Comboni Lay Missionaries

Bogumiła and Andrzej – Comboni lay missionaries from Poland

Bogusia i Andrzej

From a young age, we have been interested in the world and people, and during the meetings missionaries have always told us in an interesting way that people in Africa and the world need help, support, and getting to know God.

Bogusia i Andrzej

There has come a moment in our lives that we don’t have to go to work anymore, we don’t have to play with the children, the parents are gone, and we want to give something of ourselves – be useful to people. Why not join the missionaries? Why not go?

We started looking for how and who could prepare us for such a trip. There was an obstacle here – we are “too old”, preparations are for young people.

Meanwhile, Father Dawid Stelmach came to our parish as an auxiliary priest. It turned out that he was responsible for the missions in the Poznań diocese – and it went on…

Everything started to come together. Some time passed by, Fr. Dawid contacted Magda Plekan – a CLM from Poznań (for four years on missions in Ethiopia), who has not been discouraged by our age and would be happy to see us in Ethiopia, but we need to prepare. We were helped in this by the Comboni Lay Missionaries from Krakow – they are MISSIONARIES – who proclaim Christ, not only with words, but above all with their actions, attitudes, love for others, responsible performance of their duties, and in addition their domain is Africa.

We went to Ethiopia as volunteers to two centers run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity – one in Awassa and the other one in Dire Dawa. Both centers are clinics and care centers.

We didn’t feel like strangers there, we had the impression that we didn’t travel far.

The path for a missionary is full of surprises, it is not always as we would like it to be. Sometimes the unexpected can frustrate your plans and expectations.

It turned out to be a coronavirus pandemic. We know that God protects us – He stands behind each of us, supports us and expects us to see it, trust and submit to His will.

Today we are learning the Ukrainian language, because our plans include a trip to Ukraine to Kamieniec Podolski, where we contacted the Polish priest Marcin. In May, the priest will come to Poland and asked us to go with him to Kamieniec Podolski and find out on the spot how we could find ourselves there. We hope that it will happen – it is not only up to us.

The Ukrainian language is taught by the Deacon who is in Poznań on preparation before his ordination in May this year in the Cathedral in Kamieniec Podolski.

He introduced us to the current conditions and the situation in Ukraine, customs, people’s behavior, a bit of history.

This is not Africa but Europe. Ukraine is at war with Russia and this is a very difficult and socially delicate matter for a missionary. This puts the missionary in a special situation where, in a civilized Europe, states fight each other.

Nowadays it is difficult to understand that in Europe there may again be a threat to peace.

Bogumiła and Andrzej – Comboni lay missionaries from Poland

Easter Message

Sepulcro vacío

I am the Resurrection and the Life

Sepulcro vacío
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The sisters sent this message to Jesus: “Lord, the man you love is ill.” Jesus said: “This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory and through it the Son of God will be glorified”. “I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies, he will live…” Do you believe this? “Yes, Lord”, she said, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world” (Jn 11, 3.4.25-27).

The world is going through a very difficult period due to the Covid 19 which continues to cause much suffering with thousands of people falling ill and dying. There are various peoples who are suffering not only due to the Covid-19 but also because of wars, instability, being left homeless, dangerous migrations, problems provoked by climate change and economic circumstances. When we think of the pandemic, we remember the many confreres and sisters who have had this experience of death and resurrection and are now in the glory of the Risen Lord. In this sorrowful situation of suffering and death where the Christ of Good Friday is continuously crucified and dying in those who suffer the consequences of this pandemic, it is not an easy matter to find words of encouragement, of joy, of life or, in the final analysis, of resurrection.

However, it is precisely because we are Christians and missionary disciples of the Lord that we are invited this Easter to place our trust in Him who is the Lord of life and has gone through suffering, sorrow and humiliation even to dying on the Cross, and being raised from the dead by the Father. Consequently, the words He spoke to Martha on the death of her brother Lazarus are all the more appropriate for us and the whole of humanity at this moment: “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me, even though he dies he will live and whoever lives and believes in me will never die”.

Faith in the resurrection and the hope that He has brought us are the greatest and most precious gifts we can proclaim and offer to all people. Let us never tire, therefore, of repeating to each and every person: Christ is risen! Filled with this certainty, we bear this proclamation to every community, ever home and every family and to all those places where people suffer most. As Pope Francis affirms: “Let us try, if we can, to make the best use of this time: let us be generous; let us help those in need in our neighbourhood; let us look out for the loneliest people, perhaps by telephone or social networks; let us pray to the Lord for those who are in difficulty in Italy and in the world. Even if we are isolated, thought and spirit can go far with the creativity of love. This is what we need today: the creativity of love. This is what is needed today: the creativity of love(Video message of Pope Francis for Holy Week 2020).

It is the mission of compassion that we, as missionaries, are called to proclaim, the closeness of God to His people, His tenderness and His love. Like Jesus, who cured many sick people, we are today His instruments to heal suffering, indifference, selfishness and the distancing that this disease generates. It is the mission of the encounter that makes room for acceptance and fraternity that generates life in abundance for all. We are therefore missionaries of hope and joy in the present context when we prophetically remind everyone that “We cannot go ahead, each one on their own, but only together” (Homily of Pope Francis, 27/03/2020). This is a new way of being in the world: not just a return to the past we know but a way of being involved in the world with creativity and wisdom.

It is only by confronting the cross that we can find the hope we need to live as risen people, as Daniel Comboni teaches us: Could a true apostle’s heart ever be downcast and fearful at all these obstacles and extraordinary difficulties? No, it is not possible, ever! Triumph is in the Cross alone. (W. 5646). This is the triumph of the Risen One. In the Risen Jesus, life has overcome death. This is the hope for better times, the hope that never leaves us disappointed.

With these sentiments of joy, we wish for you and all of us a Holy Easter of Resurrection!

Rome, 19 March 2021

The MCCJ General Council

Where the Spirit blows

Simone LMC
Simone CLM

He is no longer “the same person who left” in 2017, Simone Parimbelli, 38 years old, Comboni Lay Missionary of the Diocese of Bergamo, who returned in September 2020 from Mongoumba in Central African Republic. Because, as he says with light in his eyes, “the mission opens the heart and the horizon and being outgoing changes you: from the conception of the missionary style to the relationship with time and space, with oneself and with God”. It happens when you are “in close contact with the sufferings and joys of the other” and live for three and a half years in the heart of the tropical forest, in the diocese of Mbaiki, in Mongoumba, where the Comboni Fathers have been working with the AKA pygmies for more than 30 years.

“It seems absurd, but these people are not recognized by other ethnic groups and have no access to education or health care; enslaved by the Bantu masters and without a birth certificate, they are ghosts in the flesh,” says Simone, denouncing a country that, despite many riches, lives in a condition of colonialism and misery.

“Being next to them, you become a door to knock on”, continues Simone who, as a layman, has sometimes “managed to enter into the concrete lives of people much more than priests, divided between the administration of the parish and the Eucharistic celebrations over a vast territory”. When he arrived in Mongoumba, he proposed several activities of animation, transforming for example the school of Ndobo, close to the pygmy camps, in an oratory, like the one of his parish of Osio Sopra, where growing up, at a certain point, he asked himself “what is the use of my faith?”.

From the question about vocation to the answer to a call, the step is, so to speak, short: it’s 7,500 kilometers along with everything else. But “when you have perhaps intuited what you can be in the world and for the world, you have to prove it”.

So, the diocese of Bergamo, Bishop Francesco Beschi, the Missionary Center and the international movement of the Comboni Lay Missionaries give him “the possibility and the grace to live this experience: 1,300 days of fragility and brotherhood” in a young Church “that knows how to generate children in faith and where joy prevails”.

Sent and welcomed: in a continuous cycle that, in the future, perhaps, will push him elsewhere, where the Holy Spirit blows, which, in Sango, the language of the Central African Republic, is called Yingo-Gbya.

(By Loredana Brigante, POPOLI e MISSIONE magazine. February 2021)

Simone CLM