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
You were the community I never chose but with which I always wanted to be. Maybe because in the differences I find a little more of myself, and together we reveal a little more of ourselves.
With you I learned that you do not do mission by yourself, and what I need from you. You crossed my path and even without knowing you opened your heart and accepted me as a companion on our journey, yes, because basically this is a journey we walk every day in this piece of land beyond the realities that we both knew.
You extended your hand when I thought that nothing made sense. I realized, on that night when we prayed together and everything seemed to be crumbling, that God does not make mistakes in his plans for each one of us. You were and you are my support when everything seems hard and difficult. You are a word that does not hide, eyes that speak, you are yourself.
With you I learned the dimension of sharing and of giving, in this triangle of love, in the dynamics of the I, the you, the we.
Many times you are the eyes seeing much beyond what I see. The heart that listens to me, when I need to talk. The arms that hold me and sustain me. The hand that is always there when obstacles appear on the way. God knows why he put you on my way, and now I know it as well. May God help me to watch you and to know how to make sense of your presence in my life and in our journey.
What together we are able to be is what moves this community in search of the mission of Jesus in the world. We are silence, we are laughter, we are criticism and demands, we are limitations and the infinite, we are also the stubbornness of our lives and apprenticeship, we are tears often shared between my crying and your shoulders or embrace. We are often prayers when in silence we look at the reality in which we live.
Come what may, it does not matter. What matters is that in our imperfections we want to be of God.
We are witnesses of those who accept to grow together. We are Andrea and Paola (Paula in her native land), lives that God united to walk in the direction of a love which is learned daily, a love born of mistakes, exercised in prayer, made of silences and often of glances that say it all, made of extended hands and chores shared, of bad moods and stubbornness, of different perspectives and of two ways of acting that complement each other.
We are what each one can give of herself. We are in what you are and teach me to be. We are in what we mutually learn. We are from where we know we come from. Love.
When I realized that I was called to mission, I knew that I was being called to be community. In this journey I knew that God was calling me to be community with Andrea, as humbly they call Neuza in Peru. Arriving in Peru I understood that it was time to cross the desert. Even so, when I arrived in Peru I felt happy, totally happy and realized that Andrea was part of this happiness. A happiness filled with obstacles and difficulties, joys and hilarious mistakes, and for all this, complete. When I was called to journey with Andrea I knew and still know that God wants to teach me something through her. We met people in our lives to make us grow, to make us holy, to teach us how to walk and get closer to God. To walk with Andrea demands accepting that there will be complicated and difficult times, but that even in silence she is always there. She knows when you wake up crying and comes to hug you and only returns to bed when she is sure you are alright. She is there looking at you when it seems the world collapsed on you and instinctively she will cry with you to share your sorrow. To live with Andrea is like climbing and descending mountains with a sore stomach from too much laughing. With Andrea I feel capable of facing the greatest difficulties on our journey. With Andrea there is not a boring trip or waiting for a bus. With Andrea there joy in every step in the mission. Andrea puts up with fatigue, pain, and suffering and accompanies me up and down the roads. With Andrea I meet Jesus in every corner. To live with her is a constant learning experience and a journey that I propose to do every day. I am happy and I trust that we are happy even in the days when I am frail and everything looks grey, you are always there at my side to love me just as I am. Just as with the love of God, to be community with Andrea is not easy, but it is enough to know how to love and to be loved. To be community with Andrea reminds me of Pope JPII’s quote, “To love is an act of the will,” because I want to love her every day on each step of our journey.
To live in community and share everything in our lives is not easy. But when we want to and we do it with love and for love, when we do it knowing that it is God who unites us and stays with us at all times, everything is fine. To be community is to be available to walk not in me or in you, but in us. To be community is to stick together in happiness and to share the crosses. To be community is to know how to give space and bear hugs. In community we share the biggest gift God has given us, life. Together, in community, we bring joy to every house we may visit, we pray wherever, we sing wherever and we live in Vila Ecología in the beautiful house we call home.
We are you and me, we are us.
Ayllu Community , Neuza (Andrea) and Paula (Paola)
Human relations and group life was the formation theme of the FEC during the weekend of April 14-15, 2018, directed by the educator Paula Silva.
The topic was quite interesting since it made us reflect over several musical themes and planted in us questions over the literary meaning of the songs, projecting them on the reality of our missionary life.
For instance, the “Lista” by Oswaldo Montenegro generated 10 questions about ourselves that made us remember the past and reflect on the present.
Another example was the “Contenedores” of Xutos and Pontapés, with seven questions that made us reflect on our going to the missions, asking us about what we would take along, what we would leave, what we knew about the place where we were going and how we thought we would feel once we arrived there, starting a new life, starting from nothing, with the possibility of going even farther and establish the objectives of our remaining in the field of volunteering.
We hear the witness of Susana Querido who was in Angola for six months and belongs to the Ondjoyetu missionary group.
We ended with the Eucharist, followed by lunch and then returned home.
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.
“Praying you understand people” was the theme of the eighth formation unit that took place on the April 13-15 weekend. As usual, the Comboni Missionaries made available to us their house of Viseu, where we always feel welcome and at home. We thank God for the hospitality. The formation program was moderated by Carlos Barros and Susana Vilas Boas.
This formation unit was of particular importance compared to the others. Without prayer, mission becomes sterile and meaningless, it weakens in difficult times; without prayer, we may be volunteers, but not truly missionaries.
Our St. Daniel Comboni insists on the need for prayer, both individual and in community. His intimate relation with the Sacred Heart of Jesus impregnates his entire evangelizing activity, mission “is born at the foot of the cross” and takes shape in the sending out of his apostles for the Risen Christ.
The core of this formation was the Liturgy of the Hours, the foundation of community prayer that lay people must know how to handle so as to profit from it. The instructions of the Church are found in the “General Instructions on the Liturgy of the Hours,” redacted by Vatican II. The most significant parts are found at the beginning of the breviary. Reading them is a necessity, in order to summarize or underline the most relevant aspects.
The bell of my childhood in Vacarica used to mark the various times. The sacristan (or a relative) never forgot to ring the bell each day at dawn, “matins” (and we would wake up), at noon (and people would stop working in the fields to to go eat) and at sundown, the “trinities” (and work ended and we would go home). At each one of these times people would recite a short, silent prayer. In those days people were called, loudly and with a pleasant sound, to pray at the rhythm of the hours. . These are memories of the past that contemporary society is losing.
May this formation be again a bell that wakes us up and calls us to prayer, an intimate dialogue with the Father as the living force of our vocation and missionary activity.
Another activity of mission promotion was held on the weekend of April 20-22, this time in the parish of Vergada to which Sofía Coelho, who is going through her formation with us, belongs.
It was a very joyous weekend, as we were very much welcomed by the community and by the pastor, Fr. Antonio Machado.
We started our activities on Friday with the youth groups and the altar servers, then on Saturday we moved on with the catechesis of Saturday and the Eucharist on Saturday and Sunday where we had the participation of Fr. Francisco Medeiros, a Comboni Missionary in charge of the CLM in Portugal.
The weekends of mission promotion are always times of great enrichment, we enter into the life of the parish community where we speak of our experiences and try to share a little about mission, namely what we lived and felt in the places where we served.
They are times of sharing, that enrich us incredibly and make us feel that the love of Christ, the Good Shepherd, always lives in us and in those around us (even when we do not believe it is there).
We had the chance to perceive how this is a missionary parish open to others, to those who need it most, and it is not a closed in parish at all. And this is a great gift! These moments remind me that I, too, am a missionary in Portugal and, even though in a different way, this mission is as valid as the foreign mission.
During this weekend we also celebrated a vocation day and I am happy to be able to share my vocation as a CLM with the people I meet!
I also want to share with you how we were spoiled! Mrs. Rosa and Mrs. Sofía together with the pastor made sure we did not lack anything, we had good accommodations and the meals were luscious. I cannot forget the “crazy for Jesus (a youth group) and the catechists, who always supported us in everything we needed. Thanks from our hearts!
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