Tag Archive for Portugal

Christmas Meeting: From the Family of Nazareth to the Family of the CLM

LMC PortugalThe Christmas meeting of the Comboni Lay Missionaries took place on December 16 and 17 in Viseu, at the Comboni Missionaries’ house. The theme was “From the Family of Nazareth to the Family of the CLM.” Several CLM attended together with those in formation. It was a meeting marked by joy and by a family atmosphere, a Comboni family and a CLM family. It was a family gathered around a single ideal – namely, Christ – and the same Comboni charism.

On Saturday morning, the CLM Sandra Fagundez gave a presentation on San Daniel Comboni and the movement. Following that, we played a game that gave us the opportunity to discover more about the Comboni Family, the meaning of Christmas, Christmas in mission… as we continued reflecting and praying on the different meditation points. It was an experience of dialogue, of sharing that enriched us and brought into focus in prayer realities distant from our eyes and the entire Comboni family.

The afternoon brought us another surprise. By groups, we had the opportunity to: talk about Christmas in mission and their life experience with the elderly Comboni Missionaries who live in the house of Viseu; converse with the Comboni Missionary Sisters at their home on what characterize the various Christmas celebrations they spent in mission; and, at the family home of the CLM Marisa Almeida, to talk and share with a family which is also part of the CLM family, because with us it shares and lives the dedication and affection to mission. It was an afternoon when we were questioned and challenged by the many witnesses of lives fully lived and dedicated to mission.

LMC PortugalAfter prayer and supper, we had a party where, once more, we shared fun, laughter, jokes and music (and where Fr. Felix delighted us with his accordion). We also exchanged gifts! Once again, it was a time of unity, during this happy and genuine time together, with the CLM family and the Comboni family at large.

On Sunday, The CLM Susana Vilas Boas gave a presentation on the theme of “From the Family of Nazareth to the CLM family” starting with a reflection and ending with a sharing. From the morning session I remember the idea of journey. The CLM is on a journey, as Comboni would say, with their eyes fixed on Christ – because only this way does the journey have meaning. This is in order to follow the example of the family of Nazareth: the unity of Mary and Joseph, its humble service to Jesus, its desire to fulfill the will of God and the total dedication to his will must be the example for the CLM family, so that it may fulfill the dream that God has for it, and continue on a journey of growth in order to serve in mission according to the style of St. Daniel Comboni.

The Christmas meeting ended with the Eucharist with Fr. Francisco Medeiros as the main celebrant and with the joy of having with us at lunch the family of the CLM Neuza Francisco.

This is the word I was looking for to sum up the Christmas meeting of the CLM: family. In prayer, sharing, being together, listening, this meeting has awakened in each one of us the notion that we belong to something bigger than ourselves, a spiritual family that accepts us and challenges to improve, to do and live our mission in the style of Comboni, with our eyes fixed on Christ, passionate about Him and about people.

LMC Portugal
Filipe Oliveira

First Christmas in Mozambique

LMC MozambiqueIt was almost Christmas Eve when I realized how close it was, while I was about to start praying on my own and I was going through the liturgies of Advent. I know that, if I weren’t here, everything around me would remind me of Christmas. The proliferation of Christmas advertising would have pointed me in the direction of these celebrations practically starting from the year’s third quarter in an astute and gradual game.

Between the lighting, the external and internal decorations, suggestions for the menus always more exquisite and the dress code for the Holy Night and the Christmas dinner, the magic aura one feels in the city streets, the typical Christmas carols (…) between one dinner or another with friends and groups from here and there, nothing would distract us, not even the most absent minded, from “what is about to happen…”

Here there is absolutely nothing of the sort. In the city one may see some “imported” signs of Christmas. But not here. The senses are not overwhelmed by this avalanche of stimulations. There is no cold weather and fogged up windows showing flickering lights. One does not hear seasonal songs. One does not feel, or want to join, the frenetic glut of shopping and gifts – and even less the last minute shopping and needs. You do not watch things alone at home on TV. The heat is too intense to even think of changing from your slippers, skirts, shorts and light shirt into heavier clothing. There is no yearning for salted cod and extra-virgin oil. There is no king cake, French toast, walnut cookies or sweets of this or that kind. There are no dreams of toys or promises of instant and quickly passing paradises.

I must confess that, on Christmas week, I was a little apprehensive for being my first Christmas in mission, for missing my family, for everything being so different from what I was used to, and even for not having had electricity or water, making communications difficult and stunting my creativity…

But, this year the Baby Jesus has taught me this much: Christmas is not an ornament. It may look like Christmas all around us, but it will not be if it does not exist within our own self. Christmas is also movement, journeying. We must constantly be moving in order to find it. If we want to see the ‘great light,’ we must get up and go out; we must go meet the mangers where there is human suffering; we must return to the stable of simplicity; we must return to the manger where God’s hope and human hope meet – but always trusting that, between the silence and the word we are looking for, a star will always guide us.

Christmas, I believe, wakes us up to bring us back to our roots, up to the original dream that God has for each one of us. The childhood of God is also our childhood. That is why, after a long wait, we find peace when, finally, we rest in God.

An interesting fact…

After independence, Mozambique became a lay state. However, December 25 was preserved as a feast day, not because it was Christmas, but as the Day of the Family. Thus, on this day, independently of one’s religion, families get together to celebrate the gift of Family (naturally, for the Christian community, this day means much more, because it is the day of Jesus’ birth, when Salvation and true Peace descended on earth). This way, quite deservedly, they get together to celebrate and gain energy for the year that is about to come – but, after all, is not Christmas also this? On Christmas, each time we celebrate hope we end up saying in our hearts that “there is a future for Humankind.”

 

I will leave you with part of a poem by José Tolentino Mendonça (“We are the manger”) that has resonated with me over the last few weeks:

We are the manger

It is within us that Jesus is born

Within each age and status

Within each discovery and each loss

Within what grown and what falls apart

Within stone and flight

Within whatever in us puts us through water or fire

Within the journey and the path that seem without an escape LMC MozambiqueHoping you had a good Christmas,

Best wishes for a Happy New Year

Marisa Almeida, CLM in Mozambique.

With Mary and Joseph on the way to the Nativity

LMC PeruTrue 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.

Mission News from the Central African Republic

LMC Portugal

I hope all is well with all the people I know. All the members of our apostolic community, including myself, are doing well, thanks be to God.

I am here in Mbaiki to attend the retreat of the Comboni Missionaries, which is turning out well. I hope it will produce good fruits! May the Lord help us to follow him ever better, with the heart, and not only with the head, to be faithful, and never lose our trust in him, because He is always faithful and always stands by our side. In sickness and difficulties we must never doubt about His presence, because there He holds our hand and often carries us, when we feel discouraged.

These beginnings have been difficult with the registration of students, and the selection of teachers which is always complicated, because the level of education is very low. They are parent-teachers who went as far as the 9th or 10th level of education… none of the teachers have diplomas. We gave them admission tests, but the results were very weak and so we cannot put them in front of a class: you have to know a minimum at least. Furthermore, classes have about 50 students, and this further complicates the teaching. I am grateful to God that all the courses are already working. May the Lord help teachers and students to make good progress. He is the one who makes the work of the mission progress and move forward. We are simply servants.

On Sunday there will be the episcopal ordination of Fr. Jesús in Bangui. Do not forget to pray for us and to pray a lot for him. May peace return very quickly in Bangassou, the diocese entrusted to him. I never forget to pray for you, daily. Fast recovery to all who are sick, may the Lord give you strength and serenity.

Here it has rained a lot. The roads are deadly, with many potholes, and make for exhausting journeys. Since arriving, my only long trip was to Mongoumba, while the others were only trips of a few miles. I hope that you already had rain and that the fires have died down. On Tuesday I will return to Mongoumba, God willing.

Let us keep united in prayer.

A missionary embrace as big as the world!

Maria Augusta. CLM Mongoumba

Formation Community in Portugal: Experience and illusion

LMC Cristina y TereThe gifts of one person can enrich another.

The time that we spend in community is lived as a period of preparation for mission.

The breaking away from the daily routine, work, sharing with friends, family, the priorities that define us in a consumeristic society, etc. Everything changes in order to arrive at a subsistence society. It is done by making us rethink what in fact are our true priorities and/or necessities.

Remaining always focused on mission with our eyes fixed on Jesus, our community planning begins when we realize the richness we have, the experience of one and the illusion of another, that allow us to overcome the challenges facing us.

Fear, discouragement while learning a language, the insecurity of not being able to answer the expectations and the needs of the mission, difficulties in adapting and all the other thoughts that at times overwhelm us, can be quickly conquered with moments of mutual respect, prayer and sharing.

In our efforts for mutual understanding, laughter follows, painting our hearts in many colors, of love and joy.

Tere and Cristina. International formation community in Portugal.

To be here. With them and among them!

Arequipa

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.

ArequipaThe Community of Ayilu,

Neuza and Paula, CLM in Peru