Comboni Lay Missionaries

Meeting of German CLM at the mission house in Nuremberg on August 3-5, 2018

CLM Alemania

CLM Alemania

As always, it was a great pleasure to feel welcome and “at home” in Nuremberg. Bro. Hans Eigner gave us and introduction to the socio-political situation of South Sudan. He helped us to better understand the way and the objectives behind the birth of the Peace Center of Juba and what is currently being done there to enable peace and reconciliation, as well as to help heal traumas.

We saw how we, CLM as a group, can concretely support the very important work of the center and of the schools connected with it. In the future this will be one of the principal points of our missionary activity.

We then concretized our reflections on our own contribution in Germany. It is clear that faith is not usually relevant and it is rarely a topic of conversation. How can we engage in conversations of faith and encourage people to speak about their faith? This, too, will be one of our main points.

During the weekend we had plenty of opportunities to pray and speak together. It was also a lot of fun to attend the open air classical music concert in Luitpoldhain.

Strengthened and with “homework” in our bags we returned to our “daily mission fields.”

Barbara, CLM Germany

Feast of the CLM, the joy of sharing as a family

LMC Portugal

LMC Portugal

“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6). A biblical phrase that stood out at the end of Saturday during the prayer closing the afternoon of the weekend we spent as CLM family in Viseu,

At the beginning of this Saturday I had that yearning to see the usual faces in the Comboni house of Viseu who had welcomed me so often during my formation. The journey. A journey proposed to all those who feel in their hearts the ardent passion of belonging to this CLM family.

Starting this day made me remember Marisa, Cristina, Paula, Neuza who are now in mission and who followed me closely in choosing my CLM commitment. I remembered Tiago Santos who could not continue with us, Flávio Soares whose life stays close to us, but whose journey is temporarily moving him elsewhere, Rufina who, as I understand, is very dedicated to the refugees, Patrícia Bernardino, whose whereabouts I do not know, but who followed a beautiful journey of vocational discernment. And lots more. Many who filled this house and who have turned this house into a record of my growth that God allows us to manage.

Starting this weekend allowed me to go beyond myself and get reacquainted with this family that has grown, and is still growing, with beautiful people with a missionary soul in their hearts moving them towards the hearts of the poorest and most abandoned. It is great to recognize this growing family to whom I proudly belong!

This is a family getting together to evaluate the year just past, in order to understand the journey just finished and talk about it. A family gathered to talk about important documents that will be the background of our International Assembly in Rome during this 2018. And discussions followed in favor of our movement, conversations giving birth to ideas for our future. And what pride we felt to see the commitment of the lay folks and of those in formation, expressing the will to improve, in the image God wants as the ideal of the CLM. It was a tiring Saturday that ended in a rhythm of prayer. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Together we prayed to be on this journey both individually and as a movement.

LMC Portugal

Sunday was the day to welcome our friends and relatives. A great day of animation when together we were even able to speak with Marisa and her community in Mozambique. And how exciting to find her happy in her mission, so adapted that she even mixes up the pronunciations of Portugal and Mozambique. We saw videos from Paula and Neuza who described clearly their mission in Arequipa, Peru and how important it is how to act before people, a mission that invites us to focus on the person, and on society in its details. A social, communitarian mission. We also saw a video from Flávio and Liliana in Piquiá, Brazil witnessing to their work with a people demanding better and dignified living conditions, and who get together to celebrate the harvest.

At the end of this time of witnessing, we heard from Fr. Joaquim Nogueira recently returned from Ethiopia. It was wonderful! How many difficulties, but also how brilliant were his eyes as he told us about what the Comboni Missionaries have achieved together with “these poorest and most abandoned, to whom nobody goes.”

The Eucharist and lunch followed and we ended the afternoon with a time to “laugh with God.” It was a session of laughter therapy animated by Fernando Batista, creator of the project laughing more who also has a great mission – proclaiming Christ in a funny, relaxed and faithful way.

Then we were sent out. And we left. One by one we returned to our homes, but with the certainty that we are walking together following “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

LMC PortugalCLM Carolina Fiúza

After two weeks in Arequipa

LMC Peru

LMC Peru

I have already been here for two weeks and I do not know whether it is a lot or too little.

I already got used to the kitchen and know where everything is and I even baked a sponge cake (yes, we have an oven!!). I also got used to the taste of water and to the routine of boiling it and at time having to drink it while still lukewarm (considering how little I enjoy hot water even in winter…).

The sleeping is super because Paula gave me her bed which is the best and the largest. Some evening, when it is not too late, the three of us fit together on this bed to watch a show or a movie, remembering the old days in David’s home. In any case, the rooms are really cubicles divided by partitions that do not reach the ceiling and with an opening for the door, but without it. So that basically it is like being all three in one room. We can converse each one from our own bed without a problem.

But I have yet to get used to the dust that invades my lungs whenever we leave the house and becomes downright horrible when a vehicle goes by.

I have already heard a couple of earthquakes and have caught a cold with the changes of temperature and during the last gray days we just had.

It is still fascinating go outside and see the volcano Chachani close to 20 thousand feet tall, so great and majestic with its snow shining in the sun, and the Misti, a mere 19,000, that is visually overwhelming because we are so close to it, almost in its foothills. These days it appeared with a dusting of snow.

At the beginning I was feeling a little out of sort, but I am now getting used to the girls routine and activities.

The nursery (child care from 2 to 5 years old) is the easiest place for me because the children are beautiful and charming, even though, as all children, like (or would like) to do what they want. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we go to the project “My school, my Family and Me,” where some children stay behind for a while engaged in activities that will improve their socialization, autonomy and language skills… It is always done with fun activities and games and then we eat together. The project demands the involvement of the families that we follow and keep informed. It was interesting to attend the meeting with the director of the nursery, who is the teacher involved in the project, and two psychologists speaking on the development of the children, their family situation, discussing the possibilities of visiting families who are not answering the commitments agreed upon… Even though this is what could be considered an “elitist” project, since it is only for 20 children picked because of their needs and conditions, it is clear that in order to do it well it cannot be a mass venture. The personal attention we give them is very good and it pleased me to see how they know the reality of each child and their environment.

With the senior citizens there is a program on Wednesdays where they perform activities to improve their mobility, do something manual, pray together and play some simple games. With the women’s group they meet every Saturday and try to provide someone who can help them, at times with psychological topics in order to help them with personal questions, at times with manual activities… From what I understand, in both projects there is an attempt to form groups so that they will socialize among themselves, to motivate them so  they will not get rusty, to have them have some fun and help them to stay strong to put up with their problems and daily activities. Especially with the women, they bring in other people (psychologists, teachers…) to run the sessions so they will see different faces and experiences, but lately some people have been missing and it is a little bit of a drag.

LMC Peru

In all these activities I have been mostly a spectator, but already this week I took care of the senior citizen session and we made a “rattle” with rolls of toilet paper . The truth is that you make most of it yourself, but it was OK because we gave them time to personalize it and so they were drawing. Since it coincided with Carmina’s birthday, Paulina brought a cake to celebrate her birthday and my arrival and we all sang Happy Birthday with our seniors and with some children Carmina had brought along. It was very nice.

With the women we made rosettes with the colors of Peru because on July 28 we begin to celebrate the independence of the country and it is a National Holiday . It is an important celebration that lasts a week. In fact most places are already decorated with these rosettes, flags and wreaths. Today, even the Mass was dedicated to this feast and everything was suitably decorated .

Family visitations are a little harder… It is tough to see how people live: junk all over, garbage, dust… Almost all the visits are to older people who are somewhat abandoned and rather pitiful… On top of that, they want to make sure that you get a slice of fruit or they invite you to have bread and tea. We also visit people who are sick and we also went to see families who just had a child or are about to have one and brought them some baby clothes. I am impressed by the capacity Andrea and Paula have to raise their spirit. They know their history and listen with kindness and patience, and do not have a problem to shift gears and give them a massage or help them in whatever they might be doing, such as cleaning, cooking… They roll up their sleaves!

We have also been at the hospital to visit some neighbors. The hospital is rather gloomy and old, but I am told that it is not one of the worst in the region. Then there is the financial situation…  Here some people have the right to the SIS (Total Health Coverage offered to the needy) but they do not always get it, or the procedure becomes very laborious. Andrea and Paula help people with these steps as well. The classic case is to try to get money in way, which is usually with a chicken roast where a family asks the neighbors’ help to prepare fried chicken, potatoes and beans to be sold and make some money. Already in these two weeks we went to visit a very dear neighbor who was very sick, but is now getting better. He always welcomes us with joy and affection. Last weekend we were going to give a hand to his wife in preparing the chicken roast, but we were delayed at the meeting of parents at the nursery. On Sunday, we went to pick up our plates in order to cooperate and he told us that he had gotten a lot of help from relatives and friends. It is beautiful to see how people support one another in these situations, either by cooking or by buying.

On Wednesdays Fr. Corrado comes and we have the Eucharist in the Comboni Chapel of Villa, which is a rather intimate setting because only few people attend. On Sunday there are more people, including the catechism children and the confirmation young people, who have their classes before Mass. The young people who play the guitar and sing never miss. Andrea and Paula started meeting with them, but now the majority moved on to be catechists and two commitments a week are too much, so that regretfully they had to let these meetings go. The close relationship, the cooperation and the affection they have with them is very evident. They are super nice with me as well. In general they all extend to me the love they have for them.

Last Saturday there was a day for the candidates for Confirmation from the various chapels. It was held in Comboni Hall, next to the Comboni Missionaries’ church of the Good Shepherds, located in Independéncia, a slightly better neighborhood with asphalt and located closer to the city. They asked us to give a talk, “Jesus calls you,” and also our personal witness. It was hard but, between the three of us, we came up with a neat interactive presentation also as a way of organizing our witness. Finally we ended up with a very cool session, even though it was short because there were about 50 young folks and it was difficult to elicit their answers. But I think they liked it.

LMC Peru

We also go to Independéncia on Thursdays to pray Lauds with the Comboni Missionaries. Then we join them from breakfast and usually a meeting. The first week, some were going to the doctor, Corrado was leaving for Lima, so there was no meeting and we strolled back home. On the way we arrived at a place where we took pictures of the panoramic views of the volcanos, while even saving time to visit some old folks. They are wonderful, but they discuss a lot, intensely like adolescents. It is funny how they accuse each other of having someone around somewhere, when they are both as wrinkled up as raisins, and she is almost blind while he is deaf. An interesting couple.

This week we had the meeting which, to my surprise consisted in the lectio divina on the Sunday readings followed by a short meeting (what I considered a meeting) to organize upcoming events. At that time Corrado told us about the death of Fr. Jaime, a greatly cherished Comboni Missionary who worked in Arequipa for 10 years. Some anecdotes surfaced. On Monday we will have a Mass for him at the Good Shepherd.

I am happy that they have this weekly activity with the Comboni Missionaries that helps us to feel like a family. This way we do not relate only with Corrado, the pastor who usually comes to Villa, but with all the other fathers and brothers. Also, when there is a celebration we are invited, if they remember… Last Monday we went over to say goodbye to José who is going to Kenya. We spent a wonderful day in Moquegua (photo 8) where we visited the downtown and the museum of pre-Hispanic culture, and in Ilo, on the Ocean, where we took a boat ride and ate in a cevichería. We got our fill of riding a bus, but we took advantage when going by singing and sleeping, and coming back by chatting about our vocations with Frs. Corrado and Isidro.

We also had a ‘tourist day’ of our own through the downtown area of our city, taking advantage of our community day. Camera in hand, we visited the churches in the area and the Plaza de Armas.

The truth is that I see them more inserted and adjusted. They have control over situations, give time to the people without caring about their time or what they want to do, help in all activities wherever they are or are invited to join, are present in the parish and also have their own initiatives and projects, etc. But they also take time for themselves, or to stay home and pray together, to watch movies and shows, to write or read, and speak with their families… It is a very good witness and to share it with them is something special.

Very often I still find that I am out of it, when they speak of people and events, or something happens and, at a glance, they already know how plans have changed, while I am literally two steps behind, lost and understanding nothing. But this is normal, even though they make an effort to bring me up to date and to include me, it is difficult to summarize 10 months of living. So that I try not to be upset or feel bad, but rather simply listen and, if needed, ask.

I am happy when, during interminable bus rides, meals of community prayers, neat conversations come up on how they feel, how these months were, how they lived through this or that situation and how they do it now, how they faced (and at times still do) comparisons with other people who were here earlier, especially with Gonzalo and Isabel who are still much remembered by the people, because logically they had different ways of doing things. Then there is the relations with the Comboni Missionaries, and the Camilas, another religious group working in the area, and also with the Portuguese lay people. And there is no lack of conversation over plans for the future, dreams, desires… A lot, a lot of living.

And I also love the fun and laughter of every day, this touch of craziness they have, to see shows stretched out together in one bed, singing in the kitchen… Naturally there is no lack of reproaches and misunderstandings, because we all have different tastes and ways of doing things. But in general, we mix well and enjoy one another, I think.

We will continue to live and share this time of joint mission, discovering what life offers us each day among these people.

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Kisses to all. I love you

Aitana CLM

Retreat on “The Mission of the Comboni Lay Missionaries: challenges, dreams, hopes”

retiro LMC

retiro LMCOn Saturday and Sunday, June 16-17, we met at the “Osservanza” of Bologna, Italy to pray together and reflect on “The Mission of the Comboni Lay Missionaries: challenges, dreams, hopes,” under the guidance of Fr. Giovanni Munari.

From the group of Bologna, the following were present on Saturday afternoon: Micaela, Emma, Chiara, Eileen, Agostino, Giuliana, Annalisa and Michele. While from Padua the following attended:  Fabrizio, Francesca, Dorella e Roberto.

We started from the meaning of the term “Mission” and from the Word.

To begin, Fr. Giovanni reminded us that the Gospel is one and the same for everyone, be they lay people, priests, sisters, etc. The Beatitudes are a life ideal for everyone, and not just for members of consecrated life.

The Baptism we received gives full right (and duty) to each lay person to feel as an integral part of the Church, to proclaim the Gospel, to work for the Church. It is a “right of citizenship” within the Church for all the baptized. And if we want to build anything, we must do it based on the Word, not on documents.

We asked ourselves some questions. What does it mean to have the Gospel as the ideal of our life? Has the Church today gone astray? “What does the Spirit ask of us?” Why does Pope Francis speaks so often about renewing the liturgy? Do we, too, feel this need? Do we feel Faith and Life in the liturgies of our churches?

Then, starting from who we are and remembering that the Word, which we celebrate in the liturgy, is the foundation of our faith, we reflected on our relation with the world as Church.

The great revolution consists in understanding that the Church is not the center of the world, but it is the Church that rotates around the world, just as it was with the revolution of Copernicus.

And the renewal of the Church covers also the liturgy.

At this point we gave some time to an examination: as groups from Bologna and Padua we spoke of what we did in our territories during this past year. We underlined the wealth that each one of our groups carries after years of existence and of how we run the risk of losing it or dilute it and not being able to recognize it if we lack a shared memory.

After the reflection, gathered around the Word, each one of us showed a sign of the journey done during this past year: the leaflet of the “aperisuppers” of the Peoples organized in Padua, the leaflet of the parish encounters on the new styles of life organized in Bologna, some relevant books (the Ave Mary by Michela Murgia), the Wipala, a pencil recycled at 80% that does not break and writes even without a tip, the tags with our names, the nard oil.

After supper we got together to listen to the witness of missionary life given by Sr. Elizabeth Raule and Sr. Federica, Comboni Missionary Sisters working in Chad and the RCA respectively. It was beautiful to hear of the joy and passion that guide their steps despite the difficulties they meet on a daily basis in their work among those people (Elizabeth, who is a doctor, daily operates on many people seriously wounded by firearms and knives, because of the internal war raging in Chad. Federica, a nurse, works among the Pygmies in the forest).

On Sunday morning only the group from Bologna was present: Giuliana, Emma, Annalisa, Chiara, Micaela, Eileen, Lise, Agostino, Michele.

We started from John’s Gospel (6:1-14). After the multiplication of bread, Jesus asks his disciples to gather the leftovers: “gather the leftovers, so that nothing will be lost.”

What did they do with them? “They picked them up and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of barley bread left over by those who had eaten.” What was the reason for such an abundance?

We must be careful not to lose anything and, thinking of our groups, this Gospel invites us to collect the wealth of our journeys spread all over Italy.

Then we read parts of a document from 1994: The letter of the Superior General and his Council to all the confreres on the COMBONI LAY MISSIONARIES.

We suggest that you all take a look at it. It surprised us to read some definitions black on white affirming the importance of the Comboni lay missionaries within the Comboni Institute, defining the identity of the Comboni lay missionary (“touched, inspired and infused by the charism of Comboni”), stating the difference between a volunteer and a Lay Missionary, and other forms of nearness and missionary commitment. Did anyone know about the “Comboni associates?”

“The CLM constitute a new reality that demands from us trust, availability and creativity…” writes the General, together with many other good things that strengthen the strong relationship between priests and lay people within the Comboni family. Above all, however, this document reminds us that to be CLM is a vocation which, if inspired by God, grows night and day like that seed thrown into the ground, whether we are awake or asleep. At this point we all need to take time to reflect on our vocation.

In September we will start again to give shape and content to our journey through the next year, getting ready to face with faith and courage the challenges coming our ways, certain that in this journey we are not alone!

retiro LMC

The Bologna CLM Group, Italy

The heart of Jesus – mission of compassion

Corazon de Jesus ComboniMoved with compassion, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him and said: «Of course I want to, be cured!» (Mk 1:41)

This simple action of Jesus is full of meaning and strongly expresses his attitude towards the marginalised. It is an act of rebellion against injustice that is based on a socio-religious system of exclusion. In this way the Father reveals himself to us (Col 1:5), in a Son who, travelling the roads of Palestine, dares to touch a leper to heal him. Already in the first chapter, Mark reveals to us how Christ, the visible face of God who sent him, is capable of loving, with a heart that overflows with compassion (Mk 1:1).

Devotion to the Heart of Jesus has been, since the beginnings of our Institute, a source of spirituality in which our mission is firmly rooted. Through it we enter into the intimate person of Jesus, his attitudes, his desires and his vision of the new world that the Beatitudes announce. Therefore, their contemplation reveals to us the core of our consecrated life: the central place of the love of God as the key to reading the History of Salvation. It is a love that incarnates itself and defines itself as total passion for humanity (CA 2015, No. 22). Personal prayer is a qualified space for going more deeply into this mystery since it is an intimate encounter with Jesus in humility. In this way it becomes an experience of pardon, acceptance and gratuitousness that transforms us and moulds us according to his Heart.

The Pierced Heart of the Good Shepherd calls us to make a constant gift of ourselves and all that we are. The mission is that of self-offering without expecting anything in return, of pouring out one’s life for others. This is our consecration: to make of our life an instrument of the mercy of the Father incarnate in the charism given to Comboni. Our history, with all its limits and incoherencies, leaves us with the indelible witness of confreres who consumed their life to the end for the sake of the Gospel. Men who allowed themselves to be moulded in a cycle of never ending conversion through the experience of relating to the love of the Father, becoming bread for the hungry and hope for the desperate ones (CA 2015, No. 14).

Mark speaks to us of the life of a man whose principal characteristic is compassion, because this is the face that the Father wanted to show us. His attention to the poorest thus becomes a constituent element of the mission of the Church. This is an aspect that is clearly present in Comboni (W 2647). The contemplation of the Heart of Jesus moves us to being especially close to the excluded and calls us to seek them in new environments where live is relegated to the margins. At the same time, our style of life, which may become an obstacle to the dynamism and flexibility of the mission of today, is questioned. All our activities and reflections must come from below, from contact with humanity nailed to the Cross. This is the most radical expression of the total offering of the Son and is still today very much present in some countries where we operate, countries ravaged by war and other forms of violence. Our missionary presence is a sign of the love that wells up from the Heart of Jesus (RL 3.3).

Comboni, a man marked by the religious experience of his time, developed his own missionary dimension of the spirituality of the Heart of Jesus. The total gift of the Father in the Son is a sign of love that opens us up to new hope. The Kingdom is a programme of the liberation of life in its fullness (W 3323). This deep conviction led him to travel thousands of kilometres on the Nile and in the desert, risking his life because he saw the pierced Christ as a source of life for the remotest. The audacity of our Founder in opening new frontiers of evangelisation is part of our spirituality and mission. Revisiting the Rule of Life is also an opportunity to grow in passion for the Gospel while seeking out those who are forgotten.

The challenges of the world of today render our mission urgent. We live in times of expectations and desire for new political, economic and social structures. There is a deep and sincere search for meaning but it often finds only shallow answers that merely lead to alienation and nihilism. The folly of the Gospel (1 Cor 1:25) transforms the heart and the world; our Institute is still called to travel the road, with the compassion of Jesus and touch the lepers of today.

May the feast of the Sacred Heart give us the grace to continue growing in love.

The General Council, mccj