Comboni Lay Missionaries

My year of mission as a laywoman in Colombia (I)

Alexandra Colombia

(We open a testimony that we will send in three different moments)

Alexandra Colombia

Many times we make decisions inspired by a dream, an impulse, by necessity or because we want to meet ourselves, to define new goals. Thus began my desire to do mission; at the beginning I saw it as a requirement to do mission on the African continent, a continent that has always inspired me the desire to know it since I finished my career as a psychologist.

My mission experience allowed me to meet God in different faces, in different actions, in different details, to meet children, youth, adults, women and to be part of a team, a fraternity, the unity of women of different ages and with different personalities are part of the beautiful moments that this year of mission contains.

Christmas Novenas in Bajito Vaqueria

On December 16, 2019, I met the famous Father Danielle (everyone speaks very well of him) from Tumaco, a charismatic man, loving with his people, proactive, funny, intellectual and respectful, who allowed me to come to his house and gave me the opportunity to know Bajito Vaqueria (an island near the town of Tumaco). There I stayed for eight days with my partner Alejandro in the house of Mrs. Marta, who welcomed us with her son Jorge and her daughter-in-law “Dianita”. I met children, young people, shell fisherwomen and men who are absent during the week because they are out at sea with their boats.

Bajito Vaqueria is an island that welcomes you with a super long cement port, which connects you with the sea and with its beautiful colorful wooden houses, with a chapel in the center, a kindergarten that has around it stairs that allow women to sit around it in the afternoons to play bingo, an educational institution in which its stairs were the perfect space to rehearse the “arruyos” or Christmas carols that were played every night of the novena, a soccer field and next to it an arm of the river that joins with the sea.

This place had something perfect for me, there was almost no phone signal, this gave a lovely touch to my Christmas mission, because it allowed me to disconnect and appreciate the times, the landscape, the conversations with the women who told me about the history of this place, they taught me to prepare some typical dishes and also to extract the product of the shell. In addition, it also allowed us to play with the children and although the stay was short, we carried out several activities such as:

  1. The assembly of the nativity scene in the church with the help of the children.
  2. A choir accompanied by recyclable instruments such as bottles and broken buckets, where for the first time in my life I knew the famous “arruyos”.
  3. Cleaning of the main streets of the village so that baby Jesus would arrive and feel that he was in a clean place, because it was already beautiful!
  4. Games in the afternoons where we did acrossport, races, bible review, teamwork and water games.
  5. Sharing a little bit of my llanera culture and doing a choreographed assembly of a Joropo with beautiful dancers from the Pacific.
  6. Conducting a raffle so that Dianita could go to visit her family in Ecuador that Christmas.

They were eight days that opened the door to my year of mission with the Comboni Missionaries, eight days of laughter, of having the chapel full at night doing the novena, of seeing the children dance in an extraordinary way, eight days where God was making me attached to this decision that I had taken.

Altos de Cazucá- Where Children Let You Know a Little of the Kingdom of God

In January, I arrived at Barrio el Oasis (Municipality of Soacha), this would be the place where I would stay for the rest of the days and months to make a more exciting and constant experience. I started with a week of cleaning at the house of Father Franco who welcomed me for a month and a half, while I got a job that would allow me to pay a rent. I admit that the first weeks were full of not so positive emotions, because my parents questioned my decision to leave aside the studies I have and the lifestyle I was used to, it was not easy (I admit it) to have calls where you hear that your parents are crying and asking God that I rethink my decision. I was also asking my God that they would support me and that their attitude would change.

I was received by a mission team made up of Marisol (a laywoman from the fraternity of Charles de Foucauld), Sister Yolanda (a Juanist Sister), Father Franco (Comboni Missionaries) and Vane (a Comboni Laywoman who would move to live with me in the following months). With them, bonds were woven and they shared with me a little of the realities of the neighborhood. I started my mission with some savings and with the hope of getting a job soon that would allow me to support myself or cover my necessary expenses (rent, food, cell phone plan and medicines).

Thanks to Sister Yolanda I was able to contact Father Julio Castillo of the parish of Santa Maria de Cana and he gave me the opportunity to work, part time since February, earning half the minimum wage (that job was perfect), where I worked as a secretary and sacristan for three months. Having a job helped the idea that Vane and I had of renting an apartment, having our own space and being able to feel comfortable from there, so by the month of March we moved to an apartment one block above Father Franco’s house.

Alexandra Garcia, CLM Group of Colombia

Message of his holiness pope Francis for lent 2021

Papa Francisco

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem” (Mt 20:18)
Lent: a Time for Renewing Faith, Hope and Love

Papa Francisco

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Jesus revealed to his disciples the deepest meaning of his mission when he told them of his passion, death and resurrection, in fulfilment of the Father’s will. He then called the disciples to share in this mission for the salvation of the world.

In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the “living water” of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. At the Easter vigil, we will renew our baptismal promises and experience rebirth as new men and women by the working of the Holy Spirit. This Lenten journey, like the entire pilgrimage of the Christian life, is even now illumined by the light of the resurrection, which inspires the thoughts, attitudes and decisions of the followers of Christ.

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, as preached by Jesus (cf. Mt 6:1-18), enable and express our conversion. The path of poverty and self-denial (fasting), concern and loving care for the poor (almsgiving), and childlike dialogue with the Father (prayer) make it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity.

1. Faith calls us to accept the truth and testify to it before God and all our brothers and sisters.

In this Lenten season, accepting and living the truth revealed in Christ means, first of all, opening our hearts to God’s word, which the Church passes on from generation to generation. This truth is not an abstract concept reserved for a chosen intelligent few. Instead, it is a message that all of us can receive and understand thanks to the wisdom of a heart open to the grandeur of God, who loves us even before we are aware of it. Christ himself is this truth. By taking on our humanity, even to its very limits, he has made himself the way – demanding, yet open to all – that leads to the fullness of life.

Fasting, experienced as a form of self-denial, helps those who undertake it in simplicity of heart to rediscover God’s gift and to recognize that, created in his image and likeness, we find our fulfilment in him. In embracing the experience of poverty, those who fast make themselves poor with the poor and accumulate the treasure of a love both received and shared. In this way, fasting helps us to love God and our neighbour, inasmuch as love, as Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches, is a movement outwards that focuses our attention on others and considers them as one with ourselves (cf. Fratelli Tutti, 93).

Lent is a time for believing, for welcoming God into our lives and allowing him to “make his dwelling” among us (cf. Jn 14:23). Fasting involves being freed from all that weighs us down – like consumerism or an excess of information, whether true or false – in order to open the doors of our hearts to the One who comes to us, poor in all things, yet “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14): the Son of God our Saviour.

2. Hope as “living water” enabling us to continue our journey.

The Samaritan woman at the well, whom Jesus asks for a drink, does not understand what he means when he says that he can offer her “living water” (Jn 4:10). Naturally, she thinks that he is referring to material water, but Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit whom he will give in abundance through the paschal mystery, bestowing a hope that does not disappoint. Jesus had already spoken of this hope when, in telling of his passion and death, he said that he would “be raised on the third day” (Mt 20:19). Jesus was speaking of the future opened up by the Father’s mercy. Hoping with him and because of him means believing that history does not end with our mistakes, our violence and injustice, or the sin that crucifies Love. It means receiving from his open heart the Father’s forgiveness.

In these times of trouble, when everything seems fragile and uncertain, it may appear challenging to speak of hope. Yet Lent is precisely the season of hope, when we turn back to God who patiently continues to care for his creation which we have often mistreated (cf. Laudato Si’, 32-33; 43-44). Saint Paul urges us to place our hope in reconciliation: “Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). By receiving forgiveness in the sacrament that lies at the heart of our process of conversion, we in turn can spread forgiveness to others. Having received forgiveness ourselves, we can offer it through our willingness to enter into attentive dialogue with others and to give comfort to those experiencing sorrow and pain. God’s forgiveness, offered also through our words and actions, enables us to experience an Easter of fraternity.

In Lent, may we be increasingly concerned with “speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation and encouragement, and not words that demean, sadden, anger or show scorn” (Fratelli Tutti, 223). In order to give hope to others, it is sometimes enough simply to be kind, to be “willing to set everything else aside in order to show interest, to give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen amid general indifference” (ibid., 224).

Through recollection and silent prayer, hope is given to us as inspiration and interior light, illuminating the challenges and choices we face in our mission. Hence the need to pray (cf. Mt 6:6) and, in secret, to encounter the Father of tender love.

To experience Lent in hope entails growing in the realization that, in Jesus Christ, we are witnesses of new times, in which God is “making all things new” (cf. Rev 21:1-6). It means receiving the hope of Christ, who gave his life on the cross and was raised by God on the third day, and always being “prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls [us] to account for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Pet 3:15).

3. Love, following in the footsteps of Christ, in concern and compassion for all, is the highest expression of our faith and hope.

Love rejoices in seeing others grow. Hence it suffers when others are anguished, lonely, sick, homeless, despised or in need. Love is a leap of the heart; it brings us out of ourselves and creates bonds of sharing and communion.

“‘Social love’ makes it possible to advance towards a civilization of love, to which all of us can feel called. With its impulse to universality, love is capable of building a new world. No mere sentiment, it is the best means of discovering effective paths of development for everyone” (Fratelli Tutti, 183).

Love is a gift that gives meaning to our lives. It enables us to view those in need as members of our own family, as friends, brothers or sisters. A small amount, if given with love, never ends, but becomes a source of life and happiness. Such was the case with the jar of meal and jug of oil of the widow of Zarephath, who offered a cake of bread to the prophet Elijah (cf. 1 Kings 17:7-16); it was also the case with the loaves blessed, broken and given by Jesus to the disciples to distribute to the crowd (cf. Mk 6:30-44). Such is the case too with our almsgiving, whether small or large, when offered with joy and simplicity.

To experience Lent with love means caring for those who suffer or feel abandoned and fearful because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In these days of deep uncertainty about the future, let us keep in mind the Lord’s word to his Servant, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you” (Is 43:1). In our charity, may we speak words of reassurance and help others to realize that God loves them as sons and daughters.

“Only a gaze transformed by charity can enable the dignity of others to be recognized and, as a consequence, the poor to be acknowledged and valued in their dignity, respected in their identity and culture, and thus truly integrated into society” (Fratelli Tutti, 187).

Dear brothers and sisters, every moment of our lives is a time for believing, hoping and loving. The call to experience Lent as a journey of conversion, prayer and sharing of our goods, helps us – as communities and as individuals – to revive the faith that comes from the living Christ, the hope inspired by the breath of the Holy Spirit and the love flowing from the merciful heart of the Father.

May Mary, Mother of the Saviour, ever faithful at the foot of the cross and in the heart of the Church, sustain us with her loving presence. May the blessing of the risen Lord accompany all of us on our journey towards the light of Easter.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 11 November 2020, the Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours


Meeting of the German CLM by videoconference

LMC Alemania
CLM, Germany

We continue our work of creating posters on the different ways to resolve conflicts peacefully. The posters will be used for the mission animation of the CLM and the MCCJ. We were able to finish one more step and plan the next steps. For the celebration of 100 years of “Comboni presence in Ellwangen” we intend to use the posters for the first time.

Furthermore, we prayed together and exchanged our missionary and personal experiences during the last weeks.

Barbara Ludewig, CLM Germany

Manos Unidas’ 2021 Campaign

Manos Unidas LMC Sevilla

During this weekend, Manos Unidas (NGO of the Spanish Church) celebrates one more year the Campaign against Hunger. And despite the difficulties they do not back down and reinvent themselves so that Solidarity is contagious and spreads to all of us.

Manos Unidas LMC Sevilla

This Saturday morning we were fortunate to participate in a round table in Seville, the starting signal for the campaign in our province. We are always excited to hear the testimony of missionaries who have spent more than 30 years on the front line, sharing their lives with the most forgotten peoples, and how, thanks to the generosity of so many anonymous people, the construction of so many dreams, so many schools, health centers… can become a reality.

In addition to our missionary experience, we were asked to present experiences of collaboration with Manos Unidas. In this sense we talked about a small project where we collaborated during our time in Mozambique and also the project that currently support in Brazil to our community in Piquiá. It was also an opportunity to raise awareness about a current reality of the mission.

Manos Unidas LMC Sevilla

During the weekend of the campaign we also shared our experience in Mozambique with the parish of San José Obrero, in San Juan de Aznalfarache (a small town near Seville), we told them about a very small project with which Manos Unidas had collaborated with the parish of Our Lady of Peace in Namapa, where we CLM worked for four years.

It was the construction of a multipurpose room, four walls very well used, full of life and hope. And we told them how that space served as a library, where they could sit at a table and chair to write, versus the option of doing it on the floor, on a mat, inside a small hut by candlelight. Where secondary school students could find a few books where they could consult chemistry, mathematics, … in a region where not even the teachers had textbooks, and all their support material were the notebooks that they kept as a treasure from when they had done their training and that they tried to transmit to their students by slate and learn by heart.

And we would talk to them about the work of promoting women that was done there. Thanks also to anonymous generosity, sewing machines had arrived (yes, those pedal ones, to be used where there is no light), and they were taught a trade, giving them the opportunity to earn a living, in addition to creating circles of support, in which to work with them on self-esteem and empowerment in a society where equality between men and women is a utopia.

And we told them about the joy and life that was transmitted in the rehearsals of the parish choir, in that group of young people with whom we worked those values of fellowship, listening, teamwork, trying to accompany them in their growth processes as active members of their society, in their specific historical moment.

And we explained to them how once every two months, the catechists of the 86 communities that made up the parish, came for a weekend to receive Christian formation to take and share with their communities. Many came walking from long distances, eager to meet and deepen their knowledge and experience of this Jesus of Nazareth who was changing their lives. And during those days the hall became the place of meeting and welcome, dormitory and dining room. Shared bread and shared life.

And I remember those quiet afternoons, sitting on those stone benches at the entrance of the hall, from where you could see the simple people passing by, on their way to the market, on their way home, …. enjoying those beautiful African sunsets, and thanking the Father for all that shared LIFE.

Maricarmen Tomás and Alberto de la Portilla, CLM Spain

“Conversations with Ethiopia”: a missionary testimony


Last January 31 we transmitted live from the Facebook page of the Comboni Lay Missionaries of Portugal: “Missionary Conversations with Ethiopia”. In this conversation between the three CLM, David Aguilera – CLM from Spain – and Pedro Nascimento – CLM from Portugal – shared about the life that sprouts in the mission where they live as a community since 2019 in Ethiopia. They answered questions regarding the response to the call to the missionary vocation, the preparation for their departure to the mission and the experiences and difficulties in the mission.

“For me it was a very nice and intense exchange, also with a special meaning for me, since I also lived that mission for some time and I follow it with my heart and with all the people I met in Ethiopia and in all the way that led me to this mission as a CLM. It is very good to feel that my fellow missionary mates make a beautiful and difficult path, but with the willingness to serve and to let themselves be led by the hands of God”, says Carolina Fiúza, Portuguese CLM who interviews the two CLM, and who was also with them on mission in 2019.

Thus, in the midst of the time of confinement that we live today, to stimulate the ritual of staying at home but with love, we share a missionary testimony that certainly touched many.

CLM Portugal.