On the weekend of May 18-19, the CLM formation group gathered for its monthly meeting with the following theme: “Mission today: How? Why? For what? The Church in action.”
Even though the number was lower than usual, the gathering was quite rich in content. We started with the great question: Why mission? The various answers arrived to the same conclusion that it is the love of Jesus that moves us to go further out. And to help us remember that Jesus was the first missionary, the theme continued with the passage of the Road to Emmaus where the disheartened disciples recognize Jesus like the “One” who set their hearts on fire with his words.
Besides Bible passages we also reflected parts of the Encyclical Redemptoris Missio of Pope St. John Paul II over the enduring value of the Missionary Mandate, reflecting the key words about the meaning of Mission and of being a Missionary. In this encyclical, Pope St. JPII invites the Church to renew its missionary commitment, stating that “Mission is a problem of faith, the correct measure of our faith in Christ and in his love for us.”
On Saturday after lunch, we visited the house of the Comboni Sisters, who shared with us some of their experiences, and witnesses of missionary life.
After this time, we returned to our theme and moved on to the reading of the Pastoral Note of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference on the Mission Year and the Extraordinary Mission Month, inviting all Christians to live a year of constant encounter with Jesus. To be in a permanent state of mission, to live the mission and mission renewal.
That evening we saw the film “Francis and Clare,” a show that made us reflect on their lives embattled for the love of Jesus and their dedication to the emarginated.
The Sunday started with a beautiful dedication to our Mother, Mary Queen of Missions, by starting our first prayer of the day in front of an image of her outside the house. After breakfast and up to the Eucharist, we studied excerpts from the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and we contacted by a video call Pedro Nascimiento and Carolina Fiúza who shared their experiences from their arrival in Ethiopia. Then we ended this very fruitful meeting with the Eucharist and the certainty that we were leaving with the joy of Jesus who made us and wnts us to be missionaries, every day and everywhere.
It has been two months now since I am in Africa. My first stop was Democratic Republic of Congo. First thing that surprised me when I landed in Kinshasa was the temperature, it was very, very high. I was already in Kenia twice so far, so I supposed I would not be very surprised by African reality, and for sure not by the weather!
At the airport, there were waiting for me two persons: father Celestin, responsible for CLM movement in DRC and Tiffany – CLM Coordinator. They took me to the provincial house of the MCCJ where I was welcomed very warmly by all CLM and Comboni fathers’ community.
During these two months spent in Kinshasa, I focused mainly on learning French, but also on experiencing community life, in big international group. It showed me that diversity is truly beautiful. So many different cultures, different languages, habits, it can really work and give joy to the people who live together. We can find something that connects us: first of all – God, other people, happiness of being together, common mission and care of God’s work. Of course, life with other people is not easy, but the awareness that we share the same goal helps a lot.
As I mentioned before, time spent in Kinshasa was mainly to learn French, quite difficult experience for me, but it really taught me many things.
At the beginning, I tried to mix up French and English, but most of the time I still used simple English instead of French. The later, the harder, more and more people required from me to speak French, but that worked for the best! I was of course stressed and frustrated, but I knew that was for my own good and I am grateful for that time. Every day I tried to speak more and more in French, sometimes I felt shameful because of my spelling or grammar mistakes, but it was an additional motivation to improve my language skills.
Now I know, why it is so important to speak, even with mistakes, because someone can correct them. We need other people to help us with defeating the barrier of speaking (even with the mistakes). That is why community is so important.
In our Comboni spirit it is crucial to appreciate people we are among, their presence and support, their motivation. Alone, we do not have so much strength as we have together. Maybe you can find this as an ideal vision, so perfect that cannot be true, but that is my experience both from Cracow and Kinshasa.
This time showed me how adequate are the words: “God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called”.
When I had some free time on Saturdays, together with Enochi (CLM from Kinshasa) I served people on the street. It was a program called “meal from your heart”. It was prepared by one family for people who lived on the street. Kinshasa is a very big city, and people came from different parts, just to have a warm meal. During a couple of hours, we were giving around 250-300 plates. I realized how blessed I am that I have something to eat, access to drinkable water, place to sleep and clothes to wear. There is so many people in the world who cannot afford it. I have in mind pictures of young boys who “take a bath” and washed their clothes in the small moat near to the provincial house. I will remember it for the rest of my life.
Time in Kinshasa allowed me also to experience the happiness of people here, despite of difficulties, they need to go through. To see their energy and commitment.
Now, for over 3 weeks, I am in Bangui – capital of Republic of Central Africa. I will stay here also for two months to learn Sango – local language. I got to know my community – Christina and Simone, I will live and work with them in Mongoumba. On Friday 28 June, we celebrated together the Day of Holiest Heart of Jesus Christ. It was time for adoration, dinner and talk together.
I wanted to ask you all to pray for me, for the people I meet here, for all I am about to do here, my mission and my life. I will also pray for you.
On June 13, at 8:30 in the evening, the diocese of Bologna, with a Mission-sending Mass celebrated by Bishop Zuppi, sent me off as a Fidei Donum missionary.
This second tour Ad Gentes was born within the diocesan mission center, to which I belong, that decided to start a partnership with the diocese of Salvador, opening new ways of cooperation between the two dioceses.
This pleased me immensely because it would make it possible to open a new window on the Latin American reality, in this case on Brazil, for the missionary center that is currently only involved with the diocese of Mapanda, Tanzania.
It is also an “unusual” sending for the CLM, because this is not a commitment of the CLM or of the Comboni Missionaries, but rather the result of an external cooperation which could produce new openings in the future.
I will continue to belong to the Comboni Family as a CLM, keeping my contacts and ties with its organization, with the various groups and the central committee that approved my choice by stating that “mission belongs to God and not to human beings.”
I will be part of the Community of Trindade, that welcomes street people, and I will be involved in welcoming and listening to the people who are welcomed, besides taking part in workshops and services, including a street newspaper published by the Community.
It will be a totally new, hard, concrete and authentic experience, including sleeping on the floor, sharing common street problems arising from marginalization, dependence and resurrection but, as Comboni says, lived with daring and perseverance in the journey. And I add: with feet firmly on the ground and eyes gazing up to heaven.
“I wish you to wear a dress that will never be fashionable;
I wish you strong hope in your feet,
Pants of commitment and two-color sweaters:
The color of freedom and the color of co-responsibility.
And wear a beautiful hat, the one of knowledge and of a critical sense.
We must dress up this way all the time.”
(Fr. Luigi Ciotti)
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)
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!
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