Friday, October 14, 2022
“When I look back over my life, I realise how my vocation has evolved. I see that at the beginning I felt a deep desire to be useful, to serve, to help others.” Brother Alberto Lamana Cónsola (in the picture, in South Sudan) talks to us: “My missionary life and work took a twist in 2015. I was elected General Assistant in our Institute.” [Comboni Missionaries]
I was born in 1971 in Zaragoza, a city in the north-western part of Spain. I came to know the Comboni Missionaries during my secondary school education. The Comboni community of Zaragoza had started a youth group. I joined the group. We had various programs and activities in which I participated joyfully and actively. The group became a springboard for my vocation discernment. Little by little I began to imagine my life as a missionary. This dream captivated and filled me with inner joy.
Meantime, I had to choose between becoming a priest or a brother. The Comboni missionaries offer their candidates these two possibilities. Thus, after much prayer and consultation with the vocation promoter, I felt that my call was to be a Brother. The service of the brothers that emphasises human promotion and social ministry attracted me. Consequently, in 1994, I decided to enter the Comboni postulancy as a brother. This step marked officially the start of my missionary journey.
Later, in the novitiate, when I read the writings of St. Daniel Comboni, the founder of the Comboni missionaries, I confirmed the same reality. I was impressed by Comboni’s courage and absolute dedication to a cause radically founded on the Gospel.
In hindsight, some key encounters and experiences have had a significant influence on my vocational journey. First, there is my family. The family I grew up in introduced me to a faith that is rooted in life. Put differently, a faith that is committed to the social context and engaged in the life of the parish. Faith is not only transmitted in words, but above all through a testimony of a coherent life that gives meaning to one’s existence.
The testimony of missionaries also inspired me in a significant way. It was not so much for the narration of their experiences in distant lands, but the happiness they expressed in recounting them. Their enthusiasm touched me. The third significant encounter is related to the world I lived in at the end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties. This period was marked by a growing sense of international solidarity and a strong desire for social justice among the youth.
I see my vocation as a dynamic process that is cultivated day by day. It is a gift that develops and grows. That is why personal and frequent contact with the person of Jesus in prayer is essential. In this relationship, one presents oneself in his or her most radical truth, without masks, open to the new challenges that emerge from that encounter.
Throughout my missionary life, I have had also other important experiences that have helped me to reinforce or live my vocation. In 1997, during my time at the Formation House for Brothers in Nairobi, I did apostolate with the St. Vincent de Paul group in the slum of Kibera. Frequent visits to the most disadvantaged people in that marginalised context made me discover the harsh dimension of poverty: women, men and children struggling to survive and to get by on so little money! Their witness of faith and inner strength was for me a real school of life. I was challenged to go out of myself and to open up to the needs of others.
After completing my formation journey in Nairobi, I was assigned to the mission of Mapuordit in South Sudan. There I had to enter a new culture and language. Initially, the adaptation process was difficulty. Eventually, I overcame the teething troubles. I soon felt fully welcomed and accepted. That experience taught me to walk more slowly, at the pace of the people, accepting so many limits that are imposed on us and that we cannot control. This helped me to grow in an attitude of surrender knowing that not everything is in our hands, but that the Lord continues to realise his Kingdom despite our difficulty in seeing the seeds of life.
In South Sudan, I also had the grace to collaborate with other Comboni Missionaries and Comboni sisters, in the establishment of the Catholic Radio Network (CRN). This was an initiative aimed at creating a network of radio stations in each of the dioceses of South Sudan and the Nuba Mountains. In 2005, the protocol allowing South Sudan to hold a referendum for independence had been signed. So, CRN wanted to raise awareness among the population on issues such as civic education, justice and peace, as well as a space for listening to the Word. Participation in the CRN gave me the opportunity to collaborate with many diocesan teams in setting up the radios, making Comboni’s dream of ‘Regenerating Africa with Africa’ come alive.
My missionary life and work took a twist in 2015. I was elected General Assistant in our Institute. The Institute was asking me to be part of the General Council of our Congregation in Rome. The General Council comprises four General Assistants and the Superior General. Domiciled in Rome their task is to oversee the running of the entire Institute. It was a new phase of missionary service for me.
This service has given me the opportunity to visit many countries where Comboni Missionaries carry out their missionary work. This experience has been very enriching for my vocation. I have been able to witness the passion, creativity and love of so many missionaries for the most disadvantaged. This strengthens my vocation knowing that I am part of a family of people who seek to live the Gospel with radicalism and prophetically for the Kingdom.
When I look back over my life, I realise how my vocation has evolved. I see that at the beginning I felt a deep desire to be useful, to serve, to help others. Over time I have discovered my vulnerability and weakness. This makes me feel more in communion with the disadvantaged, growing in mercy, aware that they are sisters and brothers who invite me to walk with them. I feel more and more the need to grow in the ability to read the reality around me with the eyes of faith and not so much with my own reasoning. God continues to mould me and to strengthen my vocation so as to follow him more closely.