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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The Pygmy people, guardians of the Common Home

Laudato Si

Jesús Ruíz, Bishop of Mbaïki (Central African Republic) tells us how his communities of the Aka (Pygmies) people celebrated Laudato Si’ Week. Jesus, who inspired the CLM movement in Spain, is visiting Spain these days and we had the joy of sharing an afternoon with him, in which his love for his communities shines through.

The Congo Basin is the second lung of the planet, and sadly the scene of similar environmental crimes to those we usually hear about in the Amazon. Only fewer voices tell us about this scenario of massive destruction of the equatorial rainforest. Jesús Ruíz promotes the integral evangelization of the peoples, in which the Easter of the Lord translates into the Aka people standing up against centuries of discrimination not only from the colonizers but also from the rest of the majority peoples of Central Africa.

The Aka are used to taking blows and bowing their heads. That is why leading a march with the slogan We are the guardians of the forest is of great value. It is a clear sign of the Comboni charisma. Like the rest of the native peoples in America, Asia, Oceania… the Aka are aware that they have guarded the Common House for centuries, in invisibility, and now their testimony shines because their environment is at serious risk of disappearing. We are indebted to all these communities.

Comboni Sisters Lucia Font (Spanish) and Lucia Premoli (Brazilian) are currently working with Bishop Ruiz and the Aka peoples, the latter as the Episcopal leader of the Laudato Si’ Commission. The experience in Amazonia has prompted the latter to concretize in Africa all the work that has been developed in Latin America. In nearby Mongoumba, the CLM community has been accompanying this people for more than 20 years. Our CLM Tere Monzón, who participated in this mission for 10 years, returns to Spain on the 9th.

Laudato SI

The momentum of the encyclical Laudato Si’ is mobilizing around the world for a change of system, because the current development model respects neither people nor the rest of Creation. “We need organizations to help us document everything that is happening in our territory, so that it becomes known.” The level of mercury pollution in the rivers, the loss of native species, the savage enrichment of a few minorities thanks to the national resources of this “poor country”. This is the direct request that Monsignor Ruiz makes to us.

CLM Spain

Entrepreneurship and sharing CLM projects


Good morning and good week.

This past Saturday we had a new training at the level of the CLM of America. In this case, the theme was about economic sustainability and entrepreneurship.

It is clear that the economic funds are a fundamental tool to carry out a good missionary service.

We have to properly prepare our CLM to be able to send them to our missionary communities and from there to accompany the many needs of the people and to propose together with them projects that make possible a more dignified life.

To maintain these projects and our missionary communities that accompany them is something we do through prayer, formation and covering the basic needs. And for the latter and to be able to undertake, resources are needed.

This training is about all of this and about how to unite all people of good will to form a broad network to support the needs of the many peoples we try to accompany. The mission is not only the responsibility of the one who departs but also of the rest of the Christian community who are called to collaborate within their possibilities. To make this close collaboration grow is part of the keys that we discussed this past Saturday.

We leave you with the video (in Spanish) of this talk. We hope it will be very useful.

Best regards

Alberto de la Portilla. Coordinator of the CLM Central Committee.

Forum on Integral Ecology of the Comboni Family in America

Foro ecología

On 22 May, the Forum of the Integral Ecology of the Comboni Family in America was held online on the theme “Towards a missionary ecological conversion”. More than 75 Comboni missionaries (brothers, priests, sisters and lay people) shared, for four hours, their pastoral activities in this field of integral ecology as part of the missionary call.

It was a day of sensitization and exchange of work, challenges, proposals and strategies to raise awareness of the planetary emergency and urgency of serious environmental degradation, as well as the great inequalities that affect the whole of humanity.

Encouraged by the Pact for the Common House made during the Synod of the Amazon 2019, the Comboni Family promotes the Comboni Pact for the Common House Común, which Father Dario Bossi (Comboni Missionary participant in the Amazon Synod) puts in context in this article. This pact invites us as missionaries to cultivate two complementary dimensions: reflection (study, prayer…) and concrete attitudes and gestures, and received a strong impetus during the Comboni Social Forum in Belém (Brazil) in 2022, which highlighted the resistance of indigenous people, women and youth to the harassment of the Common House in various forms.

During the meeting, Fr. Juan Armando Goicochea Calderón presented the work of the Laudato Si’ Center of Lima, as a center for formation, research and projects. A School of Formation in Integral Ecology is being organized for Comboni and diocesan pastoral workers. The publication of the book “This earth is in your hands” was an excellent initiative that has helped a lot, especially in the formation of young people. Two other sustainable production projects are underway: beekeeping (which protects biodiversity from industrial monoculture) and the export of organic coffee to Europe.

Mrs. Odile presented the Laudato Si’ Missionary Center of Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which seeks to internalize the approaches of Laudato Si’ and to share initiatives to promote the Care of the Common Home. Among its activities are the annual meetings, which involve an exchange between civil institutions and the administration. Its members were present at the X Fospa (Pan-Amazonian Social Forum). In Brazil. Odile emphasized that this center is an opportunity to question the ecclesial pastoral and promote joint work between laity and religious, promoting critical ecological citizenship in defense of the common home. The Center is responsible for disseminating the contents of the encyclical in simple language, and for bringing ecological education to public and private educational centers.

Flávio Schmidt, a Brazilian Comboni layman who has worked in recent years in Piquiá de Baixo (Maranhão) together with the Spanish layman Xoan Carlos Sánchez, participated in the organizing committee of this event. This community of Piquiá continues to suffer from mining contamination and is a symbol of resistance and defense of the Common Home and Human Rights. .
CLM Spain