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.
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.
Alberto de la Portilla (CLM Central Committee Coordinator)
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!
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.
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:
– 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.
June – That the small steps towards opening between the Vatican and the People’s Republic of China may help to increase the understanding and respect of the government towards all Christians living in China. Lord hear us.
A meeting of the AEFJN ANTENA KENYA, took place at the premises of the RSCK (Men Religious Conference of Kenya).
After seeing some questions of interest about the World today, Europe´s relationship to Africa, the coming European Elections, some Social Movements, and the way to organize the participation in the next Meeting with a representative of the AEFJN at Brussels, (may be asking from them economical support), in Uganda; on the motto „think globally, act locally“; some reflections were then done regarding the Kenya Situation.
The urgency of not only to meet but to act was felt by all participants.
An interesting proposal was to ask the Episcopal Conference to raise its voice about salaries for the workers (decreasing) and good allowances for parliamentarians (increasing).
The importance of higher Education for Religious both men and women was a relevant point.
That was the time to introduce properly the “INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL MINISTRY IN MISSION” (ISMM) of THE “CATHOLIC TANGAZA UNIVERSITY COLLEGE” (TUC). THE TANGAZA UNIVERSITY COLLEGE is jointly owned by members of Religious Congregations. Currently the College offers certificate, diploma, undergraduate and master‘s degrees in its Institutes.
But the “institute of social ministry in mission” (ISMM) is the one run by the Comboni missionaries, MCCJ, together with the Comboni missionary sisters, CMS, as Comboni-family. It is an institute of higher learning, founded in 1994, to train agents of “social transformation” for the society, the church, the states and institutions. It offers diploma, b.a, m.a, and doctorate programs. Not only for Kenyan but also for citizens of the neighboring countries. Especially right now, that Europe seems to close the doors to students from Africa it is the fundamental importance that all Religious Congregations here and there, know about these GREAT POSSIBILITIES in this Institute.
The institute, now even with the PhD program on “social transformation” celebrates this year its silver jubilee!
It is really a wonderful Comboni-family achievement.
The mission of “ISMM” is to offer high standards of education that unlock the noble potentials of every learner to become a “transformer” agent in the society.
“ISMM” programs offer learners opportunity for growth, and spiritual guidance that contribute towards their welfare, acquiring knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary for social transformation in the society. Programs focus on human dignity, social justice, advocacy, research and development, providing the learners with the methodology competences, and operational tools for facilitating them. In fact, many of the graduated people are already active in “social movements” aiming to transform society in many different areas from politics and legislations to entrepreneurships, from environment to peace building, health, etc.
“ISMM” is a center of excellence and innovation for transformative ministerial learning and “social transformation”. “ISMM” educates and train agents to discover their personal, communitarian and „world transformations” calling. They contribute with enthusiasm, creativity, initiative, integrity, and professional competence, to a society where human dignity is cherished, and development is understood as a process to realize the full potential of human life and social justice.
Nevertheless my emphasis is necessary, why?
Because it is well known, that plenty of Europeans come to make „practical experiences in Africa“, while the rich nations (?) Do not want to give visas to African students!!! And African students should also have „practical experience“ abroad!!! According to justice we should do strong advocacy for them…; for that….!!! It is a very combonian issue. We may try our best to raise awareness even among e.u. parliamentarians about this!! And to do an effective campaign on it.
It is for Africa! It is for the Africans! It is for the world! It is for the Kingdom of God!
For another year the Comboni Family of Spain gathered in Madrid for a weekend together. Religious, seculars and lay members together dreaming of how to be family and sharing times of prayer, food and formation.
This year we were accompanied by a team of CONFER working on the theme of Shared Mission in various charismatic families.
Through their proposed dynamics and time spent in group work they helped us to understand the challenges of shared mission, the duties we have as a family, our strengths, our weaknesses, etc.
All of this emphasizing the importance of the process and without skipping steps. The importance to understand that it is not only a matter of performing concrete actions or facing concrete challenges, but the importance that they start from a comm life sharing, entertaining common ties and relationships, loving and understanding one another. To understand the importance of complement each other, which does not consist in abandoning what each branch is, its identifying traits, but rather putting at the service of mission our particular traits as a richness that makes us complementary.
It is always good to meet, to feel how each time we recognize each other better and understand being a Comboni Family through something transversal of our being Missionaries and Comboni missionaries. It is not something extra that the group needs to take into account, but a transversal entity that makes up out being and doing as missionaries.
We also recognized that, at the ecclesial level, we live in privileged time when many other charismatic families question themselves on how to be Church, in our case this is something that Comboni himself had in mind from the beginning. It is up to us now to pick up this charismatic and ecclesial intuition he had.
The attendance at the meeting was lower for a number of circumstances, including having it while having decided last year not to. But all those present at the end were happy to be there. We are convinced that we must journey as a family. We know that we have many challenges to face, including perhaps the resistance of those ho are not yet convinced, but still convinced that this is the journey Comboni wants from us.
Now it remains to us to carry out the commitments we set for ourselves, the lines to follow in our work,… To strengthen the participation in this yearly meeting coming from all over Spain, at times trying to meet in different areas where we have various branches. All this without forgetting the history and the journeys we have had as a Comboni Family, the work of mission and vocation promotion done together, the joint meetings of prayer and formation and the joing celebration we had as a family.
May the Lord accompany us in this journey and may Christ inspire us.
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