Monthly Newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
Annual General Meeting of AEFJN in Rome
The contact persons of the 47 religious institutes, male and female, that constitute the Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN) met in General Assembly on 7th November in Rome. During the Assembly, Fr. Arlindo Ferreira Pinto, Comboni missionary, was elected member of the Executive Committee of AEFJN.
The Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network is a bridge linking Africa and Europe. AEFJN is present in all African and European countries with active groups (antennae). It lobbies the European Union and member states to promote just development in Africa; monitors the impact in Africa of EU policies and agreements and promotes socio-economic strategies that take into account the views of African people.
Fr. Endrias Shamena Keriba (ET)
Fr. Nguonzi Deogratias (U)
Fr. Sebopela Kgomotso R. (RSA)
Fr. Ketema Dagne Tadesse (ET)
Asebe Teferi (ETH)
Holy Redeemer Guild
December 01 – 15 PE 16 – 31 U
January 01 – 15 A 16 – 31 BR
December – That all children who meet the missionary men and women of Comboni may always receive from them great respect and be inspired by them to model their lives on the Child Jesus. Lord hear us.
January – That, in the countries of the Central African Republic and South Sudan, the peoples may be reconciled with one another and regain peace. Lord, hear us.
The youth of Notre Dame de Fatima refuse to give in
After the 28 May armed assault on the parish of Notre Dame de Fatima, many were left shocked and traumatised. It undid all the efforts for peace and social unity made up to then.
In spite of all this, the youth of the parish decided to go against the current and choose the way of peace-making and the rejection of violence. To this end, from 11 to 14 September they held a parish forum for the youth on the theme: “Courage, get up, Christ is calling you” (Mk 10:49).
During the forum – in a framework of formation, exchanges and reflections on the situation and the challenges facing the Central African youth in the time of crisis – the youth of the parish, with the support of the Comboni delegation of Central Africa, succeeded in laying the foundation for new possibilities. To help to make the event a success, always in the parish, a “pre-forum” had been organised, a special day of spiritual, human and cultural preparation with the refugees accompanied by a concert of religious music. Through song and dance, everyone enjoyed a moment of relaxation and joy. The youth of Notre Dame de Fatima even went to the extent of producing a film “La colomba” (The Dove), due to come out in a matter of days. It was written and produced by the youth to raise awareness among people and to foster social unity.
Fr. Moses Otii Alir spent the month of October in the diocese of Bozen-Brixen engaging in mission promotion. He moderated a workshop with the youth of the dioceses of Innsbruck, Trent and Bozen-Brixen. He also shared the situation of the Church and the military and political crisis of Central Africa with the Christians of the various parishes of the area, thus helping them to come to know the real situations of the overseas missions. The true situations are not necessarily the same as those occasionally presented by the mass media about a country which is, despite everything, not well known.
At Notre Dame de Fatima the youth are more determined than ever to gain more impetus to continue to work for peace and social unity. The 2014-2015 pastoral year promises to be full of activities and challenges.
Bro. Daniele Giusti visits the north-east
The visit of Bro. Daniele Giusti, Assistant General, to the north-east zone of the Congo began at the Anoalite Hospital of Mungbere, as had been requested by the provincial council of the Congo, in order to identify the options to improve the sustainability of the hospital. This visit is in the wake of similar visits carried out last year to Mapuordit Hospital, Leer Technical School and the Lomin workshops in the province of South Sudan.
The introduction of the Total Common Fund in the Institute has, as a matter of fact, brought to light the need for the provinces to carry out a clearer evaluation of the long-term needs and commitments of some social and human promotion works that have significant social impact and require equally complex management.
The visit ended with Bro Giusti taking part in the celebrations for the closing of the 50th anniversary of Comboni presence in the Congo, in the third week of September, at Isiro.
Conclusion of the Comboni Course for over-seventies
The first Comboni Course for Elderly Confreres, held in Rome in September and October, has been concluded. It was attended by missionaries over seventy years of age from the missions of Europe, Africa and America. For the last week of the course, the missionaries went on pilgrimage to the home of the Founder in Limone sul Garda – October 21 to 30 – for their Spiritual Exercises.
On Saturday, 1 November, the feast of All Saints, the Course ended with a Eucharistic celebration presided by Fr. Enrique Sánchez G. In his homily, the Superior General, taking the text of the beatitudes in St. Matthew, reminded the participants that “we are all called to be children on the way towards holiness because we can never, even when we are over seventy, cease growing”.
European Council for Basic Formation and Vocations Promotion
The European Council for Basic Formation and Vocations Promotion met in Nuremberg from 11 to 12 November 2014. Those who took part were Fr. John Baptist Keraryo Opargiw, Secretary General of Formation, Fr. Karl Peinhopf, European coordinator of the sector, Fr. Leonel Rodrigues Claro (Portugal), Fr. Maciej Miasik (Poland), Bro. Friedbert Tremmel (Germany) and Bro. Alberto Degan (Italy).
During the meeting, after a moment of sharing on the situation of the different Circumscriptions in Europe, the Council perused through the Final Document of the Formation Assembly of Granada July 7-17, 2014, and highlighted a number of priorities, which will be submitted to the Provincials of Europe. “A vote of thanks to Fr. Karl Peinhopf and to all the confreres of the DSP for the warm welcome they gave us”, said Fr. John Baptist at the end of the meeting.
First united meeting
Aware that they share the same charism, the councils of the Comboni Fathers and Comboni Sisters, together with the co-ordinating commission of the CLM, held their first meeting to follow up and strengthen a process of work through various initiatives. The meeting was held at the Provincial house in Madrid on the morning of 8 November. The starting point was the results of the meeting held in April for the 150th anniversary of the Plan. The Secular Missionary Women were not present but expressed their wish to be informed of the steps being taken at the level of the Comboni Family.
The meeting hinged on two questions: what do we intend to do and what can we do, while aware of the importance of starting from the situation and of building on existing experiences and remaining open to new suggestions. It was decided to set up an executive commission charged with organising various initiatives and the annual meeting for which the following themes were proposed: “The mystique of communion for the mission” and “Discernment on a common project”.
Golden Jubilee in Ethiopia
When in December 1964 Fr. Bruno Maccani and Fr. Bruno Lonfernini († 1999) set foot in the then small town of Hawassa, after a long trip on mule back, the future of a local Church was started. Fifty years later, the Comboni Family in Ethiopia remembers and celebrates the humble beginnings of what has become the present Vicariate Apostolic of Hawassa, the largest local Church in Ethiopia.
In collaboration with the Comboni Missionary Sisters, for whom the event of their arrival in Hawassa (1965) coincides also with their presence in Ethiopia, the Province is organizing a number of events that aim at animating the local Church in its missionary character. Thus, a vigil celebration on Mission Sunday 2015 and a symposium on selected topics on mission, scheduled for December 2015, at the closing of the year of grace for us, are being organized.
Last but not least, on next 28 December, 2014, Fr. Enrique Sánchez will pay his first official visit to the Province. This long expected visit will give the different local communities the opportunity to meet and celebrate in the simplicity of our encounters the joy of being Comboni Missionaries, fraternally united with the rest of the Institute, at a point when we all prepare for the celebration of the XVIII General Chapter.
The greatest joy of the Comboni Missionaries in Ethiopia, together with the fruitfulness of their labours, is the increase in the number of confreres born in Ethiopia. Two confreres, whose ordination to the diaconate was announced last June, have now been ordained priests: Fr. Endrias Shamena in Tambaro (Vicariate of Hosanna) on 22 November and Fr. Ketema Dagne in Asebe Teferi (Vicariate of Harar) on 30 November.
The Italian Province has set up single committee for the acceptance and evaluation of projects both for Mondo Aperto Onlus and the Fondazione Nigrizia Onlus. (Both based in Vicolo Pozzo 1 – 37129 Verona).
The members of the committee are Fr. Venanzio Milani (committee coordinator and in charge of the Fondazione Nigrizia Onlus), Bro. Giancarlo Bianchi (in charge of Mondo Aperto Onlus), Bro. Alberto Degan, Fr. Danilo Volonté, Fr. Marco Vailati and Mr. Francesco Meggiorini.
Requests may be made either to the Fondazione Nigrizia Onlus or to Mondo Aperto Onlus, according to the ambit of the project. The projects committee is to meet twice a year: early in March and early in December.
In December, provincial superiors will receive documentation to forward to confreres to facilitate and optimise requests for assistance.
AA.VV., L’Opera Sospesa - Quaderni del Tesöl, Limone 2014, pp. 144. A collection of letters of St. Daniel Comboni to the Church and people of Brescia, very relevant, even today. It includes useful comments by the Bishop of Brescia Mgr. Luciano Monari.
Manuel Ceola, La santità è di casa - Quaderni del Tesöl, Limone 2014, pp. 128. An indispensable guide for visitors to the home of St. Daniel Comboni in Limone sul Garda, with historical notes and spiritual suggestions.
Neno Contran, Cosa hai fatto nella vita? - Fondazione Nigrizia Onlus, 2014, pp. 100. A fascinating biography of Fr. Francesco Grotto, a Comboni Missionary in Togo. A man who was never sad and able to laugh at himself.
Kizito Sesana, Felici perché nuovi - Fondazione Nigrizia Onlus, 2014, pp. 64. This book proposes reflection based on the Gospel and accounts of life in Africa, so as to be happy, being new people.
Books available from:
Fondazione Nigrizia Onlus – Vicolo Pozzo 1 – 37129 Verona
Tel. 045 8092290 Fax. 045 8092291
Fr. Enrique Sánchez visits Kenya
The Superior General visited the Comboni province of Kenya from 2 to 15 November. On his arrival, Fr. Enrique met the bursars of the province who were having their annual assembly.
The next day, Fr. General met the communities of Nairobi: Kariobangi (with a visit to some of the projects that are run by this community) and the newly open community of the Mission Promotion Centre at Embakasi. On 5 November, the confreres of Nairobi Zone had the opportunity to meet with Father General. “This meeting was very encouraging to all of us, especially when Fr. Enrique reminded us of the stimulating journey that other provinces were also making”, said Fr. Filipe Miguel Oliveira Resende, who works in Kariobangi Parish.
Fr. Enrique, after briefing us on the life of the Institute, thanked the confreres for their committed dedication to the mission. He reminded all of us that the success of our mission does not depend on the means we may have at our disposal but rather on the path towards unity and self-identification with the Comboni Charism, especially now that the Kenyan Province is setting up the Total Common Fund (TCF) system and that the building of fraternal life is essential for the TCF to work well.
Fr. General also visited the other two zones of the province: Turkana and Pokot.
On August 19, 2014, eleven Comboni Missionaries, along with about 30 Comboni auxiliary members and friends gathered at St. Joseph Cemetery in Monroe, Michigan. The auxiliary president, Barb Heising, introduced the Fathers and welcomed those in attendance. Fr. Louis Gasparini briefly shared the history of the ten Comboni missionaries buried in the cemetery, of the burial plot and of the memorial monument. Fr. Manuel Baeza, the provincial superior, assisted by Fr. Daniele Moschetti, Provincial Superior of South Sudan, blessed the memorial monument desired by the countless people in the Monroe area and thanked them for their friendship, love and support of the Comboni Missionaries who served the Monroe community from 1949 through 1995.
Following the dedication and in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Comboni Missionaries coming to North America, a special Mass was held at St. Joseph’s Church. Fr. Louis Gasparini was the main celebrant. Along with the Comboni Missionaries present from Ohio (Illinois), Canada, Ethiopia and South Sudan, there was also the Vicar of Monroe, Fr. Michael Woroniewicz.
A truly “catholic” Comboni presence
In September we held our Evangelisation Assembly. We continue to have the grace we experienced last year, 2013, on the occasion of the celebration of the 75 years of the Province: missionaries of 13 nationalities from four continents working in harmony and fraternity, fruit of the reunification of our Institutes in 1979 with the name of Mccj. We may, therefore, realise the dream of our Founder who desired a “truly catholic” mission and who, in his own mission, had missionaries of 13 nationalities.
We are working on the three priorities chosen for the provinces of Latin America: indigenous peoples (San Martín de Pangoa, in the forest with two ethnic groups with their own languages, a commitment assumed in 2009 with the consignment of Pozuzo), poor urban peripheries (Lima, Arequipa and Huánuco) and Afro pastoral at El Carmen-Chincha.
30 years in Chile
On 4 September, 2014, together with friends and benefactors, we commemorated our thirty years in Chile where we showed our charism especially through mission promotion in a Church with no opening to the mission ad gentes. The Verbites said they rediscovered their missionary charism thanks to our presence. Up to that time, they had been involved almost exclusively in education in large private institutions, especially for the upper class.
Fr. Gianluca Roso is the director of the Pontifical Missionary Works in Chile, a post to which he was appointed by the Episcopal Conference in 2010; Fr. René Oñate has been working in schools’ pastoral work since 2009 and, since 2011, in youth ministry in the Vicariate of Central Santiago, where there is much scope for mission and vocations promotion. Fr. William dal Santo has been entrusted, since 2012, with the parish of “The Epiphany of the Lord”, where, on 26 October, to commemorate our thirty years of presence, the Provincial presided over a Mass of thanksgiving, attended by friends and benefactors.
The Comboni mission from the Plan to the XVIII General Chapter
Nineteen Combonians from the three communities of the southern region of Portugal met on 3 November, at Santarém, to reflect on “The Comboni mission from the Plan to the XVIII General Chapter”. The communities of the Central and Northern regions will carry out the same reflection. These meetings are for the purpose of preparing the General Chapter of 2015.
The meeting held by the communities of Lisbon, Camarate and Santarém, was chaired by Fr. Carlos Alberto Nunes since he represented the Portuguese Province at the workshop on the Plan of Comboni carried out in Rome last September. The encounter ended with the celebration of the Eucharist in thanksgiving for the day spent together. The missionaries prayed for all deceased Comboni missionaries, and their relatives as well as deceased benefactors. They also prayed for the grace to be able to meet the new challenges of the mission, in the light of the new opportunities as described by Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium.
Missionary Month and First Missionary Congress
The month of October was full of meaningful events in line with our missionary charism.
On the 9th of October we celebrated the jubilee of consecrated life of Brother Hermann Engelhardt in Maria Trost. The 10th of October was celebrated in all our communities as a moment of commitment to take forward the legacy of Comboni in this year of the 150th anniversary of the Plan. The community of Johannesburg organized a meeting with the Archbishop Buti Thlagale and the priests of the deanery to speak about the Plan of Comboni and its relevance for the Church today, especially in Africa.
The main event, however, was the first Missionary Congress held in South Africa, on the 25th and 26th of October, under the motto “Widen the space of your tent” (Is. 54:2). Although, it was held at archdiocesan level, it was a great moment of awareness of our common missionary vocation. Around 300 participants from different parishes of the Archdiocese of Johannesburg took part in the two-day Congress. Among the main speakers was the Archbishop of Pretoria, His Grace William Slattery, who was able to involve the participants in a movement towards others by commenting mainly on the “Joy of the Gospel” and “Ecclesia in Africa”, underlining the missionary nature of the Church.
The concluding Eucharistic celebration was presided over by the Bishop in charge of the Department of Evangelization at the level of the Episcopal Conference, Mons. Jan de Groef, a Missionary of Africa. Mgr. Giuseppe Sandri, Bishop of Witbank, was also present as a concelebrant in the Eucharist together with fifteen priests.
The hymn of the Congress, “The joy of the Gospel’s Messenger”, was authored by a group of young people from one of our parishes in Mpumalanga, led by the Comboni missionary Fr. Jérôme Soku. Besides being sung in English, the song was sung also in some of the local languages of RSA.
The money gathered from the participants of the Congress and other sponsors, an amount of 10.000 US Dollars, was sent to a missionary project in South Sudan to help Bro. Rosario Iannetti to build a new ward for the hospital of Mapuordit.
Meeting and pilgrimage for confreres over 45 years of age
For the confreres over 45 years of age, the province held a meeting of ongoing formation in Juba, at the provincial house, from 28th to 30th October, 2014. Some 16 confreres reflected on the Plan of Comboni, the 2009 Chapter Acts – in view of preparing for the 2015 General Chapter –, a briefing on the workshop on the Comboni Plan held in Rome in September and the situation of the province.
On the last day of the meeting, the confreres made a trip to Gondokoro, where in 1852 the first mission in South Sudan was established by Fr. Angelo Vinco, the pioneer missionary among the Bari.
About ten confreres and other pilgrims and three Franciscan Friars travelled by boat on the majestic White Nile. The present configuration of the area makes it difficult to be sure of the exact spot where the first mission was located and the first missionaries were buried. The pilgrims stopped first on the island of Jazira where there is a chapel called Holy Cross, in front of Gondokoro. The original chapel that was in Gondokoro was transferred to the island, where there are more dwellers.
The Eucharist was celebrated at the site which is believed to be that of the tombs of Fr. Vinco. It was presided over by Mons. Giorgio Biguzzi, a Xaverian Missionary and Bishop Emeritus of Makeni, Sierra Leone, who was on a visit to South Sudan.
The mission of Gondokoro was officially closed in 1862, reopened in 1912, and in 1919 transferred to Rejaf, where the Comboni Missionaries built a spacious church, now the parish of All Saints, considered to be the mother church of the Juba Archdiocese.
Symposium on the Plan for the Regeneration of Africa
A two-day conference on the Plan of Saint Daniel Comboni for the Regeneration of Africa was held in Juba from 31st October to 1st November, 2014. The event was organized by the Comboni Missionaries of Juba, the Catholic University of South Sudan and St. Mary’s College of the Catholic Diocese of Juba, as part of the commemorations of the 150th anniversary of Comboni’s Plan. The aim was to bring together the three Catholic higher education institutions of Juba, including St. Paul Major Seminary, which holds fourteen theology students.
The two-day conference had three invited guests: Mr. William Zaza, a Professor at Juba University, who presented a biography of Comboni along with the history of Sudan from 1820 to 1956, the year of Independence, up to the year 1964, with the expulsion of all the missionaries. Fr. Guido Oliana, a professor at St. Paul Major Seminary, deepened the reflection with an enlightening presentation of the Plan of St. Daniele Comboni in the light of some theological and pastoral challenges, focusing on Sudanese society 150 years ago and that of the present time. Mgr. Thomas Oliha, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Torit, presented a paper on the challenges that the Plan of Daniel Comboni posed and continue to pose to the Church and the society of this new country.
The presence of Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro, Comboni Missionary and Archbishop of Juba, and of Mgr. Paride Taban, Bishop Emeritus of Torit, enriched the Conference by sharing their personal experiences.
Introductory Course to South Sudan
The Religious Superiors’ Association of South Sudan (RSASS) has organised an “Introductory Course to South Sudan” for the newcomer members of the 46 Religious Institutes working in the country. The objective was to provide an introduction to the complex reality of the society and the Church of South Sudan.
About 40 religious met from 15th to 20th November to know and reflect about the history and geography, politics, economy, social life, the Catholic Church and other churches, ethnic groups, women, youth, and the role of the Religious in this particular moment of the history of South Sudan. The speakers invited the newcomers to insert themselves in this new reality with enthusiasm, determination and a lot of patience, accompanying the people to build up themselves and their new country.
Meeting of young confreres
The Ongoing Formation meeting of the young confreres, with a maximum of five years of ordination, was held in Doba, 17 to 19 October, 2014. There were seven of them: Fr. Sébastien Chmiel, Fr. Donald Magoma Maripe, Fr. José Alberto Intuela Sagras, Fr. Olivier Bachulu, Fr. Alfred P. Mbaïdjidé, Fr. Philip Ivardi Ganapini and the scholastic Bernard. The two main themes of the meeting were spiritual life and pastoral work. The first was led by Fr. Enrique Rosich and the second by Fr. John Ikundu. Also present were Fr. Fermo Bernasconi, a member of the Central Commission for Ongoing Formation, Fr. Pietro Ciuciulla, delegation superior, and Fr. Fidèle Katsan.
After morning prayer, followed by the welcoming of Fr. Pietro and the presentation of the program, the morning of the 18th was devoted to the analysis of the situation of the Country and of each of the participants. The day ended with the celebration of the Eucharist. On the following day the second issue, the pastoral dimension, was discussed.
The meeting was positively evaluated by the participants and will be repeated next year, taking into account the observations made.
From October 19th to 25th at the Diocesan Centre for Ongoing Formation in Doba, 25 confreres of 18 nationalities gathered to draw, once again, from the source and reason of their consecration, namely the Rule of Life of the Comboni Missionaries. In fact, this formation session had as its theme “The Rule of Life” and was led by Fr. Fermo Bernasconi who had come from Rome for the occasion.
For five days we meditated on the main points of our Rule of Life such as charism and consecration, community life, the service of evangelization, the historical process of the birth of the Rule of Life and how to make use of it.
Particularly intense moments were the actions and comments of the confreres on various numbers of the Rule of Life and different aspects of mission and community life.
THE FATHERS: José Monteiro, of Fr. Francisco José de Sousa Machado (P); José Gabriel, of Fr. Oscar Eduardo Flores Contreras (PE).
THE MOTHER: Pia, of Fr. Aurelio Balzarolo (RCA).
THE BROTHER: Marcolino, of Fr. José Francisco de Matos Dias (P).
THE SISTERS: Carmen, of Fr. Antonio La Braca (SS); Diamantina, of Fr. José Augusto († 1988) e Ivo Martins do Vale († 2009).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. M. Dolores Panzeri; Sr. Anna Giulia Messa.
The death of Fr. John Ssenyondo
Fr. John Ssenyondo, a Ugandan, attended the Chicago scholasticate and was ordained in 1991. In 1994 he was assigned to the province of Mexico. On 29 April, 2014, he had received the indult of incardination into the diocese of Chilpancingo-Chilapa.
On 30 April, he was abducted by armed men. He had just celebrated Mass at the indigenous community of Santa Cruz, at Chilapa de Álvarez, Guerrero. After waiting in vain for news of his fate, the members of his community went in search of him and, on 29 October, they discovered two mass graves containing 13 bodies, one of which was that of Fr. John. There is no doubt, unfortunately, as to the identity of his remains. Last year he had already been the victim of a robbery at the parish house where he lived.