Perhaps our idea of mission and of the world is a little rosy, but for me mission is a rainbow of colors, emotions, instants and learning. Mission is more than the vast blue sky I embrace every day at the beginning and at the end of it, it is more than the brown color of the desert’s sand that covers the ground. It is also more than the green of the scenery where some trees fight to stay green, or the grey of foggy days hiding the volcanos.
Mission is an immensity of colors. It is the color of the faces that make me smile and the color of the stories I listen to hour after hour reminding me about what we are made of, and it is the color of all those hearts that teach me how it is possible to love more. But it is also the color of the smiles, the hugs, the tears and the color of the natural and human scenery. The daily mission to stick with them has a lot of colors.
They are the children who call to me in the streets or in the kindergarten, where I joyfully share my returning to being a child with them, giving myself without fear. They are the elderly who freely dance when they come to visit since, allow me to say it, for them we are often the only family they have. There are real stories of survival and struggle. Or the families when we gather to share it all, which is the sum of individual parts because it through this occasion that we meet and donate of ourselves without preconceptions or conditions, simply because that’s the way it is. It is also in the daily visits where I find the true meaning of my walking around and where I see the colors of the world here and now. Here in this little burg I daily live the experience of being me, with the essence of all the colors I feel inside and of those I allow myself to see in the world.
I confess to you that often I allow myself to be molded by them, by their experience of life and of God, that I allow myself to observe and where I have many teachers. So, I allow myself to get out of myself in order to learn from them. I always believed that they did not call me for nothing else but to love. To love these people, this culture and these customs. To love in all its aspects, in the falls in the errors, in the getting up and with the hope of being a better version of myself every single day. And even though over a year has gone by, I keep on learning from them – we learn together. Thus, each day I discover another color both inside and outside me, in this interchange of life, histories and faces where every day I discover the color of love.
PS. Love is not of one color. Love will also have the color you choose!
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.
In mission between Kenya and Ethiopia, our CLM Carolina Fiúza writes for the digital newsletter of the diocese of Leiria-Fátima (RED). We share the article with you.
I write to you as I am about to end my stay in Nairobi, Kenya. It was a tourist tip I really desired. For reasons beyond my control I had to exit Ethiopia, because the visa we as missionaries use to enter the country is a business visa valid for a month. For longer stays, such as my two years, upon reaching Ethiopia, during this month we must obtain a residence certificate. But my business visa expired and, in order not to remain in Ethiopia illegally, I had to step out into Kenya for a week, then come back and start again the residence process. The exigent bureaucracy makes it difficult for us to enter the country. Perhaps we can say that, generally speaking, the history of Ethiopia is marked by demanding regimes and imperialist systems that were very controlling. This the history that marks the population! Let it suffice to say that they lived under an emperor up to 1974 and it is one of the few African countries that were never colonized… Ethiopia has history, a great history!
Feelings of sadness and frustration added up the day I found out that I had to leave. Mostly, because I had already started to attend Amharic classes two weeks earlier. So I was going to miss a week of classes at the school, which is the door to enter into the culture, where they plant the sounds of the words in our heads, making a melody that I am beginning to love. It is not an easy language! I must admit that I feel the paradox between the enthusiasm of being like a little girl learning words by imitation (how to say colors, food, animal, etc.) and being doubtful. I feel that learning quickly this language will be a complicated affair.
It was not enough just to learn Amharic, a complicated language, that now I have to go to Kenya, miss classes, slow down my learning of the language! This way I do not know when I will be able to do what I came for – mission! – This is what I was thinking.
We fall into the temptation to think that mission is to do, to be successful, to plan everything at a practical level.
But let us not fool ourselves. I am fooling myself if I think that my true mission will start the day I will begin to live with the Gumuz and start a project with my group. We forget that it is not the great things that we see and touch that will produce much life. Not a few times it is in silence that we do the most.
I could tell you that it is easy to personally understand this paradox of waiting. This time spent learning the language makes me feel the lack of practical results. By I gratefully remember the words of my friend, CLM Cristina Sousa, who is currently in the Central African Republic, when she was saying with a play on words that she was leaving for the mission to graze (pastar). To graze, translates in our Portuguese saying that if you graze, you are doing nothing. But you can change it into P’astar, namely To Be. And reflecting on these wise words I tell myself, Carolina, you have already started! The same I say to all of you… for you, mission has already started from the moment when you came to be in the world as God’s creatures.
First you are surprised, then you understand. So goes the saying. Having accepted that the Lord wanted me to know a new and wonderful country like Kenya, now I can say that it was worth coming and it was for me a necessary visit. Nairobi is like a European or North American city – it’s green and organized, despite the heavy traffic, cars, people, but it does not have the heavy air we breath in Addis Ababa. Besides studying Amharic through the audios my classmates sent me when they had internet connection, I got to know the center of Nairobi with two Kenyans, members of the Parliament Mass choir, in which I took part at the invitation of Comboni Fr. Giuseppe Caramazza. It is also a business city, and it is enough for this to glimpse at the great Kenyatta Convention Center, a 28 story building, which is the venue for many assemblies, seminars, exhibits and international meetings.
Speaking of Mass, its red soil is already a symbol of its preparation and celebration. Many people gather very early to prepare what will be the real celebration. One of the choir members told me: When you go to attend a festival or a concert, you get ready, don’t you? Therefore, we must do the same, or better, for the Eucharist, because there is no greater feast. And here, this is the rule. This is a Eucharist where nobody just comes, but participates, from children to grownups. They all have something to contribute to the banquest with their voice, dancing, palms, etc.
A transversal reality, not only in Kenya, but also in Ethiopia is that at the Eucharist you do not look at your watch. It is not the kind that lasts 50 minutes or an hour, where often we see people busy with their watch, in the hope perhaps that the Feast may be close to the end. Not so! Here the Eucharist lasts about one and a half to two hours. The rhythm is given by happy songs and dances, a well defined rhythm that awakens the soul… and then I become aware that my own body is swaying, waking up. And suddenly, after we have been filled up by this banquet that gives us life, the feast in the Lord’s house is over and those who had been invited to it linger at the entrance to converse. I look at my watch, time just flew by!
And so it is. Time here flew! Just like the hugs I am sending to you, filled with good memories.
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)
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