Monthly Newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
The work of the XVII General Chapter
On Sunday, 6 September, 2009, the XVII General Chapter of the Comboni Missionaries on the theme From the Plan of Comboni to the Plan of the Comboni Missionaries: to re-qualify the mission, formation and government by re-qualifying ourselves, was opened.
The solemn opening took place in Rome at the Curia House, with a Eucharistic celebration presided by Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
In his brief speech, Fr Teresino Serra, Superior General, underlined four ‘verbs’ to be kept in mind at all times by the 72 Chapter Delegates: “Recapitulate in Christ and in Comboni the entire journey undertaken up to the present moment; listen to the Word of God which guides us, to the voice of the people of God and to the voice of Comboni; celebrate, since the Chapter must be a joyful and glorious celebration of our vocation, and, finally, review our work and our lifestyle”
During the previous days, the Chapter delegates prepared for the Chapter event with a spiritual retreat and by listening to various types of interventions by guest speakers, among whom were the former Father Generals and the Mother General of the Comboni Sisters.
Once the Chapter Statutes (By-laws) were approved, the Delegates elected the officials in charge of the various Commissions. Bro. Daniele Giusti, delegate representing the Comboni provinces of Kenya and Uganda, was elected Chapter Secretary. As the first Brother in the history of the Institute to be elected to such an important post, Bro Giusti has hitherto coordinated the work of the Chapter extremely well. The ‘moderators' elected were: Fr. Enrique Sánchez González, superior of the Delegation of Central America; Fr. Daniel Cerezo Ruiz, provincial of Spain, Fr. Claudio Lurati, general treasurer, and Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie, provincial of Ethiopia. The Chapter also elected two councillors to the General Superior in the presidency of the Chapter, the two most senior confreres: Fr. Venanzio Milani, delegate for Italy, and Fr. Salvatore Pacifico, provincial of Khartoum (Sudan). Finally, the Special Commission, with the task of keeping track of the proposals and themes of the Chapter, was chosen with Fr. Antonio Villarino Rodríguez, superior of the Colombia Delegation; Fr. Rafael González Ponce, provincial of Mexico and Fr. Joseph Mumbere Musanga, Chapter delegate representing the Congo province. The variety of names and origins is a further concrete sign of the multicultural character of the Institute. In the days that followed, the Chapter delegates heard the report of Father General on the state of the Institute and the reports from the various continents.
The reports from the General Secretariats, the Archives and Studium Combonianum, the Library, the Services rendered by the Curia and the Continental Reports brought to an end the seeing and listening phase. We are now approaching the heart of the Chapter, establishing the more urgent themes to be tackled by the seven different study groups.
The ‘continental’ panorama
The Continental and Sub-continental Reports merit further comment, placed in context, after the global presentation, by the contributions of the single provinces.
The Anglophone provinces and Mozambique began the reports. They constitute a significant group of countries in which 528 Comboni Missionaries, 30% of the personnel of the Institute, are working today. Here, too, the average age is increasing and is above 56 years but there is great potential and important signs of hope in the number of ‘radical’ members reaching 187 and the candidates in basic formation who make up 30% of those of the entire Institute. The report from this sub-continent which includes historical provinces like Egypt, Sudan and Uganda, underlined the growing collaboration among provinces and the desire to face together the great challenges posed by the rapid evolution of African society to the Institute and its mission, especially the progress of Islam, the situation of the ‘pastoralist’ populations, growing urbanisation, the great numbers of displaced people, refugees and migrants and the urgent need for the training of the youth and lay ecclesiastical leaders.
The picture of ‘Combonian’ Africa was completed by the presentation of the four Francophone provinces. These represent a group of countries characterised by great energy and a good degree of progress in mutual collaboration. There are 172 Comboni Missionaries working there with and average age of 52 years. Their future seems very promising since 35% of the youth in formation come from this area (51 scholastics and 3 Brothers in the CIF). In these provinces there are 131 radical members amounting to 41% of all African Comboni Missionaries who altogether number 318 confreres. The personnel at present working in Francophone Africa are, for the most part, African: Togo-Ghana-Benin personnel, for example, are 47% African.
As a result of prolonged political and social instability in countries like Chad, and, for many years, The Democratic Republic of Congo, the challenges faced by the members of these provinces are indeed great. Looking to the future, the Comboni Missionaries of these provinces have chosen as their priorities, in fidelity to the charism, a presence in the new Areopagi such as that of the mass media, a more balanced presence in the poorer rural and urban areas, an orientation towards more ‘specialised’ pastoral work and a commitment to greater integration of the various expressions of the charism and the missionary service of the local Churches.
In the Americas, the Comboni Missionaries have 96 communities with 448 confreres working in 12 different countries often marked by social conflict, economic crises, ongoing migration and, in religious terms, by a Christian substratum in rapid transformation due to the mechanisms of secularisation and globalisation. The continental reports and those of the provinces described clearly the ecclesial picture of our time, indicating the sectors prioritised in order to implement an efficacious re-qualification of commitments: the consolidation of the presence among the Indios, urban outskirts, missionary animation in the context of the programme of Aparecida which spoke of ‘The Continental Mission’, the continuation of the commitment to Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation. In the dialogue which followed, there were inevitable questions asking for an explanation of the grave crisis – also in North, Central and South America – in the number of Comboni vocations and the main obstacles to the plan to amalgamate some provinces.
Even tough it was included in the group of American provinces, the delegation of Asia presented, in a way that was brief but interesting, its own independent report, aware of its small number of confreres (19, to date), but nonetheless determined to present to the Chapter the challenge of tackling the work of evangelisation in the most populated and least evangelised continent on earth.
The listening phase was concluded with the report from the continent of Europe. Some of the major challenges and questions for the future of the Institute were highlighted in this report. The European provinces, numbering 435 confreres and including the most numerous province (Italy, with 257 members and an average age of 71.1 years), underlined the serious and lasting vocations crisis, and the rapidly increasing average age (86% of its members are over 50 years of age), and the many limits to our presence and work in the local churches of Europe.
As regards the future, the report evidenced three main areas of consensus: the significance of ad gentes in Europe; our relations with local Churches and our lifestyle. The discussions following the report emphasised the lack of sufficient ‘internationalisation’ of the European provinces; the urgent need of personnel to assist the old and the sick, given that the support of the General Administration in this field is not enough and that this is a phenomenon regarding the whole Institute; relations with local Churches, the amalgamation of provinces and becoming involved in the commitment to assist immigrants from Africa.
This second phase of the Chapter has brought to light some of the typical limits of the Comboni style. The presentation of the reports was certainly not a “display of vanity” but there was the tendency to confuse the real with the ideal; to point out the limits and problems of the others (the society and Church in which we work...) while finding it more difficult to see and admit our own.
At any rate, the sharing began with the work of the seven groups into which the Chapter delegates were divided to discuss the themes selected by the Special Commission. Three language-based groups (Italian, Spanish, English) began the study of the three themes of the Ratio Missionis: identity, spirituality and mission; another three groups took the theme of formation (basic and ongoing), while another group was given the task of studying the structure of the government of the Institute.
The group-work was preceded, as with other important moments of the Chapter, by time dedicated to prayer and personal discernment to allow time to listen to the Word of God and receive illumination from the Spirit. This method has so far helped us to confront, with the necessary serenity, the crucial times of the Chapter assembly and to assume an attitude which is both constructive and of mutual openness among all the Chapter delegates.
Of great significance was the decision to postpone the election of the new General Council until after the debates on the themes chosen by the Special Commission. This will allow for the establishment of suitable criteria in the choice of people suitable to guide the Institute over the next six years. (Fr. Giuseppe Cavallini)
The Chapter Delegates to the confreres of Eritrea
“If God is with us who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31).
With these words of St. Paul, we the Delegates of the XVII General Chapter want to express our solidarity and communion, to you our beloved confreres, to the Local Church and indeed to the entire people of Eritrea. We are extremely disheartened by the unfortunate events that are taking place in the country. The reports from the delegation prove to us that you have embraced the cross, in this time of trial and apprehension, following the footsteps of Comboni. You do well to walk with the people with hope and trust, waiting for another sign from our Lady of Kidane Mehret! Thank you for being witnesses of the Christian “hope” that does not allow the “light’ of Christ to be extinguished in whatever hardships one might be.
“For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil doer, or a meddler in other men’s matters. But if one of you suffers for being a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this matter.” (1 Pet 4:15-16).
You are suffering for a just cause and we encourage you to be strong and continue walking with the people, leading them towards peace and reconciliation.
May our Lady Kidane Mehret intercede for Eritrea!
Fr. José Aldo Sierra Moreno has been awarded a Master’s degree in the Theology of Communications at Innsbruck Faculty of Theology, defending the thesis: “El concepto de misión de los Misioneros Combonianos como criterio y base para la formación de nuestros candidatos”.
Holy Redeemer Guild
October 01 – 15 P 16 – 31 RSA
November 01 – 07 SS 08 – 15 TC 16 – 30 T
October - For the Churches of Africa: that the celebration of the Second Special Synod may make them evermore joyous and courageous witnesses of reconciliation, justice and peace. Let us pray.
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.
BRASIL DO SUL
Insertion, progress of mission
“Something new is happening in the parish of São Domingos de Gusmão!”.
The people noticed the movements and the renovations to the house with new people coming. They felt it was a good sign, even if they did not fully understand that a new inserted Comboni house of formation was being started in Contagem.
As a result, the desire grew to share what was happening, even if we knew we were still at the beginning.
“A small group of scholastics, inserted in the mission and among the people, in a Comboni community”. This phrase sums up the experience we have begun in recent months. It is not a new journey but a new way of travelling. It aims at forming a religious Comboni community which would integrate the various elements of the Comboni charism.
First of all it is necessary to remember that there is no already travelled way in insertion: it comes from doing it, in making a start and trying… There is no established formula. To be with the poor and live the mission in an attitude of listening, of dialogue, humility, service and availability… this is the journey. A further challenge comes from the fact that formation in insertion today is different to that of twenty or thirty years ago. The modalities and actualisations are different, as well as the youth, the situation and the Church. It is necessary to build starting from the existing ground and raw materials.
Sharing the “new” consists in reaffirming our option to be a presence among the poor as a community and not individually. This is the other great challenge to the mission, the Church and the Comboni style. We need to let the people shape and form our structures, our houses and our activities.
The basic criterion is to believe in the value of this journey in which everyone feels involved: it is the mission which forms, starting from a lifestyle which is sober and in communion with the people.
Fr. Teresino Serra recently wrote: “I dream of the day when at last we may find the right formula of formation for the mission, in the mission and with the mission. But there is also another essential virtue which is the power to form our candidates: our personal and community witness”, born out of this evangelical enthusiasm which makes our charism attractive and capable of winning over the youth.
To begin this journey, Sc. Orlando René Vera Coello from Ecuador and Sc. Willy Abraham Montalvo Alcántara from Perù have arrived, full of missionary enthusiasm. They will be studying theology at Belo Horizonte. They are in the phase of listening with care, observing everything and saying very little. This is also because the first duty of the missionary is to learn the language and then the way people use it.
Next year we expect two more young Comboni men to come to complete the community. Fr. Francesco Lenzi and I will complete the community through ministry, duties, age and various experiences, hoping to contribute something to and be enriched by this beautiful journey. (Fr. Giorgio Padovan)
The African Synod: Rome, 4-25 October, 2009
The CIMI, in collaboration with MISSIO and other organisations, is promoting a series of events to energise and provide awareness about the African Synod to communities and churches where we are present in civil society. We especially have in mind the problems which afflict Africa and the consequences of these for Italy and Europe as regards the themes of prime importance in creating a world which is growing in reconciliation, justice and solidarity.
We are aware of various initiatives which missionary animators are promoting in different regions of Italy: Lombardy, Friuli, Tuscany, Venice, Puglia, Campania etc. We can only rejoice in this. Here is a list of the events organised in Rome.
Briefing (10 September): There will be a briefing on the Synod in the Catholic Action Press Hall (1, Via Conciliazione), at 11.30am., during which missionaries, directors and editors of missionary magazines (FESMI), representatives of voluntary organisations (FOCSIV) and the Union of the Catholic Press in Lazio (UCSI) will present to the national media the meaning of this event and its consequences for Europe and Africa.
Convention (1 October): at Palazzo Valentini, seat of the Province of Roma, at 119, via IV November, from 16.00 to 21.00 there will be a convention with the participation of Mgr. Laurent P. Mosengwo, Archbishop of Kinshasa, J. Léonard Touadi, member of the Italian parliament and other exponents of the missionary and African world, to reflect together upon the situation of Africa today, the response and the initiatives of the Churches in Africa, as well as the expectations of the Synod.
Prayer Sessions (4- 25 October): The Missionary Youth Movement (MGM), with connections to MISSIO will hold a prayer meeting every day during the Synod, in the church of the Transpontina, at 21.00. The meetings will include the recital of Vespers and a Synod delegate will be invited each day to present some aspects of the Instrumentum Laboris and a brief sharing of life and commitment by those present.
Celebration and Welcoming: On a day to be established, MISSIO and CIMI will organise a welcoming celebration in the same church where the prayer meetings are to be held. Representatives of the CEI and CIMI will welcome some representatives of the Synod delegates. The celebration will be followed by a fraternal meal.
Observing (4-25 October): All during the Synod, missionaries, directors and journalists of missionary magazines and organisations, as well as voluntary missionary organisations, will commit themselves to draw the attention of the national media to the Synod debates and to provide information to the national media, the Church in Italy, civil society and our religious communities.
Recital (19 October): Under the auspices of MISSIO, Filomeno Lopez from Guinea Bissau will present a recital at the Auditorium della Conciliazione, at 20.00, where there will be performances by artists at the service of reconciliation in Africa. (Fr. Alberto Pelucchi, President CIMI)
Photo exhibit on the Democratic Republic of Congo
The Comboni Mission Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Justice and Peace Office of the Sisters of Charity collaborated to create a photo exhibit of about 70 photos to help raise awareness of the atrocious crimes against humanity being acted out on the people of the Congo. The pictures and captions, coupled with knowledgeable speakers and pertinent literature, serve to help explain the reasons behind the deaths of almost 6 million people and the countless crimes being perpetrated against innocent victims of every age.
Two sets of photos and captions have been made and will soon be available to the other Comboni Mission Centers in the NAP and to various places around the continent, including colleges, high schools, religious institutes, dioceses, museums and libraries. Education packets are available for teachers.
In addition, a PowerPoint presentation has been made of the photos with music and narration, a powerful visual for use in smaller groups and in places where a photo exhibit would not be feasible.
It is hoped that through the year, this informational tool will help to educate a large number of people from diverse backgrounds, and in the end, benefit the people of DRC.
Sixteenth celebration of the Cincinnati Hispanic Festival
To respond to the need for information concerning the general culture of Latin America, not so well known in the Midwest of the United States, the Cincinnati Archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry Office, directed during the last 12 years by the Comboni Missionaries, was developed. To celebrate the enormously rich and varied expressions of this culture, the Catholic Hispanic community of St. Charles Borromeo, where the Comboni Missionaries have a pastoral presence, thought of organizing an annual festival. From its beginning in 1993, this Hispanic Fest has been a model of collaboration for the entire Cincinnati community.
The Festival offers music, dancing, food, crafts and art work, all encased in the ethnic richness of Latin America. The entertainment culturally reflects both the indigenous and the present day populations of fifteen countries. These culturally diverse groups collaborate, not only during the Festival, but all through the months of preparation for it. Over 200 volunteers worked at the festival and prepared the food that was sold. About 25,000 people from the Greater Cincinnati area attended the two-day Hispanic Fest.
The preparation of a document on the mission in Portugal as well as a Missionary Observer were but a few of the commitments taken up by those who participated in the Mission Days carried out in Fatima from 18 to 20 September, 2009.
Over two days, 450 people, including many lay people and youth, reflected, under the guidance of experts, on “St Paul and the Passion for the Mission”, the theme of the Days.
The president of the Episcopal Commission for the Missions, Mgr. Antonio Couto, announced that the document required by the 2008 Missionary Congress, was being prepared. For his part, Fr. Manuel Durães, Secretary of the Pontifical Missionary Works, said that the process of creating a Missionary Observer is being studied and that the first outlines of the norms for its operation had been already prepared. The Observer initiative, which has also come out from the Missionary Congress of last year, is intended to be a publication which will follow all that concerns the situation in the mission.
During the closing Mass, led by Mgr. Manuel Quintas, Bishop of Algarve, a brief ceremony of commissioning several missionary men and women, lay people and youth was held. They will shortly be leaving for various countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Fr. Ivo Martins do Vale (07.11.1952 – 27.08.2009)
Fr. Vittorio Turchetti (31.03.1920 – 31.08.2009)
THE FATHER: William, of Fr. Yousif William Idris El Tom (KH).
THE MOTHER: Maria, of Fr. Anton Schneider (DSP).
THE SISTER: Maria, of Fr. Antonio Soldà (I).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. M. Urmina Sinico, Sr. M. Ildegonda Orsi, Sr. Clementina Vicentini, Sr. M. Alexandrine Courdji.