“I shall not call you servants any more, because a servant does not know his master’s business; I call you friends because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father” (Jn 15:15)
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At the end of the work of the recent Chapter held in Rome, we have prepared the texts that we wish to present to you as the fruit of our efforts to understand just what the Lord, the people whom we serve and St. Daniel Comboni might expect from us in terms of the mission with which we have been entrusted.
The ‘Rome’ phase of the Chapter is over, but the real Chapter now begins. Over the coming years we are called to give a courageous answer with our lives, our commitment and our activities. Our reflections, words and ideas, our dreams of a new mission - inspired above all by the Holy Spirit that we have received - are all called to become reality. We are invited to live the Chapter.
The challenge is not insignificant and while we are aware of the obstacles and difficulties in front of us we also feel empowered by the strength that always accompanied our Founder.
Mission has never been an easy or a comfortable undertaking and has not become less so today; yet we still believe that we are sustained by the knowledge that the task we take on does not depend on us for its success: it belongs to God and St. Daniel Comboni, and surely they will help us move ahead with all that we have received including this XVII General Chapter.
God’s time and ours
At the beginning of the Chapter we noted that for Comboni the understanding had been decisive that in the plans of God there should also be a time when the moment of salvation would arrive for Africa. This intuition led our Founder to consecrate his whole life, his energies, and his very self to the one passion that possessed his heart i.e. the mission in Africa and the peoples of Africa. It was from this experience that his missionary plan was born.
We too, with all humility, have understood that we are living a new moment of grace for our world, and in particular for the peoples with whom we share our lives and our missionary endeavour. We are aware that the Lord continues to entrust a specific task to us within the greater scheme of the Kingdom and we want to give a generous response.
An awareness emerged from the work of the Chapter that this moment of grace challenges and calls us to become men truly consecrated to Him and the mission. We are living a moment in which we are invited to focus our efforts and to put in common all that we are and have in order to live with a special passion for the mission in our hearts.
At this particular moment in our history we are aware that we live in a world which demands of us – as missionaries – greater commitment in going where others do not want to go; that demands of us a spirituality that speaks of the God of whom we have experience; that demands of us the ability to become witnesses of a mission that we want to live as a community; that demands of us the courage to remain open to the promptings of the Spirit that every day will push us towards paths that we do not yet know, but that surely will lead us to the poor with whom we must share our life without counting the cost.
This moment of grace is for us the moment, surely, in which we discover that we are called to live our charism with new energy, with hope that allows us to look to the future with confidence, and with the courage that so many of our confreres have borne witness to before us, and that reminds us that we are in the hands of God.
The work of the Chapter
In the text that you receive you will find the fruit of the work and reflection of many, many confreres, not only that of the Chapter members. The Chapter made an effort to dip into the work already completed by all of us during the process of the Ratio Missionis and the various commissions that worked on its preparation. Thanks to this work the Chapter was able to continue a reflection relevant to and shared by many confreres within the Institute. The themes chosen were no surprise and this helped us to focus on those issues which required our interest and our effort. After the Chapter, the Post-Capitular Commission then worked hard to organise all the material in order to make it easier to assimilate and thus to put into practice.
The result is a document of five themes which were chosen after having listened to all the reports of the General Council and Secretariats, the Continental groups, the Provinces and Delegations, the offices and other contributions. Following this, another four topics were chosen which seemed to us to respond to situations of particular relevance that we are living through within the Institute at this time.
Looking at these themes and topics we can surely say that there is nothing especially new. In fact we find ourselves in front of questions that for years have accompanied our reflection as an Institute.
Perhaps what is new might be said to appear in the fact that these are themes which once again challenge us and oblige us to recognise with humility that there is still a long way to go. They remind us that time is short and that maybe this is the moment in which to have the courage to arrive at decisions that will involve us all.
The Chapter, even though it said nothing surprisingly new, has helped us recall that there are some reflections and decisions that already in the past had appeared urgent and that now seem not to leave much space for further hesitation or delay.
We must have the courage to arrive at decisions in the sphere of our spiritual life, our Comboni identity and as consecrated men and persons dedicated to live the mission totally.
We are convinced that we will arrive at these decisions where and if on-going formation is taken seriously by each of us, not waiting for others to take the initiative for us. We need to assume an attitude of serious intent in regard to ourselves and the structures in which we live in order to ensure a suitable quality of life at all levels.
Certainly the theme of mission will never be exhausted in our Institute, firstly because mission is a dynamic reality that obliges us to remain always open to what is new, then because mission is about life which always develops and throws up unexpected surprises. There will always be frontier situations that will ask of us a response and styles of mission that the Spirit inspires and that we have no right to impede.
We have listened to and discussed the topic of “finance and mission” and it seems that a new sensitivity is pushing us to continue to seek for ways to live mission more as a project to be lived in communion, as a gift received together, and one that implies a more radical placing in common of all goods including those material and financial.
The Institute’s personnel situation made it necessary to put the topics of old age and ill health under discussion. We are aware that speaking about the elderly and the sick is another way of discovering mission which does not consist only in activity, but is above all the giving of our lives in order to be together with the Lord who called us to share in His mission. This is the guiding dimension of the life of the missionary, and it does not depend on his age or his mental or physical abilities.
From the Plan of Comboni to the Plan of the Comboni Missionaries
At the start of the Chapter we set out with a great desire to formulate a plan for the Institute as a requirement placed upon us by the reality that changes inside and outside our world, wanting to imitate St. Daniel Comboni in this, in order to give a response able to take our strengths and possibilities into account.
We did not reach the full development of the Plan we had hoped for. However, in the Chapter Acts you will find fourteen priorities that, among all that was said, we have retained as of the greatest urgency. They will be points of reference when formulating our plans.
In the planning that will be done at all levels of the Institute, we believe we can start off by taking these proposals above all others into consideration and putting them into practice.
They will help us to have a project for the Institute and mission and give us a common basis for working together, sharing that responsibility that helps us to become more specific, focused and qualified. We know that it is not easy to work on common projects but we believe that precisely in doing this hangs the future of our being and doing as missionaries in the Church and the world.
As the General Council we look forward to great collaboration and we wish to be as open as possible to receive everything that might help us to reach a plan in which we may all take on a role and share our gifts.
After the Chapter
Now, with great simplicity, we wish to invite you to accept these documents above all as a gift: the Chapter members have worked hard and with openness to find the best way forward for our Institute and mission.
In these pages you will receive not only intuitions or great ideas; inside you will also find the experience of almost eighty Comboni Missionaries who for two months have lived a singular moment of brotherhood, communion, openness to diversity and the richness of cultural gifts, and of passion for the mission in Africa and in the other continents where we are present.
We have lived a singular moment of closeness with our Founder, St. Daniel Comboni, who has accompanied us making us feel that he is walking beside us and that he has faith in us.
We invite you to “approach” the documents with an open mind that will surely help you to feel whatever new element the Spirit has written, not so much in the actual text as in that which is intended. We are sure that you will find in it, as we do, a strong invitation for the renewal of your commitment to mission and to the Institute.
We wish to put this text into your hands with the intention of stimulating a continuation of that research which the Lord and St. Daniel Comboni expect from us. Surely, if our hearts are open to what the Lord has given us during this Chapter, you like us, the whole Institute and the mission, we will all find ourselves enriched by a new spirit that will allow us to look to the future with faith, with courage, with great passion, not able to forget our brothers and sisters – the poor – to whom our lives belong.
In conclusion we invite you to receive these documents as a tool to live our consecration, our mission, and our belonging to the Comboni charism better.
We entrust ourselves to the Lord, we ask for the company of Mary and of our Founder, St. Daniel Comboni, so that we may always be happy as we continue our missionary journey.
P. Enrique Sánchez G.
P. Odelir José Magri
P. Alberto Pelucchi
P. Tesfaye Tadesse G.
Fr Daniele Giusti
To go to the Chapter Acts click on the link: