Comboni Lay Missionaries

Visit to Amakuriat

CLM Kenya
CLM Kenya

Greetings to all!

I do not want to end this series on my visit to Kenya without telling you about my brief visit to West Pokot.

It was going to be a much longer trip but, due to unforeseen events that never fail to materialize, we had to cut it short and return to Nairobi. In any case, the trip was intense and interesting.

I traveled with Fr. Maciek and Bro. Cesar from the community of Amakuriat.

It was a 15-hour trip in a Land Cruiser that turned out to be a little crowded for the three of us, but that we shared joyfully.

As usual, the vehicle was loaded up to the top, as it is normal in the missions to take advantage of each trip to buy what cannot be found in the bush, both for your community and also for the other communities in the area that also need help. So, it is normal that a missionary’s car will fill up any time it goes from one place to another.

And why not, we even had time to stop for some visits along the way and deliver some messages as we did with the bishop. We did not see him because he was elsewhere, but at least we signed the guest book of the diocese.

CLM Kenya

We left at 6:00 in the morning and arrived at the mission compound at 9:00 in the evening. The truth is that for the most part the road was not too bad, but traffic slowed us down. The last few hours were on a dirt road that made us understand how, as we left problems behind us, there were many more ahead. There was an especially complicated stretch of about a half hour where it would have been nice to have a 4×4, because the rain had left the road in a sad state with pits and stones. Fortunately, it had not rained too much and the road was not blocked by some of the rivers like when it rains a lot and there is no way to enter or leave the area for hours or days.

The next day, after eating with the community, which welcomed me and made me feel at home, we visited the “business area’ of the town and, in the afternoon, some Pokot communities.

This is the community where Fr. Tomás Herreros had worked for many years. He was provincial in Spain when we were getting ready to leave for the missions, and I had listened to his witness of life among the Pokot which now I could see in person in this mission. He is most certainly well remembered and cherished and has left a great legacy among his people.

The village of Amakuriat is not unlike any other African village, with its little stores, a small hostel and some local restaurants where to eat.

To walk through the streets is a slow process because every five minutes you bump into someone who wants to greet Fr. Maciek, ask questions, exchange the time of day or agree to get together later to talk.

This parish is a possible place where we could be if some day we will have sufficient personnel to open another missionary community in Africa. And that is why it was important to see it.

In the afternoon we visited a couple of traditional Pokot villages. It is always a wonder to see how they keep their customs, their buildings and way of life. Even though there are schools in the area, a lot remains to be done. Education is the door to the future and to the development of people here that are still living as they did centuries ago. Cattle is still the main source of wealth, polygamy is still prevalent and the work of women to sustain the family is still central.

CLM Kenya

To get to the villages can be difficult, through tracks that have to be picked among the acacias and that makes us stop now and then to engage the four-wheel drive to move ahead.

We were able to visit a few villages and, as always, we were amazed by the welcoming and kindness. Whatever little they have, they share it and so they did with a coup of milk from their own cows, slightly fermented already because they have no refrigeration of any kind and keep it in a bowl. They cook on a wood fire, sleep on cow hides or on rudimentary beds, without light or drinking water, all within a corral enclosed by thorny barriers to protect themselves from hyenas. This is how they still live. Fortunately, they tell me that the area is now at peace and they no longer suffer cattle raids from the Turkana, their northern neighbors, that also used to cause death because of mutual conflicts.

CLM Kenya

The following days we visited another sector of the parish. It is a parish with three sectors that could mean eight hours between the far end of one to the other, on dirt roads and where the missionary sleeps at times in a little room next to the chapel or on the ground in a sleeping bag.

Chelopo gave us the chance to rest a while on the return trip to Nairobi. We stopped briefly with the youth group and we were overwhelmed by their initiatives. They would like to have a volleyball court: they already have the net and all they need to do is to clear the area and bring cement for the posts, then they will organize a tournament with young people from the nearby communities. They would like to take some old computers from the school’s warehouse, put them in the hall and try to learn how to use them, get together with other groups and see if they can help the community. It’s summer vacation time here and they have a lot of free time.

These are young people with a spirit of initiative and the will to do things.

We then continued our journey. Bro. Cesar took us to a town to catch a night bus for Nairobi with which to end our lighting speed trip to the North.

By 5:00 in the morning we were already in Nairobi and from the station we went to the provincial house to see a number of missionaries who were gathered there or passing through, to speak with the provincial over our experiences and to rest a while.

It was a quick visit, but a very interesting one. Who knows whether in the future there will be a CLM community in this area. For sure, it is a very beautiful mission and with many needs.

Only God knows.

Greetings,

Alberto de la Portilla, CLM

Be mission in Ethiopia – first moments

CLM Ethiopia
CLM Ethiopia

We left back behind Qillenso, Adola and Daaye and what I saw during the journey, in this green that contrasts with everything I had seen so far since I arrived in this new place where God awaits every one of us, at least in the embrace of a prayer that, it cans travel from far away (I hope from your hearts). I take the duration of this trip to try to share (at least a grain) the wonders of this people that has received me so well.

We are in an unusual week. We take advantage of the fact that the Amharic classes will only start on June 3 (next week) to get to know the various missions of the MCCJ and also of the CLM (in Awassa) in the southern zone of Ethiopia.

Addis Ababa, is a city where pollution reigns, noise, the frenzy of the many cars and people who roam without rule through the streets. It could be seen in almost any European city if it were not for the disorder that governs here. Traveling by car is always an adventure, because the road here also belongs to animals and people (after all, the cars arrived later!). Among the several and crowded streets that exist here, the one more difficult for me to cross (until now) is the indescribable Mexico Square, point of reference for the arrival at home. Indescribable for not having words to express the pain it cause me when I see those bodies stretched out in the middle of the street, thin bodies, barely alive, some that do not see, others that have no feet to walk … Along with these bodies we can find many times the face of a child, whose lost eyes does not pass unnoticed. I imagine stories in my head that probably are his. They are malnourished mothers and their children. How it hurts to look and it hurts even more not knowing what to do!

CLM Ethiopia

This week’s trip through southern Ethiopia also allowed us to have a very different and colorful vision of this great and immense country. As we travel from Addis Ababa to Awassa, Qillenso, Adola and Daaye, the landscape changes its shapes and figures. If in Adis and Awassa there is a mantle of houses as far as the eye can see, in Qillenso, Adola and Daaye the earth is dressed in red and the green of the plants just born with the first rains. Along the way, houses are planted, with a rudimentary configuration but which are authentic works of art. The car passes and those who see us pass also look at us. I watch them also through the glass of the van. What a beautiful look! They always smile when they see us pass!

I am happy for the mission that God gave to the three of us and for which we ask for your prayers. The mission will never be ours. It is also yours. And above all, it’s God´s. Probably, and aware of this, we know that the mature fruits of this work only (and God willing) will be visible within a few years.

CLM Ethiopia

I’m fine! Feeling everything. The people, their looks, their words that I often do not understand, but I try to respond with a smile, or a look of tenderness, or using the few words I already know in Amharic. It has been a time to observe, hear, try to understand. It is also an advantage that I do not have a fluent level of English that allows me to talk a lot (and even less Amharic). I take advantage of that and I end up listening more, observing more. It’s time for that!

Our walking on the street is always a cause of looks. People look at us, as if we were something strange. For children it’s a party! They look at us and sketch daring smiles:

– Farengi! Farengi! Or China! China!

Don’t knowing what to do many times, we look at them and smile. We extend the arm and exchange a handshake. They’re all happy to touch us … it’s reciprocal!

One of these days, in Awassa, we visited the sisters of Mother Teresa, and the expected thing happened: the same reaction of the children who want to grab us … They run in our direction to touch our hands. But not just the hand. The arms, the face. They get closer, delighting in our heat. They run searching for love. And we try to give it to them. In the difficulty of not knowing much Amharic, I say the same all the times. I couldn’t limit myself to the same old words, I thought. I try to remember other things I can say, and there it comes out:

CLM Ethiopia

– Mndn new? (What is this?) – I ask pointing to my shirt.

– Makina (car) – several answer, each one in time.

I repeat the same question for other things, including the cross I bring to my chest.

And so they answer me. It’s a party for them! And for me. They do not know how much they teach me. I believe they are the best teachers I can have. They are happy with this little. As the one who is thirsty, like me.

I feel everything, even nostalgia. Great nostalgia! This also inhabits me, of course (I am Portuguese … of those very nostalgic)! As someone told me, nostalgia is the love that remains. Therefore, I always want this nostalgia to be part of me.

They have been beautiful days, full of novelty. Also within the community, with David and Pedro. In our differences, I see three pieces of a puzzle that come together and fit together. It is being beautiful as we realize what we are called to do here. We feel the weight of the responsibility of being starting to sow this grain that we want others to come to water, to reap, to harvest. The harvest here is great! But we feel a great strength of wanting to take steps. May the Holy Spirit enlighten us to take the right steps, in the right times and places.

Pray for us, for the mission and above all for this people that welcomes us and that seeks and fights for life, day by day.

With lots of love,

CLM Carolina Fiúza

The Latest News from María Augusta from her Mission in the CAR

CentroafricaThe Comboni Lay Missionary María Augusta Pires, from Janeiro de Baixo, who is stationed in the mission of Mongoumba, Republic of Central Africa, took advantage of a trip to the capital city of Bangui to send us news. Let us pray for peace in that country and for all the missionaries! We relate here the text she sent to “El Astrolabio,”the paper of her parish on May 25:

I and the members of our apostolic community are in good health, thanks be to God.

We are in Bangui to do some shopping… Ana had planned her return on the 18th, but had to delay it until June 8. In any case, we had to come to the capital because our supply room was almost empty.

On June 12 Gervelais and his father are returning from Dakar. We are grateful to the Lord because the surgery was a success. I hope he will be happy and in good health.

On May 11, a patient of the hospital was shot dead. He had been accused of “likundu” (sorcery). We are all sad because of this. We hope that justice will be done and that the killers will be caught, starting with the authorities who denied him protection… We pray to the Lord that he may help us to defend people weighed down by this curse. There have already been several cases of people who were accused, but were protected by the mission or by courageous Christians. May the Lord of life stop this from happening anymore and that all Christians may find the strength to denounce this type of violence.

On May 1, in Bangui, in our parish of Our Lady of Fatima, during Mass, 16 people died and 100 were wounded because of a rebel attack. By the end 22 died, including a priest who was concelebrating. The people of this neighborhood still live in fear of being attacked again. Pray for these people who by now are tired of suffering…

God willing, I will not come back to Bangui before my departure for Portugal, because in June I will be very busy with the evaluation of the students and the conclusion of the course. On July 4 I will live CAR and will be in Lisbon by 5:00 PM. It will be like last year. God willing, I will return to my mission in early September. Cristina is energized and keeps on learning Sango, the local language.

Let us keep united in prayer, because it gives us strength and courage. A great missionary hug, as large as the world, to Fr. Juan and Fr. Orlando and to all the faithful entrusted to you. See you soon!

With great friendship

Maria Augusta

For the “Astrolabio”

ANO V – Nº 121 – 3 de Junho de 2018

Paróquias de Cabril, Dornelas do Zêzere, Fajão, Janeiro de Baixo, Machio, Pampilhosa da Serra, Portela do Fôjo, Unhais-o-Velho e Vidual

 

Francis: a message of love

Papa en PerúThe coming of the Pope to Peru did not leave the Peruvians indifferent.  His closeness to the people touched their hearts. Many were the reports of those who accompanied him personally and on TV. Joy reigned in Peru just as we still live it in these days under the banner of hope left to us by the Pope of the people. It was a Pope who embraced the great open wounds of Peru by asking for a change that can only happen if we know to hold hands like brothers as we search for a truly common home.

In this journey of preparation for the Youth Synod, the Pope did not depart without leaving a challenging message of love and joy. With his words he reminded us that young people are not the future, as it is often said, but rather the present in a world to which they must not and cannot remain indifferent.

Papa en Perú

“Dear young people, I am pleased to be here with you. These meetings are very important for me, especially in this year of preparation for the Synod on young people. Your faces, your questions and your lives are important for the Church and we need to give them the importance they deserve. We must also have the courage of the many young people of this land who were not afraid to love and risk everything for Jesus.

Dear friends, how many examples you have! I think of Saint Martin de Porres. Nothing prevented that young man from achieving his dreams, nothing prevented him from spending his life for others, nothing prevented him from loving, and he did so because he had realized that the Lord loved him first. Just as he was: a mulato. He had to face many hardships. In the eyes of others, even his friends, it seemed that he had everything to lose, but he knew how to do one thing that would be the secret of his life: he knew how to trust. He trusted in the Lord who loved him. Do you know why? Because the Lord had trusted him first; just as he trusts each of you and will never tire of trusting you.

You may say that sometimes this is very difficult. I understand that. In those moments, we can think negative thoughts, we can feel overwhelmed by different situations, and it can seem that we are left on the sidelines, while they have the upper hand. But it’s not like that, is it?

There are moments when you can feel powerless to achieve your desires and dreams. We have all experienced situations like that. Dear friends, in those moments when our faith seems to fade, remember that Jesus is by your side. Do not give up! Do not lose hope! Remember the saints who accompany us from heaven. Go to them, pray and never tire of asking for their intercession. Not only the saints of the past, but also those of the present: this land has many of them, because it is a land of saints. Ask for help and advice from people you know can give good advice because their faces radiate joy and peace. Let them accompany you as you journey along the path of life.

Jesus wants to see you on the move. He wants to see you achieve your ideals and to be enthusiastic in following his instructions. He will take you along the path of the beatitudes, a path that is not easy but exciting, a path that cannot be traveled alone, but only as a team, where each member offers the best of his or her self. Jesus is counting on you as he counted long ago on Saint Rose of Lima, Saint Turibius, Saint Juan Macías, Saint Francisco Solano and so many others. Today he asks if, like them, you are ready to follow him. Are you willing to follow him? To be guided by his Spirit in making present his Kingdom of justice and love?

Dear friends, the Lord looks on you with hope. He never grows discouraged with us. Perhaps we are the ones who grow discouraged, about ourselves or about others.

I know that we all like to see digitally enhanced photographs, but that only works for pictures; we cannot “photoshop” others, the world, or ourselves. Color filtering and high definition only function well in video; we can never apply them to our friends. There are pictures that are very nice, but completely fake. Let me assure you that the heart can’t be “photoshopped,” because that’s where authentic love and genuine happiness have to be found.

Papa en PerúJesus does not want you to have a “cosmetic” heart. He loves you as you are, and he has a dream for every one of you. Do not forget, he does not get discouraged with us. But if you get discouraged, I invite you to take a look at the Bible and remember the kind of friends God chose.

Moses, he was not articulate; Abraham, an old man; Jeremiah, very young; Zacchaeus, small of stature; the disciples, who fell asleep when Jesus told them they should pray; Paul, a persecutor of Christians; Peter, who denied him… and we could go on with this list. So what excuse can we offer?

 

When Jesus looks at us, he does not think about how perfect we are, but about all the love we have in our hearts to give in serving others. That is the important thing for him, and he will always be concerned about that. He does not worry about your height, or whether you speak well or badly, whether you fall asleep when you pray, or whether you are very young or very old. His only question is this: Do you want to follow me and be my disciple? Don’t waste time disguising your heart, but instead fill your life with the Spirit!

Jesus is constantly waiting to give us his Spirit, who is the Love that God wants to pour into our hearts, to make us his missionary disciples.

In following Jesus, we never, ever, remain shut out. Even if we make mistakes, the Lord always gives us a new opportunity to keep walking with him.

Dear young people, in my prayers, I entrust you to the care of the Virgin Mary. Be assured that she will accompany you at every moment of your life, at all the crossroads of your journey, especially at those times when you have to make important decisions. She will always be there, like a good Mother, encouraging and supporting you, lest you grow discouraged. And if you get discouraged by anything, do not worry, for she will tell Jesus. Just don’t stop praying, don’t stop asking, don’t stop trusting in her maternal protection.

Pope Francis to the young people in Peru

On Sunday, as we usually do it, we gathered with the youth group after the Eucharist. We had all experienced this grace of knowing we were far away, but at the same time so close to the representative of God on earth. We had nothing planned, actually we gathered at our house with the idea of having a short prayer and share what each one of us felt about the presence of the Pope. However, we were surprised when on getting the TV connection, we listened to one of the most challenges talks of the Pope to young people. We were silent. We listened to each word pronounced by such a wise person. Almost by surprise we prayed together. We experienced a piece of heaven on Peruvian soil.

Papa en Perú

Villa Ecológica (Arequipa), January 21, 2018

Paula and Neuza, CLM in Peru

 

Colors of Timket

LMC Etiopia

Imagine a colorful procession. Crowds of people clothed in different kind of cultural dresses and uniforms are dancing and clapping, singing and making the characteristic African noise “lililili”. They are different ages, young and old, babies and the elders. In the center of the crowd, there are carried big colorful tents, and under them a few men are moving slowly with something on their heads. All the people are coming closer to see them well, at least for a moment. All of them are so happy, because they are celebrating one of the most important feasts in Ethiopia, the Timket.

It is related to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church tradition. Timket means “baptism”, so it is the Lord’s Baptism Feast. This year we participated in the tradition in Awassa.

LMC Etiopia

The day before the feast priests took the replicas of the Ark of Covenant from the church. According to many Ethiopian people, the real Ark of Covenant is placed in Axum (historical place in Ethiopia). However, in all the Orthodox churches there are replicas of the Ark of Covenant and it’s a sign of the presence of God. During the Timket the priests put the arks on their heads and bring them to the nearest water in memory of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. They are tided in colorful clothes so we nobody can see them. In case of Awassa all the Arks of Covenant were brought to the lake side. The feast is the only occasion during the year while they leave the churches. The processions were started in different places (in different churches), but they met on the way creating really huge crowd of people. In the destination, some of the people stayed for the whole night, but we went home. In the morning of the following day after the Mass the processions brought the Arks of Covenant back to the churches, but the people still were celebrating whole day. It is good occasion to visit families or friends, to make nice coffee ceremony, prepare ‘dorowot’ (chicken), or drink ‘tela’ (local beer).

And when you experience it, you may fall in love with Ethiopia…

LMC Etiopia

Magda Fiec, CLM Ethiopia