Comboni Lay Missionaries

25 years of presence of Comboni Lay Missionaries in Central Africa

“To be with the people and for the people”.

1 June 2023. Mongoumba Mission, Central Africa

On June 1, 1998, Teresa Monzon and Montserrat Benajes, CLM Lay Comboni Missionaries (CLM) from Spain, arrived at the mission of Mongoumba, Central Africa. They came to replace Italian laywomen Marisa Caira, who gave 21 years of generous service, and Lucia Belloti. Since then, more lay men and women, including a married couple, from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Poland have passed through this mission. And very soon a laywoman from Brazil will arrive.

At present there are three CLM who carry out their missionary work in Mongoumba: Marcelina (Poland), Cristina (Portugal) and Teresa (Spain). The latter is the same laywoman who started the CLM mission here 25 years ago, and this time she came to serve for a season.

The CLM group, who together with the Comboni Fathers make up the apostolic community of the mission, have been in charge of various tasks during this time, such as health care, physical rehabilitation, school education and the Aka (pygmy) people. They have also been accompanying pastoral groups of the parish. Their presence and missionary performance are intended to be a witness so that the faithful of the parish will be motivated to live their faith with greater enthusiasm and dedication.

The CLM have not lacked moments of trial, as when in the year 2000 they had to assist, together with Doctors Without Borders, numerous refugees coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a village neighboring the mission of Mongoumba was suffering from bombings. Also when they had to take on pastoral work, since for two years they were left without a priest in the mission. And when, on the eve of the coup d’état of 2003, they had to live through the looting of the mission by Congolese soldiers who supported the president who was deposed. Not forgetting the following coup in 2013, where they witnessed the insecurity and desolation in which the population found itself.

However, these same trials, like so many other challenges, far from weakening their missionary spirit, have given them the courage and courage to resist and face a mission that is still in its infancy, with the firm hope that the Lord will make the seed they are now sowing bear fruit. A mission that the laywoman Cristina summarizes in these words: “Beyond the activities, the most important thing is to be with the people and to be for the people”.

Congratulations to CLM for its 25 years of presence in Central Africa.

Fr. Fernando Cortés Barbosa, Comboni Missionary

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