Tuesday, November 17, 2020
“We have just received the sad news of the death of Bro. Elio Croce. After the celebration of the funeral of Fr. Jesus and Bro. Benito, the Lord has also called our brother. (…) In this moment of pain and loss, we would like to thank the Lord for their lives, their vocation and mission. We want to thank them for their example of generous service, dedication, and love. We are in communion with them, they continue to be part of us and we keep praying for their eternal rest.” (The General Council of the Comboni Missionaries). [In the picture: Funeral of Brother Elio Croce]
Letter of the General Council
to the Comboni Province of Uganda
Dear Fr. Achilles, dear confreres of the Province of Uganda
Greetings to all of you in the Risen Lord.
We have just received the sad news of the death of Bro. Elio Croce. After the celebration of the funeral of Fr. Jesus and Bro. Benito, the Lord has also called our brother.
Our confreres left us while in the front line of the mission among the people they loved. They lived all these years giving their best for the love of Christ and the love of the people. Like the good shepherd they stayed with the people in the middle of war, diseases, pandemics, difficulties in various fields. Of them, we can say, they have fought the good fight, they have finished the race, they have kept the faith (cfr. 2 Tim. 4,7).
In this moment of pain and loss, we would like to thank the Lord for their lives, their vocation and mission. We want to thank them for their example of generous service, dedication, and love. We are in communion with them, they continue to be part of us and we keep praying for their eternal rest.
We feel in communion with the Local Church and the people of God whom they loved and who loved them, considering them as their own family.
We feel close to the confreres of the communities where they belonged to and all the members of the province of Uganda and with their families and so many friends who will never see them again. We will miss their presence among us, their joy and dedicated service.
With us remains the consolation of faith. We believe that they are forever with the Lord who said: "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11,25).
May they intercede for us and for all those who are suffering and dying these days due to the pandemic of covid19, which is affecting the whole world with its consequences of hunger, depression, increasing of poverty. May their lives consumed in the service of the kingdom bring many vocations to the Church and the institute.
We keep in communion with one another in the “Divine Providence who never abandons those who trust in him” (W. 709).
From the General Council
Rome, 12 November 2020
Message of His Grace John Baptist Odama, archbishop of Gulu
Brothers and sisters,
I greet you all in the name of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.
We have come together as the people of Faith in God to celebrate the life of one of the greatest missionaries of our time in the very person of Brother Elio Croce of the Religious Orders of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus Christ. We, in Uganda particularly in our Archdiocese of Gulu were blessed by the life of Brother Elio. Like Job, we are here to say the Lord has given, the Lord has taken him back to live with Him forever after a successful years of missionary witness in our Archdiocese of Gulu where he served with love and total commitment to his work in Kitgum Mission Parish and St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor. We have come to affirm and testify that the life and death of Brother Elio can be referred to as “martyr of charity”.
I join you, dear mourners and believers in God, in thanking the Comboni Missionaries for bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the greater North and for the wonderful work they have done and continue to do for our people in the area of education, health and social services. We are the fruits of their evangelization. On your behalf and on my own behalf, therefore, we express our sincere condolences and prayers to Comboni Missionaries Family for the loss of Brother Elio Croce. We thank the superiors of the Comboni Missionaries Fraternity who assigned Brother Elio Croce to work in our Archdiocese of Gulu. Our condolences and prayers to the community of St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor for the loss of their colleague in service. A word of condolences and prayers to the staff and children of St. Jude Orphanage and all the dependents who were supported by Brother Elio. May God rest his soul in eternal peace and console his bereaved family.
There is no doubt in many of us especially those who knew, lived and worked with Brother Elio Croce has been touched by his life of simplicity, spirituality, commitment, dedication, hard work, charity, love for the poor and the sick. Brother Elio tried to put into practice the greatest commandment: “Love of God and love of neighbor”. His presence in our Archdiocese of Gulu was a source of encouragement and hope to the broken hearted. Like Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd, Brother Elio loved and identified himself with the people who suffered and was always ready to be part of the solution to their sufferings. During the most difficult time of crisis in our Acholi sub-region, Brother Elio laid down his life to save many people whose lives were in danger. The community in this region can bear witness to the fact that during the LRA’s conflict with the Government of Uganda/UPDF, Brother Elio courageously followed the rebels into the bush with the intention to save the lives of the abductees especially the school children. He engaged and pleaded with the rebels to set the innocent free from being taken into captivity. During the Ebola, Brother Elio remained with the people he served. Above all, Brother Elio put into practice his technical skills as a builder, an engineer, technician for the development of St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor. The modern buildings we see today in St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor were planned and supervised by him. In the process, Brother Elio shared his knowledge and skills with many young Africans so that they in turn canfollow in his footstep. He educated many needy children in schools to empower them for service to their brothers and sisters. For us in the Archdiocese of Gulu, we consider Brother Elio as a hero. His legacy of commitment to duties, charity towards the poor, the sick and the most disadvantaged members of our community will always remain a source of our inspiration.
It is for the above reasons and many others that Brother Elio Croce deserves to be remembered by us as “martyr of charity” of our time, in our local Church of Gulu.
Let us take this event of the death of Brother Elio Croce as God’s will and pray that He rewards him with eternal life in return for his successful missionary witness among the people he served with total love and total commitment.
May I conclude with an appeal to all those who have been touched by the life or worked with Brother Elio to emulate his examples of charity, dedication and commitment to duties for the purpose of keeping our Hospital of Lacor and our Church better and stronger than before. We believe that Brother Elio is now with God where there is no more sufferings and pains of any kind. We ask him to pray for us who are still on a pilgrimage to God. May we be consoled by the words of St. Paul the Apostle: “…if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, either in life or in death, we belong to the Lord”, (Rom 14:8).