Comboni Lay Missionaries

Visit in Italy


Hi to you all once more.

Between the weekend meeting of the General Councils of the Comboni Family and the next weekend, when we will meet as Central Committee in Venegono, north of Milan, I had a few days left to move around in Italy.

I asked Mark to contact the groups in the North to see if some could receive me and so spend some time together.

The answer was very positive and we were able to organize a good week visiting various CLM groups in northern Italy.

The program was pretty much the same for all. In the morning I traveled from one city to the next and in the afternoon, we shared a time for prayer, supper and a chat together. It was all done in a pleasant familiar style.

I am grateful to all for the effort it required in getting together on a week night with work, children and everything else. This includes each one of the MCCJ I met who welcomed us in their houses as a family and those who follow our groups, plus those who approached us to talk about our reality as CLM both locally and at the international level.


The first group I visited was in Padua, a group with many years of experience. They told me how the group started, their activities and what they organized in the course of many years, including many activities that later branched out in different directions.

I already knew some of them for having met them at international gatherings. They were very interested in knowing how other groups got organized and the type of activities and meetings they have. We also had the opportunity to talk a bit about the recent assembly in Rome.

I see that there is a growing interest in mutual cooperation, in order to go beyond what each one does locally and cooperate with others, learn from the experiences of others, share concerns and other things. May this move them to read the conclusions, that they seem to be too many, but if we take the time we will see their richness and the many ideas they generate for concrete activities for each one of our communities and in order to accomplish the common goal that we chose together.


The following day I went to Verona. They met me at the station and they took me to the Comboni community to greet Fr. Tacchella and then to the Sisters’ house to see Sr. Esperanza, who also deals with our group.

Afterwards, we had a wonderful meal together, meeting again those we had known in 2012 during our European meeting in Verona, and others.

We talked a bit about Spain and Italy, the beautiful places, and during supper we started our conversation to know what the group is doing, the challenges it faces and more.

We also gave a good amount of time to talk about the situation of other groups. We covered the challenges that the past assembly has given us, recognizing that often we concentrate ourselves in what is going on in our own local CLM group, the concreteness of our community. It is normal that our daily fare be our vital reference, as we pray and work together, but keeping in mind what other CLM communities are doing gives us new ideas and helps us grow. I also saw the challenge of reading all that we share, but at times the interest in wanting to understand the content and what we are requesting…

The next day I was able to take a short bicycle tour of Comboni’s city, to remember the most important spots, and then board another train, this time for Milan.


Again, I was met at the station and we met as a group. But not before taking a quick tour of the main attractions including the museum of the Risorgimento.

We had time for supper, meet again a few people, know some new ones and have a conversation. There is always time to get to know what has been done and a time for questions. Among them the topic of formation came up again: A formation that will help us grow in our vocation; the importance of prayer and of growth in our spiritual life as support and foundation of our missionary activity, together with the challenge of opening the groups for new people to join; the importance of knowing well our identity in order to present it and to help us discern our vocation and its consequences.

Then, the moment comes to ask for paths to help us move forward and my answer is always the same, that it is easy to read the agreements we reached in Rome. Our famous 96 conclusions have a lot to tell us, both in what to do, but above all in what to Be. They are the fruit of all these years of work and the contribution of the many countries and continents where we are present.

The following morning, again by train, we reached Venegono. Once again, we met at the station and then we talked about many important things.

The day just flew by and, at the end, we shared our supper and a good time of conversation, more informal this time and in small groups, but always interesting.


The concern for new vocations and the arrival of new people in the groups. The difficulties of the generation gap or how to render the groups appealing to the young when we are made up of families with children and with different rhythms.

We must continue to think and keep alive, believing in what we do and ask for help from others. We are not in a store window so that other may see us, but we are in the street, with people, and we need new hands that with clasp together in order to act, protect, caress, lead whomever is in need. We need new heads to give new ideas and solutions to the difficulties of daily life. We need new hearts that will give hope in difficult times.

We share a wonderful vocation, a gift of God that we must share with our neighbor. This is part of our responsibility.

Italy is getting ready for its national assembly in August. May it be an important moment of meeting again personally, but above all in order to continue to dream together, to turn into reality the common dream we shared in Rome, as the point where we place ourselves into service, to open our groups to new people who feel this missionary vocation and offer them a place where to grow, be formed, feed spiritually, prepare themselves to go forth, turn into reality the missionary dream of Comboni wherever we may be, aiming always at the “poorest and most abandoned,” as Comboni used to say.

Thanks for having me feel at home!

Alberto de la Portilla (CLM Central Committee Coordinator)

2019 Meeting of the General Councils of the Comboni Family

Familia Comboniana
Familia Comboniana

For yet another year we met as General Councils of the Comboni Family. This time we met in Carraia at the house of the Secular Missionaries.

On our way there before the meeting we stopped for a few hours in Pisa to visit its most typical monuments, chief among them the leaning tower. It was a first chance to meet and have fun together.

As usual, we found a good interaction and environment among the participants. Even though we only get to meet once a year, we notice a climate of trust all around. We were very well received and we felt very much at home. This goes also for the MCCJ community of Lucca where the men were housed.

During the weekend we covered different topics. In the first morning we reflected on the theme “What is the interaction between Mission at Km 0, namely the mission of lay people in their territory and in their life situation, and the Mission Ad Gentes and Inter Gentes?” In this respect we were helped by a reflection by Luca Moscatelli, a lay theologian from the archdiocese of Milan.

Familia Comboniana

We spent the afternoon on the “Evolution and perspectives of mission promotion in the Comboni Family.” We had the chance to share our vision of mission promotion, the challenges we encounter both at the ecclesial level and for us as a missionary family. We also took the opportunity for discussing the special missionary month upcoming in October, inviting the entire Comboni Family to spare no effort in favor of this event so important for the Mission and for Church in general.

After supper, we had the chance to see a theatric presentation on the life of Madeleine Delbrel. A fascinating life, involved in the daily routine of her neighbors and companions, journeying with people and, from there, with the Lord.

On Sunday, we spent the morning updating ourselves on what is going on in the different branches of the Comboni Family. We, as CLM, described what happened at the international assembly we had in Rome last December, the conclusions we reached and the challenges we see ahead.

The others explained how they are developing the process of revision working on their Rule of Life and on the constitution of the Secular Missionaries.

After having given a positive evaluation of the meeting, we planned an agenda for next year. We will meet on the first weekend of June.

We have a year ahead of us to walk together as Family until we meet again.

Familia Comboniana


Alberto de la Portilla (CLM Central Committee Coordinator)

Emma Chiolini returns to Brazil

EMMA Brasil
Emma Brasil

My decision comes from a personal journey that started with the various experiences of volunteer service I had in Tanzania and in Ethiopia with the Comboni Lay Missionaries group, of which I am a member.

This journey through time ripened in me the idea of embarking in a long-term missionary commitment, so in December 2013 I left for Brazil, headed for Minas Gerais where I remained until December 2016, three years! Those three years literally changed my life, because mission changes you, if you allow it. What you see, what you touch, what you feel, what you live through, transforms you and leads you to discover a God who wanks through your steps, a God who has the face of the people and the histories you meet, an extraordinarily beautiful God in the defense of Life and for Life and in a commitment to serve and share so concrete and strong, that you fall in love with it, I did!

I lived for three years in a violent and poor neighborhood, in the periphery of an existential and structural world, but full of humanity and strength. Besides the various pastoral activities connected with the parish, carried out by the Comboni Missionaries, I got involved specifically in the prison ministry of the diocese of Belo Horizonte. I had never been in a prison and Brazil was my first time, a place where the prison situation is one of the worst in the world, made worse by violence and criminality, abuses of power and violations of human rights. Our job was to follow the inmates both spiritually and humanly and often to denounce situations where human dignity was not respected. Most of the Brazilian prisons’ population comes from situations of life where the family and the social structure are fragile and vulnerable. They all come from favelas or other very difficult environments. The inmates and the families I met, all of them carried the deep wounds of violence, lack of opportunities and poverty. This pastoral work taught me that no one is beyond redemption, because only Love heals, only those who are accepted and loved can be reborn, because no one can escape Love, I am convinced of it! Mission for me was above all sharing, walking together with others and share problems and hopes. It is not in doing great things, but above all, in Being present with the heart, the head and the hands!

Needed are a heart for loving, a head for understanding and interpreting without prejudice, hands to lead and build together. Today, my missionary commitment makes me leave for a second time, again for three years and again in Brazil, in a new experience, in a new city, Salvador Bahia, where I will live in a community that gives shelter to moradores de rua, street people. Last year, with our mission center, we went to visit this community and the project was born to share experiences with them, helping those who take care of the re-insertion of the street people who decide to get hold of their own life and start from scratch. I am ready to start again and to live the joy of meeting and discovering, but above all the joy of sharing and walking together.

Emma Chiolini, CLM

Be mission in Ethiopia – first moments

CLM Ethiopia
CLM Ethiopia

We left back behind Qillenso, Adola and Daaye and what I saw during the journey, in this green that contrasts with everything I had seen so far since I arrived in this new place where God awaits every one of us, at least in the embrace of a prayer that, it cans travel from far away (I hope from your hearts). I take the duration of this trip to try to share (at least a grain) the wonders of this people that has received me so well.

We are in an unusual week. We take advantage of the fact that the Amharic classes will only start on June 3 (next week) to get to know the various missions of the MCCJ and also of the CLM (in Awassa) in the southern zone of Ethiopia.

Addis Ababa, is a city where pollution reigns, noise, the frenzy of the many cars and people who roam without rule through the streets. It could be seen in almost any European city if it were not for the disorder that governs here. Traveling by car is always an adventure, because the road here also belongs to animals and people (after all, the cars arrived later!). Among the several and crowded streets that exist here, the one more difficult for me to cross (until now) is the indescribable Mexico Square, point of reference for the arrival at home. Indescribable for not having words to express the pain it cause me when I see those bodies stretched out in the middle of the street, thin bodies, barely alive, some that do not see, others that have no feet to walk … Along with these bodies we can find many times the face of a child, whose lost eyes does not pass unnoticed. I imagine stories in my head that probably are his. They are malnourished mothers and their children. How it hurts to look and it hurts even more not knowing what to do!

CLM Ethiopia

This week’s trip through southern Ethiopia also allowed us to have a very different and colorful vision of this great and immense country. As we travel from Addis Ababa to Awassa, Qillenso, Adola and Daaye, the landscape changes its shapes and figures. If in Adis and Awassa there is a mantle of houses as far as the eye can see, in Qillenso, Adola and Daaye the earth is dressed in red and the green of the plants just born with the first rains. Along the way, houses are planted, with a rudimentary configuration but which are authentic works of art. The car passes and those who see us pass also look at us. I watch them also through the glass of the van. What a beautiful look! They always smile when they see us pass!

I am happy for the mission that God gave to the three of us and for which we ask for your prayers. The mission will never be ours. It is also yours. And above all, it’s God´s. Probably, and aware of this, we know that the mature fruits of this work only (and God willing) will be visible within a few years.

CLM Ethiopia

I’m fine! Feeling everything. The people, their looks, their words that I often do not understand, but I try to respond with a smile, or a look of tenderness, or using the few words I already know in Amharic. It has been a time to observe, hear, try to understand. It is also an advantage that I do not have a fluent level of English that allows me to talk a lot (and even less Amharic). I take advantage of that and I end up listening more, observing more. It’s time for that!

Our walking on the street is always a cause of looks. People look at us, as if we were something strange. For children it’s a party! They look at us and sketch daring smiles:

– Farengi! Farengi! Or China! China!

Don’t knowing what to do many times, we look at them and smile. We extend the arm and exchange a handshake. They’re all happy to touch us … it’s reciprocal!

One of these days, in Awassa, we visited the sisters of Mother Teresa, and the expected thing happened: the same reaction of the children who want to grab us … They run in our direction to touch our hands. But not just the hand. The arms, the face. They get closer, delighting in our heat. They run searching for love. And we try to give it to them. In the difficulty of not knowing much Amharic, I say the same all the times. I couldn’t limit myself to the same old words, I thought. I try to remember other things I can say, and there it comes out:

CLM Ethiopia

– Mndn new? (What is this?) – I ask pointing to my shirt.

– Makina (car) – several answer, each one in time.

I repeat the same question for other things, including the cross I bring to my chest.

And so they answer me. It’s a party for them! And for me. They do not know how much they teach me. I believe they are the best teachers I can have. They are happy with this little. As the one who is thirsty, like me.

I feel everything, even nostalgia. Great nostalgia! This also inhabits me, of course (I am Portuguese … of those very nostalgic)! As someone told me, nostalgia is the love that remains. Therefore, I always want this nostalgia to be part of me.

They have been beautiful days, full of novelty. Also within the community, with David and Pedro. In our differences, I see three pieces of a puzzle that come together and fit together. It is being beautiful as we realize what we are called to do here. We feel the weight of the responsibility of being starting to sow this grain that we want others to come to water, to reap, to harvest. The harvest here is great! But we feel a great strength of wanting to take steps. May the Holy Spirit enlighten us to take the right steps, in the right times and places.

Pray for us, for the mission and above all for this people that welcomes us and that seeks and fights for life, day by day.

With lots of love,

CLM Carolina Fiúza