The Comboni Lay Missionary María Augusta Pires, from Janeiro de Baixo, who is stationed in the mission of Mongoumba, Republic of Central Africa, took advantage of a trip to the capital city of Bangui to send us news. Let us pray for peace in that country and for all the missionaries! We relate here the text she sent to “El Astrolabio,”the paper of her parish on May 25:
I and the members of our apostolic community are in good health, thanks be to God.
We are in Bangui to do some shopping… Ana had planned her return on the 18th, but had to delay it until June 8. In any case, we had to come to the capital because our supply room was almost empty.
On June 12 Gervelais and his father are returning from Dakar. We are grateful to the Lord because the surgery was a success. I hope he will be happy and in good health.
On May 11, a patient of the hospital was shot dead. He had been accused of “likundu” (sorcery). We are all sad because of this. We hope that justice will be done and that the killers will be caught, starting with the authorities who denied him protection… We pray to the Lord that he may help us to defend people weighed down by this curse. There have already been several cases of people who were accused, but were protected by the mission or by courageous Christians. May the Lord of life stop this from happening anymore and that all Christians may find the strength to denounce this type of violence.
On May 1, in Bangui, in our parish of Our Lady of Fatima, during Mass, 16 people died and 100 were wounded because of a rebel attack. By the end 22 died, including a priest who was concelebrating. The people of this neighborhood still live in fear of being attacked again. Pray for these people who by now are tired of suffering…
God willing, I will not come back to Bangui before my departure for Portugal, because in June I will be very busy with the evaluation of the students and the conclusion of the course. On July 4 I will live CAR and will be in Lisbon by 5:00 PM. It will be like last year. God willing, I will return to my mission in early September. Cristina is energized and keeps on learning Sango, the local language.
Let us keep united in prayer, because it gives us strength and courage. A great missionary hug, as large as the world, to Fr. Juan and Fr. Orlando and to all the faithful entrusted to you. See you soon!
With great friendship
For the “Astrolabio”
ANO V – Nº 121 – 3 de Junho de 2018
Paróquias de Cabril, Dornelas do Zêzere, Fajão, Janeiro de Baixo, Machio, Pampilhosa da Serra, Portela do Fôjo, Unhais-o-Velho e Vidual
Last Saturday with some members of our Comboni Friends group, we went to Daye – one of the Combonis’ missions among Sidama people. We met there with youth leaders from different outstations, more than 50 of them came. The topic was based on Matthew’s gospel and parable about talents. There was small teaching about, testimony of Adela about her talents and how she uses them to serve others, and then time to work in small groups to discover and share which gifts God gave us and how can we use them.
Youth had many ideas about the talents they can use in the church (to lead groups, to teach, to sing or play keyboard in the choir, to help those who left the church to come back, to take care of widows and orphans…). And after this more serious part, there was some fun, which we called “Daye got talent!”. Youth in groups prepared short dramas based on different parables. They got really involved in it! And showed that they have acting talents too! 🙂
We hope that this meeting inspired them to discover their gifts and use them. Also for us, it was very joyful and enriching time.
Hi to everyone. How are you doing? I hope you are well. Here the rainy season has begun and, to move around, we could use Noah’s ark. When it rains in Mongoumba, everything stops (I believe the same happens throughout the RCA), the children and the teachers do not come to school, you do not see anyone around and we could sleep all day long, lulled by the sound of the rain, and think of you in Portugal, Poland, Italy, all over the world. Mission has its pros and cons.
I was born on a day
when God was sick.
Everyone knows that I live,
that I’m evil; and they don’t know
about the December of that January.
Since I was born on a day
when God was sick.
There’s a void
in my metaphysical air
that no one must feel:
the cloister of a silence
that spoke on the edge of a fire.
I was born on a day
when God was sick.
Brother, listen, listen…
Alright. And may I not go
without bringing Decembers,
without leaving Januaries.
Since I was born on a day
when God was sick.
Everyone knows that I live,
that I chew… and they don’t know
why there’s a squeal in my verse,
the dark uncertainty of a coffin,
from polished unrolled winds of the inquisitive
Everyone knows… And they don’t know
that the Light is consumptive,
and the Dark fat…
And they don’t know that the mystery encapsulates
that it’s the musical
and sad hunched back that denounces from a distance
the meridian step from the boundaries to the Boundaries.
I was born a day
when God was sick,
In this deep, thick, foreboding, sticky, penetrating, often desolated and discomforting night that envelops the entire Republic of Central Africa, there is lightning of blinding light lasting but an instant. It is the lightning of rifles, of shooting, of grenades followed by an awesome noise… and lightning of ESPERGESIA, lightning GENERATING HOPE.
In Bangui, in the neighborhood called Kilometro 5, in the parish of Our Lady of Fatima where I spent 45 days studying Sango, on May 1, feast of St. Joseph the Worker, during Mass, there was the lightning of weapons, shooting, of weapons, of grenades. It was a well-planned attack by people who want to see the night last forever. There were 16 victims.
We immediately perceived that the rumbling of the thunder of this explosion resounded around the world (someone even wrote to us from Brazil), we have felt the warmth of your nearness. We are OK. We were not direct witnesses. They tell us that slowly the situation is getting back to “normal.” In fact, that is how it is. After the lightning of weapons we have gone back to living in an even darker night.
In Mongoumbua there is lightning of ESPERGESIA, lightning GENERATING HOPE, infinitesimal, but of a blinding light: our visits to the Pygmies camps; Tuesday morning with the babies of the nutrition center; Sundays in the chapels for prayer with the community, sharing a bit of cassava and some small fish caught just for us; the Thursday meetings with a vocation group; the afternoons spent to draw and color; the endless hikes surrounded by cheering children; and the little newly born Pygmies, bundles looking at you with half open little eyes, who seem to tell you: “I was born on a day when God was sick, very sick,” butif I was born in this infernal night, there is still…
We share a piece from the Journey Diary of April from the Parish of Christ the King in Vergada. Today we have news from Peru by the CLM Neuza Francisco.
To love is to go out
Since getting here I have discovered love on a daily basis. A love that constantly demanded and demands us to move out, move out from ourselves, from what we already know, that demands a journey. We must love the world and all that in it reflects the love of God. Here I found another way to love, I found a love that is available, simple, born of honesty from what I have and by sharing we make it possible to give and to receive. In a very disinterested way. A love born of growing together, like brothers. Here is where I ardently feel that I must be. It is in these brothers that I daily here the voice of God. It is in the ups and downs of the big mountains surrounding me that I constantly meet smiles, tears, and meet arms awaiting me, eyes reflecting history, a lot of history.
Along these dirt paths where I walk every day, I meet witnesses that convert me and make me thank God, the miracle of life. I am grateful for having been one of his chosen ones. A little at the time, I start knowing not only their faces, their expressions, but their names, their homes, their families. Many times I hear from afar when the call me “Andrea, sister Andrea.” Yes, here we are all brothers and sisters.
Someday I will tell you the story of my name. I feel I am one of them. We are family.
Ah, Peru, who stole my heart!
Sharing what they have, yes, often they give you the little they have and the lot they are. Very often on my way back I carry in my lap half a dozen apples from the man who comes to the seniors meeting, together with a banana from the man who runs a food store, plus corn from one of the families I visited or two or three potatoes from a sick woman.
Each day we accept to grow together. Each visit we accept to carry each other’s cross. We are words of mutual guidance, we are smiles, we are silences of the confessional, we are tears. We are, as a consequence of being, fragile and many are the times when on our knees we reconcile ourselves with love.
In the humility of each person crossing my path I meet the face of God, a merciful God.
In the daily joys and sorrows I meet the meaning of life. And every time I read it, I see a family, a group of children waiting for me, I see arms, the arms of Christ.
We arrived in Pangoa with our luggage full of hope and unanswered questions. Where will our mission be? In reality, the Lord has answered in various manners and one answer was for Rosa to be part of this missionary expedition. In prayer we asked the Lord to send missionaries and Rosa, in spite of her difficulties, answered yes. I, too, had some problems, but they were eventually resolved and there was the will of God.
We found the community of Pangoa fully involved in the beginning of the Easter Triduum and this, too, was an answer from God’s will. We made ourselves part of the celebration in the parish. First, we accompanied Fr. Oscar in the celebration of Holy Thursday in San Pablo of Mazarronquiari and then during the way of the Cross in Pangao on Good Friday. In the afternoon we arrived in Santa Teresita, a mission of previous years of which we had heard a lot. We stayed overnight and it was beautiful to celebrate with our brothers in faith in such a remote place. The night came, we ate in a little restaurant and later we shared a bed offered by a neighbor. Before that, we saw a movie that people hardly understood, but it make them laugh.
On Holy Saturday we celebrated again in the parish and prepared to reach our final destination of San Pablo in Mazaronquiari. I was happy to know that we were going to be in a poor and remote place. This was another answer, as the Lord chooses his favorites. Well knowing that we would not be comfortable there, we accepted it in faith.
We arrived on Monday very early because at 7:00am they were going to close the road for repairs. When we arrived it was not clear where we would stay. In reality, it was a space the size of a sports arena with 7 or 8 little houses around it. There was not much to choose. But the coordinator decided to give us a room made of lumber and with a tin roof. It was the best he had. Two neighbors brought six logs and several planks to make pallets on which to sleep. Next to that they placed two logs and a table. So even the kitchen was ready, very simply. We travel light so it was not difficult to make our beds and settle down.
The children arrived in the afternoon and drew us out of our planning because we had to start the catechesis, so that we got into it and started by speaking of God the father and creator. The kids are the engine of our days and steal many smiles from us. They are very attentive to our needs and are ready to give us a hand. Pablo, the founder of the community from whom it takes its name, never ceases to visit us and bring us something to eat such as yucca or local pumpkins. He is very kind. The mothers also send us through their children some fruit or cooked yucca. The problem is to eat it all.
Besides the catechesis we are also organizing celebrations and the rosary. Truly, here what you can theorize upon is very little, and the practice is better, so that a greeting, a conversation, play with the kids or watch a movie is the best witness of Christian love that we can give. This way our catechesis our into a space where to learn about God and develop creativity.
San Pablo de Mazarronquiari
It is an attachment of the Native Community of Mazarronquiari. It was started by three families who eventually grew and are now 20. For the majority, they are women and children who wear the customary cushma (a tunic). But the young men no longer wear it. They leave to go to work in the morning, the children go to school very early and the women go to the fields or start cooking. Several families do not live at the center, but a 10 or 15 minute walk away. The school can be reached in half an hour walking fast.
The founder, who has been here for about 30 years and was one of the first to get here, tells me about the place. With a proud smile he tells me how they named the place after him. Opening a Catholic church was a characteristic of the place. Other communities have evangelical churches and do not receive a priest well. Here they have two catechists and many people are married in church. It is a sign that the will of God wanted to bring us here to serve them.
Lights and shadows
This is a very young community, the parents are not over 35 and there are children everywhere. They are always smiling and really want to learn despite their needs. They do not seem to notice. Coffee is their main source of income. They plant it and pick it. Yucca is their basic source of food. But fruits are also part of their daily diet.
Education centers, from primary to secondary, are fairly near and available to the children. There they receive breakfast and lunch, a fact that eases family expenses and gives sufficient nutrition to help them study. They all start early and come home around 2:00 or 3:00 pm. The parents do their best to send them and buy the necessary supplies.
However, this is not enough. Here I am realizing that you cannot develop a place by only offering partial solutions rather than integral development. At the end of secondary education, if the girls stay home, they only have one choice, to be young mothers and start a home, repeating the cycle of survival and poverty. I saw two 18 year old girls pregnant and one 17 year old with a child in arms. It surprises me to touch this reality. Especially when one who finished secondary school last year asked me for work and I asked myself what alternative she would have here. She wants to work, but not in the coffee fields, after all why did she complete secondary school?
It is sad to see the lack of opportunities and the big question is: Why study? Is it a salute to the flag just to say that education is obligatory? In the end she left and they eventually found her in a bar of ill repute. Is that where we send them when there are no answers to their concerns? I pray for her, I have no alternative. Her boyfriend is waiting for her to marry her and she cannot aspire to anything more.
Today I asked why they do not roast and grind the coffee. It is more profitable. A young man explained it to me: no one would buy it, because the middlemen want it green… and at low cost. What exploitation! Coffee leaves here at 5.80 per Kg and exporting a Kg is less than 20 soles. But in Miraflores a cup of coffee costs 15 soles. You figure it out. Who profits from the farmer’s toil? Even though they have coffee makers, they cannot sell it. And the only coffee I drink comes from a bag belonging to an international corporation. Contradictions.
The day is coming to an end, but ideas on how to improve people’s lives still swirl through my head. I know that there are projects and investments worth millions, but nothing reaches this far. And the children live with an uncertain future and they only rejoice in that God the Father protects them.
I hope that this experience of sharing life and of seeing close by their hopes and their sufferings will commit me to give with joy my time to proclaim that we have a living God, who knows their pain and has chosen them because he loves justice and exalts the poor. May the Lord give us a heart of flesh to answer his call.
We thank God who allowed us to reach San Pablo in Mazaronquiari. Very early, filled with Easter joy we are here to share life with our brethren in this community. They still look at us with some mistrust, but with the hope that something good will come of it. The manager of this area hosted us in his house and very promptly gave us a bed, some logs and a table for the kitchen. We do not need more and we feel comfortable despite the limitations.
Fr. Oscal, MCCJ has been around these places for ten years already, taking care of the communities of this part of Pangoa. He has given us a specific job, the catechesis of the children. He has already prepared and given the sacraments to the adults, but the children will be our responsibility. It will be a month of intense catechesis.
The children are pure energy, very lively and eager to learn as today the attended the first day of catechesis. The innocence of their eyes gives us courage, for there is no better place to plant the Word. Reflecting on creation and reading Genesis in this beautiful panorama was unsurpassable. We did not need pictures to make them admire the work of God. We sang, played and, what they like the best, they showed their artistic touch by doing drawings on creation.
Today I learned two words, shinana and sarara, meaning women and men. We sang and added the words in nomatsiguenga. The work is relaxed like in the other communities and they usually behave within the limits. Only some of the settler children cause problems.
I have seen cooperation, interest and trust to get the job done.
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