Comboni Lay Missionaries

The Plan of Comboni

Combonis Plan“During the first days of 2014 we began the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the “Plan of Comboni for the Regeneration of Africa” with suggestions for reflection that the General Council sent to all the confreres and there are other initiatives in the pipeline intended to help us to live this moment as an opportunity to come closer to, and make our own, the great missionary intuitions of St. Daniel Comboni.

In Rome, as in the Provinces and Delegations of the entire Institute, there will be celebrations, meetings for reflection and work and moments of mission promotion in order to come to know better, not just the text of the Plan, but above all the spirit to be found in those pages, written in a short burst by Comboni, with great missionary passion and enthusiasm.

With the passage of time, those pages were rewritten no longer with pen and ink but with the lives of the many men and women missionaries who, with great generosity, accepted the legacy of the mission as conceived by our Father and Founder. Consequently, the Plan is not just something that belongs only to the past but is like the blood in our veins, always with us in the present.

The celebration of the anniversary gives us an opportunity to understand better how up-to-date the missionary content of the Plan is, and how important it is to translate into the language of our day the intuitions discovered in the past 150 years.

It is a question of keeping alive the memory of a gift received a long time ago, to discover the relevance today of a missionary spirit and strategy that are valid in our time and for our humanity, forever needful of the encounter with the Lord.

During discussions on the proposals for the celebration of this anniversary, there emerged a desire to foster a journey that may help us to avoid the temptation to perform a simple act of remembering a moment in our history and seek, above all else, that which enables us to make our own what the Holy Spirit made Daniel Comboni understand, as the way towards a new mission, capable of responding to the urgent needs and challenges of his time.

To us is given the challenge to find a way to make relevant today the life proposal contained in the Plan that the Lord has today for us and for the brothers and sisters entrusted to us in service to the mission.

This year we have a special occasion to discover, not only the Plan of Comboni, but to write our own plan, the plan that the Lord inspires in us in so far as of the urgent needs, the challenges, the dramatic character of our time and the unceasing concern of God for his children.

Not long ago, during the last General Chapter, we took on ourselves the task of making the journey that leads from the Plan of Comboni to the plan of the Comboni Missionaries. Now, in 2014, is, perhaps, the time to ask ourselves what point we have reached, at the personal, provincial and Institute levels.

What is the Plan?

There are different ways to approach the Plan and I want to share with you just a brief reflection that may help us to try and draw up our personal plan, or at least to begin what may be a first draft.

We all know that, when we take the text of the Plan in our hands, we are faced with a work that lasted for years and that in the end was captured in just a few pages, insufficient to express the strength, sentiments, courage, hope, joys and difficulties which, though enclosed between those apparently cold and unfeeling lines, contain a spirit which reveals the greatness of what was written therein.

The Plan is not a textbook; it is life hidden within the words, thoughts, intuitions, dreams and the desires that were the motive power able to move the hands of Comboni to leave traces of the Spirit he tried to express, which goes far beyond the ideas and strategies that will somehow become the response to the cry that assails the ears of God to stir up his mercy.

I like to describe the Plan as the mediation offered by Comboni which, pervaded by the Spirit, helps God to carry out his missionary project; it is an open door that allows God to enter the history of his children who are in need of Him and thus realises his missionary dream.

Before ever becoming a written document, the Plan was a dream and a passion, an uncontainable power in the heart of Comboni.

It is the expression of love – source of the mission – for the poorest and the most abandoned, that becomes real and achievable. It is the concrete response to a reality that can neither be ignored nor forgotten since it is comprised of people with names and surnames, of tragedies and urgent needs, of promises and gifts that did not allow any delay in Comboni’s involvement – in his days – and that do not allow any of us, today, to postpone our response to a tomorrow that may never come.

Seen through the person of Comboni, the Plan is the complete availability to pay the price personally and never withdraw, even if this may continually turn our lives upside down, and to give our lives inch by inch, since making common cause with the poor never brings profits or earnings to be amassed.

The Plan is the missionary passion that cannot be contained by borders or diminished or discouraged by problems or difficulties, because it is a matter of the power of God who avails of human fragility to manifest his great love.

In the pages of the Plan we find ourselves faced with the desire of God and the dream of Comboni which intertwine and merge to become a single passion, quenched only on the wood of the Cross and the cry: “Africa or Death”.

It is an experience of encounter, profound communion of such powerful intimacy that the words may vanish and the text disappear, but the total self-giving remains as witness to a covenant whose only passion is the mission and the poor.

In the depths of the Plan there is the dream of Comboni of Africa open to God and his redeeming plan. The dream of seeing the African peoples respected as to their rights and dignity. The wish to see a continent illuminated by the light of the Gospel which does not tolerate deceit or injustice, or rejoices in violence or death.

What is required of us today?

Combonis PlanAs we approach the legacy of the Plan, none of us can ignore certain questions that seem to spring up before our eyes when we try to take seriously our being missionaries and Combonians. Can they be of help in visualising our plan? We could not wish for better.

What are our passions? What stirs our hearts as we contemplate the missionary situation of our time? On what is our enthusiasm centred and what absorbs all our energy today? Where is the encounter between the desires of God for humanity and our availability to live solely for the mission? To what degree does the love for the poorest and most abandoned provide us with the energy that makes us ready for anything for the sake of the Kingdom of God? Where are the dreams that may help us to create that plan that God expects from us for humanity within which the mission continues to be the great challenge for those who call themselves disciples of Christ and a fortiori for us who have received the missionary vocation?

It would be wonderful if, at the end of this year, we were able to formulate a new plan, albeit modest, for the mission that challenges us as Comboni missionaries. A plan that would show how the charism of Comboni is still relevant, alive and fruitful.

A plan that would help us to grow in the confidence and certainty that the Lord continues to work together with us to bring about new times that will make us once again experience the joy of the mission, despite our poverty and fragility.

How do we dream of the mission in our times and what are we prepared to do to collaborate with the Lord in carrying out his plan for those he loves with all his heart? Surely the cries and sufferings of the many brothers and sisters in all corners of the world will be of great help in our efforts to give our response, even if a modest one.

May St. Daniel Comboni accompany us in this dream.
Fr. Enrique Sánchez G., mccj
Superior General

Visit to Poland

Hello everyone. As many of you know last week I was visiting the polish CLM group. It has been a very interesting week. First I would like to highlight the weekend with the group of young CLM candidates. In Poland we have a large pool of boys and especially girls interested in missionary life who come to this group in order to meet this vocation and with desire to serve the mission. It is a large and dynamic group, with great interest and availability.

On Saturday we were working in groups and in plenary on what means to be a Comboni Lay Missionary and what it means to participate in the group. It was a nice moment to share expectations, hopes, doubts and questions about this lay missionary life.

At night we share the missionary witness of Monikę Krasoń (Polish) and Carmen Aranda (Spanish). Two of the CLM who are now preparing themselves to go to Uganda as an international community, and also some of my experience in Mozambique. It was short but nice.

We also had time to participate in Sunday’s official sending of Joanna Owanek and Ewa Maziarz (the other two Polish CLM to form part of this international community) from their parish. This Mass was presided by the Bishop Monsignor Nitkiewicz, accompanied by the parish priest, some diocesan priest and 6 Comboni Missionaries of the two communities in Poland led by P. Gianni Gaiga (representative of the general vicar in Poland).

It was nice to see how the whole community, with his bishop in front was responsible for these lay that are sent to mission, both spiritually as well as with economic commitment to enable them to travel, have a medical and social insurance as well as some money to support themselves. I think we have much to learn from the Polish Church in this regard. From Krakow (about 3 hours) we also went 7 cars with the young people of the meeting, so they were heavily covered throughout the Comboni family (We will continue this support in their time of formation and destiny in Uganda).

The weekend also gave time to particularly speak with some young people, to share vocational concerns and specific questions about the missionary work. Hopefully, many of them will find their way and commitment to service the mission here.

16 years walking as CLM!

On January 25 (1998), at the home of the Comboni Missionaries in Maia (Porto) began the adventure of the Comboni Lay Missionaries in Portugal. Many were those who attended this first meeting, and God intended, with the efforts of some, that this exhilarating adventure continues today.
At present, the CLM, inside and outside its borders, testify of Christ as St. Daniel Comboni did. In fact, for us: “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3: 28), so we proclaim Christ – Light of the World and joy of Humanity – to all men and women. For us, this challenging call passes through the explicit announcement as well as the development and human promotion.

16 years later, we are part of the larger Comboni Family and in particular, of the great CLM family extended worldwide. Today, we want to leave a thank you to all who “sow and look after” the CLM seed and all that, with us, continue to live this exciting adventure that makes us dare to go further in the ways of the mission.

by Susana Vilas Boas

The official sending of a Comboni Lay Missionary in Poland

Monika

“The mission is not going away, because the mission is not a touristy tour of the world, but we are sent on a mission”- emphasized Archbishop Victor Skworc, who sent Monika Krasoń our Comboni Lay Missionary from Poland to work in Uganda. Monika will go on mission to Gulu, where she will work in an orphanage which is led by Comboni Missionaries. She will spend two years serving the poorest and the most abandoned and she will give a testimony of love of God, who doesn’t forget about Africans.

The official sending took place on 12th January in her family parish in Łaziska Górne. It was in the church of Our Lady the Queen of the Holy Rosary in the presence of family, friends, Comboni Missionaries, Comboni Lay Missionaries and all parishioners. It was an unusual event, because Monika is the first missionary in her parish.

In the homily Archbishop emphasized that we are responsible for the future of the Gospel and we have to share with those who hadn’t heard it yet. Everyone is called to be a missionary, no matter if it’s in their country or in a missionary country which is distant, sometimes thousands of miles away. Monika decided to go to Africa. It is a very beautiful work, but also very difficult, so it’s important to support her, especially in prayer. The Archbishop assured Monika that the Church and her parish will support her CLM commitment both in prayer and through material support.

Monika received a cross from the Archbishop. That cross will be a guide in her missionary work, help in danger and give consolation in difficult times. It was an unusual and beautiful experience for Monika which means the real beginning of the mission. We wish Monika all the best, beautiful moments in Uganda and good mission experience among the Acholi. And of course we all promise a memory in prayer.

Envio Monika Envio Monika Envio Monika
Envio Monika Envio Monika Envio Monika
Envio Monika Envio Monika Envio Monika

Polish CLM

A great day for gardening

Since 2010 we (Mark & Maggie) have continued our work with the Catholic University and College Students Group in Awassa.  They have an active student leadership committee with lots of ideas and energy, so we accompanying “adults” play a mentoring role.   This years’ group is particularly dynamic.  In 2014, a new Catholic centre will open up here in Awassa city which will have a parish church, a kindergarten school and the main jewel, the brand new diocesan youth centre.  We thought it would be great to start to get the young people involved to breathe some life into this construction site soon to be pastoral hub.

So we approached the student group to see if they would take on the design and planting of the gardens surrounding the church.  They loved the idea and in a flash, they were running with the project with spirited initiative.  In no time they had formed a small committee with engineering and agriculture students, inspected the site, took measurements, toured some nice gardens in the city for inspiration and sketched a design.  One student devoted an entire day to travel three hours away and select and purchase the plants.  Another student visited the site the day before and marked out the plan in the soil. And so last Saturday the students rallied their peers and over 40 came out and planted in one swoop!  We divided into small teams and with an air of controlled chaos, the work began: hoes swinging, spades digging, manure flying and saplings dropping.   We laughed, sang and before we knew it the day was done – 1,200 plants and flowers in place.   We then sat in the shade and shared bananas, bread and sodas.   Everyone was happy with the day’s good work.

Years from now when the hedges are full and the trees tall, the young people involved will look on and smile silently knowing how it all happened.  Most importantly they will have learned a gem of a lesson – we can achieve grand and beautiful things if we are willing to put in the effort and work together.

garden new church low res

– Maggie, Mark and Emebet Banga, Comboni Lay Missionaries, Awassa, Ethiopia