We, 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.
Our 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.”
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…
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!
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!
The “AFRICAS” AROUND MY TABLE. I have moved to the Comboni parish of Our Lady of Fatima! Everything is new… new schedules, new food, new room, new COMMUNITY! Now I live with three African Comboni priests: Fr. Moises, Fr. Jean Michel and Fr. Romain! They are all African but from different types of Africa: Fr. Moises is Ugandan, had to learn French and Sango, has more experience than anyone else and he is charge of the parish. Fr. Jean Michel is from Togo, only recently arrived in the Republic of Central Africa, and is learning the reality, the life and the customs of the CAR. Fr. Romain is Central African, just ordained, speak fluent French and Sango, is learning to say Mass and will be sent to Guatemala on his first mission assignment. Uganda-Togo-CAR are so far off “AFRICAS” that it’s like living with a Russian, a Frenchman and a Portuguese. To say that they are Africans is a generalization, because they all have their own ways… it is not easy to be a COMMUNITY, but AROUND THE TABLE we joke, laugh, chat and speak of the problems of the various “AFRICAS”… There is a good rapport and brotherhood in this little corner of our “AFRICAS”!
May 22, 2017
95th day, 1005 to go
MARTIAL, THE GOOD SHEPHERD. Martial is a young man of the parish, he is 28, a catechist of Confirmation, and moderator of the AITA KWE group. This week he has also been my GOOD SHEPHERD, who accompanied me to school by “paths tranquil and safe.” The parish is near the Muslim neighborhood called “Kilometer 5” where in the “troubled” days they had some “small” problems. Martial, like the GOOD SHEPHERD, ensures tranquility and safety along the short walk to school. In the afternoon the parish is full of young people studying, women praying, children having fun, people looking for the fathers, but often it is a rather silent life or without too much noise and at times I have had the feeling that everyone is waiting for something. I hope it will be a waiting filled with hope and peace.
May 28, 2017
101st day, 999 to go
AITA KWE = “All brothers and sisters” is a parish group of adolescents and pre-adolescents. They wear a yellow shirt, green pants or skirts and a green scarf with a yellow border. Together with Fr. Moises and Martial I went to their retreat-formation day. When we arrived, they were reflecting on “my life project: my good points and my weaknesses.” After the reflection, they had some fun, a Mass celebrated by Fr. Moises and then a common meal of bread, fish, and manioc mush. All together like brothers and sisters!!! When it was time to leave, we loaded on Fr. Moises’ pick-up all the backpacks, the pots, the empty water drums, and a few tired little girls who had a hard time standing up, while the group line up by twos and, with drums beating, marched back to the parish (a two hour walk!!!). It was just like the days in my parish at the “oratorio” of Osio Sopra (or Basiano) with the catechism children and youngsters… also the pastoral life of the parish of Our Lady of Fatima is active and fervent with many people involved in the service of the community!!!
June 2, 2017
106th day, 994 to go
IN A FLASH: Tomorrow from 8:30 to 10:30 I will have the final evaluation of my second French course… in a FLASH…Anna will pick me up at school, we will go to the parish to load my luggage which I already packed and we will leave…IN A FLASH… for Mongoumba…a journey of five to six hours. After only 20 days, this will be another move…up to now I have kept to my “navigation route”: to arrive quietly in the CAR, to take time to adapt, to study French…now I begin a new phase of my journey: to learn Sango and to adapt to Mongoumba!
I haven’t sent you news in a while, but in the parish there is no internet connection and it will be the same in Mongoumba, at times even at Comboni House I can’t connect to e-mail and it becomes difficult to communicate with you, but this is one of the objectives of the journey!
I have yet to have my first malaria attack and haven’t yet met unsurmountable problems, perhaps I lost some weight (Fr. Alex says that I lost my extra Western pounds), but my appetite is good and the fathers continue to encourage me to eat, because food helps us to keep healthy. Time is going by fast…in A FLASH…106 days have already passed since my arrival in the CAR!!!
Greetings and hugs, a kiss and a prayer and THANKS…
(A greeting in Sango)… During this time of Lent we have received the grace to experience moments of joy…
…On Sunday, March 19, two sons of Central Africa, Dreyfus and Romain were ordained to the priesthood as Comboni Missionaries by Card. Dieudonné Nzapalainga, archbishop of Bangui. The Comboni parish of Our Lady of Fatima was decorated for the occasion and throughout the morning it filled up with people wanting to share in the joy of the moment, something that does not happen every year, especially with a double ordination… a sign that even in the midst of difficulties the Church of Central Africa and the Comboni family are slowly growing… …The next moment of joy took place the following Sunday, March 26, in the cathedral of Bangui with the episcopal ordination of the new bishop of the diocese of Bambari, a new shepherd for this remote area which is still living through troublesome days of instability and insecurity…
… these were moments of joy lived through dances, singing, showy dresses, palm branches, drums and choirs…
…but the people felt fully involved, including in the sorrowful moments typical of Lent, confessions, the Way of the Cross and the Easter Triduum, in a special way the women and the mothers kneeling during the entire celebration at the cathedral or on the red clay of the entrance to Fatima parish. The Comboni missionary shows us that the sorrow and the suffering in the history of Central Africa, not only in the past but in its daily form, brings people to identify with the history of this “man beaten, tortured, killed and crucified…
…however, after moments of pain, joy returns in the Easter Vigil, and again in the morning Mass with dances, fires, lights, the blessing with water, the choir singing Alleluia… because Life wins over death, Joy trumps Sorrow…
…Happy Easter to all and forever from Bangui: The spiritual capital of the world!
Mbi bala ala…
Greetings to you in Sango…
Here also begins Lent… prayer time!
Listening to Combonis stories one of the problems of Central African Republic is that it does not exist! It is not in the news, it is confused with Congo or it is thought to be a LAND in Africa not well defined, nevertheless it exists and it is a LAND with clear limits and a history. When I have been told, although myself had to search for information in the atlas, because I did not know of its existence, it seems strange, but in this globalized and technological world we discover in the SKY new planets similar to EARTH, but in EARTH there are corners of HEAVEN ignored!… we do things UPSIDE DOWN we look at the SKY… and we forget the EARTH…
For two Sundays I went with Fr. Gabriele to Mass in the convent of the Benedictine Sisters where we celebrated in Sango (local language), and as we can imagine it was a party with drums, guitars, songs, as a concert, but during the Our Father’s Prayer is sung a cappella, clapping hands, almost out of place in the midst of everything else, is like a lament, a heartfelt prayer of a people dwelling in this EARTH and that it will not be forgotten by the Father who is in HEAVEN … a cry that goes from DOWN to UP… and a bread that descends from ABOVE to DOWN…
On the first Sunday of Lent, on the other hand, I went to Mass in the Cathedral of Bangui, where Pope Francis opened the Holy Door of the Jubilee of Mercy. Here, also the heavens (roof) and the earth (the ground) have the same color… almost like a sign of UNITY… RED LAND of Africa! In the cathedral there are no paintings, no gold, no picture frames, no luxuries, very simple (see photos)… the House of HEAVEN like the houses of the EARTH, built with red clay, a sign of communion between EARTH and HEAVEN…
“Today Bangui becomes the SPIRITUAL CAPITAL of the WORLD”. The Holy Year of Mercy has advanced on this Earth. A LAND that has suffered for several years from war and hatred, misunderstanding, lack of peace. Bangui becomes the SPIRITUAL CAPITAL of PRAYER for the mercy of the Father. All of us pray for peace, mercy, reconciliation, forgiveness, love. For Bangui, for the Central African Republic, for the world, for the countries that suffer the war and seek peace, and together we ask for love and peace. “Doye Sirirí!” (Pope Francis at the Opening of the Jubilee of the Mercy on November 29, 2015 in Bangui).
Even here, tomorrow is women’s day… on the grass in front of the cathedral they have placed a stands (I heard that will remain for some days), to raise awareness about the plight of women in the Central African Republic… They also ask not to be forgotten in this EARTH … where even the moon grows from UP to DOWN …
A greeting, a hug, a kiss, a prayer and a thank you … (in particular to women in their day).
Simone CLM Central African Republic
On December 17 we met in Bologna, Italy, to prepare for Christmas, to be surprised by a baby who is born – being surprised by seeing God who turns into an infant out of love for us.
We wanted to live as a group a gathering that would have the flavor of this marvelous waiting. It is a waiting that holds our attention, an announcement leading to love and a love leading to God.
We listened to the Word in the Gospel of Luke (Lk 2:8-20) and together we built the crib. Each one of us took a shepherd and we placed ourselves near the baby Jesus, reading this prayer and making it our own:
You are Christmas, when you decide to be born again every day and let God enter your soul.
You are Christmas, when you sing to the world a message of peace, justice and love.
Christmas is when you lead someone to meet the Lord.
You, too, are one of the Magi when you give of the best of what you have, independently of who the recipient is.
You are the Christmas music, when you achieve internal harmony.
You are the Christmas wishes, when you forgive and bring about peace, even as you suffer.
Endurace is a new member of our group: a young Nigerian who shared with us his difficulties as an immigrant and the agonies he underwent in order to get to Italy.
In our intentions we remember the tragedy of immigration and the many deaths shrouded by our indifference and our silence.
To accept all this and to make ourselves small is the Christmas that challenges us every day, not just on December 25.
Emma also took part in our meeting. She has just return from three years of mission in Brazil.
She told us her story, her missionary journey from the CLM of Bologna and those of Brazil.
She showed us visuals of her service in prison ministry, in the peripheries of Contagem, her experience with the homeless in Salvador. Her words and the witness of her mission ad gentes were beautiful and powerful. Welcome back to the group to resume the journey with us!
The gathering ended with a community supper to which every member contributes something and where we mention important events:
The midnight Mass celebrated with the homeless at the station, and the march for peace on December 31 in Bologna.
We are very happy with these two initiatives that see us involved together with other social and missionary organizations, something that implies the participation of all since it is only by working together that we build and change the world.
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