True joy is born out of love. Only when we dare to live by love we allow God to be born in us turning our heart into his crib. Only when we believe in the mystery of Jesus we are truly happy. Happiness comes out of a heart that, a little at the time, has gone and has been falling in love with God. To acknowledge that God exists is to be certain that we never walk alone and the joy to know that he walks with us and daily transforms our lives. The journey is not as simple as the words we use, it is demanding. It demands an effort on our part, that we start walking, that we move out of ourselves and, like Mary and Joseph, we walk to the Galilee of our hearts looking for the best place to be reborn with Jesus. Because Jesus is alive and comes to us.
Like Mary, we harbor many fears, anxieties and uncertainties but, inspired by her example we repeat our Yes each day. Accepting to be a mother, Mary gave up all her plans in order to do the will of God. Even though it was not part of her plan to be the one chosen by God, she accepted. Like Mary, let us entrust our lives to God’s hands.
St. Joseph inspires us to accept God’s project for us despite the difficulties and challenges. It was not easy for Joseph to understand that Mary was pregnant with the Son of God. He reached the point of wanting to leave her secretly, but after hearing the angel he gave himself completely. The family of Nazareth teaches us to live in community. Mary and Joseph, as community, knew how to live the incarnation in their own lives. It is not easy to follow God’s will in community, but they understood that, when God calls, touching our hearts, our life will never be the same. Our Yes opens the door to many more marvels, not only in our own lives but also in the lives of others. In prayer they found the courage they needed to accomplish their mission joyfully and confidently. In moments of prayer we open the doors of our hearts and homes so that God may come and daily he may tell us which path we must follow. Prayer is the basis of community and through it we consecrate our lives to the Lord. Let us live this Christmas, remembering what José Tolentino Mendonça said: “We are the crib, it is within us that Jesus is born.” Let us prepare our hearts and lives to be the home where Jesus will be born.
Paula and Neuza, CLM in Peru.
We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Only add that in this place, lost in between the volcanoes Chachani and Misti, there live a humble people with whom now we share our lives.
Along our still early journey, many are the faces that are already imprinted in us. At times it is because the lack of humanity is so evident that, taken to the extreme, it leads to death. We have already heard many stories of violence not only in words, but also through the living witness of those who daily fight for change. Why is it that in this country, Peru, there are some of the highest levels of machismo in the world. In this essay by Manu Tessinari we can come to know this reality more deeply:
“Peru is a country of machismo, a lot of machismo.
In Peru, an adolescent girl may be beaten by her father if she is caught having sexual relations with her boyfriend. Here, an incarcerated woman does not have a right to conjugal visits. In the public health system, it is forbidden to give the “day after” pills to patients who were victims of rape.
Something more absurd? In Peru, if a woman is abandoned by her husband and does not accept divorce, the man can start a new life and register all the children from his new partner. The woman cannot. The law stipulates that the child of this woman legally belongs to the former husband (protected by the bonds of marriage) and a biological father needs to go through a lengthy and complicated legal process to register him.
Out of every 10 Peruvian women, six are victims of psychological violence and two of physical violence at the hands of their partners. About 16% of the people (men and women) believe that the fault is always with the woman, including 3.7% who believe that women DESERVE to be beaten and 3.8% DO NOT see a problem if the man forces relations on his partner.
People are great workers. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Information (INEI), 95.4% of Peruvian women have a job, mostly in the servant sector. On the average, a Peruvian female earns ONE THIRD less than a male doing the same work. Unfortunately, only 36% of females go to school to the end and only a little more than 16% end up concluding university studies. And all this in a country with 15,800,000 women, namely, 49.9% of the population.”
The lives of people going by our door do not leave us indifferent, and even though this is the reality, we bring them the joy of a Gospel which is not only ours, but a Gospel that fiercely demands to be taken into the world, taken to the extreme peripheries of it.
Do not be afraid to go meet these people, these situations. Do not be blocked by prejudice, by habits, by inflexible mental and pastoral attitudes, by the infamous “it has always been done this way.” But we can only go to the peripheries if we hold the Word of God in our hearts and walk with the Church, like St. Francis did. Otherwise, we are just proclaiming ourselves, and not the Word of God, and this is not good and does not benefit anyone. We are not the saviors of the world: The Lord saves it! (Pope Francis)
And here is where we feel called to live with them and among them. Here is where we cease to be ourselves in order to become living instruments at the service of Jesus Christ in Peru.
Neuza and Paula, CLM in Peru
The Comboni Missionary from Burgos, Jesús Ruiz Molina, was ordained on November 12, 2017 auxiliary bishop of Bangassou in the Central African Republic (CAR). The celebration took place in Bngui, because his own place can only be reached by helicopter. In fact, the political authorities and other guests did not want to be taken to Bangassou, due to the state of insecurity prevailing in the region. After passing through Chad and for the CAR’s city of Mongoumba, Jesús Molina has accepted to be assigned to a place which is afflicted by an endless guerrilla in order to work with Bishop Juan José Aguirre Muñoz, another Spanish Comboni Missionary, in trying to find ways to peace and reconciliation and to serve the poor.
After 25 years in Africa, they make you a bishop…
It was a cold shower, practical icy, because I neither feel worthy nor find it humanly attractive. By the end of this year I was planning to return to Spain and work in vocation promotion and in Justice & Peace while, at the same time, be with my aging parents and rejuvenate myself in all fields. Trusting in God I said yes and this has completely changed my life, which is already tied to this people to the end in a sacramental way.
Is Bangassou the most complicated place in which you have been?
I spent 15 years in the savannah of Chad in a difficult environment with famines and wars. I spent my last nine years in the forest with the pygmies and with extremely poor people. Currently, Bangassou is one of the most conflicted areas of Africa. You can only get there by air. The 12 parishes we have there have been looted by the 14 armed groups who are fighting to dominate the country. Violence and massacres are a daily affair. The majority of the population is displaced. The majority of the priests and of the sisters have fled. In the cathedral we haven’t said Mass for four months because we have been housing 2,100 Muslim refugees that the anti-balaka want to kill. No State employee wants to come here. This is why we decided to celebrate my ordination in Bangui. My people of Bangassou will not be able to attend, but on December 8 we will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving to celebrate the fact that God does not abandon us in our sorrow.
What do you think the mission of a bishop must be in a place like Bangassou and yours in particular?
I have no preconceived plans. I am going in order to stand with people who suffer. For me, to be a bishop is not a promotion, but rather trust in the One I love who is inviting me to follow him on the journey to Jerusalem: “Come, follow me.” I never studied to become bishop, so people will have to teach me. The bishop is the shepherd who, when the wolf comes, does not abandon his flock, but watches over all, both those who are outside and those who are inside, who denounces the death brought by injustice and proclaims salvation which is life in Jesus Christ. Today in Bangassou we need peace, a lot of peace in order to heal the many bodily wounds and, above all, those of the spirit. We need reconciliation and forgiveness. We need to build together a future for this traumatized population. We will keep it up for them making an effort to keep the schools going, to cure the sick, to care for the poorest and most abandoned, standing by the weakest, working for justice, the only way to true peace, and through it all we will continue to proclaim the Good News of Jesus, who came that we may have life and have it in abundance. Today, this life has been snatched from my people.
You have Juanjo Aguirre and Card. Nzapalainga as points of reference…
There is no doubt that we keep Aguirre and Card. Nzapalainga as points of reference who daily give flesh to the Gospel, they give me breath and stimulation, the novice that I am. But there are many other teachers as well who stimulate me, from the sisters working from morning to dusk surrounded by enormous amounts of violence, to the priests who risk their lives to save a few. The Christians who live by mercy on a daily basis… The people of God is the greatest source of stimulation for a shepherd, they teach us to be shepherds.
You have always been with the poor. Is this your preferential option?
This preferential option for the last, those who do not count, the discarded as the Pope says, comes from Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus showed us and impartial God who leans freely and lovingly towards those whom the world despises. Being the unsatisfied searcher that I am, curiously I discovered that it is in those who are despised by the world that we find the true face of God. The poor, the humble, the hungry, those who cry, the persecuted, those who cry for justice… they are the Bible in the flesh. I was given this great treasure of being able to serve them a little, and I am happy to be the one who greatly benefits from it, because it is the poor who give me God.
As a Comboni Missionary your ties to Africa are very strong. Is it still the forgotten continent in our time?
In the economic organism of the world Africa does not count. The terrible attack in Barcelona was world news, while the hundreds of people murdered in my diocese on that same day did not deserve one line in the press. An underhanded neocolonialism is taking over Africa today. The world’s powers unscrupulously fight over its riches causing wars, destroying cultures, exterminating entire populations… But Africa is life with capital L. The origin of humankind is in Africa and I dare to say that its future passes through Africa.
After many years as head of the Assistance for the Protection of Prisoners (APACE) he is currently president of the Brazilian Fraternity of Assistance to Prisoners (FBAC). During this past weekend the daily paper Folha de São Paulo awarded him the prize of social entrepreneur for the system of humane incarceration.
Our sincerest congratulations to him and his cooperators.
May Comboni Always be the great intercessor in this journey towards Resurrection.
Lourdes, CLM Brazil
A volunteer for more than 30 years, Valdeci Ferreira of FBAC was recognized for the system of humane incarceration.
He is the leader of FBAC, a federation connected with APACS (Association for the Protection and Assistance of convicts). His mission is to spread this innovative methodology of resocialization of convicts, which aims at recovering the detainees, protect society, help the victims and promote restorative justice.
Receiving the prize, the entrepreneur said that, 34 years ago when he first visited a prison in Itaúna, MG, he could not have imagined receiving the main award of this evening. Visibly moved he said: “Life did not place rugs on my path for me to walk on, but rather stairs and today this is another stairway we are climbing. I need to share this moment with all those we were recovered by passing through APAC and with those who are still there and are the reason for our work and for what I had to give up in my life.”
One of them came up to the stage in his wheelchair. “Here in front of you is someone who went through APAC. I am a recovered individual and I believed in this man,” said Rinaldo Guimarães. “Valdeci always remembers a quote by St. Augustine: “Hope has two daughters: indignation and courage. Indignation is needed in order not to accept things as they are, and courage, like this man’s, to change things and make a difference,” he concluded.
In recognition of his work, Ferreira was elected as Social Entrepreneur of the Year among 100 candidates in the largest competition in the area of Latin America, organized by the Folha in cooperation with the Schwab Foundation.
It is estimated that more than 33 thousand Brazilian convicts have already passed through APACS, units of humanized prisons without arms or armed guards. This alternative system today houses 3,500 prisoners divided in 48 units across Brazil. This method is being tried in 19 other countries.
In 1972 this organization developed 12 elements such as work, the value of the person, legal assistance, family, meritocracy, and the principle of self-help in recuperation.
This method has suffered a mere 20% to 28% of recidivism versus the 85% of the common prison system with a cost of only one third of the regular prisons.
Ferreira ran for the grand prize against Bernardo Bonjean, 40, the leader of Avante, an organization offering credit and humanly acceptable terms for micro-businesses not accepted by the banks, and Ronaldo Lemos, 41, of the Institute of Technology and Society (ITS) which developed the application Cambiamos, a tool of direct democracy for the collection of digital signatures in favor of projects of popular empowerment.