Brazilian Comboni Lay Missionaries at the service of the Mission
The person responsible for the Comboni Lay Missionaries (CLM) of Brazil South and member of the Central Commission of the CLM, Cristina Paulek, speaks of the wealth of content in the agenda of the Assembly of the Association of the Comboni Lay Missionaries (ACLM) which took place from 25 to 27 of January, 2013, at Contagem (Minas Gerais): "The Assembly was very rich in content: we shared the experiences of the various members in their various places and situations. In particular, we examined the journey started and accomplished by the CLM in the community of Ipê Amarelo, in Brazil, and in the international community of Carapira, in Mozambique. We also analysed the administrative and financial aspects of the ACLM. We evaluated our participation in the Meeting of the American Committee and in the 5th International Assembly of the CLM - both of them having taken place in December 2012 in Maia, Portugal. We also drew up a plan of action for the next two years 2013-2014, which will guide the Executive Council and each CLM. We underlined our resolution to maintain our commitment in the frontiers of mission we have undertaken. We have seen the need to commit ourselves to mission promotion in the Church to promote the ad gentes dimension; to spread more the CLM project, strengthening it at the administrative and economic levels; to insist on communications both internal and external; to give priority to sending personnel to the international communities of the CLM, reaffirming also our commitment to the Cause of the Indigenous People in Brazil and in Latin America; to continue to invest in formation and in the work with the Comboni Missionaries, the Comboni Sisters and with the CLM of the Province of Brazil Nordeste, aiming at consolidating relations and cooperation with the Comboni Family."
The situation of the country and the Bishops' message
The Central African Republic has, unfortunately, a long history of political instability and armed conflict. The last months of 2012 saw the formation of an alliance of rebel groups - known locally as Seleka (alliance) - who took over the entire north-east of the country. Last December they marched on the capital, Bangui, meeting no resistance. In January peace talks between the rebels and the government of President Bozize began and led to agreement over the formation of a new government. However, the Seleka are holding on to the area they took over and there they are the masters. The Combonis have two missions in that area, Dekoa and Grimari, almost completely cut off from any communication with the capital.
On the first Sunday of Lent, the Central African bishops issued a message concerning the situation of the nation entitled: "Let us break the bonds of death and save the people of Central Africa from asphyxia". A clear and decisive stand by the Central African Episcopal Conference regarding the inhuman and humiliating living conditions to which the people of Central Africa are subjected had been eagerly awaited for some time. The message of the bishops - addressed "to the government, the international community, the people and all persons of good will" - declares: "We wish to bring you face to face with your conscience and your responsibility; the people are fleeing, they are living in terror and anxiety. Innocent Central Africans are being killed, their throats cut like animals. Enough is enough. We have had enough. The people can take no more of this useless and destructive suffering that benefits only those who have taken up arms with the pretence of defending the country. What have the people of Central Africa done to merit such punishment? This situation must change. The people of central Africa have a right to live in peace in their own country and to devote themselves to their occupations, far from any danger of being murdered by those who thirst for all sorts of power. It is not possible to keep the peace where there is the tendency to resort to mercenaries and external influence".
Visit by Father General
As soon as he arrived in Kinshasa on 29 January, 2013, Fr Enrique Sanchez G. visited the Afriquespoir Centre (CAE) in Lemba, dedicated to mission promotion. He then visited the community of Kimwenza where he also met the postulants. Accompanied by the provincial, Fr. Eliseo Tacchella, he could see for himself a little oasis in the parish, the "Congo Skill" centre, where many young students work and meet together, especially at the Internet Café.
On 1 February, Fr. Enrique, Fr. Eliseo and Fr. Enrique Bayo Mata, secretary for mission promotion, went to Isiro and, immediately afterwards, to Mungbere where they concelebrated the Sunday Mass. The congregation celebrated by thanking God and greeting Fr. Enrique who had come back to the mission where he had worked many years ago. In the afternoon, the Superior General met with the Cenacle for Missionary Prayer Group, the Comboni Lay Missionaries and then with the community. After Mass he returned to Isiro where, from 3 to 10 February, he preached the spiritual retreat to about 30 participants. During the final celebration of the week, the scholastics Edmond Dimonekene Sungu and Charles Kabuayi Tshibi took their final vows.
As planned, the Superior General took part in the Provincial Assembly (11-15 February) and visited the communities of the north-east, in the area of Kisangani. On 18 February he returned to Kinshasha where a small Assembly had been arranged for the confreres of the area. After visiting the communities around Kinshasa and taking part in the Provincial Council, he returned to Rome.
Comboni Sisters: a presence remembered with gratitude
On 29 December, 2012, the Comboni Sisters left the Roma-EUR house (Via Luigi Lilio 80) after a presence of 48 years, to the great displeasure of all the confreres of the General Curia.
It is not only the lower floors, now empty and silent, that "speak" of the departure but the many other things and services to the house they once took care of with so much diligence and their "woman's gentle touch". They are also missed by many people from outside the community who found in them someone to confide in and from whom they could receive a word of comfort and encouragement.
We wish to take this occasion to thank them for their many years of generous service. We thank them for their discreet but effective presence as "sisters" and "mothers", while they combined so well the roles of Martha and Mary in our community.
Visit by Mgr. Forte to the General Curia
Mgr. Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti/Vasto (Italy), an internationally renowned theologian and one who is very close to Pope Benedict XVI, visited the community of the General Curia in Rome on the evening of 7 February. The Archbishop spoke to about fifty missionaries on the theme: "The Synod of Bishops and a new impetus towards the proclamation of the Good News". Mgr. Forte, as a matter of fact, took part in the recent Synod of Bishops as the elected delegate of the Italian Bishops, which was held at the Vatican from 7 to 28 October, 2012, on the theme of the New Evangelisation. The conference was followed by a short question and answer session.
According to Mgr. Forte, the Synod was "an extraordinary opportunity to share experiences and outline effective paths for the proclamation of the faith to the women and men of today, a 'new' proclamation that starts rather with the renewal of the heart in the Holy Spirit than with anything new by way of challenges posed to believers by the different contexts in which they live". In fact, all those who participated in the Synod understood that "there is in the whole world the expectation - whether explicit or concealed - of a new resonance of the Gospel that gives joy and motivation to the believers, including those who do not practice the faith and that offers itself to those who do not believe as a proposition of life and hope".
Comboni Renewal Course - XLV edition
Starting on 7 January, in Rome, twenty three Comboni Missionaries - 20 Priests and 3 Brothers - have been taking part in the XLV edition of the Comboni Renewal Course (CRC). The group has participants from eight countries: 9 Italians, 3 Mexicans, 5 Spaniards, 2 Portuguese, 1 Eritrean, 1 Brazilian, 1 Chilean and 1 Irishman. The youngest is 45 and the oldest is 75. All together, they are rich in missionary experience in five continents where they dedicated themselves to the most varied of services from parish work to work in specific pastoral areas, mission promotion and formation.
The CRC is an opportunity offered to our missionaries to take some time out for physical, psychological, spiritual, communitarian and apostolic renewal. the Course is coordinated by Fr. Siro Stocchetti, Bro. Guillermo Casas and Fr. Danilo Cimitan and is divided into two periods. The first, dedicated to reflection, ends with the spiritual exercises and is the most important part of the Course. The second is characterised by the Comboni pilgrimages - Limone, Verona and Egypt - and concludes with a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
During the presentation on the first day of the Course, all the participants emphasised the importance of the Course and expressed their feelings of gratitude to the Institute which has made confreres available for this precious 'desert' time.
Course for mission promoters
The missionaries involved in vocation promotion in the ten countries of the American continent where we work and a representative from Asia gathered from 28 January to 10 February at the Centre of Mission Promotion (CAM) in Guatemala City. The superior of the Delegation of Central America, Fr. Leonardo Leandro Araya, welcomed the 12 mission promoters.
The first topic of the course was a reflection on "the concrete situation of the youth in America," a key topic both for the promoters and for the formators of young candidates to the Comboni missionary life. The second part of the course was led by Fr. José Villaseñor, a Mexican formator at the international scholasticate in Naples, who presented the formation model of integration as applied to vocation promotion with competency and perception. In the third part, the promoters tackled the topic of the "Ratio Fundamentalis" presented and explained in detail by Fr. Gaetano Beltrami. The course ended with time given to vocation promoters to share their experiences in this field.
Egypt's new Orthodox Coptic Patriarch
Egypt's new Orthodox Coptic Patriarch, Tawadros II, who was elected in November to replace Patriarch Shenouda III, brought joyful greetings as he wished Catholic and Protestants a Happy Christmas. His visit to Egypt's Catholic Patriarch, His Beatitude Antonious Nageeb, was a historical event, first because an Orthodox Patriarch visited the Catholic Patriarchate and, secondly, because he recognised the validity of the Gregorian reform in celebrating Christmas on 25 December. The Orthodox Coptic Patriarch has shown openness to the Catholic Church that has not been seen for at least 40 years. His first homily on the 6 January was filled with courage, faith and hope amidst political troubles that threaten Christianity in Egypt. He emphasised solidarity among the Churches as they face troubled times. He openly prayed for Mohammad Morsi that he may govern wisely.
The Catholic Coptic Church also has a new Patriarch in Mgr. Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, Bishop of Minya, elected on 15 January, after his predecessor resigned due to ill-health. The new Patriarch is well-known for his catechetical zeal and important charitable activities in the fields of social development, health, economics and education.
These encouraging signs, indicating the hand of Divine Providence and assuring Gods' presence in our history, are inspiring us to collaborate according to our specific charism towards a more creative future for the local Church in its various Rites and denominations.
XXV Anthropology and Mission Meeting
On 2 and 3 February, at the headquarters of Mundo Negro in Madrid, the XXV Anthropology and Mission Meeting took place entitled "Africa, the dream of integration". The theme chosen was in reference to the Golden Jubilee of the foundation of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) which, in 2002, became the African Union (AU).
The Guinean writer and journalist, Donato Ndongo Bidyogo, a keen collaborator of the magazine, held a masterful conference during which he outlined the historical perspective of Pan-Africanism and the movements and congresses that gave rise to the creation of the OAU in May, 1963, as well as its development up to its transformation into the AU. All of the more than 100 participants followed closely and greatly appreciated his intervention.
The conference was followed by free discussion in which Donato Ndongo himself took part, together with the historian and student of Africa José Luis Cortés López and the Comboni Sister Elisa Kidané, editor of Combonifem. In the afternoon, Fr. Antonio Villarino, Assistant General, and Gerardo González Calvo, former editor-in-chief of Mundo Negro (both of whom developed and promoted the Anthropology and Mission Meetings and the Mundo Negro Fraternity Award), presented a summary of the past 25 years, recalling the various personalities who passed through the headquarters of the magazine during this period. The day concluded with the testimony of Mgr. Paride Taban, Bishop Emeritus of Torit and founder of the village of peace at Kuron, South Sudan. All those present were deeply moved by the simplicity and humanity of the Bishop who received the Mundo Negro Fraternity Award at the end of the day in recognition of a lifetime of dedication to integration, peace and the co-existence of peoples.
On Sunday, 3 February, the meeting was concluded with a Mass presided over by Mgr. Taban with the Karibu choir leading the singing. Both on Saturday and on Sunday, various Spanish media outlets carried the news of the presence of Mgr. Paride Taban in the country. During his stay among us, the wonderful news was broadcast that he would be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, 2013.
Annual meeting of APDESAM
From 2 to 8 February, the annual meeting of APDESAM (the superiors of Anglophone circumscriptions and Mozambique) took place at the provincial house in Nairobi (Kenya). All the provincial and delegation superiors were present as well as Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse, assistant general, from Rome.
The main concern, as regards the analysis of the situation, was the instability of Sudan (Khartoum), South Sudan, Egypt and Eritrea. We also noticed a degree of apprehension concerning the Kenyan general elections planned for 4 March.
As to the various sectors of our missionary service, particular attention was given to the themes of evangelisation including the sectors of R-GPIC (Reconciliation - Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation), of formation with the challenge of vocations promotion, and the choice of formators for the different phases of formation. Other subjects of discussion were the CLM, finance, the promotion of missionary work and Islam. The new reality of the Churches in Africa demands commitment to autonomy, the training and involvement of the local laity and the CLM in our work.
On 6 February, the provincial and delegation superiors met the team of NPMC (New People Media Centre) at its headquarters. The meeting produced a better understanding of social communications and the discovery of the multiple possibilities offered by the field of mass media to our mission of evangelisation and promotion. In this field, our provinces have four missionary magazines to offer, one of which is Vida Nueva in Mozambique, aimed at the formation of leaders. The circumscriptions are also working on their own websites, powerful instruments of information and of missionary awareness' formation in the local Church and in society in general.
On the evening of 7 February, the group visited the scholasticate of Nairobi, now celebrating its Silver Jubilee.
Visit of the Vicar General
Fr. Alberto Pelucchi, Vicar General, visited the confreres in Poland from 6 to 8 February. The two communities of Cracow and Warsaw gathered in Warsaw. It was a time for fraternal sharing and ongoing formation. All the confreres were present except Fr. Akpako Théotime Parfait who had to go home to Benin because of a bereavement in the family.
Fr. Pelucchi used the occasion to present in broad outline the present state of the Institute, underlining some important aspects such as the vocational 'axis shift' "from the northern hemisphere to that of the south, making our Institute more international".
The Portuguese and Spanish Brothers met from 6 to 8 February at Maia (Portugal), as it usually happens every two years. Besides the two provincials, Fr. Ramón Eguíluz Eguíluz (Spain) and Fr. Alberto de Oliveira Silva (Portugal), Bro. Daniele Giusti, the assistant general responsible for the Brothers of the Institute, also took part.
The meeting was opened by Pedro Moreira, Coordinator of the Comboni Lay Missionaries (CLM) in Portugal who presented the message of the Synod of Bishops, which took place in October, 2012, on the New Evangelisation.
On the second day the Brothers went on a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of St. Bento of Porta Aberta where they celebrated Mass, led by Fr. Alberto Silva.
On the third and final day of the meeting, Bro. Giusti presented the situation of the Brothers in the Institute of today and the evolution of this figure in the history of the Comboni Missionaries.
"Despertar" a project of the Comboni family
The project "Despertar", a joint venture of the Comboni Family - Comboni Missionaries, Comboni Missionary Sisters and Comboni Lay Missionaries - is inserted in the parish run by our confreres in Camarate, of about 20 thousand people. Starting in the 80s, there arrived in the area a very large number of immigrants, especially people from the old Portuguese colonies of Africa, but also from other nationalities and ethnic groups, mostly Asians, Brazilians and Gypsies.
This local reality, made worse by the current economic crisis in Portugal, was the reason for creating the project "Despertar" which aims at working with children and adolescents in an attempt to fill in the educational gaps in the age group between 6 and 16. The principal aim of the project is to be with the children and the adolescents during their free time to cooperate and contribute to their integral growth in school, in the family, in their interpersonal relationships and at play.
Currently, about 20 youngsters take part in this project, followed by volunteers coordinated by the team of the Comboni family.
The theme Justice and Peace in Togo, Ghana, Benin was central to the Provincial Assembly that took place from 27 January to 1 February, 2013. The reflection was directed by Mgr. Nicodème Barrigah, Bishop of Atakpamé (Togo) who, starting from the Post Synod Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus, helped us to study the situation and the problems of these three mission countries. During the Assembly, the Provincial Directory was approved and there was a sharing of experiences and reflections on the life of the Province.
Commissioning Mass for two newly ordained priests
On 3 February, 2013, Fr. Boris Ketemepi Komivi Dodzi celebrated Sunday Mass at Lomé-Cacaveli where he had done his missionary service. Fr. Anicet Labite Komi Maté, who was ordained together with Fr. Boris on 22 December, 2012, concelebrated. Also present were the confreres of the Provincial House. The community of the faithful participated with fervour at this Mass of thanksgiving and commissioning. The provincial Superior, Fr. Girolamo Miante, presented a cross and a pair of sandals to the two new priests signifying the offering of their lives with commitment and joy for the spread of the Gospel. Fr. Boris will leave for South Sudan and Fr. Anicet will work for some years in his province of origin.