Monthly Newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
New General Council
Superior General (21.10.2009): Fr. Sánchez González Enrique.
Assistants General: Fr. Odelir José Magri (vicar general), Fr. Pelucchi Alberto, Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie, Bro. Giusti Daniele Giovanni.
The work of the XVII General Chapter (second part)
The Chapter is finished, let us begin the Chapter!
It is undeniable that, by its ending, the XVII General Chapter (Ordinary Special) of the Institute was ‘special’. In fact, the conclusion lasted two days: between the solemn Eucharist presided by Fr. Enrique Sánchez González, the new Superior General, on the evening of Thursday, 22 October, and that of the following evening. In the period between the two celebrations, the last day, was spent in the Chapter Hall approving the Chapter Documents and the Letter addressed to the all confreres, expressions of thanks and some practical matters.
These were two Eucharistic celebrations during which the simple but spiritually meaningful homilies of the new Superior General were heard as well as the good wishes and goodbyes, together with some important bits of advice offered by Fr. Teresino Serra to the new General Council.
Besides thanking Fr. Teresino personally together with the members of the outgoing General Council, Fr. Enrique emphasised the positive nature of a Chapter which took place in a relaxed atmosphere of discernment and prayer and especially in humility and an attitude of listening, with the members being aware that they were but instruments used by God to carry out his Plan. “We came with great expectations, Fr General said – but we soon realised that one does not always achieve everything one wants. Perhaps many Chapter members dreamt of a Plan which would revolutionise the face of the Institute, but, in fact, it is a question of implementing certain decisions requiring courage and faith on the part of the confreres, communities, provinces and continents”. This is a duty which the new General Council intends to carry out by working ‘as a team’. Fr. Enrique also said he was grateful for the collaborators chosen as his closest Assistants: Fr. Odelir José Magri, his Vicar General who will guarantee continuity with the former General Administration; Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie, the visible sign of the sharing of responsibility for Africa; Fr. Alberto Pelucchi, witness to the new challenges faced by the provinces of Europe and Bro. Daniele Giovanni Giusti who was the Chapter Secretary and promoter of the situations of the Brothers. With his subtle sense of humour, Fr. Enrique ended by saying: “We may all rejoice for whatever good we may succeed in doing. If things turn out contrary to expectations, do not blame us but (pointing to the bronze image of Comboni) the one who is the real Father and Protector of the Institute and guarantees its fidelity and its works!”.
Work and celebrations
The weeks leading up to the election of the new General Council, were full of intense activity both in the work groups and in the Chapter Hall. The atmosphere in which the work was carried on was very constructive, especially through being ready to listen to each other and understand each other, while exercising both clarity and passion. The acknowledgement of the multiplicity of ways of seeing things present among the members of this many-faceted Chapter, more so than in the past, at times represented quite a challenge while the almost physical perception of the presence of St. Daniel Comboni both during the work and the celebrations (almost every day there were celebrations of anniversaries, birthdays, saint’s days or other festivities) was a positive experience as we remembered his words: “Do not see things through the poor prism of human interests but with the pure eye of faith”.
It must be remembered that it was in that spirit that the work of the assembly dealt with the reading of the texts of the work groups on the theme of the Ratio Missionis, which providentially coincided with the official opening of the Second Synod of Bishops for Africa. Our communion with the Synod was both physical and interior with a large number of Chapter members taking part in the solemn opening Eucharist on Sunday, 4 October, presided by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.
On Monday, 5 October, the session began in common with the invocation of the Holy Spirit and by making due memorial of the words of Jesus: “Which of you, wishing to build a tower, would not first sit down and calculate the cost and see if he had the means to complete it?” (Lk. 14, 28).
We enjoyed a special Comboni sharing on 10 October, when after a triduum of preparation, in communion with all the confreres of the Institute, we kept the memory of our Founder on his feast day. As Mgr. Giuseppe Franzelli, a most welcome guest, together with Mgr. Menghesteab Tesfamariam, reminded us in his homily, we were also united with all the Bishops gathered for the Synod for Africa. Mgr. Franzelli emphasised that the Chapter members, more than ever before, represented the dream of Comboni today as they gathered from all the continents with their various backgrounds, ages, formation, cultures and ethnicity. A thousand lives to give for the mission and an increasingly varied face to show that the mission is indeed ‘catholic’.
The work was spread out over the week and ended with the discussion on the last two priority themes: Formation and Government of the Institute. On 12 October, after the feast of Comboni, the group work on the four main themes chosen by the Chapter assembly: Mission Promotion, Ongoing Formation, the Elderly and Sick and the Economy, produced good results by way of the basic texts given a ‘first reading’. The swift approval of the texts left time for dealing with other important topics, among which was the presentation of Comboni commitment in Asia by the delegates from that continent stressing the prospect of a commitment in China. The Chapter members expressed their understanding and interest in this recent commitment (this year is the twentieth anniversary of the arrival of the Comboni Missionaries in Asia) and the sense of hope and faith in the future conveyed by the delegates was seen as confirmation of the validity of our presence in that continent where the official Church has said the energy of evangelisation must be concentrated in the third millennium.
Once the group work was finished and the amendments to the basic texts were approved in general assembly, the Chapter moved on to identify a list of priorities and proposals derived from those same texts. Out of a list of 152 suggestions in the documents, the Chapter voted to adopt five priorities for each of the main themes (Identity, Spirituality, Mission, Formation and Government…) and three for the each additional theme (Missionary Animation, Ongoing Formation, The Elderly and the Sick and the Economy). For each of the main themes, two priorities were chosen by vote and for each ‘additional’ theme, the priority gaining most votes was adopted. This exercise reduced to 14 the priorities to be considered in the Plan which the general Council will have to define and implement. These priorities adopted by the Chapter may be summarised as follows:
1. Mission: review our presence in each continent individually, consolidate and promote new openings and ‘frontier communities’;
2. Identity: the need for a more detailed reading of the results of the Ratio Missionis and to promote reflection on the lifestyle of our communities;
3. Spirituality: choose an annual theme for the whole Institute, at the same time proposing discernment as the method to be followed in ongoing formation and animation;
4. Basic Formation: guarantee better preparation for formators and for vocations promoters, both at general and continental levels;
5. Government of the Institute: redefine the criteria for erecting new Provinces, reflection on the amalgamation of circumscriptions and the relaunch of continental coordination;
6. Economy: continue the process of introducing the Total Common Fund;
7. Ongoing Formation: to create, in collaboration with other Institutes, two companionship communities, one in Africa and one in the Americas;
8. The Elderly and the Sick: the preparation and appointment of the personnel required to assist the interested confreres;
9. Missionary Animation: full insertion in the local Churches, the preparation with them of plans of animation carried out ‘together’ and the drafting of a Charter for Mission Promotion in every circumscription.
On 20 October, the supreme moment arrived to start the discernment for the election of the Superior General and his Council. A half day was devoted to prayer and spiritual retreat during which the manner in which Our Lord intended authority to be exercised was recalled: “Therefore, If I, your Lord and Master have washed your feet, you, too, must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may do as I have done” (Jn. 13, 1-15). After an exchange of ideas in the various groups to define the profile of the persons with the qualities and the charism suitable to guide the Institute for the next six years, the Chapter went ahead with the matter of straw ballots and voting. It was humorously suggested: “Let’s make sure he also has a few faults”! We now know the names and faces of those on the General Council and it is now a matter of building up, together with them, that common mind which St. Daniel Comboni certainly desires for us. We may draw the conclusion that while it did not bring about radical upsets in the Institute, the XVII General Chapter has been an experience of great sharing, communion and the exchange of life experiences, a true encounter of the variety of charisma and, undeniably, in the presence of the many different faces expressing the incredible human, missionary and charismatic riches acquired by the Institute. The members of the General Council may be seen as the most evident sign of this. Through the intercession of the Founder, may the Lord grant us - as the previous Fr General and his Council invite us to do in their letter of farewell to the confreres - that faith and courage which are necessary to transform into life and concrete choices all that is contained in the Chapter documents, so that we may be the first to carry out the plan of the Chapter in our daily lives. (P. Giuseppe Cavallini)
The Chapter Delegates to the people of the DRC
We, the Comboni Missionaries, gathered in Rome from different continents for the XVII General Chapter of our Institute, want to express our solidarity with the peoples of North and South Kivu, and to the East Provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. We would like to expose once again the tragic situation in which millions of Congolese people live. They are suffering the heavy consequences of an ongoing conflict that destroys down innocent lives and has caused immeasurable destruction during the many years of fighting.
Heavily armed bands, formed in the North and South Kivu by the Democratic Force for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) on one side and the rebels of Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Eastern Province, on the borders with Central Africa and Sudan, continue to terrorize the region. The people worst hit are the most vulnerable ones: besides the kidnapping of children to enlist them into the ranks of the rebels, it is shocking to witness in these recent years the growing violence against women.
We address ourselves to the pertinent organizations of the International Community, particularly to the United Nations and to the European Parliament, so that they may use the necessary means to guarantee the safeguarding of the life and the rights of this innocent population.
We ask that all necessary measure be taken to find a long-lasting solution to an unsustainable situation. Every pressure must be exercised upon the western governments so that they act promptly to put an end to the slaughter still taking place in northeast Congo. What is most deplorable is that these tragic events are often happening under the very eyes of the peace force, which should be providing shelter and security to the people.
What the Congolese Catholic Bishops wrote one year ago is still perfectly true: “This is a proxy war, which helps to cove the pillage of natural resources of the country, where 70% of the 60 million people live with less than one dollar a day. The effects are devastating: thousands of people die, other are left with no other way but to escape and live wandering in inhuman conditions; children and young people forced to enrol as soldiers in the armed factions… It is a humanitarian drama under our eyes that can leave no one indifferent. We say no to war and to the pillage of the nation’s natural resources”. (Document published on the 13th of November 2008 by the title: “The Republic of Congo weeps her children and she can’t find consolation” (cf. Mt 2:18).
The situation has not changed; not even after the agreement signed in Goma, among the different armed groups (January 2008), at the presence of the Blue Helmets and the European and American facilitators. Diplomacy seems, up to now, to have failed completely.
As missionaries who have been working, for decades now, in the areas most hit by the conflict, we are aware that at the roots of this conflict lie in the poorly hidden aim of grabbing the riches of the country, while the parties involved act as a “longa manu” of western and eastern economic powers. In these recent weeks, in the areas affected by the conflict, to worsen the already painful situation, a cholera epidemic has erupted making hundreds of victims. Because of the general insecurity, sanitary services and other assistance cannot be provided in the territories hit by this added calamity.
Therefore we appeal again to the International Community and its main organisms so that, in accordance with the law that safeguards International Right, they may respond to the desire for peace, nurtured by the populations of Congo, still in the midst of violence and war. (Rome, 30 September 2009)
SECOND SYNOD FOR AFRICA
Extracts from a circular letter by Mgr. Giuseppe Franzelli
Here I am in Rome, from 4 to 25 October, with more than 240 Bishops gathered around the Pope, for an intense exchange of experiences, discussions, prayer and discernment as we strive to identify concrete ways and means to build up peace, restore justice and reconcile a continent wounded by so many divisions.
Personally, I feel and live my own small contribution to the Synod in continuity with the combonian effort to give voice to Africa. I do this insisting on the importance of a more courageous and more coordinated use of the means of social communication.
First and foremost, it is a question of spreading, in a way that is better and more effective, the Good news of the Gospel, the only way to bring true reconciliation, justice and lasting peace. At the time of the First African Synod we had 15 Catholic radio stations; there are now 163 in 32 countries of the continent. One of them is in Lira: Radio-Wa, that is: “Our Radio Station”. For some time now I have been speaking to my people every Sunday evening of the problems, hopes and initiatives of the Church of Lira. Besides ensuring better communications and communion within the African continent and Church, the coordinated and networked use of the means of communication available to us could and should enable us to make the voice of the real Africa be more clearly heard.
I am convinced that engaging in mission today also means giving a voice to Africa and its people: to the 100,000 immigrants, mostly African, who yesterday marched peacefully through the streets of Rome asking to be treated with the respect due to every person, as well as to the seven young people recently crucified in South Sudan by the LRA rebels accompanied by the silence and almost total indifference of our press. When we come to the point, even this circular letter is but a small effort to communicate and share with you the gift and task of the mission – an instrument of communion and a bridge to Africa.
Fr. Lorenzo Frattini (CA): on 14 October, 2009, at the Pontifical Lateran University, Fr Frattini was awarded, Summa cum Laude (90/90), a doctorate in Pastoral Theology defending the thesis "I diritti umani nella Chiesa Centrafricana: sfide e opportunità". We offer him our congratulations.
Fr. Szpara Adam Witold (PO) Warszawa (POL) 24.10.2009
Holy redeemer Guild
November 01 – 07 SS 08 – 15 TC 16 – 30 T
December 01 – 15 U 15 – 31 CN
November - That our deceased brothers and sisters, who preceded us in our missionary labour, may teach us to give our lives for the things that are God’s. Let us pray.
December – For our family members, benefactors and friends who support us in our mission: that the lord may bless their faith and love towards our vocation. Let us pray.
Word Mission again receives a Catholic Mass Media trophy
World Mission (WM) was awarded another trophy by the prestigious Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) in its 31st edition. Our magazine was distinguished as the Best Local Community / Parish Newspaper for the third consecutive year.
More than 50 mass media productions, individual and institutional, were distinguished for being the best values-oriented mass media projects in the country. According to the CMMA Secretariat, it received for this year a total of 537 entries for 47 categories in the fields of Print, Radio, Television, Advertising, Cinema, Music, Student CMMA and Internet.
WM was also a finalist in the Best Special Feature category with a prose titled The Dialogue Mission, a reportage made by the editor, Fr. José Antonio Mendes Rebelo, about Silsilah Dialogue Movement, a movement founded in Mindanao 25 years ago by PIME missionary Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra. We, however, lost to a text published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer titled Life is a Wonderful Thing, a chronicle on the late action star Rudy Fernandez and his struggle against cancer.
The awarding ceremony, held at the San Carlos Seminary Auditorium on EDSA Guadalupe, Makati City, on 14 October, was presided by the Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, CMMA honorary chairman, and attended by the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Most Rev. Edward Joseph Adams, who delivered the keynote address on the theme, “Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship in the Digital Generation.”
World Mission feels honoured with the distinction – a sign of its remarkable quality that has been receiving wide praise – and dedicates it to all who, with their earnest support and generosity, have been contributing to its production and promotion.
Quito: Brothers reunion
On 13 October, the reunion of the Brothers of the Ecuador province took place. Bro. Joel Cruz Reyes spoke to us of Christian fraternity as the reference point for the vocation of the Brother. Starting from the fact that in so-called developed countries with such a great number of one child families, fewer people are experiencing what it means to have a brother, a tendency which is also invading Latin America, Bro Joel emphasised the importance of witnessing to a sort of brotherhood which goes beyond social and racial differences, a brotherhood based upon the sequela of Jesus which attracts and is contagious. According to this point of view, we must reciprocally accept one another’s gifts and witness to communion of life and goods. This sort of fraternity questions a society based upon the legitimisation of inequality.
Following this, Bro. Godfrey-Abel Dimanche focussed on the formation being imparted to brother candidates in the Postulancy. At present, two Brother Postulants are studying Religious Sciences at the Catholic University.
During the debate, the need to provide both Brother and priest candidates with some instruments of missionary methodology, with special emphasis on continuity, was underlined. It is important that formation should help to overcome any possible attitude of protagonism or ‘personal messianism’: ‘to evangelise as a community’ means entering in communion, not only with those present at that moment in the community, but also with those who preceded us and those who will succeed us.
A third phase dwelt on defining some general characteristics of the Comboni Brother. It seemed to us that the main characteristic consists in being an apostle-pastor in the secular world, outside our circles. Of course, this ambience may vary from place to place.
Finally, it was proposed that such encounters for all the Brothers who work in the province be held annually. The theme proposed for the following year is: Human formation and the social dimension of the vocation of the Brother. In view of this meeting, each Brother will prepare something on the theme of Formation and Human Promotion. These pamphlets will be available to the province as specific aids for the Brothers and as formation material for those responsible.
The communities of fathers and sisters of Limone are offering two courses of spiritual exercises for 2010, only for Comboni fathers, brothers and sisters on the theme: “Keeping one’s eyes fixed on Jesus” (The mystery of Christ on the face of Comboni). We are announcing this in good time for the sake of those in the missions who are planning their holidays in Italy. The dates proposed are chosen in view of the two annual Comboni celebrations.
First course: in Italian, from the evening of 15 March to midday on Saturday 20 March. Second course: in English, from the evening of Sunday 10 October to midday on Saturday, 16 October. Bookings may be made by contacting: Sr. Paola Glira at the e-mail address email@example.com or Fr. Danilo Castello at the e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chapter Members on Pilgrimage to Limone
On 26 September last, a group of Chapter members (26) led by Fr. Alberto Pelucchi, provincial of Italy, made their way to the birthplace of the Founder. They arrived in the evening after a short stop in Verona. On the following morning the group, led by the community members of the house, were introduced to the history and geography of the Comboni sites, so full of history and symbolic values. All the pilgrims felt a sense of the sacred which speaks to the heart in a way that words cannot express. Hearing Comboni himself tell of his passion for Africa during the “multimedia tour” was a very emotional moment.
The high point of the visit was, however, the Eucharistic celebration in the chapel of the house of Comboni’s birth. The start of the readings for that Sunday: “The Lord ... spoke to Moses and took the spirit which was on him and gave it to the seventy...” constituted the message which the community of Limone sent to the Chapter. The reference to the liturgical text and its application to the event being celebrated in Rome were more than evident. The message was accompanied by symbolic acts. The superior presented to the Chapter members a draft copy of the “Plan” (preserved in the ‘family papers’ since it was presented to the Comboni Missionaries by Mr. Eugenio Comboni on 14 September, 1964, the centenary year) and a candle with an image of Comboni against the background of Limone. During the meal, everyone appreciated a small bottle of “Limoncello” passed off as the “Spirit of the Founder”. The superior announced that the next pilgrimage to Limone is expected to be that of the entire new General Council to draw inspiration and strength as they begin their mandate.
Universities and cooperation with Africa
“The universities, as places not only of knowledge but also and above all of liberating action, must be allowed to exercise a cardinal role in cooperation suited to their universitas nature”. This is the message - published by Zenit – sent out at the end of the convention on the theme “Towards a new culture of development in Africa: the role of university cooperation”. One of the organising members was Dar Comboni and it ended on Saturday, 10 October, 2009.
The event was organised by the diocesan pastoral office of the vicariate of Rome and was attended also by the foreign minister of Italy and Mgr. Jean-Louis Bruguès, Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education. The participants affirmed that “the international community is seeking solutions and strategies to overcome the crisis” which has struck especially the African continent.
The need for new strategic relationships for the future was thus emphasised and it is in this sense that the universities may become an integral part “in the process of thinking, planning and implementation not only of initiatives but also of policies regarding cooperation itself”.
At this juncture it was decided to set up a permanent committee for Italy-Africa Interuniversity Cooperation. A fund will later be set up for the African Athenaeums and every two years a convention will be held to study Italy – Africa university cooperation. Resources will be provided for a Cooperation Fund which will be set within the African Universities present at the convention. This fund “would be permanent and stable to bring about the swift implementation of the various initiatives of cooperation in terms of scientific research, cultural activities and ordinary and extraordinary educational activities”.
The African Synod as an opportunity to let Africa be heard
While the African Synod was in progress, the Italian Province, through the Secretariat for Evangelisation and Mission Promotion, took upon itself the task of following the work of the Synod and, together with the other Missionary Institutes present in Italy (CIMI), the volunteer movements (FOCSIV and Colomba Organisation), the federation of Missionary Publishers (FESMI), the Catholic Press (UCSI), the MISSIO Missionary Youth Movement and numerous missionaries and men of women of good will who work for peace in civil society, promoted a Synod Observer with the purpose of listening to the voice of Africa with its dramas and its hopes and of making these heard in communities, the local Churches and in the civil society of Italy and Europe at large.
The African Synod, in fact, was seen as an ecclesial event concerning not only Africa but the Church as a whole. The options and plans for the future which emerged from the Synod held in Rome from 4 to 25 October, sought to provide guidance for the progress of Justice, Peace and Reconciliation in Africa and the implications in terms of the responsibility of other continents, especially Europe and America.
The initiative of creating an Observer was very much appreciated and followed, creating a network of participation inducing the world of the media to take an interest in Africa which is usually absent from the newspaper headlines except to speak of wars, genocide, hunger and poverty, ignoring the potential of this continent and the commitment to resolving situations of conflict often provoked and sustained by ancient colonial or emerging powers such as China.
From the Convention on 1 October, 2009, at Palazzo Valentini, seat of the Province of Rome, until the last meeting of the Observer on 23 October to draw the final conclusions, the process went through significant stages as, for example, the meeting with African theologians (Barthélemy Adoukonou, Léonard Santedi, Teresa Okure e Bénézet Bujo), who underlined how theological reflection goes together with the search for Justice and peace in the continent.
The encounter with the Synod Fathers from the region of the Great African Lakes - Mgr. J. Baptist Odama (Gulu-Uganda), Mgr. G. Franzelli (Lira-Uganda), Mgr. Eduard Hiiboro Kussala (Yambio-Tombura-Sudan) and Fr. Joseph Mumbere (DR Congo) -, stressed the importance of the process of justice and reconciliation through a local network involving the various states, episcopal conferences and other religious denominations in the conflict areas in a global network. The meaningful meeting with the Dakar Cardinal, his Eminence Théodore A. Sarr and the Bishop of Mauritania Mgr. Albert Happe, gave importance to dialogue with Islam and the work of promoting a culture of peace.
There was also a well attended celebration of welcome and prayer on 12 October in the parish of Transpontina where Mgr. Bressan, Bishop of Trent and head of the Missionary Policy and Cooperation between the Churches department of the Italian Episcopal Conference, together with Fr. Gianni Cesena, National Director of MISSIO, received a delegation of ten Synod Fathers led by Mgr. E. Djitangar, Archbishop of Sahr (Chad) and Special Secretary to the African Synod.
All the initiatives, the press releases, reflections and proposals for action were published with their relative texts on the MISNA website, a gateway which allowed everyone to follow daily the progress of the Synod.
Besides the initiatives promoted in Rome, we must also mention the many others organised by our communities such as those of Rebbio, Verona, Lecce, Naples and Florence as a sign of communion with the Churches of Africa and of the missionary commitment in this country, so that there may be constant growth of missionary awareness on the world scene where mission is increasingly characterised by reciprocity and the search for Justice, Peace and Reconciliation for the whole of humanity, as stated by Mgr. Odama: “We are, in fact, all in the same boat”.
Khartoum: Spiritual exercises for Vocational Groups
At the end of a journey which began in January 2008 and involved a good group of young men and women, the vocations team of the province organised a five-day course of spiritual exercises for those interested in the Comboni missionary vocation. The exercises took place in the former Sisters’ house at Comboni College. There were twelve participants, eight young women and four young men. There were eight from the Khartoum-Ombdurman area and four from Kosti. The vocations promoters themselves conducted the retreat: Sr. Angele, Fr. Yousif William Idris El Tom and Fr. Jorge Carlos Naranjo Alcaide.
The exercises helped the young people make a personal synthesis of their vocational journey and to be more prepared to listen to God.
The response was generous and encouraging. Some of the aspirants are now beginning a second phase which will help to introduce them to the knowledge of the Comboni charism, accompanied by a serious commitment to Christian life, including concrete service to others.
Wau: Military Hospital returned to the Catholic Church
On 24 September last, the establishment occupied by the army and used as a military hospital, was returned to the Catholic Church. Some hundreds of people participated in the ceremony including the Governor of the state of Western Bahr El Ghazal, some ministers and well-known personalities.
Bishop Rudolf Deng expressed his pleasure at the return to the Church of the ownership of the hospital which was forcibly appropriated for military use in 1958. The Bishop added that he had always looked forward to its restitution in the hope that the hospital could serve the whole population. He also announced that the diocese intends to begin the work of the necessary alterations as soon as possible.
One of the representatives of the Islamic community also intervened expressing the hope that all the property confiscated from religious organisations during the civil war might be restored to their legitimate owners.
Raga: LRA attack in the Boro Medina zone
Boro Medina, a village in Bahr el Ghazal, in the Diocese of Wau, was attacked by the LRA on Wednesday, 21 October, 2009.
According to information received, a large number of armed men entered the centre of the village while it was still dark and raining. The result: three civilians and three policemen were killed and 21 people missing, besides the sacking of the village.
Boro Medina is an out-station of the parish of Raga where the Comboni missionaries Fr. Eugenio Caligari, Fr. Paul Annis, Bro. Tarcisio Soardi and Bro. Martin Nicolas Ramirez are based.
About a month ago, a rumour circulated to the effect that the LRA might pass through the Raga zone during its march towards Darfur and Chad, its final destination. It is difficult to foresee the next move but the people are once again living in fear.
The new St. Daniel Comboni African Catholic Community
The North American Province has been present in Canada for a long time and in different locations, doing pastoral work, mission and vocation promotion. The present Comboni community has assumed the responsibility of the parish of St. Joseph in Kitchener, Ontario. The parish is becoming a strongly oriented mission community.
On 4 October, 2009, our confreres took part in the inaugural Mass for the establishment of the St. Daniel Comboni African Catholic Community at St. Alphonsus’ Church in Windsor, Ontario. The auxiliary bishop Mgr. Robert Anthony Daniels presided at the Eucharist which was concelebrated by the dean and four diocesan priests, two African priests (one from Congo and one from Cameroon), both on loan to the Diocese, and by the Comboni Missionaries Fr. John James Fraser and Fr. Brian Joseph Quigley. Bro. Jerome Clifford Charbonneau, a native of Windsor and now a resident at Trinity Village Care Centre in Kitchener, was also in attendance and especially proud of this historical event.
As a sign of solidarity for this occasion, about a dozen members of the Sudanese Community travelled from Kitchener to Windsor. These are parishioners of our parish of St. Joseph, where Fr. Nicholas Mauro Iko, a Sudanese priest, celebrates Mass also in Arabic for the African community.
We have long known that the African peoples, in particular the Sudanese, have a great devotion to St. Daniel Comboni, and so we are not surprised that the new African immigrant communities in North America should soon place themselves under his protection. The bishop spoke well of St. Daniel, reminding the congregation that he faced many obstacles to bring the faith to Africa. He spoke of Comboni’s inclusive approach to mission, inviting men and women, religious and lay, of many European nations to be part of his evangelizing enterprise. He encouraged the African people of Windsor to be a sign of unity and form a single African community, though coming from more than ten different countries.
The Mass, celebrated in English, was animated by the choir which sang beautiful hymns in at least six different African languages. The presence of so many children, the colourful entrance procession and lively offering of the gifts showed the creative energy of a lively and youthful Church. After the celebration of the Eucharist, all - guests and members of the community - were invited to a delicious treat prepared by the women of the community. The Comboni Missionaries of Kitchener are proud to be part of this renewal of the African communities in Canada.
The Comboni Missionaries leave Pozuzo
The Comboni Missionaries arrived in Pozuzo, on the far side of the Andes, in 1938, for the spiritual assistance of the German and South Tyrolese immigrants who had been in that remote area of Peru since 1858. This was the beginning of the first field of Comboni missionary work outside of Africa. For 71 years, many missionaries, German by language and culture, as well as some of other nationalities, worked in that parish so different from the other parishes of the diocese of Huanuco to which it belongs.
The parish was handed over to the diocese on Sunday, 27 September, 2009, in the presence of the Bishop of Huanuco, Mgr. Jaime Rodriguez Salazar, a Combonian, who presided the Eucharist and the handing over ceremony, as it is called. The provincial council member Fr. Pedro Juan Quilla Torres, in the absence of the provincial superior who was in Rome for the Chapter, represented the Comboni Missionaries. Fr. Hans Wörner, the last Comboni parish priest of Pozuzo, was present at the event of the handing over of the parish.
In the words of the bishop, the inheritance left by the Comboni Missionaries is their great love for Jesus Christ and, especially, of the poor, a love which brought the Christian community to the stage where it is now able to come to the aid of others.
Annual Meeting with the families of our missionaries
On Thursday, 8 October, a traditional holiday in Peru, the annual meeting of the families of our Peruvian missionaries was held. It took place at the postulancy and was a positive experience for everyone taking part. The 45 participants were with us until four in the afternoon. After the dynamics of integration animated by the young postulants, Fr. Pedro Percy Carbonero Mogollón, recently arrived from Chad and the new superior of the formation community, shared his experience presenting the missionary experience he witnessed during his nine years of missionary service in Africa. Some Peruvian Comboni Missionaries, who work in different parts of the world, wrote letters of greetings and information which were read during the morning encounter. The Eucharist was celebrated at mid-day by all the priests present and was presided by Fr. Florentino Lafuente Hernandez, as representative of Fr. Rogelio, in Rome for the General Chapter. We also shared a meal and spent a while relaxing to foster the unity of all the families present. A small token was presented to each family and all departed hoping to meet again to continue to grow as a Comboni family and cooperate more and more in the proclamation of the Gospel.
Nyamlell mission celebrates its diamond jubilee
Over 5,000 faithful celebrated, on October 1, the 75 years of St. Theresa’s Nyamlell Mission, in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Sudan.
Youths from four counties joined in huge numbers their peers from the 35 centres of the Nyamlell mission and formed a one-hour long parade, before the celebration of the Mass on the shores of the Lol River.
St. Theresa’s Nyamlell Diamond Jubilee celebrations were presided over by Bishop Caesar Mazzolari of Rumbek. He was joined by priests, sisters, a huge crowd and many civil and religious authorities including Governor Paul Malong.
Mgr. Mazzolari said during his homily that the golden era of Nyamlell’s evangelization coincided with the arrival of two Comboni Missionaries: Fr. Michael Donald Barton first and later Fr. Raymond Pax, assisted by a community of sisters from Indonesia. In eight years, they were able to restore the church, the priests and sisters’ house, the primary and secondary schools and the health centre.
He added that the first 30 years of its beginning, from 1934 to 1964, represented the era of planting and the transformation of Nyamlell into one of the three leading Education Centres of South Sudan, together with Kuajok and Mayom Abun, now known as Thiet. He recalled the pioneering 16 Comboni fathers, brothers and sisters who served Nyamlell during this period.
He said the expulsion of all Catholic expatriate missionaries in 1964 and the Missionary Act, inaugurated a 30-year period which was marked by the martyrdom, in hatred of the faith, of the Comboni Missionary Barnaba Deng and the saintly blind catechist Joseph Ayom. It was the dark but heroic period of isolation and survival in the faith through the staunch courage and faithfulness of gigantic catechists and persevering Christian parents.
Western Bahr El Ghazal Governor, Paul Malong, exhorted the faithful to continue to come and find in the church the true centre of personal peace and communal reconciliation.
St. Theresa’s Nyamlell Diamond Jubilee celebrations were crowned with the presentation of a Papal Blessing to Father Barton, the entire Christian community, the catechists and missionary personnel for their faithfulness to God's Church and commitment to evangelization.
On Sunday, 4 October, Mgr. Mazzolari went to Marial Baai by boat to dedicate the Comboni School and the Saint Joseph chapel, which is also the St. Catherine Activity Centre, in Aweil, West County. This is the first permanent chapel built in the state in any of the three parishes and the first religious building built since the 1950's, when the Comboni Brothers raised the three parish churches that are still standing. The chapel was built by one Kenyan worker, aided by mostly local women workers.
The blessing of these buildings, witnessed by a huge crowd, concluded the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of our parish and this phase of evangelization among the Dinka Malual, the largest section of the Dinka tribe. Nyamlell was the second Dinka mission to be erected, after Kwajok.
Toko-Toko: a date to remember
Thursday, 1 October, 2009, will forever be an important date in the history of the small Christian community and the village of Toko-Toko in northern Benin, in the diocese of Djougou. Four bishops (among whom was the Archbishop Emeritus of Cotonou), sixty priests (from the diocese and neighbouring dioceses), fifty religious and some hundreds of people gathered in the morning to celebrate an African-style feast for the consecration of the new parish church dedicated to St. Tammaro. It was the first church to be consecrated after the cathedral.
During the ceremony, two new priests were ordained, bringing the number of priests native to the diocese to 17. The new church was built with an eye to the future since Toko-Toko, a crossroads of populations and cultures, is destined to become an important centre. It must also be said that the small Christian community lives out its faith in an environment which is largely Muslim and that the construction of the new church was made possible tanks to the help of a family of the parish and basilica of St. Tammaro in Campania, Italy.
St. Tammaro was an African who lived in the fifth century and belonged to the school of St. Augustine. During the persecution by the Barbarian king Jenseric, who destroyed many communities of northern Africa, Tammaro and twelve companions, all priests, were placed in a boat and set adrift with nothing but their faith to help them. Miraculously, their little boat came ashore in a place not far from Naples. Immediately those priests from northern Africa began to evangelise the area. Tammaro was later appointed bishop and is said to have reached a great age, dying in 490 in the odour of sanctity. Today, in the place where he lived, there stands a basilica dedicated to him and devotion to him is widespread in those parts.
We Comboni Missionaries reached Toko-Toko in December, 2008, bringing to fulfilment the dream of the province of Togo-Ghana-Benin to work in the north of Benin, a Muslim area. On 24th of the same month, Mgr. Paul Vieira founded the parish.
Noting the grandeur of the church, the parish priest, while speaking with the bishop on the consecration day, said: “Monsignor, we Comboni Missionaries will work and pray so that the benches of this church may one day be filled with new Christians, but most of all we will ask the Holy Spirit to be the one who does the work day and night so that our dream may come true, if this is His will”.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Fr. Alessandro Pizzi (19.07.1939 – 05.10.2009)
Fr. Giovanni Fenzi (13.07.1946 – 16.10.2009)
Fr. Alberto Ferri (05.09.1935 – 16.10.2009)
THE MOTHERS: Ignacia, of Fr. Antonio Álvarez Gómez (M); Felipa, of Fr. Cristobal Conde Hernández (M); Margarita, of Fr. Rafael González Ponce (M); Cesaltina, of Bro. Francisco José Ribau Amarante (P).
THE BROTHERS: Mirko of Bro. Aldo Benetti (E); Alessandro, of Fr. Pietro Premarini (NAP); Renzo, of Fr. Francesco Giacomo De Bertolis (KH); Rev. Lorenzo, of Fr. Bernardo Grigiante (†).
THE SISTER: Cesarina, of Fr. Mario Negrini (I).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. Mary Naughton, Sr. Delia Montrasio; Sr. Marinella Ottolini.