This is the day to thank the Lord for what we have accomplished as Comboni Lay Missionaries. Today we celebrate 21 years of history and mission, 21 years from that January 25, 1998 when we started this journey of discernment and formation for lay people in Maia, animated by the Holy Spirit and by St. Daniel Comboni.
It has been a very beautiful journey done at the foot of the Cross, before the Lord. And it is from this journey that mission is born – the one made of God’s works that “are born and grow at the foot of the Cross.” It consists in walking as a family, inspired by St. Daniel Comboni who leads us to “Save Africa with Africa” – this marvelous Africa that today no longer has borders and stands at our peripheries.
Many journeyed with us. Some left, others continue their commitment as CLM, but all, one way or the other, left swirls and drops that today make up this ocean of love we have become and binds continents together. We are grateful from the bottom of our hearts to all those who accompanied us and who keep on doing it.
During these 21 years, many were the CLM who lived their missionary vocation in places beyond our borders: in Mozambique, Brazil, the Central African Republic and Peru. Today, we continue to share our missionary spirit in these same countries: Marisa in Mozambique; Liliana in Brazil; Maria Augusta and Cristina in the Central African Republic; Paula y Neuza in Peru. Not to mention all those who remain committed in Portugal, in the peripheries, in their families, in daily life, attempting to live the mission God has given them, plus all the candidates trying to discern God’s call for them in Comboni’s charism.
Missionaries in Christ and through our baptism, we move forward as St. Daniel Comboni inspired us: “Keep your eyes always fixed in Christ, loving him tenderly and trying to understand always better what it means to have a God dead on the cross for the salvation of souls.” (Writings 2721)
And this saving of souls in Comboni was going well beyond simple evangelization: the salvation of humankind through the passion and death of Christ, which is born and lives through the identification of the missionary with this paschal mystery, in this dying in order to be born and live. “If the grain of wheat falling in the ground does not die, it remains alone, but if it dies, it produces abundant fruit.” (John 12:24)
With great enthusiasm let us continue our journey, following the footsteps of St. Daniel Comboni, hand in hand so that his work will not die, a journey of a difficult and enthusing mission among the people and the countries thirsting for Christ.
The Guide for the Extraordinary Missionary Month October 2019, “Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World”, promoted by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (CEP) and the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), is a subsidiary text collecting contributions from and for Christians all over the world. The drafting of the Guide was made possible also thanks to the cooperation of the PMS National Directors based in various countries of all continents.
The purpose of the Guide is to support the single dioceses in meeting their needs as to missionary formation and activities, thus preparing the faithful throughout the world to live the Extraordinary Missionary Month wanted by Pope Francis on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the promulgation of Pope Benedict XV’s Apostolic Letter, Maximum Illud (November 30, 1919).
The Guide will inspire the creativity of the local Churches and of their parishioners in facing the challenges inherent to evangelization, starting from “missio ad gentes” and their own particular context, without any claim to be exhaustive or to provide a systematic theological or catechetical reflection on the mission. The sections of the Guide correspond to the spiritual dimensions outlined by the Holy Father in calling the Extraordinary Missionary Month: the personal encounter with Jesus Christ living in the Church, the witness of saints and martyrs of the mission, the catechetical formation for the mission and the missionary charity. The text is published in English, Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
Yesterday, Sunday, November 4, at Comboni House in Guatemala City, we lived through the much expected day… following a time of training, mission promotion, sales, celebrations, noise, joy, service, difficulties, fatigue, bureaucratic papers, after so much anxiety, insecurity, but also a lot of trust, love, prayer and commitment… the CLM of Guatemala lived through a great day, shared by the whole community, but naturally, more than most, by Alejandro, Ana Cris, Esteban, Isabel, Agustín and Lucia.
I will quote from the beautiful homily delivered by Fr. Victor Hugo Castillo, the Provincial of Central America, who started his message with these words:
“All the works of God start small. Just like a child is small and defenseless, but slowly grows. And so it has been with the Comboni Lay Missionaries of Guatemala.”
“Mission brings about transformation in the way we think, the way we live our faith, the way we approach others.” And the decision to go needs time to take shape.”
God performs miracles every day, and does not begin from what is perfect and grandiose, but from simplicity, with financial obstacles, but in truth, when God wants to accomplish his purpose… and we make ourselves available, simply… as if not knowing… not being able… only trusting… allowing ourselves to be moved… a little at the time, discovering God’s plan… walking together… stumbling and picking ourselves up… this way, as a community we reach a day like today.
The first reading chosen by Alexandro and Ana Cris spoke of this process for ourselves as a community and especially for them as a couple:
Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”
But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you,
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the Lord.”
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
“Now I have put my words in your mouth.”
I continue with words from the homily:
“We are called to something great. To receive a blessing. We become blessings for others. To do mission means to put one’s life at risk. And life is worth living when we have projects. Projects are constantly in a state of construction. A project grows as we grow. In the project of a lifetime there is trust… Sacrifice”
These words summarize the journey done and the journey remaining. To live it in a community is wonderful. With everyone united in the same feelings, the same desire to see the mission adgentes being carried out, to see the Comboni charism and identity grow and be the instrument to announce to all nations Jesus who died and rose again, as Scripture says. United, we will all go out of our borders, in different ways, but cooperating so that those who can do it, will do it.
I am just reflecting and I am grateful that we are a generous community, unselfish, without envy, as a family, and wish the best for each one of our brothers. Alejandro and Cris have been courageous by being available to leave… we love them… we admire then and we are proud of them. While they will be there where God placed them, we over here will work hard so that they will not be in any need.
“The type of domestic mission that turns us into navel gazers. It is not a mission that grows. The only way to grow is through experience. The journey to mission entails a process: to feel called. To dialogue. To discern. To ask for advice, in order to start moving… and go.
We carry this mission treasure in clay pots. Let us remember that there is no mission without cross.” This is what Fr. Hugo added to his message.
Strengthened by love, we want to grow, to open to new members, new spaces… today it is Brazil, tomorrow, God already knows the place and who will go. We pray for discernment and light to keep forging ahead. Without comfortable settling down, but on the contrary moving along, with dynamism, while there is life there is mission, projects, work, meaning, a reason for living. What more can we ask from Heaven? Everything bubbles over, and so is the love of God.
Mary is an example of service:
“Only when we accept the call we are capable of moving forward in an attitude of service.”
Fr. Hugo commenting on the Gospel said that Mary went on a journey, without planning, only wanting to serve her cousin Elizabeth. She left… on her own, from her home and people… to go and serve. All baptized people are called to this, and then this beautiful charism, Comboni’s, that unites one to a bunch of “crazies,” because of the love we have received and experienced. Crazy to ensure that others will see it and experience it. Crazy with passion for mission. Crazy for Jesus. This craziness makes us go and serve, understood by few, criticized by many, but God knows the heart of the missionary and affords what is needed to live a particular vocation.
“Mission is madness. How often do we hear: why are you going so far? Isn’t there enough to do over here? The answer is, Yes, but my vocation calls me to go farther. And vocation cannot be explained or understood, it simply stands as a gift from God.”
Blessed are we, Comboni Missionaries for this inheritance of our founder, St. Daniel Comboni. It cannot be explained. Married, single, young, not so young, but this vocation lived as a gift, wherever we are, however we are, is what gives meaning to our lives and to the gift of our Baptism. It follows the theme of the infinite love of God who does not spare his generosity.
To end, Fr. Hugo encouraged all present:
“Mission also belongs to the laity. Pope Francis insists on the fact that the laity is a sleeping giant that must be awakened.”
The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are the cause of our joy
After a great weekend, from the Community of Ervedal, Alentejo, the parish that saw the CLM Pedro Nascimento grow up and today sends him off, our CLM Rufina shares with us the emotions of this special occasion.
Today Alentejo, and more concretely Ervedal, has celebrated.
It was already expected that it would be a success, but for sure it went well beyond all expectations, especially when you take into account such a beautiful church, so well decorated, where they are already the Extraordinary Mission Year, and whose pastor succeeds, certainly as a result of the work carried out over the years, to gather all the parishes under his care to take part responsibly and joyously in the missioning of Pedro Nacimiento to Ethiopia.
Without a doubt, the most important moment was the Eucharist presided over by Archbishop Francisco Senra Coelho with the participation of other invited priests, especially Fr. Francisco Medeiros, a Comboni Missionary from the diocese of Viseu.
The ceremony included also two deacons, relatives, friends and many CLM who, together with Pedro are part of the “Thousand Lives for Mission.”
A reception followed for everyone where lunch in the good local style was served, which we enjoyed a lot.
Pedro, as a CLM and being as well from Alentejo, I cannot forget to thank God for your missioning on this Extraordinary Mission Year, certain that it will be a time of growth and enrichment that will allow you, together with your Ethiopian people, to carry out a mission abounding in love, filled with the Comboni charism and enlightened by the smile the Lord lovingly placed on your face sweetening this soul of Alentejo that is so typically yours, in difficult moments.
As Pope Francis says, “Mission is to go meet the other.”
And how it has been mentioned in the Pastoral Note of the Episcopal Conference of Portugal on both the Extraordinary Mission Year and Mission Month, “Everyone, everything and always in mission.”
Therefore, go, my friend, go.
Let us keep in touch! Happy Mission!
Rufina (October 14, 2018)Thank you, Rufina, Thank you, Pedro. Thank you for your commitment
During this year 2018, we, the CLM community of Guatemala, have been spending mission days in the village of La Salvadora, in Santa Catarina Pinula, located about 15 Km from Guatemala City.
One Saturday a month, we visit the higher part of the village, the one called “La Salvadora 2.”
The program is always the same. We arrive at 8:00 AM, early enough to prepare with care some bread with “something” in it and a drink, to share it with all the villagers who show up. At 9:00 AM we start the program of evangelization, manual work, play, activities and then we leave around 4:00/4:30 PM.
On September 22 we had something special… something that made me feel alive, grateful and happy… a detail that revived in me the joy of being there, of sharing God through simple gestures of friendship, fraternity and generosity. These gifts that no money can buy are a sharing from God.
It turned out that, when we arrived, the children helped us unload the car. As we organized, some of us to start on the bread, which on that day held strained beans, several children offered to prepare it themselves for the first time in the whole year! Others immediately asked for the drink and offered to prepare the lemonade themselves. It was great to see them cooperate, enjoy and, in the end, be happy and satisfied. It was a gift! Just seeing their satisfied smiles for having helped to put together bread, beans and lemonade.
Mission does not consist in accomplishing great feats, but rather it is built from detail to detail, from stroke to stroke, from joy to joy.
So great, lasting, persevering and delicate is the love of God, the love we share with those who suffer discrimination, who are marginalized, those who have no opportunity to receive education and health care, those who need to receive the proclamation of the good news of Jesus who died and rose again.
It is not important if over the years these children will have forgotten these Saturdays… when some missionaries were coming to visit, and perhaps they will forget the day when they, themselves, prepared the bread, the beans and the lemonade.
I trust that in their hearts there remain a trace of each sign of love and closeness, and that in due time this memory will be transformed into a true encounter with Jesus, and they will be adults who will love him deeply throughout life. Only in this fashion will the world be transformed in a better place for all.
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