Sunday was day when we could pray more together and to learn more about other Christian denominations. We were assigned to different churches in Arusha – myself went to Mennonites. We were very warmly welcome by the local pastors and also the Mennonite bishop. We joined the prayer which was full of joyful songs and dances, prepared by the parish choirs (there were three of them – children’s, youths’ and adults’). There was also reading Bible & preaching and then we heard some more about the Mennonites’ activities in Arusha. And after that we shared the delicious lunch, which gave us occasion to more informal chats and getting to know each other. Very blessed time and beautiful experience of community! The last part of the program was planting the tree.
The last two days of conference continued to be intensive. Full of prayers, sharing and inputs. On one of the days was focused on embracing the cross. We heard very touching speech of Orthodox Patriarch of Syria – sharing his experience of war, showing photos from his recent travel Damascus and the Eucharist they celebrated in the ruins of church and also about the support they provide for the people who are still there – mostly Muslims, but it doesn’t matter, they are suffering brothers, so as Christian is our duty to be on their side and help. There were also other testimonies from different part of the world, where people experience suffering and what “embracing the cross” means in their context. The prayers were also focused on this, some made in the orthodox way of praying.
Those few days in Arusha were really wonderful for me, I’m thanking God for this chance to be there, to pray with all these people, to share with them, to hear so many interesting things, to experience this spirit of unity and openness. I met many wonderful people from all over the world, from all the Christian denominations. And it was amazing that everyone was equal – it didn’t matter if you are just a student or you have a phD or are a professor, didn’t matter if you are just a member of the church or you are the bishop – in front of God we all are His beloved children. And we could really feel it there in Arusha.
Always we have sharing after that it’s so enriching to see how the people are disciples in different realities – muslims dominated Asian countries, western secularized countries, post-colonial countries… which kind of challenges they encounter and think together how can they be overcome.
The other main part are speeches and workshops – everyday on different topic. One day we focus on the Evangelism, hearing people from all different continents. It was many times mentioned that mission is not only saving the souls, but changing the world – starting from ourselves and then going to the world, bringing there hope.
The other day – mission from the margins. There were testimonies of people who are descendants of slaves or Africans who lived under colonization. They shared how the Gospel was brought to those people in very humiliating way – the value of Christian slaves was higher on the slave market… Also on the Africans Christian faith was imposed from European who felt much superior to them. So we were discussing later how to not repeat those mistakes in mission these days. And one more thought I liked in that topic – “Evangelism from the margins begins by looking to marginalized communities as the places where Jesus lives and speaks”. As many times they can much more to offer to us than we to them, they can show us Jesus and what the faith really means.
When we speak of what fills the heart, we are able to touch the heart of others with such an intensity that is beyond imagination. In fact, besides giving great formation on volunteerism and cooperation in development, La Salete, lecturer at the formation meeting, told us fantastic stories about her life in mission, leaving us, in my opinion, with a great message: it is extremely important to place ourselves in other people’s shoes, to try to understand certain situations so that we may be able to relate to them with greater openness, respect and love for the people we meet in mission.
The second formation meeting of FEC took place in Fátima on February 17 and 18 and was quite intense. During this time we had the chance to discuss inequality in the world; how wealth and development are limited to a few countries; the concepts of cooperation and development; the paradigms of development; education to development and global citizenship and, even more, we had the opportunity of undergoing intense formation on the methodology and analysis of projects.
I will share with you some points that I found interesting: the concept of Gross Internal Happiness, a concept created by the king of Butan in contraposition to the Gross Domestic Product and with good results; the Fairphone, a cell phone put together without damaging or enslaving the workers who produce it. The sale of this phone does not aim at benefitting from the exploitation of many workers, but makes sure that work receives proper pay, as it happens in the fair trade stores.
At the end of Saturday afternoon we saw the movie “Shooting Dogs” which was followed by a discussion where we analyzed the conduct and attitudes of the various characters, which in turn resulted in a very good sharing of ideas and feelings. In the evening we had the missionary witness of a couple belonging to the Lay People of the Good News, who spent a year in the diocese of Pemba, Mozambique.
It is always a great joy to take part in these formation meetings, to share our missionary charism with great people and to experience the diversity within the Church. The fact that the meeting was held in Fátima and of having the opportunity to pray in the chapel of the apparitions, made this meeting very special. How good it is to be able to journey and grow in these formation processes that expand our horizons and help us to keep on learning more about the missionary journeys.
The coming of the Pope to Peru did not leave the Peruvians indifferent. His closeness to the people touched their hearts. Many were the reports of those who accompanied him personally and on TV. Joy reigned in Peru just as we still live it in these days under the banner of hope left to us by the Pope of the people. It was a Pope who embraced the great open wounds of Peru by asking for a change that can only happen if we know to hold hands like brothers as we search for a truly common home.
In this journey of preparation for the Youth Synod, the Pope did not depart without leaving a challenging message of love and joy. With his words he reminded us that young people are not the future, as it is often said, but rather the present in a world to which they must not and cannot remain indifferent.
“Dear young people, I am pleased to be here with you. These meetings are very important for me, especially in this year of preparation for the Synod on young people. Your faces, your questions and your lives are important for the Church and we need to give them the importance they deserve. We must also have the courage of the many young people of this land who were not afraid to love and risk everything for Jesus.
Dear friends, how many examples you have! I think of Saint Martin de Porres. Nothing prevented that young man from achieving his dreams, nothing prevented him from spending his life for others, nothing prevented him from loving, and he did so because he had realized that the Lord loved him first. Just as he was: a mulato. He had to face many hardships. In the eyes of others, even his friends, it seemed that he had everything to lose, but he knew how to do one thing that would be the secret of his life: he knew how to trust. He trusted in the Lord who loved him. Do you know why? Because the Lord had trusted him first; just as he trusts each of you and will never tire of trusting you.
You may say that sometimes this is very difficult. I understand that. In those moments, we can think negative thoughts, we can feel overwhelmed by different situations, and it can seem that we are left on the sidelines, while they have the upper hand. But it’s not like that, is it?
There are moments when you can feel powerless to achieve your desires and dreams. We have all experienced situations like that. Dear friends, in those moments when our faith seems to fade, remember that Jesus is by your side. Do not give up! Do not lose hope! Remember the saints who accompany us from heaven. Go to them, pray and never tire of asking for their intercession. Not only the saints of the past, but also those of the present: this land has many of them, because it is a land of saints. Ask for help and advice from people you know can give good advice because their faces radiate joy and peace. Let them accompany you as you journey along the path of life.
Jesus wants to see you on the move. He wants to see you achieve your ideals and to be enthusiastic in following his instructions. He will take you along the path of the beatitudes, a path that is not easy but exciting, a path that cannot be traveled alone, but only as a team, where each member offers the best of his or her self. Jesus is counting on you as he counted long ago on Saint Rose of Lima, Saint Turibius, Saint Juan Macías, Saint Francisco Solano and so many others. Today he asks if, like them, you are ready to follow him. Are you willing to follow him? To be guided by his Spirit in making present his Kingdom of justice and love?
Dear friends, the Lord looks on you with hope. He never grows discouraged with us. Perhaps we are the ones who grow discouraged, about ourselves or about others.
I know that we all like to see digitally enhanced photographs, but that only works for pictures; we cannot “photoshop” others, the world, or ourselves. Color filtering and high definition only function well in video; we can never apply them to our friends. There are pictures that are very nice, but completely fake. Let me assure you that the heart can’t be “photoshopped,” because that’s where authentic love and genuine happiness have to be found.
Jesus does not want you to have a “cosmetic” heart. He loves you as you are, and he has a dream for every one of you. Do not forget, he does not get discouraged with us. But if you get discouraged, I invite you to take a look at the Bible and remember the kind of friends God chose.
Moses, he was not articulate; Abraham, an old man; Jeremiah, very young; Zacchaeus, small of stature; the disciples, who fell asleep when Jesus told them they should pray; Paul, a persecutor of Christians; Peter, who denied him… and we could go on with this list. So what excuse can we offer?
When Jesus looks at us, he does not think about how perfect we are, but about all the love we have in our hearts to give in serving others. That is the important thing for him, and he will always be concerned about that. He does not worry about your height, or whether you speak well or badly, whether you fall asleep when you pray, or whether you are very young or very old. His only question is this: Do you want to follow me and be my disciple? Don’t waste time disguising your heart, but instead fill your life with the Spirit!
Jesus is constantly waiting to give us his Spirit, who is the Love that God wants to pour into our hearts, to make us his missionary disciples.
In following Jesus, we never, ever, remain shut out. Even if we make mistakes, the Lord always gives us a new opportunity to keep walking with him.
Dear young people, in my prayers, I entrust you to the care of the Virgin Mary. Be assured that she will accompany you at every moment of your life, at all the crossroads of your journey, especially at those times when you have to make important decisions. She will always be there, like a good Mother, encouraging and supporting you, lest you grow discouraged. And if you get discouraged by anything, do not worry, for she will tell Jesus. Just don’t stop praying, don’t stop asking, don’t stop trusting in her maternal protection.
Pope Francis to the young people in Peru
On Sunday, as we usually do it, we gathered with the youth group after the Eucharist. We had all experienced this grace of knowing we were far away, but at the same time so close to the representative of God on earth. We had nothing planned, actually we gathered at our house with the idea of having a short prayer and share what each one of us felt about the presence of the Pope. However, we were surprised when on getting the TV connection, we listened to one of the most challenges talks of the Pope to young people. We were silent. We listened to each word pronounced by such a wise person. Almost by surprise we prayed together. We experienced a piece of heaven on Peruvian soil.
“Mission Volunteering and Spirituality” was the theme of the first formation session of the volunteers of FEC (Faith and Cooperation Foundation), held on January 13-14, 2018 at the Casa de Salud of Telhal, Sintra. Some CLM attended. Here we give you the witness of Ana Raposo, who attended this FEC formation session.
In this first meeting of FEC we discussed the theme of the “Joy of the Gospel,” with Pope Francis as our mentor. The joy of the Gospel calls us to be a Church on the move to protect our common home, a Church that looks at the world with joy, love and praise while promoting the common good and the care of our neighbor. It calls us to look within ourselves, to discover a “you” that turns into me, having as a mission to accept the will of God and lead to God who is already here, to light the flame.
This joy, this love, was lived during this weekend in the formation and in the Sunday homily. It was the splendor and joy that emanated from the pastor and his assistants in spite of their limitations and from the moderator, Juan Antonio, who made us look from different points of view as he was clarifying some of our doubts.
God the giver of love, Jesus the loved one, the Holy Spirit is love.
The Christmas meeting of the Comboni Lay Missionaries took place on December 16 and 17 in Viseu, at the Comboni Missionaries’ house. The theme was “From the Family of Nazareth to the Family of the CLM.” Several CLM attended together with those in formation. It was a meeting marked by joy and by a family atmosphere, a Comboni family and a CLM family. It was a family gathered around a single ideal – namely, Christ – and the same Comboni charism.
On Saturday morning, the CLM Sandra Fagundez gave a presentation on San Daniel Comboni and the movement. Following that, we played a game that gave us the opportunity to discover more about the Comboni Family, the meaning of Christmas, Christmas in mission… as we continued reflecting and praying on the different meditation points. It was an experience of dialogue, of sharing that enriched us and brought into focus in prayer realities distant from our eyes and the entire Comboni family.
The afternoon brought us another surprise. By groups, we had the opportunity to: talk about Christmas in mission and their life experience with the elderly Comboni Missionaries who live in the house of Viseu; converse with the Comboni Missionary Sisters at their home on what characterize the various Christmas celebrations they spent in mission; and, at the family home of the CLM Marisa Almeida, to talk and share with a family which is also part of the CLM family, because with us it shares and lives the dedication and affection to mission. It was an afternoon when we were questioned and challenged by the many witnesses of lives fully lived and dedicated to mission.
After prayer and supper, we had a party where, once more, we shared fun, laughter, jokes and music (and where Fr. Felix delighted us with his accordion). We also exchanged gifts! Once again, it was a time of unity, during this happy and genuine time together, with the CLM family and the Comboni family at large.
On Sunday, The CLM Susana Vilas Boas gave a presentation on the theme of “From the Family of Nazareth to the CLM family” starting with a reflection and ending with a sharing. From the morning session I remember the idea of journey. The CLM is on a journey, as Comboni would say, with their eyes fixed on Christ – because only this way does the journey have meaning. This is in order to follow the example of the family of Nazareth: the unity of Mary and Joseph, its humble service to Jesus, its desire to fulfill the will of God and the total dedication to his will must be the example for the CLM family, so that it may fulfill the dream that God has for it, and continue on a journey of growth in order to serve in mission according to the style of St. Daniel Comboni.
The Christmas meeting ended with the Eucharist with Fr. Francisco Medeiros as the main celebrant and with the joy of having with us at lunch the family of the CLM Neuza Francisco.
This is the word I was looking for to sum up the Christmas meeting of the CLM: family. In prayer, sharing, being together, listening, this meeting has awakened in each one of us the notion that we belong to something bigger than ourselves, a spiritual family that accepts us and challenges to improve, to do and live our mission in the style of Comboni, with our eyes fixed on Christ, passionate about Him and about people.
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