Course for formators and seminary teachers
From 20 to 26 April, 2015, Fr. Fernando Domingues, who has been General Secretary of the Vatican Pontifical Missionary Works of St. Peter the Apostle (PMW) since 2013, was a member of the coordinating team in charge of a course of formation for animators and seminary teachers of Madagascar that was held in Antsirabe. About 70 priests took part, an average of three for each diocese. The course was organised by the episcopal conference of Madagascar in collaboration with the PMW.
As well as coordinating economic support for the Pontifical Works, active in 120 countries, for the seminaries in so-called mission lands, the General Secretariat of St. Peter the Apostle also promotes a number of activities of support and formation specifically for animators of those seminaries. A similar initiative is being organised for Malawi. The 25 diocesan seminaries of Madagascar are a sign of the growing vitality of that Church and the esteem which the Christian communities have for their priests.
Comboni Renewal Course ends
On 9 May, the thirteen Comboni missionaries – twelve priests and one Brother – who took part in the Comboni Renewal Course (CRC) that commenced in Rome on 4 January last, ended the first phase, the Roman period, with an inter-community Eucharist presided over by Fr. Siro Stocchetti, in the chapel of the General Curia in Rome. The following day, 10 May, 2015, they left for Jerusalem on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the second phase and the crowning of the Course that will conclude on 30 May.
The CRC is an opportunity offered to confreres between 50 and 70 years of age to rest, step outside their fields of work and concentrate on themselves in view of general renewal: physical, psychological, spiritual, communitarian and apostolic. By means of personal and community prayer, study and reflection, personal contact with the life and spirituality of St. Daniel Comboni, an encounter with the Rule of Life, spiritual accompaniment, fraternal life, the sharing of experiences and pilgrimages to the Comboni places and the Holy land, the CRC aims at providing each participant with the help necessary to review his life, be renewed in the light of the Word of God and the Comboni charism and take up again the missionary journey with new energy and renewed motivation.
The CRC is coordinated by Fr. Siro Stocchetti, Bro. Guillermo Casas and Fr. Danilo Cimitan who, with Fr. Fermo Bernasconi, are responsible for Ongoing Formation at the Institute level.
Togo bishops visit the General Council
On 11 May, 2015, the bishops of the Togolese Conference of Bishops were received in audience by Pope Francis during their ‘ad limina’ visit.
“Togolese society – the Pontiff emphasised – has, in recent years, made remarkable progress politically and socially. The Catholic Church contributed greatly to this, not only with its works of evangelisation and human development, but also through its commitment to justice and reconciliation. I warmly thank you for your efforts in these fields, especially for the work of the National Commission for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation. I encourage you to see to it that the Church takes its place in the ongoing process of institutional reforms”.
On 16 May, the bishops made a brief visit to the General Council in Rome to pay homage to the Comboni Missionaries and to thank them for all the work they carried out in the last fifty years of their presence in Togo.
Annual meeting of the Council for Finance
From 26 to 29 May, 2015, the first annual meeting of the Council for Finance was held at the Generalate. The Council meets twice a year (in May and November) with the task of carefully checking the accounts both of the circumscriptions and of the General Administration and to indicate the basic policies of financial planning in the Institute while taking account of the global financial conditions.
The Council is comprised of the members of the General Treasury Office, four continental representatives and two technical advisers to review the accounts. The agenda includes provincial financial reports and the financial report of the General Administration.
Meeting of Brothers of the American Continent
The continental meeting of Brothers was held in Quito from 5 to 7 May, for the purpose of giving new missionary impulse to the continually evolving figure of the Brother.
Day one was spent in getting to know one another, the first step in creating a new future together. Those present represented four circumscriptions: Ecuador, Brazil, Columbia and Central America. For various reasons, the representatives of Peru and Mexico were unable to attend.
On the second day, the journey made by the Brothers in the Institute was reviewed, especially in the light of the documents of recent Chapters.
Bro. Marco Binaghi, formator at the CIF in Bogotá, gave a report to which everyone was looking forward and this was followed by discussions aimed at finding alternatives to the single formative function of the structure. All the participants agreed on the importance of the presence of such a structure for the Brothers of the continent.
The relation of Bro. Godfrey-Abel Dimanche, co-ordinator of the Comboni Work of Human Promotion (CWHP) at Guayaquil, the only community considered as a significant work of the Brothers in the continent: its lifestyle and the activities it has carried out represent a model, especially in the vocational sense, for all young people who wish to know more about the vocation of the Comboni Brother.
The final day was devoted to drafting a message to be presented at the Mexico City meeting of provincials and Chapter delegates of America and Asia, and, possibly, to the Chapter itself in due course.
On 29 April, two days before the official inauguration of Expo 2015 in Milan, the University of Verona, Africa friends, Nigrizia Foundation and other African associations dedicated a full day to the theme of cooperation, development and synergy between Italy, Verona and Africa.
The morning meeting took place at the seat of the Polo Zanotto University of Verona.
There were interventions by the speakers: Elda Baggio, reference person for Cooperation in Development of the university; Marta Ugolini, lecturer in economics and the running of the undertakings of the university; Matteo Scolari, President of Verona-Expo. Among those present at the forum were: Their Excellencies Joseph Sesay Sam, minister of agriculture of Sierra Leone; Hussein Ahmed Mohammed, plenipotentiary minister of the Ghanaian embassy, Rome; Rokhaya Ba Toure, Senegal Consul General in Milan; Amadou Lamine Cisse, responsible for economic affairs of the Embassy of Senegal in Rome; Philip Tamba Conteh, Expo Commissioner of Sierra Leone.
During the early afternoon there was a visit to the African Museum. The day was concluded at the university with dialogue on the theme of “Food-supply contradictions”: the global index between hunger and waste and (in)security” between Athenaeum geography lecturer Emanuela Gamberoni, and Nigrizia journalist Gianni Ballarini.
Brothers meet in Pesaro
From 1 to 3 May, the Brothers Convention, organised by the Italian province, was held in Pesaro, with forty participants. The theme of the meeting was “The joy of being a Brother”. It began with a meditation on the theme by Bro. Matteo Nicolini of the Bose community. This was followed by the testimony of Bro. Fabio Patt concerning our mission in China. The General Assistant Bro. Daniele Giusti also took part, speaking of the main challenges faced by Comboni Brothers regarding the future of the Institute. Four Italian postulants were also present.
Comboni Missionaries in Europe prepare for the General Chapter
Five provincials, 12 Chapter delegates and the Vicar general, Fr. Alberto Pelucchi, with the help of several experts, met in Limone from 20 to 26 May, to prepare for the XVIII General Chapter. The participants began by presenting the reports prepared by their respective circumscriptions.
The theologian Carmelo Dotolo led a day of reflection on the theme: “Comboni Missionaries and Evangelii Gaudium”, the apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis that provided the motto for the Chapter. Enzo Biemmi, the facilitator of the event, assisted the Europe-based capitulars to enter into the spirit of the Chapter. The participants also studied the new statutes. The assembly ended by formulating concrete proposals to be presented to the Chapter.
On 9 May, 2015, at Xochimilco, the Comboni novices Javier Martín Ruiz Eche (Perù), Manuel Venegas (United States) and José de Jesús Nieto Castro (Mexico) dedicated their lives to Christ to follow him, imitate him and proclaim him wherever they are sent. The newly professed will continue their priestly formation in other countries: Javier Martín Ruiz will remain in his home country of Peru, Manuel Venegas will go to South Africa and José de Jesús Nieto will go to Kenya.
On Saturday, the day of the ceremony, the novice masters Fr. José Gabriel Martínez Torres and Fr. Vittorio Moretto, gathered at 11am at the novitiate, together with members of the Comboni family and the relatives and friends of the novices to witness this important event.
Fr. José Manuel Baeza, provincial of the NAP, presided at the ceremony. There were several Comboni concelebrants including the provincial of Mexico, Erasmo Bautista, and Luis Barrera, provincial of Perù, the superiors of the newly-professed. Assistant General, Fr. Antonio Villarino, also took part.
Mons. Romero a model for life and mission
The Comboni delegates to the XVIII General Chapter from Asia/America who gathered for their continental assembly in Mexico City (11-15 May) have shared their closeness and reflection by means of an open letter addressed to all the Comboni family on the occasion of the beatification of Mons. Oscar Arnulfo Romero that took place on Saturday, 23 May, in El Salvador.
The letter concludes: “With certainty and confidence in the words of the Gospel, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single grain: but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12, 24), we wish to invite you to carve out a new path of renewal and hope for us and our peoples. In communion with you all, in memory of Mons. Romero and all the martyrs of America, especially Fr. Ezechiele Ramin, we firmly believe that the XVIII General Chapter, shortly to be celebrated, offers us an opportunity for renewal in the charism of St. Daniel Comboni and the imitation of the martyrs of our Church in America”.
On 1 May, the VII international meeting of the Cenacles of Missionary Prayer was held at Famalicão. About 300 people took part, belonging to 40 Cenacles of the dioceses of Braga, Oporto, Aveiro, Coimbra, Viseu and Lisbon.
The theme “The Family and Consecrated Life” was discussed during a round table conference led by Bro. Valentim Rodrigues, with the participation of a consecrated married couple and two religious women belonging to the active and contemplative life.
The participants presented €4.480,00 in aid of ten young people from poor families of the Central African Republic and to cooperate in the translation and printing of the Sunday lectionary in the Mbay language (Moissala, Chad), a GIM solidarity project.
On Saturday, 6 May, 2015, the two novices Mateusz Adam Poreba, 23, from Poland, and Quisito Orlando Veloso, 26, from Mozambique, made their first religious profession at the European Comboni novitiate of Santarem, Portugal. Fr. Gianni Gaiga, representing Poland on behalf of the Vicar General, presided over the Eucharistic celebration. Fr. José da Silva Vieira, Provincial Superior of Portugal, gave the homily during which he affirmed that “the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience do not close us in a rigid, self-satisfied, self-centred shell of virtue but open us towards the mission through vulnerability: the missionary is chaste in order to love all with all his heart; he is poor in order to share; he is obedient in order to discern in the community the concrete plan of God for the reality in which he lives”.
The newly-professed, in a shared message, described the first religious profession as a day with Christ and the Church, an incomparable day, recognising, however, that the road has not always been smooth, with joys but also times of sadness: Quisito recalled especially that he had lost both his parents during his novitiate at Santarem.
After taking a brief holiday in Mozambique, Quisito will go to complete the theological course in San Paolo, Brasil, while Mateusz, after a short period in Poland, will go to Nairobi, Kenya, for the same purpose.
A double celebration
The Comboni Missionaries closed the celebration of the 150 years of St. Daniel Comboni’s Plan for the regeneration of Africa with Africa and of the 90 years of their presence in South Africa on 25 April. The ceremony, that took place in Silverton, Pretoria, was presided by His Grace the Archbishop of Pretoria, William Slattery, and counted, besides the presence of the Comboni Bishop of Witbank, Joseph Sandri, the majority of the Comboni Missionaries working in the country and many friends and benefactors.
The provincial superior, Fr. Jeremias dos Santos, in his welcome address mentioned the two events being celebrated.
In his homily, Archbishop William Slattery said that St. Daniel Comboni, because of his spiritual closeness to the Heart of Jesus, was able to see further than the anthropologists and explorers of his time, foreseeing the tremendous potential of Africa.
The amount of evangelising and human promotion work done by the Comboni Brothers and priests in South Africa is remarkable. Besides establishing the Catholic Church in what is today the diocese of Witbank – a vast area that extends from just outside Bronkhorstpruit (Pretoria diocese) to Mozambique – where the Comboni Missionaries built more than 160 churches, brought about great human development with the construction of hospitals, clinics, schools, pre-schools, hospices, mills, carpentries, weaving centres, the establishment of vegetable gardens, etc.
Archbishop Slattery also remembered the hardships the Comboni pioneers encountered: from a climate of suspicion (the Catholic Church was considered the “Roomse gevaar”, the “Roman threat”) to the obstacles to minister to black people; from the need to adjust to a new reality and learn the local languages to physical strains, like long journeys to visit the small Christian communities, lack of roads and shops, lack of facilities and healthcare.
“When the Comboni missionaries arrived – concluded the Archbishop – the Eastern Transvaal was ruled by people looking for gold. These missionaries brought them something better than gold: they brought them Christ.”
Vows of the Scholastics
On the 1st of May, in Pietermaritzburg, twelve Comboni scholastics/students renewed their religious vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. It was a simple and touching celebration where some close friends of the community were also present.
The celebration was preceded by a recollection day underlining the call to be grateful for the gift of our consecration and for the richness of our Comboni spirituality of the Pierced Heart of the Good Shepherd.
Farewell to Fr. John Manesch
On the 25th May took take place at the provincial house the farewell of Fr. John Maneschg who has been assigned to Bressanone, in the DSP. The Comboni communities of Gauteng, Johannesburg and Pretoria participated in this event.
Fr. John Maneschg has been working in South Africa for more than 40 years since his first assignment to the country in 1974. His work has been mainly in teaching Holy Scripture. As a great biblical scholar, Fr. John marked the lives of many, especially the majority of the South African Diocesan priests. He taught in the national seminaries of St. Peter’s in Hammanskraal and St. John Vianney in Pretoria, in St. Augustine College and at the now defunct Bible College, in Johannesburg. He also worked in the pastoral field in the dioceses of Witbank, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Durban, serving the Christian communities in those areas.
Fr. Jeremias, the provincial superior, in a couple of simple sentences paid a heartfelt tribute to him: “We thank Fr. John for what he did mainly in the formation of the local and religious clergy, but especially for what he is for each one of us, an example of a dedicated missionary, a faithful and true companion on the missionary journey.”
Visit of Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse
Assistant General Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse spent from 17 April to 2 May visiting the province of South Sudan where he preached the spiritual exercises for the confreres working in the country.
The visit – Fr. Daniele Moschetti, provincial superior, said – was a good time of sharing, reflection and recharging for all of us living in this situation of South Sudan in which we are living through a time of passion and death”. During the retreat, two young confreres renewed their temporary vows, Bro. Ayih Teko Fafa Pierre and Bro. Patrick Lumami Mwanza, both of whom belong to the province of South Sudan and who will soon take perpetual vows. It was a time of joy for all the province which expresses in this event the vitality of its presence in this country torn by such great suffering, a tangible sign that we must always hope against hope.
After the retreat, Fr. Tesfaye, accompanied by Fr. Moschetti, visited the mission of Leer and the Comboni community that had been evacuated from there last year and was forced to live for three weeks in the swamps of Unity State, out of touch with the confreres of Juba. It was a time of celebration and solidarity with the people who have been going through a difficult period lasting a year and a half. Fr. Tesfaye brought a message of hope, courage and brotherly greetings from the Superior General Fr. Enrique Sánchez G.
A few days after Fr. Tesfaye and the provincial superior had left, the Comboni community of Leer was again evacuated with all the international volunteers of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Red Cross International (ICRC) due to the imminent military action of the government SPLA army against the rebels, who have been in control of Unity State since the beginning of the conflict in December, 2013.
At the invitation of the Religious Superiors Association of South Sudan (RSASS), Fr. Tesfaye took part in three days of ongoing formation on consecrated life and in the General Assembly of more than 60 religious belonging to about 30 Institutes present in South Sudan. For the occasion, he presented a morning of formation and reflection on the theme: “Religious Life in Africa” which was very much appreciated, giving rise to much reflection and discussion.
Fr. Tesfaye’s visit ended on 2 May, 2015 with the inauguration of the new formation house and the formation community of Moroyok. Immediately after the function, Fr. Tesfaye left for Addis Abeba from where he proceeded to Lusaka (Zambia) to take part in the meeting of provincials and delegates of APDESAM in preparation for the 2015 General Chapter.
Missionaries evacuated from the conflict zone
On 9 May, four Comboni confreres and one Comboni Sister were evacuated from the mission of Leer and taken by helicopter to Juba by the United Nations security forces together with twenty functionaries of the humanitarian organisations working in the zone. An attack on the city – under opposition control since April last – was expected by government forces advancing on the city on two fronts. All the while, both government and opposition continue to break the “cease fire to allow access to humanitarian aid”. The humanitarian crisis, already serious, is getting worse. In all probability, the mission of Leer will be again plundered. The mission of Ayod, with two Comboni Missionaries, is in the same situation. One confrere is at Old Fangak where there have been no clashes. Last week, the missionaries and civilians of Malakal have had to seek refuge at the UN base due to fighting in the city. At the present time, the situation has improved but the work of the missionaries and volunteers seeking to assist the population has become even more difficult.
Opening of the Formation House “Barnaba Deng” in Moroyok
On Saturday 2 May, 2015, the Formation House “Barnaba Deng” was officially opened in Moroyok, Juba, in the presence of Mgr. Paulino Lukudu Loro, Archbishop of Juba, Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse, Assistant General, and Fr. Daniele Moschetti, Provincial Superior of South Sudan. Mgr. Paulino Lukudu presided over the Eucharist and blessed the water, then, assisted by Fr. Tesfaye, Fr. Moschetti and Fr. Antoine, the Vice Provincial, blessed all the corners of the house. About 300 people attended the celebration: priests, religious, lay people. Also present were some members of the local Mundari community with the Chief, the Ambassador of the European Community, H.E. Stefano De Leo, the engineers and workers of the building company and a group of YCS from the Comboni Senior of Juba, the choir of St. Kizito, a parish opened in the eighties by Fr. Ottorino F. Sina, which animated the Liturgy.
Moroyok is a new location about 3 Km from the main road, rather isolated and still unknown to the people who live in Juba town. Mundari cattle keepers live scattered in the area with their herds. For most of the people who attended the celebration, including the Archbishop, it was their first visit to Moroyok. The place is not far from the UNMISS camp where about 30,000 IDP, mostly Nuer, still live, protected by UN, after the events of December 2013. In his homily, the Archbishop expressed his satisfaction at the opening of a new missionary community in this place, a sign of the desire of the Church to reach out to the peripheries, and come closer to the people wherever they are.
The Chief expressed his appreciation for the arrival of the Church in the area. The basic needs are evident: water, education, health services. At present there is little or nothing.
The pre-postulancy has actually been operating for the last two years attached to the parish of Lomin. Three postulants are already in Nairobi and another will join them soon. There are six pre-postulants this year, from different parts of South Sudan. One is from Khartoum. They will spend about six-eight months in the formation house of Moroyok, then join a Comboni community in the province and finally go to the interprovincial postulancy of Nairobi, if all goes well.
Besides being a formation house for the pre-postulants, Moroyok will function also as a vocation centre for young people in search for their vocation. The formator of the pre-postulancy, Fr. Louis Tony Okot Ochermoi, is also the secretary of vocation promotion and formation.
The formation house is named after Fr. Barnaba Deng, a South Sudanese Comboni Missionary killed in Wau on August 23, 1965, three years after his ordination. The name had already been given to the postulancy when it opened in Juba, in the eighties, before being moved to Khartoum with the same name. The opening of Moroyok marks the silver jubilee of his martyrdom.
Attached to the formation house there is a quarter reserved for sick and elderly confreres.
On 4 and 5 May, the province held a session of Ongoing Formation on the theme: “Comboni mission in Africa today”, in the context of the Year of Consecrated Life. A Togolese Benedictine, Fr. Gilles Soglo, was the moderator.
The presence of Fr. Giorgio Aldegheri, Superiore of the Delegation of the Central African Republic, provided an occasion for his testimony on the situation of this country and the confreres working here.
On 6 May, in the morning, the encounter proceeded with a meeting of the community superiors. At the same time, the young confreres – about fifteen of them – gathered for a meeting of sharing and fraternity on the banks of Lake Togo.
On the afternoon of Saturday, 9 May, eighteen Comboni novices (9 from DCR, 2 from Togo, 3 from Benin, 3 from the Central African republic and 1 from Tchad) celebrated their first profession surrounded by their circumscription superiors, confreres, relatives and friends. Also present was Bro. Daniele Giusti, Assistant General. The Comboni-run parish of St. François d’Assise (Cotonou) hosted the beautiful ceremony, a concrete testimony to the beauty of missionary consecration, especially since this was a large group of young men from Francophone Africa.
Preparation for the Chapter
After the first professions, the circumscription superiors of Francophone Africa, together with the Chapter delegates and Bro. Giusti, met at Cotonou Novitiate (11-15 May) to prepare the interprovincial report for the Chapter, to review the Statutes and to reflect upon some aspects specifically concerning the sub-continent such as the centre for OGF and accompaniment as outlined by the 2009 Chapter. The meeting was an occasion to continue the experience of sharing and collaboration, especially in the sectors of formation and mission promotion.
Let us pray for our beloved dead
THE FATHER: Ettore, of Fr. Giuseppe Messetti (PE).
THE BROTHER: Ramiro, of Fr. Daniel Magaña Chávez (M).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTER: Sr. Annalisa Rivetti.