Monthly Newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
The General Council is busy with the third Consulta. It will be followed by planning following the Chapter Acts, 2009.
Holy Redeemer Guild
April 01 – 15 DSP 16 – 30 E
May 01 – 07 ET 08 – 15 ER 16 – 31 IT
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.
May - That, through the intercession of Our Lady and in the light of the prophetic insight of St. Daniel Comboni, we may become ever more aware of the dignity and role of women in society and in the Church, and work to counteract all forms of violence and abuse towards women. Lord hear us.
The yearly assembly of our German Speaking Province was held at Ellwangen-Josefstal from 15 to 18 March. The main topics of the assembly were the proposals of the General Chapter, 2009, and the evaluation of the “Project DSP”. Before the assembly, the members of the “Project” had identified some areas of major concern. They are the overall structure of the Province with its large houses and few younger personnel available, mission promotion and cooperation with the Lay People, the “Werk des Erlösers” (“Good Shepherd Work”), evangelization, mass media and public relations.
The DSP is now a Legal Entity
The Province has now been recognised an entity of “public law” (a Legal Entity), granted by the federal state of Bavaria (and only by this state). This recognition will make administration work much easier. Yet, the provincialate and the provincial administration have to be brought together and established in Bavaria. This change from a “registered association” into a body of “public law” concerns only our houses in Germany. After receiving detailed information concerning this “Körperschaft öffentlichen Rechts (KöR)” by an expert, Fr. Steffen Brühl SAC, there followed a long discussion about the future location of the provincialate together with the provincial administration. In the end, also on account of the strong recommendation from the Provincial Council, we decided for the house in Bamberg.
Accompanying the Afro people in America
At Guayaquil, from 1 to 6 March, at the retreat house of “Schoenstatt”, the continental meeting of the Comboni missionaries involved in Afro pastoral was held.
Twenty-two Comboni Missionaries and Sisters from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Mexico took part. At this meeting, with the greatly appreciated cooperation of the Afro missionaries of Guayaquil and others, we became aware of the challenges that the Afro people have to face as well as the new possibilities to be found in society and in the Church. Among the participants were Bro. Daniele Giusti, member of the General Council, and Mgr. Eugenio Arellano Fernandez, Bishop of Esmeraldas.
All the participants were of the firm view that this meeting should provide an increased impulse to the Afro pastoral which, as the General Chapter 2009 confirmed, is a continental priority. As Comboni Missionaries, we feel the urge to make common cause with the Afro people, becoming their allies in the search for a fuller life.
The method used during the meeting was that of seeing-judging-acting. With the social, political and economic situation of the Afro Americans as the starting point, and enlightened by the Word of God, the Magisterium of the Church and the Chapter Acts 2009, we agreed on some lines of common action revolving around six main points: 1. The Comboni Institute; 2. Formation; 3. The essential role of the lay Afro Americans; 4. Theology and spirituality; 5. Networking between provinces; 6. Following developments in the social reality.
The meeting was characterised by the liturgy prepared by the group of Afro-Equadorian Lay Missionaries of Guayaquil which assisted the participants to enter into the Afro-Equadorian spirituality. Two Afro missionaries – Nieves Méndez and Bernardo Nazareno – intervened speaking of the lay Afro as a disciple and missionary: we all recognise that the leadership of the laity is an urgent priority of our pastoral, and more generally, of the life of the Church.
The participation of Mgr. Guido Iván Minda Chalá, the new auxiliary bishop of Guayaquil and the first Afro American bishop of Ecuador, who expressed his heartfelt gratitude for having been able to participate at the meeting and learn – as he put it – from the Comboni experience, was especially meaningful.
Apart from the “official discourses”, the meeting was enriched by contacts with various communities and a variety of pastoral experiences.
On Monday evening and throughout Tuesday, two Afro youth pastoral initiatives were presented. On Monday, the young man Cesar Salazar spoke to us about the mission through the media and showed a video he produced “Between Struggle and Hope: the employment situation of the Afro people of Guayaquil”. Cesar spoke of the need for the young Afros to conscientise society concerning the situations of injustice and discrimination suffered even today by the Afro people. At the same time, he gave the example of many Afros who, by their efforts and commitment to their studies, succeeded in emancipating themselves.
On Wednesday evening we visited the Afro community of Malvinas. At the church of the Good Shepherd, Sister Ayda Orobio, an Afro-Colombian, gave a very welcome talk on the theme of the Afro woman and the family. Among other things, she focussed on sexual violence as the most humiliating form of slavery and showing that, in all countries, the process of ethnic development of the Afro people is being led by women.
On Thursday we had an outing to Nobol and Daule. The Mass, presided over by Mgr. Arellano, was very moving. It was celebrated at the feet of the Black Christ of Daule, which symbolises God taking on the colour of the oppressed and making common cause with them. Juan Carlos Rosero, a lay Afro missionary, explained how the Afro people of Guayaquil discovered the importance of the Black Christ of Daule and sang a hymn he composed himself some years ago about the Afro American Christ.
That evening we took part in a debate on the theme of “Afro American Culture, the Church and Society”. Among the main speakers were Mgr. Arellano, Mgr. Minda, Fr. José Joaquim Luis Pedro and the economist Uriel Castillo, of the Catholic University of Guayaquil.
Friday was dedicated to group work. It was suggested that we form a team to coordinate our Comboni pastoral work among the Afro people at the continental level, which would set up a network among the various provinces to know each other better and to exchange the abundant material we already have and place it at the disposal of the Church, the Afro people and the universities.
On Friday evening, Catherine Chalá presented the Enciclopedia del Sapere Afroecuadoriano which aroused great interest on the part of all the participants.
The meeting ended on Saturday with the official inauguration of the renovated headquarters of the Afro Centre. After Mass, presided over by Mgr. Minda, the house was blessed and a musical concert with the participation of the “Karibu” marimba band and several rap groups.
The provincial, Fr. Claudio Zendron, said that by renovating the headquarters of the Afro Centre, the Comboni Missionaries aimed at showing that the Afro pastoral constitutes one of the main priorities in our work of evangelisation. Everyone was very pleased by the fact that they had had the opportunity to meet a number of Comboni Missionaries who had worked among the Afro people of this city.
Delegate is involved in an accident
On Monday, 8 February, Fr. Cosmo Vittorio Spadavecchia, the delegate of Egypt, was run over by a minibus and suffered a fractured ankle. He had surgery the following day and is slowly recovering.
On 26 February, the first Bible Congress was organized at the Church of St. Joseph in Zamalek. It brought together people of all ages, nationalities and churches in Cairo to discuss the theme “Paul's message to the Christians living in Egypt”. The sessions were conducted in Arabic, English, Italian, French and Spanish in order to include as many people as possible. Among the speakers there were a Coptic bishop, a Lutheran and Presbyterian pastors and members of the faculty of the local catholic school of theology. The Congress is intended to be an annual event to promote education, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue.
The Assembly of the Delegation of Eritrea took place in Asmara from 16 to 18 March, attended by all the members and the novices of the Delegation. The scholastics were represented by two of their number during the afternoon sessions, while the last session was attended by them all. The assembly was preceded by the feast of the Birthday of Comboni, with all the Comboni Family gathering at the Sisters’ Chapel at Casa Comboni.
The Secretariat of evangelization and ongoing formation had sent out the program and the timetable to the communities in good time, inviting each confrere and each community to study the document.
The delegate to the Chapter gave an overall picture of the General Chapter and presented important information on the Chapter Acts, 2009, to help in studying and reflecting on the document. The assembly studied all the themes of the Chapter Acts, asking itself what such challenges meant for our Delegation and for the difficult situation in our country.
A particular reflection was made about the suppression of Fode community/mission and about our possible future presence in Gash Barka. A fact-finding-committee had been set up by the Delegation Council to study the proposal of the Bishop of Barentu Eparchy. The committee presented a written report to the assembly. The assembly discussed at length the various issues and their implications and gave its opinion. The Delegation Council will take up the matter and come up with a final decision after dialogue with the General Council.
The assembly concluded with the Eucharist presided by Fr. Aristide Guerra, our eldest confrere and the only expatriate in our Delegation. The confreres appreciate his presence among us because, apart from anything else, he has spent 58 years in Eritrea, and knows more than anybody else about the history of the Delegation.
Conference on Anthropology and Mission
Mundo Negro magazine held the XII Conference on Anthropology and Mission in Madrid on 20 and 21 March, 2010. The theme of the conference was “Christian-Moslem dialogue” with the title “In the name of the same God”. During the conference, the Mundo Negro 2009 Fraternity Prize was presented to Mgr. Paul Kouassivi Vieira, Bishop of Djougou (Benin).
The first session was led by José Luis Sánchez Nogales, lecturer in philosophy of religion at the theological faculty of Granada, on “Key Concepts in Islam”. Relying on his experience as a lecturer, he proposed four fundamental concepts in Islam: Mahoma, Islam, the Koran and Sharia Law.
Speaking on the situation of dialogue between Moslems and Christians, Fr. Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, Comboni Missionary and President of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic Studies and Islam, gave an account of this, opening up new horizons for future prospects.
The frequent meetings and encounters to facilitate this dialogue have given rise to various evaluations.
There is a certain imbalance among those who participate in these encounters. Christian representatives, on the one hand, have a good knowledge of Islam while, on the other, Moslem participants are, for the most part, ignorant of the foundations of the Christian faith. As regards the content of the meetings, the difficulties to be overcome regard the recognition of what constitutes the Christian patrimony and the need to detach oneself from the political connotations with which Islam presents itself. For these reasons, the decisions which may be taken in these meetings are not sufficiently concrete and, as a result, the efforts at dialogue lack continuity.
The culminating moment of the conference was the testimony of Mgr. Kouassivi who could not be present personally for reasons of health. It therefore fell to the Comboni Missionary, Fr. Juan José Tenías Fenollé, to receive the prize on his behalf. Mgr. Kouassivi converted to Christianity from Islam and has a profound knowledge of the relations between the two faiths. At Djougou, where there are 100 mosques, there are only two catholic churches for the Catholics who make up 3% of the population. Here is his testimony: “Dialogue and charity are perfectly acceptable but never apostasy or defection. There must be no violence and not even culpable silence or submission out of fear”. Then, as if he were speaking of the stages of a strategy, he gave some indications: conserve the value of one’s Christian faith, live it and show it with neither fear nor ostentation. Show Christian charity towards all without exception and practice it in our dealings with our Moslem brothers. Pray for our Moslem brothers without necessarily seeking their conversion as this presupposes a long journey which each person undertakes in their concrete situation. As I pray for Moslems, I am confident that God works in them and knows how to lead them to the Truth of Christ in the best way possible. We must have patience and perseverance and we must have deep evangelical determination and convictions.
On January 23 and 24, 2010, the house of Pesaro received the superiors of the 23 communities of the Italian Province, together with the counsellors and provincial secretaries, for a time of reflection following the results of the 2009 Chapter and with a view to preparing the next Six-Year Plan. The provincial, Fr. Corrado Masini, introduced the work of the Assembly with an invitation to live it as an opportunity for communion and corresponsibility to enliven the spirit of fraternity and mission in the entire reality of the Province.
The first day was dedicated to the Chapter and was animated by the presence of Fr. Enrique Sánchez González, Superior General, and of Fr. Alberto Pelucchi, assistant general. Fr. General shared his reflections on the Chapter, underlining some of its characteristics (especially its internationality) and calling to mind its challenges and priorities. Fr. Pelucchi spoke of the contribution of the European Provinces and the proposals and directives of the Chapter regarding Europe: he then introduced group work with three topics for discussion: internationalisation of the personnel of the provinces, our missionary presence in Europe and the validity of our present structures.
On the second day he presented a vision of the situation of the Province based upon the reports of the various secretariats and committees, thus helping the participants to be informed, clarify any doubts and express their personal opinions on the life of the Province.
Despite the short time available, the assembly was rich in content and facilitated mutual knowledge and the sense of belonging to the Province. The Province is now starting the process of preparing the Six-Year Plan with a questionnaire which has been sent to the confreres and the communities to stimulate reflection and produce contributions and proposals.
Limone: Domenica Pace and Luigi Comboni at Teseul
“Honour your father and your mother: you will be content and gain a hearing on the day of your prayer” says Ecclesiasticus (3:5). The mortal remains of Domenica Pace (1801-1858) and Luigi Comboni (1803-1893) have been entrusted to the care of the sons of Comboni. And we honour them with that spirit of filial devotion which Daniel himself had for his parents whom he loved so much during his life. On 15 March, 1973, the bones were taken from the cemetery of the town “to be taken home” to Teseul, no longer an empty house but, for some years now, the home of some disciples of their beloved son, Daniel.
On 12 February, 1996, in preparation for the beatification, the urn containing the few fragments of Comboni’s relics was carried in procession from the parish church to Teseul. These few relics of Comboni were then distributed to various places and the mortal remains of the parents were placed in the then empty urn. The modernisation of the Comboni Museum, recently terminated, made it necessary to relocate the urn. We decided that the most appropriate place would be next to the chapel of the “Casa Natale” where St. Daniel is venerated. The sacristy was remodelled as the new custodian of a “very precious” reliquary.
Now, pilgrims may start by praying to St. Daniel and then continue their itinerary guided by the design and colour of the place, to venerate the roots (the urn containing the remains of his parents), the fruit (the display case containing the souvenirs of Comboni most precious to us) and the branches: the great Comboni “adventure” (a short reference to the presence of the Comboni Family spread throughout the world). A “tree planted by the flowing waters”, (Psalm 1:3) which produces fruit for the Kingdom of God even today.
The inauguration took place on 15 March in the presence of about thirty Comboni Priests, Brothers and Sisters who were starting that same evening their spiritual retreat on the theme: “The Mystery of Christ on the Face of Comboni”, directed by Fr. Teresino Serra, former Superior General. The Mass was offered for all deceased parents of Comboni Missionaries and Comboni Sisters, first among whom are Domenica and Luigi Comboni who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith.
The Province of Kenya in Assembly
The Provincial Assembly of Kenya, Nairobi 8-12 February 2010, engaged the confreres in the study and contextualisation of the Chapter Acts 2009 in the country, identifying the challenges and the ways to face them. It started with a half day of prayer and reflection, directed by Fr. John Ikundu, the Kenya representative to the Chapter. In the afternoon of the first day the Provincial presented his Report on the state of the province.
The work was organised in groups of communities according to the zones: Turkana, Pokot, Marsabit, Nairobi pastoral and Nairobi mission promotion and formation, with the final evaluation of each section done in the general assembly. At the end of the day the province appears to be a living, active and creative reality in the work of evangelization. The difficulties that marred the life of the country in the past years have had no negative impact on pastoral commitments; nobody felt threatened or was induced to quit the country. The painful experience of the crisis led confreres to ask for more seminars on the current socio-political and religious issues, so as not to be caught unprepared and unaware by the development of the events.
Discussing the theme of leadership, a question was asked about the type of provincial superior we have in mind for the next six-years. After listing a set of qualities that are almost impossible to find in one person, a voice advocated the choice of a Kenyan confrere. The Chapter Acts call for the adaptation of a “lifestyle” more in line with that of the ordinary people. Several practical proposals were offered which went from a deeper knowledge and esteem of the people, of their language and customs, to a more evangelical use of the means at our disposal, with a note not to fall into the trap of “poverty” as an ideology. “Our lifestyle should aim at showing people how to improve their lives, putting aside the mentality of ‘super powers’ (we are not ‘providers’), showing how best to utilise the means at their disposal and giving clear signs of strong commitment to work”. The icon of the “good Samaritan” could be a source of inspiration.
We discussed the topics of identity and spirituality, the requalification of commitments (in the sense that it was decided to retain those more attuned to our charism) and the Total Common Fund (which by common agreement was adopted).
Time to vote
The electoral campaign in Sudan is approaching the final hurdle. The country goes to the urns on 12 April. According to official data, 16,147,000 citizens have registered. This is an undoubted success compared with 1986 when only five million registered to vote.
The very fact that for the first time the candidates carried out an electoral campaign, they presented themselves to the people with a programme and plastered the cities and their cars with their posters, is, in itself, a noteworthy event. Up to now, people came into power without any campaign, that is, either by a coup (Nimeri and Bashir) or by common agreement between parties. This time campaigns were carried out. It goes without saying that not everything was perfect and complaints were the order of the day, but one has the impression that positive progress is being achieved.
The following comments were made
1. Too many irons in the fire. People must vote for the President of the republic, for the Governor of the state, for members of parliament at the national, regional and local levels, for female representatives, etc. In North Sudan, there are eight papers to be filled in and twelve in the South. This will not be easy.
2. Urgency. During the negotiations which led to the CPA, the North had asked for ten-year-long transition period. The SPLM saw this as a delaying tactic and agreed on a six-year period. As it turns out, six years is not a lot but the problem is that the deadlines of the operations preparing the elections have not been kept.
3. Bashir showed himself to be especially ruthless in this campaign. On his side he has all the state apparatus, the means of communication and money. He toured the country far and wide, including the South. He organised huge gatherings and made a lot of promises and the inauguration of public works. At Wau he re-opened the railway; at Renk he inaugurated the electricity connection with the power station at Damasin. The reaction of the Southerners was ambiguous: they still remember very well the harm for which Bashir is responsible but, for political reasons, many hope that, with Bashir in power, it will be easier to hold the referendum in January 2011. Bashir reacted generously: “I will respect the will of the people, even if the South wishes to separate. I will cooperate with the new State”, he solemnly promised in the presence of hundreds of thousands of citizens. Obviously, when Bashir is speaking in the North, his speech changes. He has assured his fellow Moslems that Sharia Law, the law of Islam, imposed by Nimeri in 1983, will remain in place. He has also been very critical of his opponent in the elections, Arman, who speaks of a secular state.
However, his position is not a comfortable one: if he is elected he must answer the charges of the International Criminal Court. In this context, some speak of a possible coup by his own party and supported by his own side (his party, the army, business people, his usual friends abroad, etc.) with the purpose of replacing Bashir with another leader and leaving everything else as it is now.
The Church, too, has become active. On the first Sunday of Lent, the Archbishop of Juba published a pastoral letter on the theme of the elections: “Voice of People, Voice of God”. This letter will be a very useful tool for formation in the context of the elections.
On 1 March, Cardinal Zubeir, Archbishop of Khartoum, organised an ecumenical meeting for the purpose of prayer and conscientisation. He was joined by Mgr. Rudolf Deng, Bishop of Wau and President of the Sudanese Episcopal Conference. “Be wise in exercising your right to vote so as to bring about substantial change in Sudan”, said the Cardinal. “Be well informed about the people you are electing: if you elect corrupt people, you also become responsible for the corruption which will follow”. The Cardinal warned the Christians against repeating the tragic mistakes of the recent elections in Zimbabwe and in Kenya.
There was a significant presence of other churches led by Bishop Jonathan Hamad Kuku of the Lutheran National Church and pastors of other denominations. There were also some notables from the political sphere. Among these was Abel Alier, President of the National Electoral Commission. He, like the Cardinal, explained what is at stake and invited the citizens to be informed as to the candidates and their programmes and to feel responsible, in voting, for the future of the country. It was an intense moment, lived in peacefulness and hope.
We note also the discourse of Pope Benedict XVI to the Sudanese bishops on the occasion of their ad limina visit on 13 March, 2010. The Pope is aware of the moment being lived by Sudan without concealing the problems but underlining what is positive. He calls for vigilance and commitment, especially in the field of the formation of leaders at all levels and says clearly that the Church expects the laity “to give witness convincingly to Jesus Christ, in every way, from the family to social and political life”.
The elections may bring tensions and the churches are called upon by all parties to be present and active and work constructively.
The theme of the elections has been the subject of debate and prayer meetings in practically all the Christian communities, both Catholic and non-Catholic. At all levels, the communities have taken the theme of the elections to heart, encouraging people to register and to be informed with seminars, workshops and prayer meetings. It has been said that the churches were a little slow in getting organised but, speaking with the man in the street, one has the impression that people are taking of the elections more than one might imagine.
Admittedly there have been excesses such as the threat to close Radio Bakhita in Juba on 3 March. But these facts should not deter people excessively if we remember that we are faced with an exercise of liberty without precedent. This means that those in charge have to start from scratch. We have much reason for hope.
Continental Meeting on Vocations Promotion and Basic Formation
From 22 to 28 February, representatives of all the provinces of America and Asia gathered at the novitiate of Sahuayo (Mexico) to take part in an extraordinary meeting on formation. The reflection was led by Fr. John Baptist Keraryo Opargiw, general secretary for formation and the three provincials: Fr. Rafael González Ponce (M), Fr. Leonardo Leandro Araya (DCA) and Fr. Rogelio Bustos Juárez (Peru-Chile), continental co-ordinator.
The meeting was held to respond to the proposal which emerged in the context of the recent General Chapter which requires the implementation of the decisions relative to the sectors of Basic Formation and Vocations Promotion. With the help of Fr. Siro Stocchetti (ACFP), we focussed on the “Integral formative model” and we discussed the directives of the General Chapter on basic formation and the possibility of proposing a continental framework for operative statutes regarding vocations promotion and the various stages of formation, while acknowledging each context and the graduality and continuity of the journey foreseen by the Institute. We thank the Mexican Province for their affectionate and brotherly welcome extended to us during this meeting.
Earthquake in Chile
We were about to end our continental meeting, still thinking of the earthquake in Haiti, when we heard of the strong tremors which struck Chile on 27 February last, with its epicentre in the area of Concepción. The images we saw conveyed the enormous damage caused by the earthquake and the tsunami which afterwards struck those parts. As soon as possible, we contacted the confreres in Santiago and the families of Chilean confreres. The confreres are alright and there have not been victims, even though the house was damaged. We are grateful for the messages of concern and solidarity we have received.
Centenary celebrations marking the arrival of the first MCCJ
On 20 March, 2010, the Church in West Nile celebrated the centenary (1910-2010) of the arrival of the first Comboni Missionaries in Northern Uganda. It was the beginning of evangelisation in West Nile which brought fruits in abundance through the response and cooperation of the local people. The first Comboni Missionaries to arrive at Omach, on the river Nile, were Mgr. Franz Xaver Geyer, Fr. Albino Colombaroli, Fr. Pasquale Crazzolara, Fr. Luigi Cordone, Bro. Clement Schroer and Bro. Benedict Sighele.
For the occasion there was a two-man delegation from Rome in the persons of the General Councillor Fr. Alberto Pelucchi and the Secretary General of Formation Fr. John Baptist Keraryo Opargiw. The celebration was attended by a huge crowd, many local priests and religious, Comboni Missionaries and Sisters. Also present were the Apostolic Nuncio Mgr. Paul Tschang In-Nam, Mgr. Martin Luluga of Nebbi, Mgr. John Baptist Odama of Gulu, Mgr. Henry A. Ssentongo of Moroto, Mgr. Giuseppe Franzelli of Lira, Mgr. Frederick Drandua, Bishop emeritus of Arua, Mgr. Sabino Ocan Odoki, Apostolic Administrator of Arua, the President of Uganda Yoweri K. Museveni, the cabinet minister Fred Jachan Omach and other dignitaries and numerous cultural leaders.
This centenary celebration is another important African rite of passage through which the local Church truly becomes mature, adult and fully in charge of her destiny.
Let us pray for our beloved dead
THE FATHER: José María, of Bro. Alberto Lamana Cónsola (SS).
THE MOTHER: Micaela, of Fr Ramón Eguiluz Eguiluz (E).
THE BROTHERS: Antonio (December, 2009), of Fr. Tarcisio Marin (PE); Manuel, of Fr. Martinho Lopes Moura (BS); Maurice, of Fr. Donatien Kokou Atitse (ET); Marco, of Fr. Mario Piotti (†).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. Camillina Gilli; Sr. Lina Luisa Cappoli.