Comboni Lay Missionaries

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

Logbook of Simone from the RCA

Simone Mongoumba

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.

ESPERGESIA

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
Desert Sphinx.

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,
gravely sick.

(César Vallejo)

Simone Mongoumba

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.

Simone Mongoumba

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…

ESPERGESIA

Greetings, a hug and a kiss, prayers and THANKS

Simone CLM

A History made of Names

Palermo

The work we are doing as Comboni Missionaries and Comboni Lay Missionaries in the concrete situation of migration is essentially accomplished by networking with associations, organizations and movements, both ecclesial and social, involved in this area in recognizing and defending the rights of immigrants and refugees.

Since September 2013, the port of Palermo, Sicily, has become part of the line of Mediterranean landing spots where migrants from Africa and other parts arrive. At their arrival we are present to give out kits of clothing, shoes, a bag with a sandwich, an apple and a bottle of water, trying to establish a contact with the new arrivals. We don’t want to be simply a material presence, but we also try to collect information on how people arriving are treated, since they are already burdened by indescribable experiences suffered before or during the journey, and they are totally clueless about what expects them in Italy.

Together with the living, unfortunately, on many occasions, the bodies of those who died at sea have also arrived. From the very beginning, our concern has been to follow these bodies up to a dignified burial in the cemetery of Palermo.

Palermo

Every year in November, on All Souls Day, civil society joins the representatives of various religions for an interreligious service in their memory. It is an act of solidarity with the victims to denounce the causes of their death, among them the disgusting agreements of Italy, and behind Italy, of Europe with Libya, and other third parties that work to block or reject migrants.

We recognize the spreading of a culture of exclusion. Today, people feel free of any social responsibility, any tie with others, any common objective. It is urgent to focus again on the stories and the lives of migrants in order to stand up to racism and xenophobia, that are based on false assumptions and on information controlled and manipulated by the media. Through activities we promote in schools and in parishes, we present the stories of migrants by retracing the various phases of their journeys: the reasons why they left, their stay in Libya which upends their lives forever, crossing the Mediterranean and their arrival in Italy, where they end up being mere numbers. To go beyond the lies, to recognize and defend the rights of migrants as persons, are all very important steps in the building of an inter-cultural and multi-cultural society.

In cooperation with civic and church organizations we share lodging spaces for the migrants, and welcoming projects with the idea to produce grassroots meetings and a relation with the territory. In the accepting process there are critical stages tied above all to the excessive time they remain in centers of first acceptance and to the small number of special structures or places in the SPRAR. In many cases, the insertions of migrants turns into a veritable “lottery.” To reflect on the migrants means to rethink our social, political and ecclesial structures. It means to have the courage to change the current order of things. Palermo

Finally, the constant element of our presence is the prophetic denunciation of people and institutions who speculate on the hopelessness of the migrants, exploiting their labor, or of those, in the political underbrush, who end up grabbing funds destined for the arrival process.

Calvin wrote, “Any time you build a wall, think of what you leave outside.” What today looks like a protective structure, tomorrow could become a prison. Life develops and grows beyond the wall. But, if fear is contagious, so are courage and hope.
Fr. Domenico Guarino

Palermo, February 2018

Changing the world with New Styles of Life

Nuovi Stili di Vita LMCWe, the members of the Comboni Lay Missionaries group of Bologna, have decided on “Outings” to meet the parish communities, to reflect and share on the New Styles of Life.

To share the Head: in order to understand the phenomena that engulf us.

To share the Heart: in order to support the necessity of change both internally and externally.

To share Hands: in order to stimulate activities that any local or parish group can enact.

We feel it is important to start a missionary journey that will help to question a life style which is increasingly consumeristic and individualistic, which fosters more and more social, local and worldwide inequities, besides brutally damaging our common home: the Earth.

The dramatic situation of our planet, mistreated and wounded, and the tragic life conditions of its inhabitants cannot leave us indifferent. This is a cry echoing with increasing strength in our ears and that is present here and now.

It is futile to deny that our current styles of life have produced, and continue to produce, a series of wounds in the environment, in increasing poverty, in miserable situations the world over.

Nuovi Stili di Vita LMCOur choices, our simple daily activities, have planetary repercussions, from what we use and consume, from what we buy, from what we utilize and waste. The world has become one single home where we are all interdependent and responsible for its care. Laudato sii itself encourages us to go beyond individualism and look for alternate styles of life.

Basing ourselves on these premises that guide our will, our faith and our commitment, on Sunday, November 19, on the occasion of the World Day for the Poor, we met at the parish of Christ the King in Bologna to share with the parishioners both a community meal with the “poor” of the city and a time of reflection and sharing on the themes of the New Styles of Life. It was our first “Outing.”

Together with the parishioners we joined Head, Heart, Hands, emotions, reflections and, above all, the desire to commit ourselves and build something “good.”

This shows how important it is to get together to weave relationships that will lead away from the loneliness of impotence, from urban loneliness evermore deprived of gestures of conviviality and “humanity.” One little step at the time, we want to start this missionary journey, without any concern for quantity (Many people? Only a few?), but rather for quality and, above all, for every single person who wants to walk with us, because together we grow, we walk, we share, we create and change. Mission invites us to “Go out,” to be witnesses, but never alone, with Others.

We will keep it up in 2018, trying to meet with other parishes, to build alternative ways born out of solidarity, of getting together, of conviviality that will help the networking of ideas, activities, and groups in a commitment to justice.

As Gandhi used to say: “You be the change you want to see in the world.”

Nuovi Stili di Vita LMCEmma, CLM Bologna

Logbook of Simone Mongoumba

LMC RCANovember 4, 2017

Day 261          Remaining 839

Hi to one and all, how are you? … Here all is well. I left Bangui in a hurry on August 19 continuing to study Sango directly in the field in Mongoumba… these three months have passed in a flash… here’s another song to help me express the immensity I have lived…

… LIKE A RIVER by the Nomads…

 

Mongoumba…

IT SMELLS OF AFRICA, LIKE DREAMS MADE OF DIRT AND MUD, LIKE THE FEET OF A TIRED MAN WALKING, KNOWING THAT THIS LIFE IS BUT A JOURNEY, A ROAD OF WHICH YOU DON’T KNOW THE END, EVEN IF SOME DAY IT MAY LEAD YOU SOMEWHERE, IN THE VLAAGES OF STRANDED HOUSES, WHERE LIVING IS AN ALL OUT STRUGGLE.

Sunday, October 22. THE ROAD LED ME TO MOLABAYE, only seven miles from Mongoumba, like Emmaus to Jerusalem, in a two hour walk: 6:15-8:15 AM! It isn’t that the houses are built along the ROAD, but rather the ROAD meanders through the SCATTERED HOMES, made of DIRT AND MUD, WHERE LIVING IS AN ALL OUT STRUGGLE! It’s only 6:15, but everyone is awake and life begins. Some grind manioc to prepare a bit of food, others weave bamboo to be sold for some cash, others yet make bricks of DIRT AND MUD to build a house, some are bathing the children with a little bit of water in a pail, the barefooted children play with a ball made of woven leaves! The rhythm of the journey is slow… LIKE A RIVER, because everyone comes to greet me and from a distance, as soon as they see me, the children start jumping and yelling: “BWA, BWA, BWA (father)” or “MUNGIU, MUNGIU, MUNGIU,” which I think comes from “Bonjour, White man, and line up, shake hands, smiles aplenty, greetings left and right… There will be many JOURNEYS on this ROAD and in the LIFE of these people, because I have been given the pastoral care of the Southern sector of the parish… four chapels: Molabaye, Gouga, Ikoumba 1, and Ikoumba 2…

MANY TIMES I MET HIM DOWN AT THE MARKET, WITH THE FIGHTING SPIRIT THAT POSSESSES HIM, WITH THE WARRING SPIRIT OF A SOLDIER, WHO GETS UP 100 TIMES WHEN HE FALLS, KNOWING HE WILL RISE WITH A HUNDRED MORE, WHOM IN THE FIELDS HE SAW BEING BORN AND DIE, JUST AS A GUST OF WIND IS BORN AND DIES, HOPE AND THE YEARNING TO TELL THE STORY.

Here it’s a STRUGGLE. Fr. Alex Zanotelli would say that it is the STRUGGLE between the God of life and the System of death oppressing the Republic of Central Africa! Our battlefields, where we experience our human limitations. There are five Health centers spread around the parish, small clinics and pharmacies we try to visit regularly. One of them is in Safa Tavares. Moms arrive with their undernourished babies, we weigh them, measure them, make the PB test (measuring the girth of the arm, give them an appetite test with a little bag of PumplyNut (looks like very nutritional peanut butter), prescribe medicines and evaluate whether the child is slowly and with all our efforts is getting better. On paper, these operations are easy and simple, but the babies squirm, scream, yell with all the FIGHTING SPIRIT THAT POSSESSES THEM, they show all their SOLDIER’S WARRING SPIRIT, as a sign that they are full of life, they want to fight and struggle!

 

Mongoumba

IT HAS THE LOOK… OF THE WIVES, OF THE MOTHERS WHO EVERY NIGHT AWAIT WORRYING THE MORNING, AND EACH MORNING AWAIT FOR THE EVENING AND NEVER KNOW WHETHER TO LAUGH OR TO PRAY TO SOME GOD WHO’S LOOKING THROUGH THE WINDOW, FOR AT TIMES GOD DOESN’T KNOW WHAT TO LISTEN TO, AND DECEITFULLY MOVES ITS HEAD.

THE MOTHERS’ LOOK speaks… even though our languages are different! Often the MOTHERS’ LOOK screams “my child is sick… do something, please!” By the MOTHERS’ LOOK we already know the result of our struggle! Here the cold statistics of infant mortality take flesh, have a name, a face! At times at night we hear the screams of inconsolable mothers echoing from the hospital… “A cry was heard, a great cry and lamentation: Rachel crying over her children and does not want to be consoled…” (Mt 2:18) What words can bring consolation to a helpless mother who sees her child die?

There are mothers praying from morning to night… the refrain of the song sounds like the cry of the women to God… “TO THE LORDS OF WAR WE GIVE BLOOD, BECAUSE IT IS A BLOOD THAT WILL FLOW FAR, LIKE A RIVER CROSSING A CONTINENT AND INVADING THE OTHERS EVER SO SLOWLY.”

OFTEN I HAVE MET IT IN THE SLUMS, IN THE ALLEYS IN BETWEEN PALACES,

LIKE A BEAM OF LIGHT TARGETING THE BAREFOOTED CHILDREN, AND THERE ONCE AGAIN IT TIGHTENS ITS FISTS AND AGAIN IT RUNS TO FIGHT,

IT HAS A HORSE FASTER THAN THE WIND, A WIND WHICH IS ABOUT TO CHANGE.

The children provide the rhythm of our day… they are our clock… after morning Mass you here their chattering in the yard, time to finish the tea and start school at 7:30… silence: everyone is at school… cries of joy: it’s recess at 10:30… silence: everyone is in school again… cries of joy: school is over at 12:30, time to eat! After a time of silence, tiny heads and inquiring eyes POP UP at the window, you raise your head and they are gone, FASTER THAN THE WIND, and you hear them RUNNING BAREFOOT down the verandah whispering “Augustaaa, Annaaa, Simoneee.” Then everything disappears and it is time for night prayers and the mothers’ prayer becomes our own… “TO THE LORDS OF WAR WE GIVE BLOOD, BECAUSE IT IS A BLOOD THAT WILL FLOW FAR, LIKE A RIVER CROSSING A CONTINENT AND INVADING THE OTHERS EVER SO SLOWLY.”

… because God KNOWS WHAT AND WHOM TO LISTEN TO!!!

Let’s hope the WIND WILL INDEED CHANGE!!!

 

Greetings, hugs, a kiss, a prayer and THANK YOU… I almost feel like wishing you Merry Christmas, because I don’t know when I will be able to get out of Mongoumba again!

LMC RCA

Bye-bye

Simone CLM