Monthly Newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
Fr. Calderón Vargas Juan Diego (DCA) San José (CR) 09.01.2010
Fr. Yadjimadji Ondongar Claude (TC) Sarh (TC) 06.02.2010
Fr. Paruñgao Cunanam Victor (A) San Fernando (RP) 06.02.2010
Fr. Mula Eutiquio Muso (A) Tagum (RP) 12.02.2010
Fr. Kotoku Lawson Kwaku Evans (T) Mafi-Kumase (GH) 13.02.2010
Holy Redeemer Guild
March 01 – 07 DCA 08 – 15 EG 16 – 31 EC
April 01 – 15 DSP 16 – 30 E
March - That the Comboni Missionary Brothers, through the example and intercession of St. Joseph, may be daring witnesses of holiness and fraternity in carrying out their ministries for the growth of the Kingdom. Lord hear us.
April - That the global economic recession, which has affected the already uncertain existence of millions of people, may be an opportunity for serious reflection on our lifestyle, moving us towards greater sobriety and simplicity. Lord hear us.
Second National Congress of the Clergy in the Philippines
From 25 to 29 January 2010, the clergy in the Philippines gathered for the Second National Congress of the Clergy (SNCC), which had as its theme “Faithfulness of Christ and Faithfulness of Priests”. More than five thousand five hundred diocesan and religious priests from all over the country met at the World Trade Centre for a week of spiritual renewal under the guidance of Fr. Raniero Cantalamesa, the preacher of the papal household.
Mgr. Luis Antonio G. Tagle, Bishop of Imus, had the task of linking the talks of Fr. Raniero to the concrete situations in the Philippines. He pointed out the healthy tension in the life of a priest between prayer and immersion in his work and emphasized the importance of love in guiding him in his sense of duty and the implementation of the law in his pastoral service.
Besides the content of the talks, the intense liturgical celebrations and the meaningful moments of prayer, the SNCC was particularly significant as a moment to celebrate the gift of the priesthood and to experience fellowship among the clergy.
An unexpected witness of friendship
In the Philippines, the departure of a person is always marked by a farewell party called Despedida. On Sunday evening, 24 January, in the St. Daniel Comboni chapel at our Roosevelt community, Quezon City, there was the Despedida for the Filipino confrere Fr. Marnesio Coralde Cuarteros who was about to leave the country to go to his new assignment in Brazil, after five years of service in the Delegation as vocation promoter.
The arrangement was to have the Mass presided over by Fr. Marnesio and concelebrated by the other priest members of the community, followed by a simple pot-luck-style reception. What was unexpected was the overwhelming number of people who turned up, changing the occasion into a spontaneous, touching and public vote in praise of Fr. Marnesio and, as a consequence, the Comboni Missionaries. The celebration of the Mass was followed by the presentation of different groups, especially schools where Fr. Marnesio had brought his vocational message, while a never-ending line of people received food from the improvised catering service that amazingly was never exhausted.
The gathering went on well into the evening in a spirit of cheerfulness and cordiality. In the opinion of some, the spontaneous unexpected event showed that the Comboni charism is becoming rooted in the Filipino environment and, in this case, by the influence of a Filipino member of the Institute.
Two priestly ordinations in the Delegation
This year 2010 has bestowed the blessing of two priestly ordinations on our Asia Delegation. On Saturday, 6 February, all the Comboni Missionaries in the Philippines made their way to San Fernando in the region of Pampanga to take part in the solemn priestly ordination of Victor Cunanan Paruñgao. Another fifty people travelled with them from Manila for the occasion. The city of San Fernando is surrounded by the prosperous, green expanse of rice fields and is famous for its pork-processing plants.
The ordination took place in the parish church of San Agustin and was presided over by Archbishop Mgr. Paciano Basilio Aniceto of San Fernando. The altar servers were Fr. Victors’ former office mates, since Fr. Victor joined the Combonis when he was already a young professional. The family of Fr. Victor – his parents and his ten siblings with their respective wives and husbands, all dressed the same in the traditional Barong Tagalog - gave an exceptional witness of unity and support for the newly-ordained priest. Fr. Miguel Angel Llamazares González conveyed the thanks of the Institute and surprised the congregation by greeting them in the local vernacular, the kapampanga.
The following day, Sunday in the evening, San Agustin church filled again to capacity for the lively and cordial “Thanksgiving Mass” where Fr. Victor expressed his joy at having achieved his dream and his readiness to serve the missions in his first assignment as formator in the postulancy.
On Friday, 12 February, in the following week, almost all the confreres in the Philippines, accompanied by other friends, flew to Davao, in the southern island of Mindanao, to take part in the priestly ordination of Eutiquio Muso Mula. His ordination took place in the cathedral of Tagum City, together with that of five diocesan deacons, and was presided over by the local bishop Mgr. Wilfredo D. Manlapaz. The huge cathedral was packed with relatives and parishioners of the six deacons. Notwithstanding the torrid temperature, the congregation withstood the three-hour-long ceremony lightheartedly and with devotion. The “Thanksgiving Mass” of the newly ordained Filipino confrere took place in his home parish of Our Lady of the Assumption. Fr. Eutiquio’s mother was present at both ceremonies in her wheelchair and was moved to tears especially when it was announced that her son was assigned to work in Kenya.
After the excitement of these two ordinations, the Delegation will have to exercise a bit of patience: at present the only Filipino scholastic is finishing his first year theology in Nairobi.
Round table discussions on the elections
Central Africa is approaching presidential and legislative elections due to take place in 2010. The election process has already begun even though the opposition and governing parties have still to agree on the make-up of the independent electoral commission.
In the educational context and with the formation of consciences in mind, the parish of Notre Dame de Fatima planned a round table conference on the elections for 14 February, specifically to assist the youth, through analysis and reflections by experts, to approach the elections well informed.
The conference was led by Mrs. Timoléon Kokongo, a lawyer. Our confrere Fr. Lorenzo Frattini, secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Central Africa, and the legal expert Dieudonné Mamadou shed light on the debate and gave the view of the Church regarding politics.
Ideas were frankly exchanged in an atmosphere of mutual respect and without compromise. The young people present stated they had not yet understood the present electoral code. For them, this was an obstacle. However, they were encouraged to become involved in the elections since they make up the majority of Central African voters. Their votes could prove decisive if the elections take place respecting transparency and democracy. There were about 160 participants at the conference, among whom were the youth of the other parishes of Bangui and those of the Catholic University Centre.
Before the conference ended, our confrere Fr. Léonard Ndjadi Ndjate, Vicar of the parish of Fatima, gave the date, the theme and the main speakers for the Third Youth Forum which is due to take place next August. This forum is meant to be a time for reflection, for Christian formation and for debate on the hot issues present in the lives of the youth of today. In other words, it aims at forming Christian leaders capable of taking in hand the destiny of this country in the heart of Africa.
EGITTO - KUWAIT
Parish of St. Daniel Comboni in Kuwait
On 29 January, 2010, the Vicar Apostolic, Mgr. Camillo Ballin, canonically erected the parish of St. Daniel Comboni in the city of Jleeb al-Shu-youkh, about twenty kilometres from the capital where several thousand Indians live. Most of them are illegal immigrants and so cannot attend Mass in the cathedral. Fanatical sects take advantage of this situation to “poach” members of the faithful and attract them to their faiths. The St. Daniel Comboni mission had been established for the specific purpose of healing this ‘drain’ of Catholics. It has two apartments where three Indian priests live. A fourth room is dedicated to perpetual adoration much frequented by the faithful. Daily Mass used to be celebrated there only in the house at 6am. Singing was forbidden so as not to disturb the neighbours who could have reported them to the police for holding religious services in the block. It is, in fact, forbidden to celebrate Mass anywhere but in approved churches.
At long last we managed to rent a hall which is now our church, though illegally so. This is a parish which is very precarious. At any moment the police could order us to close it down and, hopefully, nothing worse. Setting up this parish is an ongoing risk but St. Daniel Comboni will certainly assist us. We chose him that he might found the Church here just as he did in Sudan.
The people are enthusiastic about having a parish of their own and they are organising themselves wonderfully. Hundreds of postcards depicting St. Daniel have been distributed as well as a leaflet in English carrying his life story. It was originally designed by an Indian Carmelite, the first parish priest. Before the Mass, a film on the life of Comboni was shown which the people followed with keen interest, though having to stand all the time, since there is no room for chairs. They know that in that hall they will be able to assist at the Mass but standing all the time!
This illegal church has two beautiful oil paintings donated by Mgr. Jaime Rodríguez Salazar (Peru): one of Our Lady and one of Comboni which invite the people to pray and to make this illegal church truly wonderful.
Every Thursday after Mass a special prayer is said to St. Daniel Comboni in all the parishes of the Vicariate that he may find a site and a church in that city. We place all our future in his hands.
During the last general meeting of the MISNA news agency, some facts regarding MISNA’s profile on the web were presented. The voice of the missionaries is heard even more so than in the past on the MISNA website. This last fact was realised especially in the context of the Synod For Africa about which MISNA presented more than 100 reports. MISNA is still very quick to provide news. A recent example of this was the information it provided on the earthquake in Haiti.
A new reality is now emerging with MISNA news occupying an increasingly important place in blogs. MISNA was cited 1,908 times between December and January. There is also an increase in the number of sites which facilitate access to MISNA through links and other references. The presence of MISNA in blogs is especially relevant since this is an area which concerns mostly younger members of society. Here is an extract from a message which Nicodemus wrote in a blog: “Seeing the catastrophe unleashed by the earthquake, which destroyed the city of Port-au-Prince, many thoughts come to mind but of all these three stand out: pray, be informed, help”.
Another interesting fact is that MISNA counts among its subscribers all the Italian embassies and consulates abroad, as well as some international organisations.
After many delays, after much polemics and recriminations by both parties and many doubts, it seems that the main problems have been solved and the electoral campaign has been set in motion. On the official date, 12 January 2010, the candidates took the field and began to present their programmes.
There are twelve candidates for the presidency, all of whom are Moslems and all but one from the North. The latter is the Turabi party candidate and a Denka Moslem. The peace accord of 2005 stipulates that, in the event of no candidate receiving an outright majority, there must be a run off between the two candidates with the most votes.
The candidates may be twelve but only three have a realistic chance of being elected: Bashir, Al Mahdi and Arman.
Bashir is the outgoing president and has led the country since he seized power in a coup twenty years ago. An international warrant has been issued for his arrest on charges of various crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. Bashir and his party, the National Congress Party, intend to use their eventual victory also to legitimise Bashir in the eyes of the world, including the International Court of Human Rights. Bashir began his campaign in the Hilal stadium of Omdurman in festive mood. Even though he feels certain of winning an outright majority in the first round, he has declared that, if it comes to a run-off, he will respect the result and will step down if he loses. According to the experts, Bashir does not have much public support but he does have the possibility of using the entire apparatus of the state.
The other candidate, a long-lasting one, is Sadiq Al Mahdi, a traditional political figure of note, the head of a large party and religious movement. He was twice head of the government and twice overthrown by the military, first by Nimeri and then by Bashir. He is favoured by the fact that he still has many traditional supporters who, even under the military, have always had a good amount of influence on the people. Al Mahdi hopes there will be a run-off in which all the others could join forces against Bashir, allowing him to return to power. He is to blame for much that is bad in Sudanese politics. In the war with the South he promoted Arabisation and Islamisation, even if, on some occasions, he joined the South against Bashir. The people of the South, however, see him simply as a political opportunist.
The third candidate is Yasir Arman, a man who is new, but not entirely, to the political scene. He is the head of the SPLM in the Khartoum parliament and secretary of the northern sector of that party. He could be an alternative. His election slogan is “change”. He is from the North and a Moslem but fought with the South whose views he shared. From as far back as his university days and when he fled the country to join the SPLM, he has been a member of the forces of the left and later joined liberation movements. Since he joined the SPLM he has always been faithful, even in times of crisis. He, too, hopes for a run-off and hopes that all the forces working against Bashir will form an alliance around him. Belonging to the SPLM could help him, if he were to win, to pacify the South in its conflict with the North.
In conclusion, there is the impression that the electoral campaign has started well. Even though things are still in the early stages, we know that things will heat up later on. Nevertheless, the people are hoping that the initial fears were exaggerated and that all will proceed peacefully.
It is something wonderful that the people of Sudan can at last experience what it means to engage in political debate rather than on the battlefield. There is the feeling that the electoral process in itself is something positive, a school of democracy in act. It helps people to reflect and evaluate various views. It is to be hoped that the people will get to like it. Even the tones of the debate about union-separation seem to have become less harsh. Each side still holds to its own position but already people are talking about the post-referendum period and the idea is becoming prevalent that, whatever the outcome of the referendum, both parts of the country must follow a common path for the good of all, a path which must obviously be agreed and not imposed.
Our Provincial Assembly took place in Lilongwe, Malawi, from 8 to 12 February. Nearly all the confreres of the Province took part, following the spirit of the Rule of Life which reminds us that “the Provincial Assembly deals with various aspects of life and activity in the Province. Since it is an expression of solidarity and community living, every missionary takes part in it” (RL 130). We thank all the confreres for their active, brotherly, and fruitful participation. It was felt that there was a good and warm family spirit among all the members of the Province. During these four days we dealt with the main themes of the agenda: Introduction to the Chapter Documents; Revision of the Provincial Directory; Reports from the Secretariats; Progress Report on the Six Year Plan and Planning for the future. A copy of the XVII General Chapter Acts was given to each confrere. After the three Chapter delegates from our Province (Bro. Jonas Yawovi Dzinekou, Fr. Jesto Michael Bwalya and Fr. Dário Balula Chaves) gave a general introduction on the nine Themes of the Chapter, some time was dedicated for personal reflection and group sharing, as a starting point for further study to continue in the communities. During the Assembly we also revised and up-dated the Provincial Directory, which will be approved at a later stage. After the Reports from various Secretariats and the Progress Report on the Implementation of the Provincial Six Year Plan given by the Provincial Superior we reflected together and approved some resolutions for the future.
After this Assembly we are more aware that the Chapter Acts are a special gift from the Lord to help us live in a deeper way our missionary vocation; we also commit ourselves to start making use of this document in our personal prayer and community sharing throughout this year.
This Assembly was indeed a strong moment of communion among us and an important event of ongoing formation to help us renew our commitment to the mission according to our Comboni charism, contextualized in our Malawi-Zambia Province.
Episcopal consecration of Mgr. Giuseppe Sandri
On 31 January 2010, a beautiful sunny day, there was a joyful celebration in the diocese of Witbank. Many people from the different parishes of the diocese, and beyond, came together. The clergy of the diocese were happy to welcome the new bishop, Mgr. Giuseppe Sandri, after one year of sede vacante. All the Comboni Missionaries working in the RSA were present, including eleven scholastics from Pietermaritzburg. The provincials of the English-speaking countries of Africa and Mozambique (APDESAM) were also present with the representative of the General Council, Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie. Thirty bishops of the Southern Africa Episcopal Conference and the Secretary of the Apostolic Nuncio in South Africa participated in the celebration, with many religious sisters and brothers, and members of other institutes.
Archbishop Buthi Joseph Tlagale, president of the Episcopal Conference of SA and metropolitan archbishop of Johannesburg, presided over the celebration, accompanied by Bishop Mogale Paul Nkumishe, former bishop of the diocese of Witbank and now in Polokwane Diocese, and bishop Hugh Patrick Slattery from the diocese of Tzaneen. The organizing committee of the Diocese of Witbank prepared the event in a magnificent way.
We thank the Lord for having chosen a Comboni Missionary as the shepherd of this diocese which was founded by the Comboni Missionaries in the national provinces of Mpumalanga and, in part, of Limpopo. Mgr. Sandri has worked for more than twenty years in this diocese. He knows the people well and the languages spoken in these northern provinces of SA which are bordering with Mozambique. He has helped to translate the “deutero-canonical books” into Tsonga-Shangaan in order to produce a Catholic edition of the Bible in cooperation with the Bible Society of RSA. He has just finished preparing a second edition.
The people joyfully took part in the four-hour-long celebration, singing and dancing despite the scorching noonday sun. Many gifts were presented during the offertory as a sign of gratitude and thanksgiving. At the end, lunch was served for all present.
In his address, Mgr. Sandri applied to himself the words Comboni spoke to the people of Khartoum: “Come day come night, come sun come rain, I shall always be equally ready to serve your spiritual needs…” (W 3158).
We wish the new bishop the spirit and courage to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and of Comboni and to dedicate himself to the good of the people in accordance with the motto he chose “venio ministrare” (“I come to serve”).
Centenary celebration of the arrival of the Mccj in Uganda
Fr. Sylvester Hategek’Imana, the provincial of Uganda, remembers the centenary anniversary of the arrival of the Comboni Missionaries and the early development of the Catholic faith in Uganda.
“Dear confreres, on 17 February 1910, one hundred years ago today, a group of confreres lead by Fr. Franz Xaver Geyer reached this land via Omach, bringing within their hearts nothing other than the desire to spread the Good News. We can proudly say that, due to their efforts, determination and zeal, if not the passion for the Gospel, we have been able to walk thus far. Join with me today, this 17 February 2010, to give thanks to God for the wonders he has worked through them and many other confreres who during these last one hundred years have been protagonists of the mission in the northern part of Uganda. Many of them have sacrificed their life for the only cause of Christ, sharing fully in the destiny of our Lord Jesus Christ, guide and master, faithfully up to the point of shedding their blood.
I believe that it is not by accident that this day falls on “Ash Wednesday”, the first day of the Lenten season. This is a sign that leads us deeper into the mystery of our redemption, reminding us that as Comboni Missionaries we are beginning anew our journey of commitment to this mystery.
The official celebration of this moment will take place on 20 March 2010 in Nebbi Diocese and I’m grateful to the local church in Nebbi, Arua and Gulu who have taken this occasion as an opportunity for renewal of faith for all Christians. This is the spirit of the meaning of this celebration. Join me to accept this precious gift that the local Church is offering to us as a sense of gratitude to our forefathers in the faith and in the Institute.
Visiting our communities in Gulu, Lira and Moroto/Kotido I have realised how great are the challenges we are facing as a province at the start of the turn of this new century of our presence in Uganda. Let us not give up the battle or fall into the temptation of pessimism, but let us believe that He who has called us and consecrated us to himself can still do great things through us.”
Let us pray for our beloved dead
THE FATHERS: Matías, of Fr. Carrera Augusto Francisco (KE); Augustin, of the novice Prosper Tehou (BEN).
THE MOTHERS: François, of Fr. Louis Kouevi Adjetey Mawoulolo (T); Pierina, of Fr. Domenico Cibei (I); Maria, of Fr. Giuseppe Simoni (T).
THE BROTHERS: Seamus, of Fr. Robert David Hicks (LP), Rudolf, of Fr. Anton Maier (†), Juan José, of Fr. Rubén Padilla Rocha (M).
THE SISTERS: Suor Celeste (A Franciscan Sister), of Fr. Manuel Ferreira Horta (P); Ester, of Fr P. Mario Negrini (M); Veronica, of Bro. Fernando Cesaro (KE).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. M. Martina De Guidi; Sr. M. Giuditta Rocco.