Comboni Lay Missionaries

WE ARE MISSION: witnesses of social ministry in the Comboni family


“We would wish to share with you the following remarks. Our Comboni Family (MCCJ-CLM-CMS-SCM) has a long and valuable tradition of engagement in various pastoral activities with a strong social dimension. We also have a well-established history of 12 years of participation in the World Social Forum and the Comboni Forum “

“… In the 2018 Comboni Forum, held in Salvador de Bahia (Brazil) on the occasion of the World Social Forum, the participants suggested that all members of the Comboni Family engaged in social ministry could reflect on their activities. To look at this ministry from the light of the Gospel and of our specific Charism, the participants proposed an analysis and evaluation all the activities in which we are engaged. At our recent meeting of the two General Councils in April 2019 and of the General Administrations of the four branches of the Comboni Family in June 2019, we welcomed this proposal and we decided to create a commission that could draw up a roadmap and coordinate the various activities to implement the proposal… “

The nominated commission consists of:

Daniele Moschetti, (, mccj

Sr. Hélèn Israel Soloumta Kamkol (, smc

Marco Piccione (Venegono): (, lmc

Sr. Maria Teresa Ratti (, smc

Fernando Zolli (, mccj

What is reported is an extract from the letter with which the general superior of the MCCJ (P. Tesfaye Tadesse) and the general superior of the Comboni Sisters (Sr. Luigia Coccia) communicated at the same time the birth of the commission for the ministry and the purposes of this commission.

Over the months, some people have added to the commission who have made an indispensable contribution in terms of experience and knowledge in order to achieve the most complete and exhaustive possible work.

The three concrete activities that the commission had undertaken to achieve its objectives are:

  • Map all the social ministerial activities of the Comboni Family
  • Publish the 2nd volume, which follows the 1st from the title: “Be the change you want to see in the world”
  • Organize participation in the World Social Forum (FSM) 2020

For the first activity many of you have already been involved and we take this opportunity to thank you for your valuable contribution. From the collection of all the files received by the commission, a database will be drawn up thanks to which it will be possible to have a photograph of all the social and JPIC activities in which the Comboni family is engaged in the world.

But this post wants, above all, to give you the good news that has been completed and that is now available, the 2nd volume of the book on social ministry of the Comboni family entitled “WE ARE MISSION: witnesses of social ministry in the Comboni family“, which presents with more detailed informations, some projects in which fathers, brothers, sisters, seculars or lay people are engaged and which have been considered particularly significant to illustrate the methods and style to live the aspect of the Comboni charism which provides for a concrete social commitment. Alongside the presentation of these projects, there are some reflections from witnesses who will certainly be able to help in reflection and discernment on these issues that are so important and, I would say, characterizing our being Combonians.

The book is available in four languages ​​ (Italian, English, French and Spanish). It will be distributed in the Comboni houses but some copies will be reserved for the laity.

Unfortunately, the last activity foreseen for the commission, namely the participation in the WSF initially scheduled for 2020, is currently pending. In fact, due to the sad health situation that is affecting the whole world, the forum has been postponed to 2021.

Instead, the forum of the Comboni family usually scheduled immediately after the WSF, it was decided to do it in another period. At this time, it has been set from 12 to 16 December 2020.

Hoping that the tool of the book will help us in our daily mission and in feeling even more family united by the gift we have received of the Comboni charism, we greet you and send you our best wishes and prayers so that even from this difficult moment we can get out more fortified in faith and in the certainty of being accompanied by a God who walks with us.

Marco Piccione, CLM

Agroecology in Brazil


The agroecology is still very shy in the Tocantina region of Maranhão. We hope that this initiative can facilitate the adoption of this innovation, which is at the same time a set of agricultural practices, a science and a social movement. For this, collaboration and dialogue with different actors is very important, such as teaching and research institutions (Family Rural Houses, IFMA, UEMASUL …), unions, settlements, rural social movements, technical assistance organizations, municipal secretariats of agriculture and society in general. But especially with innovative and restless farmers. We are ready to add on this common journey.

With subtitles in Portuguese, Spanish, English, Italian and French.

CLM in Brazil

Our experience as CML in Colombia during this quarantine

LMC Colombia
LMC Colombia



May 11, 2020

Dear Comboni Lay Missionaries

The year 2020 began with our presence as Comboni Lay Missionaries of Colombia in the neighbourhood of El Oasis, on the eastern outskirts of the municipality of Soacha, near the city of Bogotá. The Comboni priest Franco Nascimbene has been working there for five years and we are now sharing our experience of immersion with him. During this time, as a team, we have been thinking of ways to accompany all those affected by the current situation of COVID-19.

At the beginning of the quarantine we asked ourselves about the meaning of our presence in the middle of the community, since given the indications of the government we all had to be at home, temporarily suspending the pastoral activities planned for the year (catechesis, afro choir, eco environmental project and afro group).

Especially since we are in a neighborhood where the majority of the inhabitants depend on informal work and which is made up of minorities such as migrants (mostly Venezuelans) and those displaced by the violence of the departments of the Colombian Pacific. Although the incidence in terms of health has been minimal for the inhabitants of the neighborhood meanwhile there are no reported positive cases of people from the sector, the social and economic impact has brought an increase in the situation of poverty and in the guarantee of basic rights such as food, housing, health, recreation and education among others. When analyzing this reality as a team, we observe that the presence of the state continues to be minimal, and the food aid that has arrived in the neighborhood is not enough to supply basic food for the families.

Facing this reality, the following significant experiences have arisen and we would like to share with you, full of great joy:

Community prayer in the stable: During the first week of quarantine, during the prayer of the Comboni Missionaries’ team, the idea arose to share moments of prayer that would allow the people of the stable to generate more solidarity and hope. This idea was shared with neighbors from another church (evangelicals) who live on the same street and who joined the initiative. From the second week of quarantine onwards, this idea was born:

  • Every week two people on the block lead the prayer time.
  • There is a praise of gratitude accompanied by instruments such as the cununo, the bass drum and tambourines.
  • Each person from their home makes a prayer of gratitude and is accompanied by the chorus of the opening song.
  • The two facilitators of the weekly prayer share a biblical quotation and generate a reflection.
  • Then each family makes a prayer of petition.
  • The prayer ends with praise and a basket is placed in the middle of the street so that each neighbor can give something to eat to a family that needs it.

This experience, which we continue to live, has allowed us to get to know our neighbors, since for reasons of study or work, it was not possible for us to share these spiritual and community moments. In addition, two people have committed themselves to prepare the prayer every week, and from the second week onwards, a sound system and microphone are loaned out, with the participation of people from other streets. The most important thing is that from this community act, solidarity is experienced among the people who contribute with some of their food to benefit two families who need it every week.

Solidarity sharing: at the same time that we were asking ourselves as a team about creative ways to help our neighbors, we unexpectedly began to receive messages from people close to us, such as friends or relatives who, from Bogotá, were concerned about the situation in the suburbs. Then it occurred that we become bridges that would allow economic aid to reach them.

The first two weeks we went to the nearby supermarkets to buy supplies to help some previously known families. From there we focused on the people who would benefit from this aid with the collaboration of some Afro leaders with whom we had been working. We thought about the afro population that as a consequence of the quarantine have been left without jobs. That is how one afternoon we shared around 40 markets among our black brothers of the sector. Markets have also been shared with migrants, older adults, recyclers and mothers who are heads of households.

The tenderness of the poor: In Father Franco’s house, a table was set where each person could take 3 foods that they needed or leave something that they wanted to share. From this initiative, many small gestures of solidarity emerged, where those who had something else shared it with someone who needed it more, for example: 5 eggs, a pound of tomatoes, a package of rice. People who got help shared part of what they received with those who had more difficulty than them.  Currently, Father Franco spends his afternoons visiting different families in their homes to get to know their reality. In this exercise, he has met people who, having enough, have invited him to share with others who really need it.

As a team, we have been part of this experience of cooperation, we have experienced the joy of receiving food from people close to us, many times we have given what was due to us by emptying our hands but seeing how this giving multiplied into a new receiving.

Now we find ourselves thinking about how to support the academic process of the children, since with the strategy of distance education those who do not have an internet connection and the economic possibilities to pay for the copies they require, have been excluded.

United in prayer and mission from Colombia,

Alexandra Garcia, Vanessa Ardila, Father Franco Nascimbene

The Laity and Ministeriality


The Laity and Ministeriality

We shall attempt to make a reflection on ministeriality from a lay perspective, especially from the point of view of the Comboni missionary vocation. However, before going into these ministries and services from the point of view of the faith, I think it is important to view the framework of the topic.

Our lives move in a certain direction once we have a personal encounter with Jesus of Nazareth. We share society with many men and women of good will. All of them have their own values that direct their actions and life choices. For us there exists a “before” and an “after” having come to know Jesus. Just like the first disciples, one day we met Jesus on our path. Our hearts leaped and our lips asked: “Where do you live?” And his reply was: “Come and see”. From that moment our lives were changed.

The ways are many by which we came to this encounter: for many it was due to our families, our Christian communities, our friends or the circumstances of life that happened to us … undoubtedly, the case history is endless. But that which is really decisive is the response we made, essentially in freedom, and the consequences of this response in the life of each one of us. The response is free and nobody forces us to make it; it is a grace we have received and, consequently, the recognition of a new life.

The lay person is, first of all, a follower of Christ. It is not a matter of following an ideology or simply of fighting for just causes that contribute to a new humanity that is more just and more dignified for all and neither does it mean following all the precepts of religion that can assist us in our relationship with God. To be a Christian means, before all else, following Jesus, going out of our comfort zone and starting our journey. It means taking just what is necessary to travel light and to be always open and available as we follow Him. Jesus shows us, as we make our way, what our responsibilities are in announcing and building up the Kingdom.

We believe we are in a constant discernment that is not a state of constant dialogue with God. It is true that there are special moments of discernment in the life of every person such as those regarding one’s main vocation, as in the case of marriage or the vocation to which we feel called, such as the missionary vocation, or the sort of profession by which we feel we can serve others, choosing one sort of studies rather than another, one sort of work rather than another. It is fundamental for the life of each person to understand their particular call to become a nurse, a doctor, a teacher, a company director, a lawyer, an educator or to become a social worker, a politician, a skilled worker or whatever.

These are vital moments which, during our adolescence, our youth or when we are young adults, present themselves meaningfully. However, apart from these moments that will keep us on the right track in difficult times, we want to listen at all times throughout our journey. We have no desire to compromise. Life continually presents new challenges and new calls that come from Jesus. For us as missionaries, having our bags packed is part of our vocation. We are called to accompany people and communities for a given length of time, and then we leave, since our leaving is an essential part of our life. Going out means continuing to grow. We do not stay the same for years because we know that needs also change. We are called to leave our homelands and travel to other countries and other cultures; we are called to carry out new services, to return to our original homes and to assume new commitments: this is all part of our vocation. With every call, every new change, we must understand the plan of God for us. Why does He ask us to go to another continent or to return to our original countries when we were doing so well with those people, when we even thought we were greatly needed where we were and why does our life call us to move and start all over?

Why is it, that when we think we have arrived at our final destination, there is something inside us that questions and disturbs us? It is the Lord who speaks to us. We have a relationship of friendship with Him that makes us grow. As friends, we share the life and new projects that cross our paths. There may be moments of greater stability or times of new challenges. We have not come into this world to rest but to bring our lives to fruition and to be able to struggle so that others may enjoy its fruits.

We respond to this call, not just as individuals, but also from within a community. We do not travel alone. This is part of our Christian vocation, our belonging to the Church, just as we feel part of all humanity. As part of the Church, we feel called to common service. As Lay Comboni Missionaries (CLM), we feel we belong to the Church of Jesus. We also feel that this specific vocation we have received is a communitarian vocation and responsibility. We have a personal call but we also have a call as a community and as communities of communities. We recognise the Church as the sacrament of salvation, each person with their own individuality, gifts and charisms for announcing and building up the Kingdom of God.

Jesus calls his disciples to live and to make the journey as a community. We know that only with the help of the Lord we can walk and that, as a community, we need that deep spirituality that unites us to Jesus, to the Father and to the Spirit. It is a journey where prayer, a life of faith and the community become nourishment and a reference for the life of the CLM.

The centrality of the mission in Comboni. The Church at the service of the mission

Comboni clearly understood the centrality of the mission and the necessity of the mission in the Church. Before the needs of our poorest brothers and sisters we are called to a response. This response is so necessary and complex that we are not called to give it individually but as a Church. Each and every one of us Christians is called to respond to this call. It matters not what our position in the Church is; each one of us must give a faith response. Jesus calls each one to go forward. And it is because of the complexity of existing needs that the Spirit raises up in the world and in the Church different vocations, as well as different charisms which may make their own contribution to this reality.

Identifying the Church with the clergy, or with religious men and women shows a failure to understand Jesus and that the voice of the Spirit is not being listened to. The work and the vocation of the priesthood or religious life with all its many aspects is fundamental for the world, but not more than the commitment of each and every member of the laity. The Church is not only responsible for the religiosity and spirituality of persons: we have responsibilities towards the whole world: society, the family, the environment, education, the health service and so on.

Everyday’s things are things of God. Little things are things of God. Attentiveness towards each person, in concrete and in global needs, is the responsibility of the followers of Jesus. In all these areas, the role of the laity, both men and women, in spiritual and material matters, is fundamental … this is how Comboni understood it and how we, too, understand it.


The Lay Person in the World

In this global call we have received, the Church presents itself as a reference community. It is nourishment for service. The place where strength is renewed and where one may find nourishment in a special, if not unique, manner.

As lay people, we are called to send out roots that fix and enrich the land; we are called to create networks of solidarity and relationships that link up society by means of families and communities in small condominiums, in city quarters, social organisations, businesses … we are great creators of networks of relations, collaboration and work. We live as people involved in all these networks and we are called to animate them, to give them spirituality so that they may be at the service of people, especially the weakest. We are called to include all people. Our gaze must be fixed on the poorest and most abandoned of whom Comboni spoke, on those excluded from this society and it must be a gaze that urges us to be present in the peripheries since things are seen differently from below. We must not be content with a society where not all people have a dignified life, with a society where ‘having’ and not ‘being’ is rewarded, together with ‘consumerism’ that is devastating this destroyed planet that cries out, proclaiming our global responsibility.

This view, which must question our way of life, demands concrete action.

The call of the laity is a call to the service of humanity, a call which, for some will involve service within our Church. We must not think that a good lay person is one who helps in the parish and so loses sight of our vocation to serve the world. Some internal services are necessary but the Church is called to go out, to go out into the roads with Jesus, to go from village to village, helping in things great and small. We are called to be the salt that gives taste, the yeast in the dough … we are called to be in the world and contribute to it in a meaningful way. We must not stay at home where we are comfortable, where we all understand one another. We are called to go out. The Church is not born for itself but to be a community of believers who follow Jesus and serve the most needy. It is for this reason that we feel called to help the growth of human communities (including Christian communities).

What is our response to this call as CLM?

Today there is a broad reflection throughout the Church on what is specifically missionary, on what are and ought to be our services, or specific ministries, as missionaries. The geographical notion of mission has been abandoned in these times as well as that of the rich north and the poor south in need of development since inequality and other difficulties are to be found in all countries, even though most wealth and opportunity are still concentrated in some countries while, in others, there is much greater hardship … Furthermore, extreme poverty is spreading among the homeless in the so-called rich countries and forced migration due to poverty, wars, persecution for various reasons, climate change and other factors are causing a phenomenon always present in humanity, to worsen. The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of our global humanity that goes beyond all barriers and frontiers. It strikes all of us in the same way. To date, we thought that money alone could travel without a passport but now it seems that the virus can do the same.

It is only in a just world that we can live in peace and prosperity. Inequality of wages, conflicts and unbridled consumption that is even melting the polar icecaps, etc., will end up influencing and causing serious consequences for all of humanity. Police roadblocks, whether at the borders or in the urban housing areas of the wealthy, will not bring about a better world either for all or for those who hide behind them.

Seeing all this, the debate and reflection on what, for the laity, is specifically missionary in this new epoch is clear. I do not pretend to discuss the theme theoretically; I will simply present some of the activities in which we are active as lay people, as we try to respond to the call we have received.

This is our ministeriality, the service to which we feel called, the response of life and not of theory, which we are making. I will not dwell on this but I wish simply to indicate some clarifying examples; many others will not be mentioned … it is not for nothing that we are called to be hidden stones.

We have friends who work among the pygmies and the rest of the population of the Central African Republic, a country where we have been present for more than 25 years. We are in the midst of people who are considered servants by the majority of the population; acting as a bridge of inclusion or assuming responsibility for a network of primary schools in a country which has suffered a number of coups and has been in a state of war for years which prevents the regime from providing these services.

In Peru, we accompany the people in the outskirts of the great cities and in the abusive settlements where those coming from the country grab a piece of ground from the city so as to have a home without electricity, water or sewerage. There are many families struggling for a dignified life, people who have left their small towns to go to the city to find food and give their children a better life. It is a place where there is much solidarity and hospitality between neighbours but also problems related to alcohol, macho violence and the break-up of many families.

In Mozambique, we collaborate in the education of the youth, both boys and girls who, leaving their distant communities, hope to gain an education and rebuild their country. They need schools for professional training and hostels where they can live during the school year, since their homes are so far away. To accompany these young people and the Christian communities is part of our calling.

We are also present in Brazil, in the struggle with the large mining companies who banish the communities from their lands, poison the rivers and the air, cut communications and isolate communities with their long trains that carry away the minerals of the area without any care for the environment or the people.

Besides all this, in many European countries we are involved in receiving immigrants. We try to give back something of what we ourselves received when we were strangers in foreign lands. We are called to welcome those who flee from poverty and wars, those in search of a better future for their families and who, on their arrival, find themselves up against a wall, made not just of concrete or barbed-wire but also of fear and the lack of understanding by the population.

They try to build a bridge with a population who are hospitable and agreeable, by being present in the social and ecclesial organisations that have mobilised themselves to welcome their new neighbours and help them integrate. They engage in such varied activities as that of welcoming people on the very shore of the sea, helping them learn the language, to look for a job or a home or helping them with administrative issues, acknowledging the enrichment they bring to us and how they add to the value of the new society. They also value the immigrants for what they are and for their cultures and try to be reference persons for the latter in a world that does not always understand them.

When society collapses and the human being is defeated, we do not know what to do with those persons. Locking people up is the solution we have provided, as a society. The fact is that prison often becomes a school of delinquency and not of rehabilitation, as it ought to be. Among them there are the APAC prisons which started in Brazil and which, little by little, are increasing. It is a prison system where the prisoner is seen as a person to be recuperated and not as an inmate, one who is called by name and not by number. As the protagonists of their lives, they are helped to understand the error of their ways and the need to ask for forgiveness and to be reinstated as active members of society. This is a method whereby the community accomplishes a change and builds bridges, recuperating their sons and daughters who have done wrong; where the people to be recuperated have the keys of the doors and, little by little, together with the others, understand their dignity as children of God, repentance and their worth as people fit for society.

The style of life in countries with the greatest resources is draining this squandered planet. International commercial relations are impoverishing many for the benefit of the few … promoting a new lifestyle is fundamental in changing the paradigms and values that are seen to be the only ones that are valid for a social outcome and for happiness. In a society where ‘possessions and consumption’ are seen as greater than ‘being’, it is necessary to propose new lifestyles. Here, too, we are involved in Europe: we propose new lifestyles of commitment, responsible consumption, a responsible economy, etc.

By doing so, we shall follow activities connected to: committed education among the excluded of our cities; consideration for the sick, showing them the face of God who accompanies them and the hand of God who heals them; consideration for the homeless, the addicts and others.

As missionaries, we are aware, and we must also make others aware, of the situation of this globalised world that requires joint action in which all our little grains of sand create little hills which we can climb to survey and dream of a different world.

We aim to climb up with the people with whom we live daily. We feel we are called to do so especially with those who are immersed in their inability to see the horizon, to emerge from their difficulties; we are called to look up and go forward, to animate and accompany these communities. We are called to be present where nobody else wants to be.

All of us are called to strive, in a global manner, against problems that are themselves global, to join together and be promoters of networks of solidarity together with our fellow human beings with whom we share a common home, a home that seems to become smaller with every day that passes.

At the centre, we place Jesus, the person who changed our lives. Every man and every woman has a right to God. We feel a duty to make known the Good News, to present a living God who is in our midst, who walks with us and, as Jesus of Nazareth has shown us, never abandons us but is with us always. Within every person, in the poorest and in the community, God awaits each one of us, to transform our lives and to fill them with joy, a joy that is deep. God is waiting to give us living water, the water that quenches the thirst of every human being.

May the Lord give us the strength to be always present and accompany others, to be instruments that lead others to meet Him and keep us always close to Him on our journey.


Alberto de la Portilla, CLM

The epidemic of coronavirus as an impulse to act!

LMC Etiopia

I would like to tell you about how God works when Satan tries to destroy on the example of my mission.

As we know, coronavirus is slowly reaching everywhere. Some people believe that God wants to punish the world for sins or has sent a plague on us to convert us. I do not believe that. However, I believe that God can bring good out of every evil. The epidemic obviously destroys, kills and is generally bad, but I think everyone will admit that it also has many advantages – it unites us, rebuilds relationships in the family and more. We could definitely multiply the examples. And this is God’s work. Not the epidemic, but all the good that came from it.

LMC Etiopia

The coronavirus reaching Ethiopia pushed us to action. Last year, I founded “Barkot” Children of Ethiopia Foundation. Together with my husband, we have been running a children’s center in Awassa since October last year. The project assumes the gradual rehabilitation of children and the pursuit of their reintegration into family and society. From the beginning we run open activities to which we were inviting street children. We hired a few employees who were going out into the street to encourage them to participate in it. And in fact a lot of them came from the beginning. We organized recreational, sports, educational, psychological, artistic and other classes.

The next step was to choose regular participants, contact their families and extend the program especially for them, including meals. The third step was to receive the most persistent ones into the center with full accommodation, to prepare them directly for returning home and to school.

But … there was always a but. We were worried whether we would have enough funds for this. In addition, I went to Poland to give birth to our daughter. Except of working for our organization, my husband has another job and, apart from coordinating the work of the center, he could not sit there constantly. In addition, he was going to Poland for a month. So we waited until I returned to Ethiopia. Then more problems – sometimes the police catch the street children at night and place them in collective shelters. If we start the second step, it is not known if our children will disappear overnight (which unfortunately has already happened). Our budget still seemed insufficient to provide some stability for a long time. So how could we work? I noticed that even among the employees there was a certain resignation, lack of motivation, they did not work with such commitment as at the beginning …

And finally the coronavirus appeared in the country. The government closed schools and began to introduce restrictions. For us, conducting classes for children coming directly from the street, especially from the most crowded places, all our activities were put into question. Many organizations stopped working. What to do? Shall we close the center until it’s all over? Then we would have to pay the house rent and workers’ salaries. We would not avoid constant costs that are not so small.

Then we got the idea (I believe that it was from the Holy Spirit) to choose the children to whom we would give shelter during the epidemic. We started preparations, shopping, searching for funds via the Internet. We have become active on Facebook, people have started to be interested in us again and make donations. We have already received seven boys and of course we do not want to keep them only in the center, but work with them so that after some time they can return to their families and start school. Everyone has regained their willingness to work. We have set weekly program and specific plans on what to do with children. A positive change can already be seen from our boys. In total, we are preparing to have ten of them. The coronavirus was still not found in Awassa (and we hope it won’t!)

LMC Etiopia

We have overcome this transition step and I think it is better like this. We needed such an impulse as in this case coronavirus to trust God again that He will lead us and give us what we need to implement His plan. We don’t have money for a long time, but we believe in God’s action and human goodness. After all, our foundation is called “Barkot”, which in English means “He blesses it”.

Magda Soboka, CLM in Ethiopia