March – That the canonisation of Bishop Romero may bring all the Christian communities of Latin America strength, perseverance and confidence in the power of the Gospel. Lord hear us.
Last weekend, February 9-10, the CLM of the PCA in Guatemala enjoyed the gift of the annual retreat. It took place at Casa Comboni in Guatemala City.
The lay participants were 18 and it was organized by Bro. Humberto Rua, our moderator, and by Fr. Victor Hugo Castillo, who kindly prepared the topic for the meditations of the two days.
The objective of the retreat: to take a spiritual time out in order to recollect within ourselves the essentials of missionary life and gather strength to face the activities of this year.
On Saturday, scrutinizing the Word of God in the Gospel of Mark, we reflected on Jesus as the Son of God:
* The Good News is Jesus of Nazareth, man and God, crucified and resurrected, Jesus as the Lord of History. Starting from this truth, the mission of the Church consists in speaking of God, not only creating communities, but also leading people to make a profession of faith. It is to re-establish hope which is so fragile in our days, and return dignity to those who do not believe they have it.
* The Baptism of Jesus and ours, that makes us Children of God, even though it gives us the Spirit, nonetheless it does not exempt us from temptations, hence we must defend us with the Word and here the proclamation begins.
* In the temptations in the desert Jesus defeated the Devil by the strength of the Spirit. The missionary is not super-man or super-woman, but it is their human experience that makes them able to help others. Vocation is a daily struggle and conquest, a pathway between temptations and victories.
Following, we had confessions, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and a time for meditation and silence. We did not forget about a time of enjoyment which is only possible in Godly endeavors.
Sunday, “the Mission,” the great gift of God to us without our deserving it.
* Mission is born when the disciple feels called by the Father. He then goes looking for his brothers everywhere. This love is not selfish. The mission of the disciples is exactly the same as the mission of Jesus.
* Apostolic life does not consist in doing a lot of things, because Jesus already saved the world, nor by starting from what he did, but only starting from one point: the cross.
* The greatest wisdom: “Mission consists in teaching the Word of God, the Good News. Mission is not in giving things, because giving the Word is much more than anything.”
* The activity of God is to be adored in spirit and truth. The missionary is a worker, cooperator of God, and proclaiming the Gospel is the proclamation of the truth that sets us free.
These were some of the points of the retreat. I could write much more, but in general terms, for in these topics we meditate starting for the Word.
We ended with a delicious lunch.
Blessed be God who has called us and gives us the ability to “go to the world and proclaim the Good News to all of creation” (Mk 16:15)
“Holy and able making common cause with the poorest and most abandoned”
(St. Daniel Comboni)
Lily Portillo, CLM-PCA
The CLM María Augusta writes from Mongoumba, CAR, for her parish paper – The Astrolabio.
Dear Fr. Orlando,
How are you? I hope the new year started very well and so it will be to the end. A happy 2019 to all the parishioners and to your family.
Last week I had malaria, but, by God’s help, I already recovered. The rest of the community is well.
Fr. Samuel left today for his vacation. We ask God that it be a good one and that he may return full of pep and courage to continue the mission entrusted to him.
On December 17 and 18 the Cardinal came to visit. The people of the parish were delighted! A large crowd gathered when he arrived… many people of other denominations also came. For the Eucharist the church was full, and lots of people were gathered outside as well. It lasted five hours! He spoke very eloquently on the problem of likundu* (witchcraft) and other problems.
Ana and Cristina were in Bangui and Simone was in Italy, and I was with the priests to receive him. With God’s help all went well! I hope people will put into practice what they heard. He visited the 10 parishes of the diocese. Ours was the one before the last. He ended his visitation in the cathedral of St. Jeanne of Arc, in Mbaiki. I know that he ended up being very tired, but happy with the participation he saw.
Last time we were in Bangui, at the supermarket we met a policeman from Janeiro da Cima (a place in Portugal). He said that he had already heard that there was around a missionary woman from Janeiro de Baixo (a neighboring place). It was great! He told us that there were soldiers stationed around the airport and yesterday we went to visit. They gave us a great and happy reception! They also gave us medical supplies and invited us to lunch. God willing, we will go tomorrow.
The results of our students are not encouraging and we hope they will improve during this quarter.
I know that you have seen and listened to many reports, none of them pleasant, about our poor country. By God’s grace, here we are at peace, but we mourn with our brothers who are being massacred!
We don’t know yet when we will return to Mongoumba…
Let us continue united in prayer.
A great missionary hug from all of us, to you and to all the readers of Astrolabio.
CLM Maria Augusta in Astrolabio
Year 5 – #139 – February 3, 2019
Parishes of Cabril, Dornelas do Zêzere, Fajão, Janeiro de Baixo, Machio, Pampilhosa da Serra, Portela do Fôjo, Unhais-o-Velho e Vidual
* The problem of likundu is that people are falsely accused of witchcraft and then they are brutally murdered.
The 5th formation meeting of this year took place in Viseu on January 18-20. Comboni Sr. Carmo Ribeiro directed this weekend so full, so rich, so intense, on the theme “Comboni: God, the Cross and the Mission.”
We started with something that I considered very relevant and that made me understand immediately that it was going to be a good weekend. Sr. Carmo started by giving us a slightly different and more complete title: “Comboni: God, the Heart of the Crucified Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, and the mission”. And from that we began to see the true greatness of Comboni and of his charism.
On Saturday we explored those that are and that have turned out to be the supporting pillars of God’s living presence in Comboni. First of all, Trust in God and the deep conviction that his life is from God. Comboni always made time for prayer, silence and, even in times of tribulation, he trusts completely and surrenders his life to the hands of God. Comboni’s vocation comes from there and he always makes recourse to him, he always lives in him and finds light for his path. This deep relationship fascinates me and shows me how far I still am from this commitment of life and this trust.
Secondly, the love of the Pierced Heart of the Good Shepherd gave identity to the Comboni charism. From this mystic experience of prayer rises this strong connection with the pierced heart of the Good Shepherd, and from this heart Comboni drank and drew strength and from here his vocation and his commitment to mission grew. This is the heart that shaped the life of Comboni and that should always shape ours. May we be capable of this trust and surrender.
Thirdly, the Love of the Cross, the cross that saves us. This conviction that the cross, suffering, difficulties, when embraced, are life-giving! Comboni experienced being insignificant, embraced the cross as his bride, and was saved by God, because of his Love.
Then comes the Cenacle of Apostles, namely, the community as the center where mission becomes reality in the context of its richness, fragility and difficulties, with what each member is and is capable of giving of oneself. It means to know that community begins with me and that our vulnerabilities cement our community more than our talents.
In the fifth place, Mary, as Mother of the Church and Mother of Africa, who prepared and then always followed her son Jesus, is also part of the cenacle. In Mary Comboni sees the mother of the Black race and the support of his missionaries. And it is in her that we, too, must look for our inspiration, help in our doubts, and place our lives in her hands.
Then comes St. Joseph, another pillar of the Comboni charism, he who protected the great treasure, the best God had: Jesus and Mary. St. Joseph always protected and administered his God given goods who were never his own, in silence, right intention and care that they lack nothing.
It is also in prayer and zeal that we find the other pillar of Comboni’s life in God, the conviction of the importance and strength of constant prayer and the determination to always watch over and protect the mission.
Finally, and not less important is the feeling of being Church, of belonging, of being one with the others. Above all, was the obedience and respect for the decisions of the Church, without ever forgetting the mission God had given him in order to achieve the Plan for the Regeneration of Africa.
Well, above all I treasure in my heart all these pillars of Comboni, and I feel that I must have them in my life as well. It was a very intense day, filled with things shared and a lot of learning. We need to lift all of this in prayer so that the journey will shine with the life of Comboni.
We closed the afternoon with a prayer, a sign over joys and crosses, a community prayer, where I felt this cenacle described by Comboni, where our frailness, joys, crosses and fears were shared with Jesus and one another. It was an incisive prayer, intense where I was able to see the reflection of the face of Jesus.
In the evening we saw “Of God and Men,” About a community of monks in Algeria, who lived through the difficult decision of leaving or of staying with the people and the mission to which they had been assigned. It is a very harsh movie, full of life, about faith, community, dedication, mission… It deals with how the love of God becomes present in each one of them and with total donation within each one’s frailty. The film, in a way, helped us to visualize the Comboni style of life we had discussed during the day.
On Sunday we heard the witness of Sr. Conceição. I treasure in my heart her intensity in speaking about mission, the marvels worked by God in her mission place and the feeling of risking it all in the name of mission. This risking at times looks like pure madness, but always with that trust in Jesus and in Comboni.
Besides all this, that was a lot and very good, we enjoyed a very fortunate weekend, when we shared coffee at the Comboni Sisters’ house where we were so kind to us. We enjoyed the presence of Fr. Luís Filipe, who stayed with us the entire weekend sharing his witness and of Sr. Conceição who shared so much about herself with us.
We also had the joy of sharing the Eucharist with Artur Valente, Fr. Luís Filipe and Sr. Conceição and so, in a way, to commemorate the beginnings of the CLM.
I could continue to write about what I experienced, felt and learned during this weekend but above all there is the certainty that Comboni’s life was intense, impacting, and that his faith led him along the most beautiful paths of life and of mission.
May I assimilate all this learning and pray to God to guide my way.