A. Introduction

1.  The Ratio Missionis process has led us to look for greater authenticity and coherence in, and a rediscovery of, the Comboni charism. Given the new challenges that face us both in the Church and society in regard to our ‘raison d’être’, the Institute is taking note of the need and urgency of revisiting or rediscovering the gift of that charism (cfr. 2 Tm 1,6) in order to revitalise it and transmit it to new generations.

2.  At the same time, this exercise in reflection has brought to light a weakening in our sense of identity and belonging. We tend to prefer doing which, at times, results in our finding it difficult to focus on those elements that define our being. Symptomatic of this we note: a certain superficiality in the assimi­lation of the values of our charism; the phenomena of individualism and disaffection with the Institute; fragility in our spirituality and a certain vagueness in our way of thinking about and living mission.

An IDENTITy challenged

B. Analysis of the situation

3.  To understand this situation it may be as well to recall some of those realities that challenge our identity in a new way.

3.1  Society is moving towards a culture which is ever more globalized and complex, characterised by a plurality of visions and by a relativism that obliges us to look again at some of our certainties, and by a “weak thought process” that renders it more difficult to take on a life-long vocational commitment.

3.2   The Church is opening herself to new horizons of mission and is reclaiming her missionary identity. This obliges us to rethink our role within it. The Church at large presents herself ever more as the source of missionary activity, inviting us to greater efforts of insertion in the local Church for a service of collaboration.

3.3  Mission today is subject to re-examination according to new theological principles which place in question some of the certainties of the past. Horizons and priorities nowadays change rapidly, requiring a readjustment to new missionary situations; the mission becomes more “difficult” and more complex as each day passes, making demands on our generosity and capacity for giving while calling for progressive requalification.

3.4  The Comboni Institute is living through a phase of deep and rapid transformation. While enriched by new nationalities and cultures we also face negative developments, resistance to the “old” or the “new”, and challenging situations like the aging of certain Provinces, a reduction in personnel, a significant number of people leaving the Institute, and confreres in difficulty. The Institute’s face is changing and becoming ever more multicultural, rich and diversified, yet also requiring an extra effort in maintaining unity while guaranteeing the transmission and inculturation of the charism. It finds itself having to face a missionary service which is ever more diversified, characterised by many ministries and specializations, and involving a greater spirit of collaboration - all of which seriously  put to the test our ability to safeguard unity in diversity.


C. Working Premises

4.  We believe that the Ratio Missionis reflection has exposed some of our “wounds” on the one hand, but on the other has been a moment of grace (kairos) for the whole Institute. Thus we cherish the hope that this push to “return” to the mission may be particularly productive. The same thing happened to Comboni on his return from his first journey to Africa – of which we have been celebrating the 150th anniversary (1859): he returned physically weak and tried in spirit, but more convinced than ever of his African vocation which he professed at Don Oli­boni’s death-bed: “Even if only one of you should remain, don’t despair and don’t withdraw!”. This experience opened his mind and heart to the inspiration of the Plan.

5.  To the challenge of a mission and future of uncertain parameters, we propose a response of faith and generosity. As the young Johan Dichtl took up the missionary heritage from the hands of Comboni, so we too reaffirm our Comboni identity with joy, and renew our “vow” of total consecration for the mission, emulating the treasure of the shining witness of so many of our confreres strongly identified with their vocation. Thus:

5.1  We profess ourselves to be people passionate about mission:

a. chosen and called by the free initiative of God the Father,  we have been consecrated and sent to evangelize (ad gentes);

b. mission as the proclamation of the gospel of reconciliation and liberation is the fundamental option of our existence (cf.. RL 13.1, 61), which takes us out of the limited circle of our cultural boundaries and opens us to the whole world (ad extra) ready to spend our whole lives in its service (ad vi­tam).

5.2  We see ourselves as “Comboni Missionaries”, heirs of Comboni’s charism, “the rock from which we have been cut from” (Is. 51:1-2):

a. from his charismatic experience we reach a particular style of life and mission (cfr. RL 2), lived in a diversity of ministries (cfr. RL 11);

b. taking up his intuition, we wish to give conti­nuity to his Plan to “save Africa with Africa”, by making people responsible for their own history and promoters of the evangelization of other peoples (cfr. RL 7; RF 92-94).

5.3  We are inspired by the spirituality of the Heart of Christ the Good Shepherd, source of our being and action:

a. from contemplation of Christ’s Heart, like Comboni, we acquire the impetus and attitudes of service and gratuity for our life as disciples and messengers (cfr. RL 3; RF 59-62).

5.4  We reaffirm our preferential option for the poor (ad pauperes):

a. like our Founder, we favour those peoples and groups who are more needy in terms of faith and conditions of life (cfr. RL 5; RF 86-88);

b. aware of the world’s new forms of slavery, we feel called to denounce injustices and proclaim the Word that frees and promotes life in its completeness (cfr. RL 61);

c. this choice involves us in living our vow of poverty more radically, looking at reality through the eyes of the poor, developing a sense of “com-passion”, and accomplishing mission through a sober life-style, close to the people, and using simple means (cfr. RL 29; 45).

5.5  We welcome as our own the mission, chosen and loved by Comboni (S 1710; 1733), which is signed by the Cross (difficult mission), the symbol of a radical love for the peoples to whom we are sent and with whom we wish to make common cause (W 3159):

a. our vow of chastity professes to be a sign of our belonging totally to Christ who embraced eternally the fate of all the “crucified” in history (cfr. RL 25.1);

b. the “beautiful witness of faithfulness to the end” and the living of mission in weakness shines brightly in our elderly and infirm confreres (cfr. 2 Cor. 12:10).

5.6  We confirm our desire to be a “cenacle of  apost­les” (W 2648; 4088):

a. we welcome with joy the many faces of the Institute, always more international and multicultural (cfr. RL 18);

b. we undertake to cultivate brotherhood, to live and work together, to reject individualism and taking centre stage, and to value the vow of obedience through a common mission venture (RF 80-84);

c. we share the Comboni charism with the other members of the Comboni Family (Comboni Sisters, Seculars, CLM);

d. acknowledging the prophetic dimension of our call, we cultivate a sense of Church, inserting ourselves in local Churches and promoting collaboration with other pastoral and humanitarian agents (cfr. RL 17).

5.7  We reaffirm our openness to the signs of the times (cfr. RL 16), to the new dimensions of mission (JPIC, reconci­liation, inter-religious dialogue ...), to the new areopaghi (the promotion of human rights, slums, emergency situations ...) and to the diversity of ministries:

a. this involves us in an on-going discernment of the promptings of the Spirit, the true prota­gonist of mission (cfr. RL 56.2);

b. our consecration is a prophetic witness of the world to come and a steady challenge to a so­cial order that does not promote the culture of life (cfr. RL 22).

D. Planning Guidelines

6.  To revitalise and re-qualify our charismatic identity, every Circumscription will pursue the following objectives:

Identity and Mission – Missionary Animation:

7.  To integrate the elements of our mission-based identity.

7.1  To cultivate greater reflection on mission in order to better define and live it fully as Comboni Missionaries and confirming first evangelization as our priority.

7.2  To integrate ‘being’ and ‘doing’ and assu­me discernment as an attitude of life.

7.3  To assist the confreres to live mission as service of the Word, favouring the study of Sacred Scripture, keryg­matic theology and catechetics.

7.4  To fashion our style of life on a preferential option for the poor and seek greater consistency between the life of our communities and that of ordinary folk through (i) knowledge of their language, customs and practices, culture and history, (ii) favouring radical community experiences of insertion, (iii) in dialogue with the Circumscription and the local Church.

7.5  To sensitize the confreres to take on, integrally and according to their personal charisms, the new expressions of missio­n (JPIC, inter-religious dialogue, reconciliatio­n ...) and to welcome the new role of the missionary no longer as a leader but a co-worker.

7.6  To renew and re-qualify the dimension of the Comboni presence and of MA as an expression of our Comboni charism and identity (cf. n. 188ff).

Identity and Formation

8.  To reinforce acquaintance with the charism in basic formation and promote the growth of a Com­boni identity in OGF.

8.1  To insist on the dimension of identity during basic for­mation and to adequately prepare formators for this task.

8.2  To pay greater attention to the personalities of the candi­dates and to their human and cultural identity, favouring a deep knowledge of themselves, integrating more the human dimen­sion and taking into account the inconsistent elements of our life.

8.3  To project basic formation as the start of a life-long journey of following Christ for the mission.

8.4  During formation to deepen the vital relationship with the person of Comboni.

8.5  To develop an attitude of growth and constant renewal, aiming at a greater consistency of life and in this way giving a new impetus to OGF.

8.6  To offer the help needed by confreres in living in circumstances of personal crisis or with problems of identification with the Comboni charism.

Identity and membership of the Institute

9.  To reaffirm a sense of belonging to the Institute through me­mory of the past and prophecy today:

9.1  To underline the dimension of collective identity: to return to the sources of our Comboni identity; to re-appropriate our history and certain charismatic persons (consecration of our past); to cultivate a global vision of the reality of the Institute.

9.2  To re-evaluate the role of the animation of superiors at all levels in order to promote a sense of identity and belonging.

9.3  To favour communion and collaboration with the other members of the Comboni Family (the Sisters, the Seculars, CLM) and to share our charism with the laity.

9.4  To assess ourselves against others in order to know which identity we display (“who do the people say we are?”).

9.5  To promote co-responsibility in fraternal assistance.

E. Action Plan

10.  To put the above planning guidelines into practice in the medium and short term, we present the following action plan:

Identity, Mission – Mission Animation

11.  To integrate the various elements of our identity so that they are based on mis­sion:

11.1  By June 2010, the GC should nominate a commission that, in collaboration with the SGEV, might undertake a systematic re-reading of the material produced in the last few years during the process of the Ratio Missionis. The theological reflection on mission and on Combo­ni methodology that emerges from it will be presented at the next Inter­capitular.

Evaluation at the Intercapitular.

11.2  The PSs of each continent are to organise continen­tal groups to reflect on the Comboni charism and mission, in close connection with the Central and Circumscription commissions of OGF and the Secreta­riats of Evangelization who are to ensure the adequate communication of the results of the reflection to all the confreres.

Evaluation during the Continental Assembly of the PSs.

11.3  In the context of their six-year plan PCs should initiate a reflection on the style of life of our communities in order to offer guidelines and concrete proposals to bring them into line with that of ordinary people and the preferential option for the poor. Furthermore, PCs should favour new proposals for the radical insertion of communities in the local Church after a due process of discernment and dialogue with that same Church.

Evaluation before the Intercapitu­lar.

11.4  As far as possible, the GC and the PCs should evaluate the personal qualities, attitudes and particular preparation of confreres before assigning them to any specific service.

Evaluation during the Intercapitular.

11.5  Following the example of Comboni, who dedicated a significant part of his life to MA in the Church, the Circumscriptions should verify their own degree of commitment in this sphere, using all the means available (TV, ra­dio, internet, magazines, mission appeals, mission groups and centres ...), in order to further the growth of the people of God and their embracing of the universal mission.

Evaluation at the Intercapitular done by the GSAM.

Identity – Formation

12.  To strengthen initiation into the charism during basic formation and promote the steady growth of Com­boni identification in BF:

12.1  Formators should give particular importance to the transmission of the charism through the significant witness of the confreres.

Evaluation by the PC, in collaboration with the PSF, before the Intercapitular.

12.2  In its six-year plan, the GC should elaborate, or at least initiate, a history of the Institute to be used especially in our houses of formation as an instrument for the transmission of the charism.

First evaluation during the Intercapitula­r; the second during the Chapter.

12.3  During their coming six-year term PCs should ensure that the history of the Circumscription be written and published. They should also set about collecting information and testimonies about the more significant confreres of the Circumscription. Finally they should assign one confrere to the task of continuing to collect and re-work the “historical and charismatic me­mory” of the Circumscription, proposing it as a means of animation and formation.

First evaluation during the Interca­pitular.

12.4  PCs should assume responsibility for animating their communities and personally encouraging the confreres to make the most of OGF initiatives and the annual spiritual exercises. They should also make full use of the Code of Conduct to help confreres in difficulty.

Evaluation by the PC.

12.5  Respecting the guidelines of the Church (see the Rite of Profession) and in order to favour the interiorisation and sense of progress that distinguish perpe­tual profession, the celebration of first professions should be held in a simple manner in the novitiate.

Evaluation during the Continental Ass­embly of the PSs.

12.6  The GC, in collaboration with the Central Commission for OGF and in dialogue with the continental offices, should promote two significant OGF and animation initiatives for PSs, one before and one after the Intercapitu­lar. The same initiati­ves may also be run at Circumscription level and for community superiors.

Evaluation during the Intercapitular and Chapter. At Circumscription level during the local Assembly.

Identity – sense of belonging

13.  To strengthen a sense of belonging to the Institute:

13.1  PCs are to ensure that communities use the tools foreseen by the RL for the animation of communities: council and charter of the community, pastoral plan and monthly retreat. The Commission of OGF and /or the Secretariat of Evangelization will propose concrete plans for the re-working of these charters and pastoral plans. PCs will evaluate their application during visits to the communities.

Evaluation by the PC and Circumscription Assembly.

13.2  The OGF commissions will furnish texts and other contributions in the field of the human sciences and spirituality that favour interpersonal relationships within the community, help resolve conflicts and promote dialogue and reciprocal acceptance. With the help of experts they might also organise seminars on themes pertaining to our charism.

Evaluation by the PCs.

13.3  Circumscriptions and communities will live Comboni feasts as suitable occasions for celebrating our identity and revivifying our charism.

Evaluation by the PC.

13.4  In Circumscriptions where this may be considered viable and convenient, meetings at zonal level may be organised to promote communion and a greater contextualization of missionary activity.

First Evaluation at Circumscription Assembly.

13.5  In response to the vision of the Founder and the pluri-ministerial reality of the Institute, the GC, at the start of its mandate, will resume contact or consultation with Institutes sharing our canonical status, to present together a request to the Holy See to change from being a “clerical” to a “mixed” institute.

First Evaluation at the Intercapitular.

13.6  In the process of discernment that PCs make when choosing local superiors, the personal characteristics of the confrere are to be taken into consideration before any consideration of whether he is a priest or a Brother. In the event that a Brother is chosen, it will be possible to nominate him superior of the community delegated as such by the PS, asking the permission of the Holy See.

First Evaluation at the Intercapitular.

F. Evaluation

14.  We already have tools and moments for evaluation that can be made greater use of: General Chapter, Intercapitular, Continental Assemblies of the PSs, visits of the SG and Counsellors, visits of the PSs and Counsellors, PC meetings and Circumscription Assemblies.

14.1  When required, to make use of experts and facilitators (Comboni or not) for external evaluations during Circumscription and Institute Assemblies.

14.2  To help confreres make evaluations, the Circumscription  OGF commission offers tools of evaluation at different levels.