Comboni Lay Missionaries

Rural Family House of Açailândia: a history of struggles

CFR Brasil

By Zé Luís Costa. From the MST website. (Edited by Fernanda Alcântara)

CFR Brasil

The Rural Family House [Casa Familiar Rural (CFR)] of Açailândia, in the state of Maranhão, was constituted as an association in 2001 after a small group of social activists met and began to discuss ways to improve the issue of rural education for the local reality.

From the beginning, the entities that started the proposal of the family house entered the debate of this political and social project, such as the MST, which had just settled in the city, the institute of the Comboni Missionaries, the Center for the Defense of Life and Human Rights and the Union of Workers and Rural Workers of the city.

The experience of this type of school is already old in the world and in the state of Maranhão they are present in several different cities. In other parts of the world this type of school is known as “Family Agricultural School”.

From the first discussions, the interested organizations held several meetings, even in cities on the outskirts, as Xoan Carlos (CLM) reminds us. “We held a series of meetings in the communities. There were another 60 meetings in the municipalities of Açailândia, São Francisco do Brejão, Itinga, Bom Jesus das Selvas. And finally the association was formed”.

He continues: “From there we obtained a piece of land, given by the Catholic Church. But we could not afford to build the building or pay the employees. So it was a few more years of struggle and articulation in the search for projects, and where we got some international support”.

CFR Brasil

Later, in 2003, the organizations involved in the idea managed to start what they dreamed of for the city and its surroundings, in view of the large number of settlements and rural communities they had in the vicinity of the city, now with 110,000 inhabitants. It was a dream for the distant future.

The pioneers of the idea achieved, with much struggle, agreements with the city council, as Xoan Carlos states. “In 2005 we started the first activities of the CFR. We started with an elementary school course, we had managed to structure several productive units in agriculture, beekeeping, cattle raising, pigs… Governor Jackson Lago had the intention of doing a high school course integrated to professional education, and a new moment started for the CFR”, he concludes.

With these articulations, in 2006 the high school course started, which was better adapted to the needs of the youth in the countryside. Mainly because, in 2001, many communities only had young people with the fourth grade at most. This was the need they have: a school with different characteristics from the conventional ones, for the countryside.

Jarbe Firmino was a student in the first class of the Açailândia Rural Family House, and later entered the Federal University of Maranhão (UFMA). He graduated in Education in countryside and returned to CFR, now as a monitor/teacher, and then took a position in the institution as general coordinator.

He tells about his experience criticizing the position of the public power: “This experience, to which I refer, of coordinator, as well as in other moments, was of great difficulty in terms of support from the public power. These were periods in which contracts were not honored by the State, which weakened the movement of which the CFR is a part,” he concludes.

After all this struggle, came the recognition and the conquests. The main one was the training of young people as agricultural technicians to work in the settlements with their families and in some state agencies. The Regional Council of Engineering and Agronomy, CREA, recognized them so that they could work officially providing technical assistance to the projects.

However, the desire of the coordination and the group that organizes the association and the CFR is that the students, trained, work with their families developing what they have learned, in family farms, as most of the settlements of the agrarian reform.

CFR Brasil

The CFR is managed by an association, and the president is currently Xoan Carlos. The coordination is chosen by the association and has ten teachers who are hired by the Maranhão State Education Secretariat.

History of the rural family houses

The Rural Family Houses originated in France in 1935, in a situation of strong rural exodus, when a group of families, with the support of the Catholic Church, met to rethink this situation. They called it “House” to differentiate it from the conventional school and because it began in the home of a family; “Family” because it was an organization of families and not of the government; and “Rural” because the object of the experience was in the rural environment as a whole: technical, human, cultural, etc.

Today, in France, there are 450 CFRs. Since the 1960s, the experience has spread to Spain and Italy under the name “Family Farm School”. There are about 1,000 CFRs in the five continents, in thirty countries.

In Brazil, the CFRs began to appear at the end of the 1960s, and today there are about 150 rural educational centers that operate with the “Pedagogy of Alternance”. In Maranhão there are approximately 27 schools with these formative principles. The pedagogy of alternation developed within the methods of Paulo Freire, in a construction of technical training, is united with training for life, in the case of Açailândia, expanded with the commitment to the struggles for a differentiated model of agriculture.

CFR Brasil

Book: We are mission


“Creation itself awaits with eager expectation the Revelation of the Children of God” (Rom 8, 19).


Dear members of the comboni family in the name of our Lord Jesus, we greet you warmly!

As you remember well, about two years ago, the first volume was published, entitled: “Be the change you want to see in the world“, where were collected the ideas which animate us and guide us in a particular way within the paths inherent to JPIC. These paths, in turn, were also made possible by the meetings of the World Social Forums (FSM) and the Forums organized as Comboni Family in conjunction with the FSM. In 150 years of History and Life, our Institutes have been enriched by a great ministerial experience thanks mainly to the dedication of many missionaries of our comboni family who have interpreted with creativity and apostolic passion the specificity of our Charism.

This second volume entitled: “We are mission: witnesses of social ministry in the Comboni family“, presents a significant range of concrete ministerial experiences, chosen among many others. Our desire is that sharing them will help us to value what we already do, thanks to the Gift of the Holy Spirit and our personal and community responses. In addition, this plurality of shared experiences helps us to appreciate the different Comboni ministerial actions that complement and enrich each other, revealing the richness of the Charism in a growing dynamism.

We ask our Provincial Superiors to take care in distributing printed copies to all communities and also the digital copy translated in four languages, so that all and everyone can enjoy the work done together and in collaboration with more than 40 Comboni missionaries.

We thank the members of the Commission on Social Ministry of the Comboni Family who worked with passion and expertise for the publication of this second volume and also facilitated the work of mapping of our Comboni initiatives on social ministry around the world. In December 2020, Covid-19 permitting, will be held the Forum on Social Ministeriality in Rome.

These initiatives and activities are part of a great journey of synergy and collaboration of the members of the Commission and of many confreres and sisters, who will surely bring enthusiasm and openness to newness to which the Lord is guiding us. All this requires, however, on the part of the whole Comboni Family a great opening of heart, mind, creativity, and commitment that we entrust to the intercession of our great founder San Daniele Comboni.

Mary, Woman of the Gospel teach us to announce your Son Jesus in our ministerial commitment!

Sr. Luigia Coccia, smc                        Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse, mccj

You can download the book following this link

Mission in Ethiopia

CLM Ethiopia

To discover the mission and take care of it is also to look at small faces and images that capture the immense joy of being a mission, in this case, among the GUMUZ. The Gumuz (inhabitants of the Benishangul-Gumuz region) are the people that God has destined to our CLM friends in Ethiopia as a place of mission and sharing. They went there to find love and today, in this video, we see a little (just a little…) of what missionary work is. The rest of what can be shared (and which is a lot) remains for a good conversation and listening to the testimony of these missionaries.

Ethiopian CLM

Pilgrimage of the Servant of God Ezekiel Ramin – 2020


“Martyr to the earth and to God’s dream! Remember the 35 years of his martyrdom!”


On 24 July 2020 we will celebrate 35 years of remembrance of the martyrdom of the Servant of God, Fr. Ezekiel Ramin, a Comboni Missionary killed in Rondonia for defending the lives of the indigenous peoples and landless families.

This year it will not be possible to celebrate the pilgrimage of Fr. Ezequiel as we always do in Cacoal/RO and Rondolância/MT, with many people because of the COVID 19.

The COVID at the same time calls us to prudence and solidarity, especially with the most threatened territories, with our beloved Amazonia, the Indigenous Peoples and the native populations. Therefore, we will celebrate this pilgrimage in a different way, involving many more people throughout Brazil.

Throughout the days we will have a programme with various activities that will be transmitted live, always at 8 p.m. (from Brasilia) and through the Comboni-Brazil YouTube channel. There will also be daily videos with testimonies in memory of Fr Ezequiel.

We are together in this pilgrimage of Fr. Ezequiel which will extend throughout Brazil. Let us walk in defence of life! In defence of the Amazon!


July 19th at 8 pm. – Missionary Vocation Vigil in memory of Fr. Ezequiel Ramin  International Comboni Scholasticate /SP

20 July at 8 p.m. – Conversation round with Don Roque Paloschi, Archbishop of Porto Velho/RO and president of CIMI, with CPT/RO and with Fr.  “35 years of the martyrdom of Fr. Ezequiel Ramin: a prophetic witness in defence of the indigenous peoples and landless families”.

TRÍDUO IN MEMORY of Fr. Ezequiel Ramin:

DAY 21/07 – 20h – 1st day of the Triduum (from the Community of Curitiba/PR)

Day 22/07 – 20h – 2nd Triduum day (from Contagem/MG Community)

Day 23/07 – 20h – 3rd day of the Triduum (from the Community of Piquiá/MA)

Day 24/07 – 20h – Eucharistic celebration of thanksgiving by Father Ezekiel Ramin and as a collective commitment in defense of Life. (from the SP Community).

Comboni Family Brazil

European CLM online meeting

LMC Europa

This past weekend we had the opportunity to meet online at a European level.

LMC Europa

The meeting organized by the European Committee for all the CLM from the different countries had as its central theme “The challenges of living our missionary vocation as lay people in Europe“.

We had the opportunity to expose each country’s reality.  Many of the contributions helped us to enter into the reality of the Church in Europe, the difficulties we are finding in sharing our faith, the decline of religiosity and religious culture among young people and the lack of vocations.

The geographical component of the mission is something that we are gradually overcoming and together we are discovering the missionary needs that we find in Europe. The old continent needs our missionary presence, the hope of the Gospel and solidarity, which is an expression of our faith, among the most vulnerable groups.

We had the opportunity to expose each country’s reality. Many of the contributions helped us to enter into the reality of the Church in Europe, the difficulties we are finding in sharing our faith, the decline of religiosity and religious culture among young people and the lack of vocations.

The experiences of each of the five groups give us new ideas to be present in these moments where people need a hopeful presence.

To rediscover the video calls as a way to remain united, to pray together, to continue our formation and to carry out solidarity actions. We have rediscovered the domestic Church, responsible and protagonist of its faith.

The confinement that at first disconcerted us gave place to numerous initiatives that allowed us to remain united and in prayer and at the same time initiatives that we were opening up to others who were also seeking to share and continue to grow in those moments.

We also shared the difficulties of mobility at this time and how this has affected our companions who were already ready to leave the country to serve in America or Africa.

These are moments in which we must be in solidarity with all those who are having a hard time. The difficulties are becoming more acute for many, especially for those who were already on the lowest rung of the ladder, such as the immigrant population and other precarious sectors. On the other hand, we must remain attentive to the needs of our brothers and sisters in other continents. The pandemic is hitting almost every country and even those that do not suffer a large number of cases are being punished economically by the need to confine their population. Now more than ever we understand how small and needy our common house is and the need for solidarity among us all.

We must be part of a change of priorities in today’s world, continue to be committed to the education of the young so that they grow up knowing this need, but at the same time continue to fight for a more fair world from wherever we are.

Europe is a place of missionary presence, of a missionary presence which is close to the people and a sign of hope among the most needy of the continent (materially and spiritually because we cannot forget that to nourish this spirit and the values which make a more united society possible is fundamental). But at the same time a missionary presence that continues to open Europe to the world, motivating towards responsibility for a better, more human and more fraternal world. That it puts an end to the inequalities that the economic system imposes in so many countries, placing the person at the center and where the economy and the structures are put at the service of human beings.

The mission remains more necessary than ever. To announce that we are all brothers and sisters, that we must be in solidarity with one another, building a better world for all, caring for nature which is on loan from future generations and allowing a dignified life for all the peoples of the earth.

Our meeting ended with a prayer where each one, in their own language, could share hopes, petitions and give thanks by placing everything in the hands of the Father who takes care of us and accompanies us.

Comboni said that if he had a thousand lives he would give them all for the mission. We want to offer ours and we want to encourage all of you who share these concerns to join us in this great work which is so necessary.

LMC Europa


Alberto de la Portilla