Monthly Newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
3rd CONSULTA: 12 March - 4 May 2010
First experience of an intense Consulta
We have plunged ourselves with courage and confidence into this new service, trusting above all in the help that comes from Above. We have in mind to try to offer the confreres compelling guidelines for their missionary life. At times we have felt that our wings were clipped in this effort by the quantity of urgent situations which have reached us throughout the Consulta. We realised that there has been a certain lack of understanding about the situation we are experiencing right now with regard to the personnel. We are surprised by the persistence of a mentality which insists on the criteria of replacing personnel and not on the reduction of commitments. We hope to arrive at a stage when we spend less time in finding solutions for emergency situations and find instead more time for what can facilitate our leadership service. The provincials and delegates will, of course, be of great assistance in starting the work of evaluation of our types of presence, as the General Chapter has asked of us.
In trying to define the Plan of the Comboni Missionaries today, the GC has decided to concentrate the entire programming on four important lines, trying to make converge the priorities and the task entrusted to us by the Chapter and to maintain the Plan within the parameters of humility and simplicity, without pretending more than what we can do and put into operation at the present time. The Guide will be published as soon as possible.
Consultation for the new Provincials/Delegates and their Councils
Taking into consideration that the provincials/delegates presently in charge will conclude their time of service on 31 December 2010, the GC, at the end of April 2010, will send out to all the superiors of circumscriptions the letter for starting the consultations for choosing the new Provincials/Delegates and their Councils.
1. In the provinces where the vice-provincial is holding the place of the provincial, there will be no appointment of a vice-provincial (see RL 124.1). In case of necessity or of absence, one of the councillors may be designated by the Council to represent the vice-provincial.
2. In the session of 31.03.2010 were appointed vice-provincials for other circumscriptions:
Fr. Claudino Ferreira Gomes for Portugal.
Fr. Okot Ochermoi Louis Tony for South Sudan.
Fr. Paolino Tipo Deng Amayldh for Chad.
3. Also appointed were:
Fr. Arroyo Román Elías: as second formator in the scholasticate of São Paulo (BS).
Fr. Katsan Fodagni Kokouvi (Fidèle): novice master for the new novitiate in Sarh (TC).
Fr. Delgado Domingo José: assistant novice master for Sarh (TC).
Fr. Valero Maciá José Juan: novice master for the novitiate in Santarém (P).
Fr. Carlos Alberto Nunes: : assistant novice master for Santarém (P).
The GC wishes to heartily thank the provinces of South Africa and Mexico for their great spirit of collaboration towards the whole Institute they have shown throughout the past years by offering hospitality to the group of the Comboni Year. Next July, at the end of the last course of the CYOF in Mexico, the team will move to Rome to begin coordinating anew the entire Ongoing Formation. We invite, therefore, the provincials/delegates to encourage the confreres of the circumscription to take part in the next Renewal Course that will take place in Rome from January to May 2011. The names of the participants should arrive in Rome by the end of September 2010.
- With the appointment of Fr. Katsan Fodagni Kokouvi (Fidèle) as novice master and of Fr. Delgado Domingo José as his assistant, the new French-speaking novitiate will begin functioning in Sarh in September 2010 with about a dozen novices.
- The European novitiate of Santarém will reopen next September under the responsibility of Fr. Valero Maciá José Juan and Fr. Carlos Alberto Nunes.
The Code of Conduct
The GC reminds all that the Code of Conduct was promulgated for the entire Comboni Institute with the letter of the GC “Donum Missionis” of 31 July 2007. Some circumscriptions have already completed the work of contextualising it in the local situation. The GC is encouraging the other circumscriptions to do likewise as soon as possible. For this reason, the GC will prepare a short study aid with some examples concerning the numbers to be contextualised.
In this Consulta the GC has approved the budgets, the extraordinary expenses and the refurbishing of the funds as submitted by the General Treasurer.
The appeal to the provinces/delegations made on behalf of the earthquake victims in Haiti has made available an amount which, together with the GC’s contribution, consists of about € 300 thousand. This was handed to the local Church.
For the emergency of the earthquake victims in Chile, the GC has made available € 25 thousand.
Meeting of the GC with the Comboni Sisters
It was the first time that our new GC met with that of the Comboni Sisters, which is nearly at the end of its mandate. We shared topics of common interest, such as the Radio project in South Sudan (personnel, finances, dioceses’ involvement), models of possible choices concerning the matter of the sick/elderly in the Institute, ways of arriving at joint statements on issues of JPIC, collaboration between the two communities in Limone and its related activities and, finally, the personnel at Dar Comboni.
The GC invites all the confreres to remember in their prayers our sisters who will start their General Chapter next September.
Agenda of the General Council
- Fr. Sánchez González Enrique
He will be in Rome till the Consulta of June to attend various meetings: Meeting of the Union of the 18 Superior Generals (USG) at Propaganda Fide; meeting with Major Superiors of the Italian Missionary Institutes; meeting of the MISNA associates; assembly of the USG.
4 - 15 July: directs the spiritual exercises and visits the province of Portugal.
- Fr. Odelir José Magri
12-15 May: short visit to Poland.
1-7 June: participates at the continental assembly of provincials/delegates of America/Asia in Bogotá.
- Fr. Pelucchi Alberto
4-28 May: directs the spiritual exercises and visits the delegation of Asia.
- Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie
11 May - 1 June: visits the province of South Sudan.
9 July - 5 August: directs the spiritual exercises and visits the province of Malawi-Zambia.
- Bro. Giusti Daniele Giovanni
10 May - 3 June: visits the province of Centrafrica.
31 July - 15 August: visits the eastern zone of the province of Congo.
Sc. Gregor Schmidt Bog-Dong (DSP) Talì (SS) 03.04.2010
Sc. Kikola Mafundamene Perpetue (CN) Bambilo (CN) 11.04.2010
Sc. Musaka Zoé (CN) Yanonge (CN) 11.04.2010
Sc. Calero Santos Elvis Robert (PE) Lima (PE) 13.04.2010
Sc. Cortés Barbosa Fernando (M) Lima (PE) 13.04.2010
Sc. Miąsik Maciej Tomasz (PO) Lima (PE) 13.04.2010
Sc. Perales Argüello Oscar Germán (M) Cuernavaca (M) 14.04.2010
Holy Redeemer Guild
May 01 – 07 ET 08 – 15 ER 16 – 31 IT
June 01 – 15 KE 16 – 30 KH
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.
June – That, with the attitude and passion of St. Daniel Comboni, we may contemplate Christ the Good Shepherd and draw from His Heart the strength to be credible witnesses of His Word and tangible signs of His compassion. Lord hear us.
The latest on a difficult situation
Situated in the heart of Africa, the country experienced an initial period of peace and prosperity. Once called the Switzerland of Africa, Central Africa has, for some years now, been in the sights of the surrounding states. To the east, for example, the Ugandan rebels of the LRA, commonly known as the Tongotongo, are on the rampage, pillaging the entire population of the Rafai region.
When they come, they burn the houses and take the youth hostage. They kill the children and the elderly who are unable to walk. Two girls who managed to escape from their clutches gave us the details. The rebels tie the hands of their prisoners on their heads and load them with all the booty: goats, pigs, equipment up to five pieces per person. Those who complain are given even more to carry.
Ugandan soldiers are also present in the country under the pretext of hunting down the rebels but surprisingly, they do not cooperate with the Central African army. It so happened that in fighting between Central African youth and the rebels, a rebel was killed. From the documents he was carrying, he was found to be a Ugandan soldier. The next day, Ugandan soldiers came to ask for his body but the people refused to hand it over. The situation is clearly dramatic and confused.
During this time of Easter, Christians and Moslems have organised days of prayer to invoke divine aid but a heavy hand in the shadows seems to be working to devastate the country.
The presence of God is shown in different ways
At the mission of Tokoyo, in the east of the country, Comboni missionaries visit the various communities to celebrate Mass. In doing so, they often witness unexpected events that show the presence of God in concrete ways.
Some time ago, Fr Isaac Chabu Chanda, a Malawian, was visiting the village of Ndengue where he had arrived at 5pm after a fairly long journey. In the evening, the people gathered with the missionary to pass the time singing songs and dancing round a fire which faintly lit up the area. One of the women left the group to breastfeed her child of two years. She intended to sit on a tree trunk but slipped and fell into an abandoned and unfenced waterhole eighteen metres deep. People heard her calls for help, fearing the worst. A man immediately went down the waterhole and brought out the child unharmed and the mother with nothing more than a bruised shoulder. Suddenly, the child began to sing some words from the songs people had been singing around the fire. All were amazed and began to sing along with the child. The strange thing was that the child had never spoken a single word until then.
Fifth Limone Symposium
The fifth European symposium for theological reflection on the Comboni charism met in Limone (Brescia) from 6 to 9 April, 2010, at the Casa Natale of the Founder. They came from the entire Comboni family (priests, Brothers, Sisters, secular missionaries and lay people) and from the provinces of Europe to reflect upon the theme “The mission today: starting points for the Comboni and missionary spirituality.”
The symposium was organised by the Italian Province with the technical assistance of GERT (Gruppo Europeo di Riflessione Teologica) and enjoyed this year the increase of the number of participants to 50 and the presence of the General Superior, Fr. Enrique Sánchez González, and the General Superior of the Comboni Sisters, Mother Adele Brambilla, as well as two former General Superiors, Fr. Francesco Pierli and Fr. Manuel Augusto Lopes Ferreira.
After the official welcome by the provincial of Italy, Fr. Corrado Masini, and the opening Eucharist presided over by Fr. Enrique Sánchez González, the symposium was given a biblical premise with the help of Fr. Stefano Tarocchi, head of the Theological Faculty of Central Italy, and of the Servite Bible scholar Fr. Alberto Maggi. Fr. Tarocchi spoke of the “messianic compassion”, commenting on Jesus weeping over Jerusalem (Lk 19:41-44), while Fr Maggi, by means of a video, presented a passionate meditation on “the Good Shepherd” (Jn 10).
The social and political dimensions of the Comboni charism was brought into the light with the interventions of Carmelo Dotolo, a regular guest speaker at the Symposium and lecturer at the Urbanian University, of Fr. Pierli who presented a synthesis of the great themes of the previous Social Forums (Nairobi and Belém), and of Fr. Daniele Moschetti who presented his own experience of “insertion” at Korogocho (Kenya). Afterwards, Fr. Giuseppe Scattolin, an expert in Islam, led a reflection on the challenge of interreligious dialogue. Other contributions were added on various facets of Comboni spirituality: spirituality in the Comboni tradition and in general (Fr. Danilo Castello), “the feminine point of view” (Mother Adele Brambilla), that of the Secular Comboni Missionaries (Maria Pia Dal Zovo), that of the laity (Tony and Dorotea of the Comboni Lay group of Palermo) and lastly, the Comboni spirituality in Africa (Fr. Matthew Remijo Adam Gbitiku). The entire presentation offered a complete picture of the development of the Comboni charism today, the basis for group workshops during which some inspirational elements for a Comboni and missionary spirituality.
In a final message, the desire was expressed to share with the entire Comboni Family the riches of the symposium while looking forward to the complete publication of the various interventions.
Bosaro remembers Fr. Giuseppe Santi
On Sunday, 18 April, the fellow townspeople of Fr. Giuseppe Santi, killed at Lira (Uganda) on 14 April, 1979, Holy Saturday, decided to remember their illustrious citizen with a Eucharistic celebration. The AVIS and Aido sections of the entire Province of Rovigo gathered for the occasion. The Bosaro AVIS section has been named after Fr. Giuseppe Santi, their “most famous citizen”, as the Mayor called him. The Mayor also congratulated the AVIS section of the town for having made the figure of Fr. Santi relevant today through a small publication entitled A life for others giving the testimonies of people who knew him personally and with pictures of Fr. Santi among his Ugandans and with his fellow townspeople. The Mayor expressed the hope that “soon, someone of good will would propose the beatification of this martyr of our times as a reminder and example for future generations.”
The Parish priest, Fr. Camillo Magarotto, presided at the celebration and recalled the figure of Fr. Santi in connection with the year of the priesthood proclaimed by the Pope. “On the souvenir card of his ordination – he said – Fr. Santi had a crucifix with the caption Sitio, ‘I thirst’, in Latin. The words of the dying redeemer were the pattern of his life.”
Fr. Aurelio Boscaini, who had come from Verona for the celebration, emphasised the present day importance of Fr. Santi as one who loved Africa so much that he spent all his energy and shed his blood for salvation and peace in Uganda. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of new Christians”, he pointed out. Today, the Church in Africa is growing in numbers and in holiness, thanks also to the witness of the blood of Fr. Santi. “Vocations are born in our families – Fr. Aurelio concluded. May Fr. Santi place in the heart of some young man of Bosaro the desire to consecrate, like him, his whole life to the proclamation of the Word in Africa.”
In memory of Fr. Ezechiele Ramin
The Barbarigo High School of Padua proposed a Lenten initiative to remember and rediscover the figure of Fr. Ezechiele Ramin, 25 years from his martyrdom in Brazil in July, 1985. Students, parents and professors were involved in a series of activities which followed the life of Fr. Ezechiele and helped to understand its options in depth. In conclusion, the head and former students proposed a round table conference to be held on the evening of 9 April, in the very High School where Fr. Ezechiele had completed his secondary studies before joining the Comboni Family.
In the presence of Professor Talami, his lecturer and friend of many years, of Fr. Giovanni Munari, his Postulancy and Novitiate companion, and of Antonio Ramin, his elder brother, various dimensions of his life were presented: from his youthful passion to his sensitivity to human suffering, from his ability to interpret moments and situations of dire need, both in Italy and in Brazil, to his spirituality, nourished mostly by the great schools of Latin American spirituality.
For the Barbarigo High School in particular, it was a strong reminder of the need to promote even today a formation which renders the youth capable of opening themselves to the world and to transmit to the youth great ideals, as in the past.
The Sudan elections
In Sudan, one can never be sure an event is going to take place until it has actually happened. Up to the last minute the elections were not a certainty. Only now can we say they have taken place: people went to vote from 11 to 15 April, two days more than planned. It was the first time for elections since 1986. I personally witnessed the pre-electoral and electoral period in the area of Wau-Raga. People seemed to me to be well enough informed and prepared and the elections took place in good order and peacefully.
Once back in Khartoum, however, I learned that this was not the case everywhere. In some places there were organisational errors: polling stations opened late, electoral lists delivered to the wrong places, names missing from the lists. There were also some attempts at fraud such as votes disappearing or being replaced. However, these were isolated cases. The most serious matter was the pressure brought to bear by the forces of law and order, in certain areas, on the electorate, to vote for government parties: in the North, the National Congress Party (NCP), and in the South the SPLM. All things considered, the exercise has been deemed to be positive, bearing in mind the vastness of the territory, the war in Darfur, the lack of experience on the part of the personnel and the real difficulty in explaining how the elections worked to many illiterate people. The last minute withdrawal of some parties or candidates created some uncertainty and confusion among voters. Foreign observers said the standard was below international levels, although they did not condemn the elections, hoping that all might learn from the experience. The most positive aspect of the elections was the experience of participating, for the first time, in such a competition. Generally speaking, the people took the matter seriously and behaved with dignity.
When voting ended, some defeated candidates, especially in the South, found it hard to admit defeat. The government was mostly concerned with discouraging all forms of violence, fearing it might loose control.
On the national level, there will probably be little change, with the exception of a few new faces in parliament. People speculate about changing this or that person but it’s still too early to say. Bashir had an overwhelming victory in the North as Salva Kiir did in the South. In theory, the possibility of other parties participating in the government was offered but this never materialised. Both the NCP and the SPLM hastily confirmed that they were prepared to go ahead together towards the referendum for the South (January, 2010). There will be some changes at the local level where the popular vote succeeded in replacing some governors.
Now everyone is looking forward to the referendum. Many think separation is a foregone conclusion but others do not accept this and are hoping for some last minute operations to prevent it. Let us hope all goes well.
The Comboni Missionaries of the North American Province came together during the week of April 12-16 for their annual Provincial Assembly. It was a blessed moment in that all but two members were present. The time spent together afforded the priests opportunities to pray, share and relax together. Much important work was accomplished, including the gathering of significant material that will help to form concrete plans for the future in the light of the Chapter Acts 2009.
Immigration Rally Builds Momentum for Reform
Immigrants and their friends gathered for a large rally at the Hartwell Country Club in Cincinnati, close to St. Charles Borromeo Church where Fr. William Jacob Jansen and Fr. Jorge Elías Ochoa Gracián are pastors. Fr. Ochoa was a lead organizer of the rally that drew hundreds of people. Fr. Ruffino Ezama (Mission Promotion) and Cindy Browne (JPIC) from the Comboni Mission Center in Cincinnati attended.
State of Ohio representatives spoke, including Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and a State Senator Eric Kearney. The rally generated new momentum and spoke to what’s coming up and what’s at stake. Attendees filled out postcards to alert politicians to the importance of immigration reform.
60th Anniversary Celebrations
“Love isn't something that we have; it's something that we do. We help to make each other all that we can be.” It’s pretty safe to say country singer Clint Black didn’t have Comboni Missionaries in mind when he wrote these words, but they apply perfectly to three dedicated men who recently celebrated 60 years as missionary priests: Fr. Sergio Contran, Fr. Archie Fornasari and Fr. Hugo Riva. They have carried out a ministry of “doing love” for God’s people, and they have made countless friends along the way.
Fr. Archie’s love of and commitment to teaching is evidenced by his 32 years as professor at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and 7 years as visiting professor at Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. When people are asked about their experience of Fr. Archie, the response inevitably includes, “He’s always smiling, he’s always positive, and he never speaks badly of anyone.” To have lived out 60 years of vocation with this frame of mind is to have lived well and to have been an example, not only to countless students but to the entire faith community.
When Fr. Hugo embraced religious life, he did so with no restraints. Even his name, he says, indicates his commitment to God and the Comboni Missionaries. It is spelled H-u-g-o but he hears it as a “You go,” a message given many times from God and his superiors throughout his 60 years of mission life. Fr. Hugo feels a special tie to the Blessed Mother, who also heard and answered God’s call and so has served as his role model through the years.
While Fr. Sergio finds it difficult to write about himself, he’s quick to share that his deepest love has been to celebrate the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation. He says without hesitation, “I have enjoyed my life as a priest and I am happy to be a Comboni Missionary.”
All three priests celebrated their anniversaries together during the Provincial Assembly in Cincinnati in April.
Fr. Peter Ciuciulla visits Chad for ordination of local priest
Chad, Africa, was home to Fr. Peter Ciuciulla for 12 years, and during that time he made a lot of friends and memories. In February, he had the golden opportunity to reconnect after three years. Although the entire experience was rewarding, the highlight of his trip was to be present for the ordination of Claude Yadjimadji Ondongar, the first young man Fr. Peter welcomed into the formation house he opened in Chad for those wanting to study to be missionary priests. Fr. Peter came back with this message: Everybody wanted to be part of the joy and pride of sharing one of their own with the world. The hundreds of people who came that morning to Claude’s ordination served as a strong reminder to me that the Church is missionary by nature.
Comboni priest receives special award
“Su Casa”, the Hispanic Center of Cincinnati, founded in 1997 as a response to the sudden increase in the numbers of immigrants arriving in Cincinnati from Mexico and the rest of Latin America, hosted its 11th Annual Silent Auction & Awards Dinner on April 20. Mgr. Eduardo Carmona Ortega, first bishop of Puerto Escondido, served as the keynote speaker. Bishop Carmona visits Cincinnati periodically to reach out to members of his flock located in this area.
“Su Casa” presented four awards to individuals and agencies that have made a significant contribution to the Greater Cincinnati Hispanic and Latino communities. Among the recipients was Fr. William Jacob Jansen, director of the Hispanic Ministries of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, who was given the prestigious Cesar Chavez Award. The award reads: For dedication and sacrifice in serving the Hispanic community in Greater Cincinnati with compassion and understanding.
Comboni Rhythms Irish Festival
The Comboni Mission Center in Cincinnati once again transformed its gym into a taste of Ireland this spring. The reason was to bring the community into the Comboni environment where people could connect with missionaries, visit the Mission Museum, read the life of St. Daniel depicted in posters along the hallway walls, pray at the Comboni Martyr Wall and absorb a bit of the Comboni charism. Entertainment included Irish singers and dancers, and a group of dulcimer players. An Irish tea room provided a quiet space to share tea and scones or a warm bowl of potato soup. The whole affair was geared to family activities. Over 200 people from the area participated and contributed to the support of the Comboni Missionaries’ mission work.
The annual Assembly for Missionary Animation and Evangelisation, which took place at Coimbra from 13 to 15 April, approved some proposals which will form part of the plan of work for the next six years in Portugal.
The 22 Comboni missionaries present chose as their priorities for their missionary activity a greater investment in the vocations sector, a significant contribution to evangelisation and the setting up of a team of four confreres instil a more dynamic approach in the sector of publications and audiovisuals.
Interested, as they are, in finding new ways of effecting missionary animation and insertion in the local Church, the Comboni Missionaries eagerly heard the testimony of Fr. Jorge Santos, a diocesan priest of Coimbra, who presented the “Alpha Course” and “Parish Cells of Evangelisation.” What is important is to go out to people using a me-thodology which may lead them to a personal encounter with Christ.
Fr. Manuel Augusto Lopes Ferreira, explaining the Chapter document on Missionary Animation, underlined the need for renewal at the spiritual and methodological levels. Personnel need to be trained for this. We need to assume a broader vision, adopt a prophetic character and give personal and communitarian witness.
Final vows and ordination to diaconate
Sc. Gregor Schmidt Bog-Dong, from Germany, made his final profession and was ordained to the Diaconate in Southern Sudan. Gregor made his final vows in Talì, a Comboni mission in the Archdiocese of Juba, on April 3, during the Easter Vigil. This day happened to be also his anniversary of baptism, underlining the implied call to mission in this sacrament.
The ordination to the diaconate took place at St. Theresa’s Cathedral in Juba on April 25, Good Shepherd Sunday. Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro, mccj, ordained in the same occasion three local priests.
Gregor, 36, was born in Berlin. His father is German and his mother an immigrant from South Korea. He began studying Theology as a lay man and entered the postulancy in 2000. After his noviciate in Venegono, Italy, he went to Nairobi, Kenya, in 2005 to do a course on African Studies at the Maryknoll Institute. He published a book by the title "Becoming self-reliant" while researching for his thesis in Korogocho among the youth.
In 2009, Gregor was sent to South Sudan for his pastoral experience. He was posted in the community of Talì, where he follows some Christian communities and the youth. During the past year, he was involved mainly in education, helping in the government primary and secondary school.
The Comboni community is negotiating with the local authorities the starting of a primary school under the umbrella of the archdiocese. For the time being, the "school building" will be the church, a simple thatched construction. There are already 60 children attending lessons.
The mission of Talì was started in the 1950’s but the missionaries were soon expelled from the place. They were able to return only at Easter of 2008.
Let us pray for our beloved dead
THE MOTHERS: Klara, of Bro. Manfred Bellinger (MO); Antonietta, of Fr. Eugenio Rustighini (†).
THE BROTHERS: Taddeo, of Bro. Giovanni Battista Volpato (†); Basil, of Fr. Raphael Wokorach P’Mony (KE).
THE SISTERS: Dabeiba, of Bro. Gustavo Montoya Mondragón (CO); Maria, of Bro. Fernando Bartolucci (I).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. Gabriella M. Faedo; Sr. Milena Filipozzi; Sr. Vittorina M. Woldegabriel; Sr. Maria Severina Biasion.