Monthly Newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
XVIII GENERAL CHAPTER
Comboni missionary disciples
called to live the joy of the Gospel in today’s world
On Saturday, 3 October, in Rome, the XVIII General Charter came to an end. The new Superior General is Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie who, as he guides the Institute during the next six years (2015-2021), will be flanked by the new General Council composed of: Fr. Pietro Ciuciulla, Fr. Jeremias dos Santos Martins, Fr. Rogelio Bustos Juárez and Bro. Alberto Lamana Cónsola.
The following is a summary of the work of the Chapter during its various stages.
On 31 August, sixty seven Chapter members representing twenty nationalities, and ten observers, began the week of preparation for the Chapter.
Reflection during the first days was based upon the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, with input by Mons. Marcello Semeraro, Bishop of Albano.
During the latter days of the week, Bro. Enzo Biemmi, a member of the Congregation of the Brothers of the Holy Family and the person invited to act as facilitator of the work of the Chapter, proposed to the Chapter members the theme “The General Chapter, an event of discernment and communion”, emphasising, among other things, how one should enter, live through and exit a Chapter.
The Pre-capitular Commission presented the draft of the Statutes and the Programme of the Chapter, as well as the document “A Thematic Synthesis for Discernment”.
The Opening of the Chapter
The XVIII General Chapter was opened in Rome, at the General Curia, on Sunday, 6 September at 9.00, with a solemn Mass. In his opening homily, the Superior General, Fr. Enrique Sánchez G., stated: “inasmuch as we shall be capable of placing the person (of Jesus) at the centre of our reflection, our interests and our research, the Chapter will become an intense moment of Comboni missionary life”.
Two statistics. First: 52% of the Chapter members were taking part in a Chapter for the first time; 34 members were European, 20 from Africa and 13 from the Americas.
Second: the Chapter received some gifts. The German-speaking Province presented an icon of St. Daniel Comboni, by Fr. Sieger Köder, and the Comboni Missionary Sisters donated a candle to “illuminate” the Chapter hall during the Chapter sessions.
Monday, 7 September
Fr. Pietro Ciuciulla, a member of the Pre-capitular Commission, presented the Statute of the Chapter, an instrument intended to assist in planning the various phases of the Chapter.
When the Chapter schedule was approved, the confreres in charge of the various offices and services during the Chapter were elected: the tellers; the presidential council; the moderators; the special commission; the central commission; the printing office; the liturgical commission and the recreation and culture commission.
Interview with the Superior General
On Wednesday, 9 September, 2015, during an interview with Radio Vaticana, Fr. Enrique Sánchez G. said: “Our Chapter is a very special moment, both for the life of the Institute and for the mission we carry out in the countries where we are present, in those contexts where mercy is today a truly great challenge, especially in situations of war and persecution. For Comboni, Africa was not just a continent or a geographic area but a situation of humanity. For this reason, that which Comboni called “Nigrizia” – the situation of poverty, of urgent missionary need in his time – we Comboni Missionaries now find in many other parts of the world”.
Friday, 11 September
In the morning, the Report of the General Council was presented in which, following the inspiration of Pope Francis, the Superior General invites the Comboni Missionaries to a renewal of the evangelising mission based upon courageous options and the humble acceptance of our situation.
The report presents a critical and realistic analysis of the Institute from 2009 to the present day.
In the afternoon, Fr. John Baptist Opargiw and Fr. Fermo Bernasconi, the persons in charge of Basic and Ongoing Formation, presented their reports.
Saturday 12 September
The reports of the other General Secretariats were presented: Economy; Evangelisation (EV) and Mission Promotion (MP). To these were added those of the persons in charge of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC) and the Comboni Lay Missionaries (CLM); those of the General Secretary, the Postulator for the Causes of the Saints and the Procurator General. With regard to the Secretariats of EV, MA, JPIC and CLM, it was proposed that they be amalgamated into a single secretariat, an idea which, apart from making the Curia more streamlined, would also provide a vision of mission that is continually more contextualised.
Monday 14 and Tuesday 15 September
The Continental Reports were presented: Francophone Africa, America and Asia, Anglophone Africa and Europe.
The “Seeing” phase”
The seeing phase provided the Chapter delegates with an opportunity to adopt a vision of the complex situation of our Institute, with the concerns, problems and dreams of our confreres engaged in various fields of mission in various parts of the world. The grave situations of war in South Sudan, the Republic of Central Africa and in north-east Congo where the confreres are giving testimony of how to ‘make common cause’ with the people, a basic value of the Comboni charism, were clearly presented. There also emerged from the reports some signs of vitality such as the growth of Christian communities engaged in the proclamation of the Gospel and human promotion.
Also worthy of mention were the interventions by Mons. Giuseppe Franzelli, the Superior of the Comboni Missionary Sisters, Sr. Luzia Premoli, the Superior general of the Comboni Secular Missionaries, Isabella d’Alessandro, and the international coordinator of the Comboni Lay Missionaries, Alberto de la Portilla. Their sharing made us realise even better the need for a greater exchange of information and more collaboration among the members of the Comboni Family.
Wednesday, 16 September 2015
The “Judging” phase
Having concluded the “seeing” phase which consisted in listening to the reports and the thematic synthesis (instrumentum laboris) prepared by the Pre-capitular Commission, the time for collective discernment (“judging”) began in order to gather the main priorities and challenges of the Comboni mission.
Message of the Chapter delegates in support of Fr. Alex Zanotelli
On that same day, Wednesday, 16 September, 62 Chapter delegates signed and sent a message of solidarity and support to Fr. Alex Zanotelli, who has worked for years alongside the inhabitants of the “Rione Sanità” district of Naples, fighting for their rights and openly denouncing the Camorra, as he recently did during the funeral of a young man, victim of organised crime.
Thursday 17 and Friday 18 September
The delegates chose three themes concerning which the Chapter is called to exercise discernment: Mission, the Person and Reorganisation. They then split into three groups according to their choice of one of these themes. After sharing in the Chapter Hall on the reflections carried out in the groups, the Chapter members charged the Special Commission with preparing a text on Mission, the Person and Reorganisation, showing the present situation of each topic and the appeals of the Spirit to conversion. The work groups concentrated on the operative choices regarding each theme.
Saturday, 19 September
This was a free day during which 67 confreres journeyed to Assisi, where they first attended Holy Mass in the Upper Basilica containing the tomb of St. Francis. This was followed by visits to the other Franciscan churches and places.
Another small group of confreres – on their first visit to Italy – were taken to Limone to visit the native home of our Founder and the confreres living there.
Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 September
The groups worked to prepare an outline of the essential points of the three themes chosen. The outline was then proposed for debate in assembly.
Concerning The Mission, emphasis was placed on the challenge of Evangelii Gaudium to create an “Outgoing Church” that is closer to the marginalised and on the fact that specialisations should be oriented according to the urgent requirements of evangelisation. Commitment to reconciliation and justice, peace and attention to the ‘Common Home’, as an integrating part of the evangelical proclamation was confirmed.
As regards the Person, the group singled out the increasing internationalisation of our Institute which requires a basic formation that helps to welcome the gift of the multiplicity of cultures in dialogue and mutual respect.
As regards Reorganisation, emphasis was placed on the challenges of the “new mission” and the decrease in personnel in the knowledge that, in order to continue to render a qualified service to the Church and society, it is necessary to reorganise the Institute at all levels.
Basic Text of the Chapter Acts
At the close of the week, the basic text of the Chapter Acts 2015, prepared by the Special Commission, was discussed in assembly. The groups then worked on the text, making improvements also based on suggestions made in the Chapter Hall.
Sunday, 27 September
Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, presided at the Eucharist and, in his reflection, spoke of how Evangelii Gaudium and the theme of the Chapter were related.
“By your invitation – His Eminence said – you have given me an opportunity to express my most profound gratitude and most lively appreciation of the service you render to the Gospel, to the Church and to the poor, in true harmony with the well-known words of Jesus: the poor have the Good News preached to them (Mt 11,5)”.
Monday, 28 September
The revised basic text was again presented in the Chapter Hall and voted upon – point by point – by absolute majority, including the motions presented by individual delegates.
The text takes its inspiration from Evangelii Gaudium by Pope Francis and, even if it does not contain anything revolutionary, it seeks to express, using new language, the three aspects suggested by the Chapter: Mission, Person and Reorganisation.
Above all, the document invites us to review the Mission in the light of criteria such as closeness to the poor, attention to the signs of the times, the situation of each circumscription, and simplicity of lifestyle, while launching the provocation to consider new forms of ministry which, going beyond the confines of territory, embrace more specialised commitments in the field of justice, peace and the integrity of creation (JPIC), among pastoral ethnic groups, indigenous populations and urban shanty-dwellers. Also Europe – it was confirmed – is mission territory like the other continents.
On the theme of the Person, the document underlines two basic aspects: first, the growing multicultural nature of the Institute which urges us to live out the charism in an international way, as was the wish of St. Daniel Comboni: our circumscriptions and communities are to be places where we learn to live out the challenges of diversity. As regards the second aspect, – the renewal of the Institute and its members – it is necessary to make our own the specifics of Comboni spirituality that takes its inspiration from the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd who gives up his very life.
Regarding the Reorganisation of the Institute, the document, in conformity with previous Chapters, underlines the urgent need for a balance between personnel and commitments. This will bring about a reduction in the number of our communities and the gradual amalgamation of the Provinces.
Straw ballots and election of the Superior general and his Council
Tuesday, 29 September was the day when consultations and straw ballots began for the election of the Superior General and the four Assistants. In preparation for this important final phase of the work, the Assembly had a morning of retreat directed by Fr. David Glenday on the theme of authority and service.
Election of the Superior General
On Wednesday, 30 September Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie was elected Superior General by an almost unanimous vote. He is 46 years of age, having been born on 22 September, 1969, at Harar, Ethiopia. Ordained priest in 1995, he gained missionary experience in Egypt, Khartoum and Ethiopia; he has served as Assistant General in the Curia since 2009.
Fr. Tesfaye is the first African to hold the office of Superior General.
Immediately after the vote, Fr. Tesfaye spoke of three points: gratitude, smallness and respect. “Thank you for the confidence and the mercy you are showing me. Both in the voting and in personal dialogue with some of you, you have shown confidence, solidarity and support. I give you my heartfelt thanks. I also wish to thank those confreres who expressed their reservations and uncertainty. I agree with you. I thank you because I, too, am afraid and have my reservations, my hesitations and I. therefore. thank you for your realism.
I feel very small. Our Institute, since the time of St. Daniel Comboni, has grown very big; it is a beautiful family of disciples and martyrs for the mission, for Africa and on behalf of the poor. It has its problems. Before it I feel small, a small confrere who has experienced the great forgiveness of God and the confreres. I feel small before the greatness of our Institute.
Afterwards, in accordance with the election procedures contained in the Statutes, Fr. Enrique Sánchez G. announced: “Rev. Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie, having received a sufficient number of votes, I, Enrique Sánchez G., declare elected the Rev. Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie Superior General of the Institute of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”.
Election of the Assistants General
After the mid-day break, the delegates again gathered in the Chapter Hall to elect, one by one, the other members of the General Council. Those elected were Fr. Pietro Ciuciulla, Italian and Delegate of Chad, Fr. Jeremias dos Santos Martins, Portuguese, Provincial of South Africa, Fr. Rogelio Bustos Juárez, Mexican, Superior of the CAM in Mexico City and Bro. Alberto Lamana Cónsola, Spanish, Mundo Negro magazine.
A photo of the new General Council will soon be sent to all communities of the Institute.
On Thursday, 1 October, Pope Francis received in audience all the Chapter members in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican. Fr. Enrique Sánchez González, the outgoing Superior General, presented the new Superior General and the members of his Council to Pope Francis.
Pope Francis then read his message of greeting: “You call yourselves – and you are - Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus. These words are your name and your identity. As missionaries you are servants and messengers of the Gospel, especially for those who have not heard it or have forgotten it. As Combonis of the Heart of Jesus, you contribute with joy to the mission of the Church, witnessing to the charism of St. Daniel Comboni which finds its qualifying element in the merciful love of the Heart of Christ for defenceless human beings... That Heart which so loved humankind urges you to the margins of society to witness to the perseverance of patient and faithful love. May the contemplation of the Pierced Heart of Jesus, always renew in you a passion for the people of our day, expressed by gratuitous love in the commitment of solidarity, especially among the weakest and most vulnerable. In this way, you will be able to continue to promote justice and peace, and the respect and dignity due to every person”.
Before his final greeting, Pope Francis expressed his admiration for our Institute and, speaking off the cuff said: “Before giving you my blessing, I would like to say something that is not written here but which I feel: I have always, always, felt great admiration for you – and I want to say it in this way – for the work you do, the risks you take, and I have always felt this great admiration. Thank you!”
On Saturday, 3 October, the Chapter ended. Fr. Enrique Sánchez read the decree closing the Chapter.
At 11.30 the closing Eucharistic celebration began. During his homily, the outgoing Superior General, Fr. Enrique Sánchez said: “This is the moment to bring the Chapter into the life of the Institute”.
Fr. Enrique dwelt upon three words: courage, joy and hope, inviting each one to renew the experience of the love of God, source of our missionary commitment, in order to bring the proclamation of the Gospel to the poor with even greater joy.
At the end of the celebration, the newly-elected Superior General, Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse, thanked Fr. Enrique and the outgoing Council for their dedication and enthusiasm in guiding the Institute for the past six years. The Superior General of the Comboni Sisters, Luzia Premoli, who attended the Eucharist with some other Sisters, expressed her gratitude for the collaboration she had experienced with the general Administration of the Comboni Missionaries.
Message to the confreres
On 3 October, the Chapter members wrote a letter addressed to all confreres, with the purpose of sharing with them “a message of communion and hope”. The Chapter – they wrote – “has been a celebration of fraternity and shared passion for the mission. We were accompanied by the sufferings of the people with whom we make common cause. It has been an experience of joy and unity that surprised even ourselves: we have discovered the beauty of our Comboni missionary vocation”. They ended with: “When you receive the Chapter Acts, you may rest assured they are truly yours: we were simply God’s instruments. Together, all of us can incarnate them in missionary attitudes that are filled with the joy of the Gospel for which the world pleads so insistently”.
1. On 1 October, the basic text was approved by the Chapter; it is relatively short and hinges on the essential aspects of the themes chosen.
2. The Post-capitular Commission, chosen by the Chapter on 2 October, agreed to prepare the final text by mid-October. The work of the layout and printing will follow without delay.
3. The Chapter decisions will come into force on 1 January, 2016.
Meeting of Provincials and Delegates with both General Councils
Before returning to their provinces, the Provincials and Delegates met individually with both the new and outgoing General Councils.
The latter, as established by the Chapter of 2009 (CA ’09, 131.1), will remain in office for thirty days after the closure of the Chapter, that is, until 3 November 2015.
The newly-elected GC has decided that the first Consulta of this administration will take place from 9 to 20 November, 2015, preceded by three days of retreat (5-7) in Limone directed by Fr. Enrique Sánchez.
Holy Redeemer Guild
October 01 – 07 RCA 08 – 15 TCH 16 – 31 RSA
November 01 – 15 SS 16 – 30 T
October – That, through the intercession of St. Daniel Comboni, we may imitate him in his zeal and total self-giving to the mission. Lord, hear us.
November – That we may help to increase solidarity in the society in which we live, by means of our sharing of material and spiritual goods. Lord, hear us.
Les Missionnaires Comboniens en République Centrafricaine, Fondazione Nigrizia Onlus, Bangui 2015, 384 pp. “This is a small work – we read in the presentation – aimed at those who are interested in the most important aspects of the work done by the Comboni Missionaries in the Republic of Central Africa from their arrival (1966) up to 2012”. To facilitate a broader view, the history of evangelisation and of the various missions is preceded by a description of the geography and history of this “great and beautiful land”.
Fr. Estifanos Helafu, Familiarizing with the Gospel
The book is written in Tigrinya. Its aim is to make the Gospel values better known. It was printed in Asmara in 2015, pp. 298. Another of Fr. Estifanos book, Vocational Journey, had already been printed in Asmara in 2012, pp. 264, also in Tigrinya and is an instrument for use in houses of formation and both diocesan and religious seminaries.
Bro. Tomasz Basi?ski has been awarded a diploma magna cum laude in Social Media at the University of St. Thomas in Bogota. For his thesis, he presented a book of stories about the life of Afro women in the conflict in the city of Buenaventura, on the Colombian Pacific coast. Bro. Tomasz returned to Poland on 22 September where he will work at the magazine and in other fields of communication.
Meeting on Afro-American Pastoral
The XIII Continental Meeting of Afro-American Pastoral took place from 20 to 26 July, 2015, in Haiti, in the town of Camp-Perrin, at a house of the Oblates. About a hundred delegates from various other countries took part as well as the same number from Haiti.
The following theme was studied: evangelisation and transforming solidarity. This was in reference to the country and its recovery after the earthquake of 2010.
The Comboni confreres and Sisters who met for the occasion published a message in which, as the continental commission, they expressed their solidarity with the Haitian people in its journey towards a dignified life and self-determination. Convinced of the great importance of continuing to accompany the Afro people of the continent, they advanced a proposal for cooperation among Institutes and the creation of a network for collaboration and the exchange of material.
On 22 August, at the Comboni house of Ellwangen, the Reception Centre for Asylum-seekers and Refugees organised an “international picnic”, already a tradition there. All the asylum-seekers and refugees who had temporary residence in the city were invited to the picnic which was organised to socialise and practice real hospitality. Naturally, the picnic was open to everyone, especially those working with refugees who are quite a number since the Centre, which was meant to receive 1,000 people, now has 2,500.
It was a nice occasion for people of different nationalities and cultures to get to know each other better and to show that it is possible to celebrate when there is real openness towards others.
Meeting of Comboni Bishops
Seventeen Comboni bishops met at Fatima from 24 to 31 August. Fr. Angel Lafita, representing the general Administration, and Fr. Victor Dias, Vice-provincial, were also present.
Apart from a few hiccups with flights and luggage, everyone arrived in good order. There was a wonderful welcome at the Shrine and the participants were all treated “like bishops”, with free accommodation and a car at their disposal. The rector of the Sanctuary, Fr. Carlos Cabecinhas, made sure everyone felt at ease and donated 5,000 Rosaries.
Mons. Odelir José Magri, Bishop of Chapecó, Brazil, presided at the Sunday Mass in the square. Throughout the week, the bishops presided at various religious ceremonies in the Chapel of the Apparitions.
The first three days of the meeting were devoted to sharing on the social and ecclesiastical situations of the dioceses where the various bishops serve. On the other days, there were meetings on the “Fatima phenomenon” and the suitability of its message for the Church of today.
The bishops also visited Aljustrel, where the little shepherd children lived, and the Comboni house at Viseu.
The meetings with the bishop of the diocese, Mons. António Marto, and the Rector of the Sanctuary, Fr. Cabecinhas, were much appreciated by all.
Fr. Majambo wounded by rebels
Fr. Placide Majambo Lutumba was wounded on Friday, 11 September, at around 18.00, on the road between Rumbek and Mapuordit, while he was travelling in the car of the mission. Together with him there was also Bro. Hernán Romero, Bro. Andrés Gaspar and other people from the locality. Without warning, three armed men appeared at the side of the road. One was dressed in a military uniform. They signalled the vehicle to stop but the driver chose to speed up as he had three passengers belonging to a different tribe. The bandits fired striking the window of the rear door of the car. A bullet struck Fr. Placide in the lumbar area and lodged between his ribs. The confrere received first treatment at the hospital of Mapuordit and, on 17 September, he was taken by air to Nairobi to have the bullet removed.
Fiftieth Anniversary of the martyrdom of Fr. Barnaba Deng
On 23 August, 2015, the Province remembered the fiftieth anniversary of the martyrdom of Fr. Barnaba Deng. A Mass was organised at the Pre-postulancy of Moroyok. It was an occasion for missionary and vocation promotion for the youth of the parish and the upper-level schools of the city. A fair number of the youth participated and, together with them, the local population, mostly Mundari people.
Fr. Barnaba Deng was born near Kwajok, in Bahr El Ghazal. Impressed by the fact that the white missionaries had come from far away to bring the Gospel to the Africans, he asked to enter the seminary and, later on, to become a Comboni Missionary. Having been ordained priest in 1962, in Milan, he returned to South Sudan, serving in various missions. When the missionaries were expelled in 1964, Bishop Ireneo Dud placed him in charge of three missions: Aweil, Gordhiim and Nyamleel. Those were difficult times for South Sudan, due to the civil war which pitted Southerners against Arabs. Fr. Barnaba did not hesitate to take up the defence of his people against the abuses carried out by the army. The soldiers therefore decided to get rid of him. One morning, when Fr. Barnaba was at Wau to speak with the Bishop, he went to visit friends in the outskirts of Wau. A military convoy from Aweil intercepted him. Asked to identify himself, he answered: “I am Fr. Barnaba Deng”. A soldier shot him dead on the spot.
In memory of his testimony, the Province of South Sudan decided to name the Pre-postulancy – also a centre for vocations promotion – after him.
THE FATHER: Marino, of Fr. Donato Benedetti (TGB).
THE MOTHER: Elisabeth, of Fr. Stéphane Kamanga Mutombo (E).
THE BROTHERS: Hans, of Fr. Otto Fuchs (DSP); Giuliano, of Fr. Paolo Paoli (ET); Vittorio, of Fr. Giuseppe Puttinato (EGSD).
THE SISTER: Maria, of Fr. Silvester Engl (DSP).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. Silvana Villa; Sr. María Silvia Flores Alvarado; Sr. Alessandra Belloni, Sr. Colombina Bartesaghi, Sr. Clarita Mezzanzanica, Sr. Francesca Saveria Lavezzari; Sr. M. Amalia Toffanin.
THE SECULAR COMBONI MISSIONARIES: Maria Ferron (January); Teresa Conzato (April); Gaetana Sartori (June).