conclusion, let us heed St. Paul’s advice: “But having food and clothing, we will be content with that. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith, in their greed” (1 Tim 6, 7-10).
1st May 2009
Feast of St. Joseph the Worker
Fr. Teresino Serra
Sc. Adam Witold Szpara (PO) Warszawa (PL) 06.04.2009
Sc. Moses Francis Bwanali (MZ) Zalewa (MW) 19.04.2009
Sc. Kasitomu James Milward (MZ) Lilanda (Z) 19.04.2009
Holy Redeemer Guild
May 01 – 07 ET 08 – 15 ER 16 – 31 IT
June 01 – 15 KE 16 – 30 KH
May - That the Holy Spirit may lead the Comboni Missionary Sisters to continue on their journey with a renewed style of Life Consecrated to God, in order to strengthen their call to be women of hope, dialogue and reconciliation at the service of the Kingdom. Let us pray.
June - For the poorest and most abandoned human groups and for all the victims of violence and injustice: that they may find support in the Heart of Christ the Good Shepherd and in our solidarity and brotherhood. Let us pray.
On 4 and 5 April, at the monastery of the Beatitudes of the Divine Word, a large gathering was held of the youth of the archdiocese of Bangui. More than 10,000 young people, representing 23 parishes took part in this large-scale meeting, to pray and reflect together on the theme: “Young man, stand up! Work for peace and development”.
The previous evening Mgr. Pascal Tongamba, Vicar General of Bangui and attending as the personal representative of the Bishop, addressed the conference, presenting the expectations of the Church to the youth: “The Church expects you to be the guardians of human and spiritual values, values which enable your society to be built upon an unshakeable rock and direct your future as Christians and citizens. Have no fear of Christ but humbly take your places at his school: he deprives us of nothing but gives us everything. Flee from compromise, mediocrity, flippancy and corruption, taking as your model the Apostle Paul”, he concluded.
On their part, the young people expressed their desire to find, in society and in the Church, trustworthy role models to follow who will enlighten them in their search for the truth. There was also time for prayer and the sacrament of Reconciliation before continuing the vigil with prayers of praise and catechesis.
On the morning of Palm Sunday a great Eucharistic celebration was held presided by Abbot Brad Walter Mazangue, accompanied by about a dozen youth chaplain priests. The 800 young people of the parish of Notre Dame de Fatima were accompanied by their chaplain, the Comboni Missionary Fr. Léonard Ndjadi Ndjate. Other Comboni Missionaries present were Fr. Jesús Ruiz Molina and Fr. Ambrosio Ríos Hernández. The “Chorale de l’Unité”, from Fatima, enlivened the celebration really well to the great delight of those present. After the Mass there was a fraternal meal and all agreed to meet again in August for the youth forum.
News in brief
In recent days the atmosphere in Khartoum has been quite hot due not only to the high temperature which reached 45C. The warrant issued for the arrest of the President on 4 March, 2009, continues to weigh heavily on the political situation, and casting a shadow of uncertainty over everything. There are also other issues which are being debated in political circles and give cause for concern.
Abyei is one of the zones contested by North and South Sudan. For the sake of convenience, the British assigned the administration of this town, inhabited since time immemorial by the Denka but also open to the seasonal migrations of nomadic northern tribes of North Sudan. The government of Khartoum has always sought to annexe it, especially since oil deposits were discovered there, giving rise to a strong reaction by the South. Only last year, a tiny spark was enough to turn the town into a blazing inferno in a matter of hours: 50.000 people lost everything and were forced to flee. The Abyei case went to the Aia court of arbitration. From 18 to 23 April, 2009, the Court listened to both parties and has to deliver its judgement, against which there is no appeal, within three months. The National Congress Party of President Bashir has already refused to accept the decision of a neutral committee established immediately after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Will it accept the decision of the Aia court of arbitration? There is always the danger that things may get out of control.
One of the most important initiatives included in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 was that of holding general elections throughout the country. The elections were to have been held before August, 2009, but, as in other cases, more time is needed. In mid-April, 2009, the National Elections Commission finally published a timetable. This indicates that the elections will be held in about eight months’ time, in February, 2010, and will constitute the last act of a process which should have begun in recent days with the definition of the electoral colleges, and will continue in the coming months with voter registration, the presentation of candidates, etc. According to the published document, the results should be announced on 27 February, 2010.
Although it was carried out more than a year ago, the census is still a topic of conversation. Right from the start it was viewed with reservations both for the fact that, in some areas, it was impossible to carry it out and that irregularities discovered. For example, the publication of the results, having been postponed several times, should have taken place on 11 April, but again, nothing was done. The newspapers published partial and contradictory results. The mystery remains unsolved. The North tends to underestimate the number of inhabitants of the South as this has important consequences such as, for example, for the elections, the distribution of national wealth and the quota of government participation.
In preparation for the continental assembly in Mexico, the members of the NAP gathered in two mini-assemblies, one in Cincinnati and one in Los Angeles. The choice of the two locations facilitated the participation of all the confreres and, in the interest of economy, reduced time and money for travel.
Besides study and reflection on the work documents, we took this opportunity to put the final touches to our program that focuses on awareness of maintaining ethical ministry to minors before receiving the accreditation from Praesidium. Praesidium is an organization adopted by the Conference of Major Superiors of Men in the United States to ensure that the province has taken all the steps necessary to comply with the norms adopted for the protection of children and persons in positions of vulnerability.
At the end of the assemblies, scholastics Mario Alberto Pacheco Zamora (Mexico) and Juan Diego Calderón Vargas (DCA) renewed their vows. Mario and Juan Diego are completing their year of missionary service in our parishes of St. Cecilia, Los Angeles, and of St. Charles Borromeo, Cincinnati.
Meeting of Comboni candidates in formation
Taking as their motto “Called to give new life to the Mission of Comboni”, the IV Meeting of all the male and female Comboni candidates in formation in the province of Perú-Chile was held on 14 March. The meeting took place at the provincial houses in Monterrico, attended by our postulants and scholastics as well as the Comboni Sisters’ postulants and Junior.
The participation of some Comboni Priests, Brothers and Sisters contributed greatly to the meeting. It was also a beautiful opportunity for sharing our ‘being’ missionary and to become aware of belonging to one missionary family. We prayed together, reviewed matters together and shared our pastoral experiences. Fr. Gaetano Beltrami, in his address, helped us to reflect on certain aspects which reinforce or weaken the missionary cause and, at the same time, he encouraged us to persevere with our choice of lifestyle.
In the context of the meeting, the scholastic Gerardo Alvaro Oviedo Casillas renewed his vows. By doing so, he reminded us that the Comboni Missionary life still attracts the youth.
Handing over the parish of Renca
On 15 March last, the anniversary of the birth of St. Daniel Comboni, the parish of “María Misionera” in Renca, in the outskirts of Santiago del Cile, which we had run for only four years, was handed over to the diocese. The community had been established to witness to the evangelising lifestyle of the Comboni Missionaries in this southern town and to support an already established community in Santiago del Cile engaged in mission promotion.
The Eucharistic celebration was presided by Fr. Vincenzo Todesco, mccj, parish priest, in the presence of Fr. Rafael Hernández, pastoral vicar of the northern zone of Santiago, the Comboni Missionaries Fr. William Dal Santo, curate of the parish, Fr. René Alfonso Oñate Rebolledo, superior of the CAM, and Fr. Rogelio Bustos Juárez, provincial, as well as a large congregation of the faithful. At the end, the representative of the Archdiocese thanked the missionaries for the presence of the missionaries in the Church who, like the patriarch Abraham, still remind us of our special baptismal vocation: to go out to the roads of the world, often to unknown places, leaving projects and places and persons we love, to follow the call that comes from God.
Mission of San Martín de Pangoa
This mission is located in the Apostolic Vicariate of San Ramon, in the forest of the Junin section. It is about 6.000 Km2 in area and comprises about 200 communities mostly inhabited by immigrants and the rest by native nomatsiguengas and asháninkas people.
Reaching this place from Lima, the capital of Peru, involves a ten or twelve hour journey almost all of it on surfaced roads with the last 40 km on a clay surface. The district capital, Pangoa, is a small town founded just fifty years ago. It has 15,000 inhabitants with many people coming in from the surrounding villages to purchase supplies of all sorts. Most of the town’s roads are still un-surfaced with abundant mud or dust, according to the season. The vegetation is tropical and the roads are swarming with small taxis which serve the public for a small fee.
In 2002, Fr. Gianni Pacher, a Comboni Missionary, had begun pastoral work in this town, which had not had its own priest since 1978. The Vicar Apostolic of San Ramon had frequently asked for a Comboni community to be founded there in his Vicariate.
We were interested in the proposal, since for some time we had been asking ourselves, as a province, if the time had not come to review our commitments and start something new, concentrating our efforts on people who, pastorally speaking, had been neglected. And so, after a period of discernment, on 15 March the Comboni community was officially established with Fr. Fernando Madaschi, Bro. Hernán Romero Arias and the newly-professed Maciej Tomasz Miasik as its members.
The official installation took place on 29 March, with a Eucharistic celebration presided by Mgr. Gerardo Zerdin OFM, Vicar of the zone, and the participation of many people. Fr. Rogelio Bustos Juárez presented each of the members of the new community and spoke to the gathering about the Comboni charism. He emphasised that those missionaries were there as an expression of the compassion of God and asked all those present to accompany them during these early stages of their presence. A banner was stretched across the sanctuary bearing the words: “Welcome to the Comboni Missionaries” and the altar was decorated with the best fruits of the area.
During the celebration we remembered Fr. Gianni Pacher, who had been transferred to the community in Lima for medical reasons. Little did we know that the following day we would find Fr. Gianni in his room dead of a heart attack, like the seed falling to the ground, just a few hours after our taking over the parish where he had worked so hard and as the words of the Gospel of the fifth Sunday of Lent had hardly died away: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone but if it dies it bears much fruit”.
On 18 April, 2009, representatives of all the Comboni communities of Lima gathered at the provincial house to attend the perpetual profession of the scholastic Gerardo Alvaro Oviedo Casillas. The celebration was presided by Fr. Rogelio Bustos Juárez who thanked him for witnessing to his love for the missionary life and invited him to live his consecration to God for the mission with passion. Gerardo is the first Peruvian student to complete his missionary service in the province. In a few months he will be ordained deacon and priest, after which he will be sent to the Asia Delegation for his first missionary experience.
Comboni Media Meeting
During the meeting of the Comboni media of Europe held at Maia from 28 March to 1 April, the proposal was made to launch a European Comboni website. A further proposal to request more personnel qualified in magazines was also approved.
On the first day, the confreres of the Italian province presented their innovative project of the Centro Comboni Multimedia of Verona, which involves the amalgamation of two magazines, web radio transmissions and the production of documentaries. Its most recent product is the Cocombo, the online virtual community where the friends of the Comboni Missionaries may share information, photos, projects, impressions and experiences. The 17 participants, representing the various means of communication of the European provinces and the Asian delegation, agreed to cover the upcoming African Synod by means of the publication of articles and interviews. A motion was passed to propose to the General Chapter that young confreres study journalism and administration to work in the Comboni media.
It was also agreed to create a European Comboni website to publish on one single site the articles of the various magazines in different languages. The site would be updated regularly by using the “rss” system.
70 years of priesthood
During the Provincial Assembly held at the Comboni Spirituality Centre of Layibi, Gulu, from 15 to 17 April 2009, all the confreres present joined Fr. Vittorio Albertini in praising and thanking God for his 70 years of priesthood, 58 of which he spent in Uganda among the Acholi people and mainly in Gulu. He dedicated all his life to the proclamation of the Gospel and to the celebration of the sacraments. He served the diocese of Gulu as administrator, consultant, member of the Board of Governors of many Institutions, particularly Lacor Hospital. Still today, at the age of 94, he celebrates the daily Eucharist for the community and on Sunday for the people. The main celebrant was the auxiliary bishop Mgr. Sabino Ocan Odoki who during the sermon reminded those present that Fr. Vittorio has been his family’s priest. Indeed it was Fr. Vittorio who married Mgr. Sabino’s parents; baptised all their children; sent the young child Sabino to the minor seminary and attended his priestly ordination. To Fr. Vittorio our best wishes!
IN PACE CHRISTI
Fr. Arcangelo Petri (11.11.1924 – 27.03.2009)
Fr. Ermenegildo Zanuso (16.12.1919 – 04.04.2009)
Fr. Gianni Pacher (09.03.1954 – 30.03.2009)
Fr. Konrad Lukas Lipp (21.10.1934 – 23.04.2009)
Fr. Herbert Oberhofer (21.03.1935 – 26.04.2009)
Bro. Lino Cremona (28.06.1912 – 26.04.2009)
P. Vittorio Trabucchi (25.09.1931 – 28.04.2009)
Their obituaries will be published in the next issue of Familia Comboniana.
Let us pray for our beloved dead:
THE FATHER: Joshwa Imasu, of Fr. Eibu Dominic (KH).
THE MOTHER: Ana María, of Fr. Guillermo Casas Rosell (CYOF).
THE BROTHER: Giuseppe, of Fr. Luigi Crotti (I); Joseph, of Fr. David Paul Baltz (U); Pio, of Fr. Pietro Settin (BS).
THE SISTER: Elysabeth, of Fr. Jean-Claude Kobo (C).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. M. Carmen Predelli, Sr. M. Silvia Nespoli, Sr. Laurina Bertani, Sr. Agnese Fortuna, Sr. Ezia Maria Brenna, Sr. Gemma Agnese Caldognetto.