That, in our pastoral activity, we may know how to integrate care for our common home and the protection of the environment as an expression of our recognition of ourselves as God’s creatures, recognising the provident hand of God in creation. Let us pray.
Here comes the Missionary…!
I begin these humble lines first of all thanking God for having fixed his gaze on this servant.
The previous January, the Assembly of the CLM of the Province of Central America was held, where Brother Jesús Pérez, Advisor for Costa Rica of the CLM, talked with the Parish Priest of San Luis Petén, Father Aubert Gamende, about the possibility of receiving some members of our group for the Major Week in the Parish, and it was there where all this dream and illusion began.
For different circumstances, I left for Guatemala on March 29, with a suitcase full of fear, illusion, hope, but above all with the desire to be able to offer a little of all the love that God has had for me, the same love with which I was received in Casa Comboni.
I had the opportunity to share with the CLM of Guatemala, accompanying them in their project Chispuditos, knowing some Departments of the country, eating the delicious gastronomy (beef soup, plantain rellenitos, atoles, etc, etc, etc and etc ha ha ha ha), living the spectacular experience of their culture and great Faith, Palm Sunday in Antigua with the emblematic Processions, Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
On Holy Monday I start my trip to San Luis Petén, it is worth mentioning that the Parish is administered by the MCCJ, is made up of more than 140 villages (populations), some of them speak Spanish, others only speak the Q’eqchi dialect and others are mixed, all this territory comprises approx. 3000 square km and is served by 4 priests, that after 8 hours of travel, Father Fabrice receives me to take me to Casa Parroquial where as in Casa Comboni, I was received as another member of the house.
After resting for a while, Billy came to pick me up; to take me to know the Parish Clinic, where primary care services are provided to the parish population, not only of the Center, but also through the Health Campaigns they go to more distant populations, where the group of the CLM of Petén sometimes participate, we also visited the Nursing Home with many needs and that the Brothers of CLM Petén carry out a work of accompaniment and assistance, and have several projects to do in this house of permanent residence.
On Holy Wednesday, I was able to meet and share with the CLM of Petén, who were born on the same day and date as us here in Costa Rica, we shared, hesitated, talked about the realities of our group, they are a very dynamic group, and eager to do things well, as I mentioned to them I congratulate them and they know that humbly in what we can help there we will be there …..
On behalf of the Fathers, I was assigned and given the opportunity to collaborate in one of the villages, La Tortuga, who for this purpose came for me Alma, a woman dedicated in soul, life and heart to the service of her community, she is the Coordinator of the Village, together with her we organized the different celebrations for the days to come, Starting on Holy Thursday with the celebration of the Washing of the feet and the prayer in the Garden, on Friday morning all the Spanish-speaking villages were summoned to the Parish Center to live as a community the Way of the Cross and the Adoration of the Cross, we gathered almost 1500 people to the same prayer and feeling. Then in La Tortuga we had our celebration for those people who were unable to go to the parish in the morning because of their duties.
On Saturday morning we visited with community servants several families, some because they are just arriving to live in La Tortuga, others already had their time, and we took the opportunity to invite them to come at night to the Great Feast of the Easter Vigil, to the joy of most of them accepted the invitation, we also visited some sick people including Don Diego, I ask you to raise a prayer for him, he has cancer in his bones and suffers a lot of pain, Don Juan, we took communion to them, to see the joy they expressed to receive Jesus the Eucharist in their home and become one with Him, personally it was one of the many things that helped me to make the decision that I will tell you below.
In the night with great hope we celebrated the Great Easter Vigil, where children, acolytes, readers, choir and all of us as a community lived the great joy of the resurrection, the same joy that personally overwhelms me to this day.
On Sunday morning we were summoned again to the Parish Center to live the feast of the Resurrection, we started with a beautiful procession through different roads of the community and arrived at a space in front of the church where more than 150 children made their first communion, a way to end our Holy Week full of great joy.
Truly, from the moment I was received by Brother Humberto at the airport until my return to Costa Rica, I was welcomed as one more, the words are too short to thank everyone and all the people who showed me their affection and empathy, for letting me see their culture and although we are from different countries, customs and culture, we have the same love that unites us and is greater than any ethnic difference.
Hearing …Here comes the missionary… echoes in my head with much humility, but constantly….
For some time now I have been praying to God to show me the way, I say to Him like Samuel “Speak, your servant listens…”, this trip was very useful to reaffirm the desire of my heart, to serve Him, as and where it is His will, so I entrust myself to your prayers, this coming June 16, the day we celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus, by the grace of God I will be assuming my commitment as a Comboni Lay Missionary, with the hope of being able to put myself at the service of the Comboni family.
Thank you Guatemala, thank you San Luis, THANK YOU LA TORTUGA, CLM Guatemala, CLM San Luis Petén, MCCJ, I do not name them because I am afraid that I am leaving someone out, but I carry them all in my heart….
God bless you abundantly…
José David Rojas Q
CLM Costa Rica
Secular Comboni Missionaries: The First African Women profess in Kenya
On 22nd April 2023, four Kenyan ladies made history by becoming the first Secular Comboni Women Missionaries in Africa. Maria Pia Dal Zovo, the Institute leader, received their vows in the presence of two General Councilors; Gina Villamar Ultreras and Paola Ghelfi.
Fr Andrew Wanjohi, the Provincial Superior of the Comboni Missionaries in Kenya presided over the Eucharist. The choir comprising our scholastics was excellent. The colorful and joyful celebration marked the climax of a long discernment journey started some 10 years ago. In attendance were Isabella Dalessandro, the former institute leader, members of the Comboni family in Nairobi, parents and relatives of the newly professed.
Julia Wangui Ngari, Lucy Mutola Singa, Mary Watetu Ndungu and Ruth Wangjiru Mbugua were all smiles when they made their vows. The four started their discernment process with Fr Francesco Pierli. Eventually, he invited the leadership of the Secular Comboni Women Missionaries then to follow these ladies who had shown interest in joining the institute. Isabella and her council accepted the challenge and came down to Kenya to start the process of discernment with the candidates.
In his homily, Fr Andrew Wanjohi, thanked the ladies for their courage and faith. He encouraged them to remain faithful in their vocation. He also reminded them that to live as consecrated women outside a community will be a challenge. This is against the backdrop of Kenya’s context in which the vocation of consecrated women in a secular institute is yet to be understood. He assured them of the support of the Comboni family as they try to live their consecration and transform society from the inside. He also thanked their parents for offering them to the institute.
Mary Pia Dal Zovo, the institute leader, expressed her gratitude to the Comboni missionaries in Kenya for supporting the four newly professed in their discernment process. She was also glad to see the four becoming the seed of the Secular Comboni Women Missionaries in Africa. She urged them to live their consecration with commitment and joy. Similarly, that their example may inspire other to join and in this way the institute expands.
As an immediate preparation to their first vows, the newly professed had a five-days spiritual retreat preached by Fr Andrew Bwalya on the theme consecration and mission. Maria Pia, Gina, Paolo and Isabella also participated in the retreat. The newly professed are a small yet significant sign that Comboni’s dream to save Africa with Africa is being realized.
Fr Andrew Bwalya
Prayer Intentions of the Comboni Family May 2023
That the celebration of the Day of Prayer for Vocations may stir up in the hearts of young men and women the awareness that the mission needs them to respond freely to the call of Jesus to go out into all the world and bear witness to him. Let us pray.
Easter Message of the MCCJ General Council: “Courage and hope”
“The first day of the week…” (Jn. 20.1)
We send you our greetings in the Risen Christ!
Chapter 20 of John’s Gospel, in recounting the experience of Easter morning, invites us to contemplate the journey of faith of three protagonists: Mary of Magdala, Peter and the beloved disciple. Their itinerary of faith is also an itinerary of seeing: one passes from stopping in front of the evidence of an empty tomb (Mary) to a more attentive look at details (Peter), up to observation accompanied by the memory involving the mind and heart (the other disciple).
These are three gazes that open the heart of the community and make it the protagonist in writing “another ‘story’”, because they have become aware that the resurrection is understood to the extent that one believes the Word of the Gospel, and places love as the reason for one’s existence, so as to overcome moments of pain, distrust, discouragement and, above all, moments of “no hope”.
“Where there is love, there is a gaze”. Quoting this phrase from Riccardo di San Vittore, Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni, abbot of San Miniato al Monte, during a course of Spiritual Exercises which he preached to the Pope and the Roman Curia, recalled the need to recognise “the traces and clues that the Lord never tires of leaving us in his passage through this history of ours, in this life of ours”. It is in that love that we must read Jesus’ gaze on all those he met. This is a perspective that today introduces in us “a paschal dynamic” that makes us aware that “the historical moment is serious”, because “the universal breath of fraternity appears to be very much weakened”, while “the strength of fraternity is precisely the new frontier of Christianity”.
The itinerary of faith experienced by the primitive community on Easter morning is not only a beautiful testimony but also – and above all – an invitation to us to know how to pause in front of today’s events, people and confreres. Our Founder, St. Daniel Comboni, knew how to “pause” before the events of his time, trying to imitate Christ, who could “see the poor and share their lot, comfort the unhappy, heal the sick and restore life to the dead; call back the wayward and forgive the repentant; while dying on the Cross, pray for his own crucifiers; and, having risen in glory, send the apostles to preach salvation to the whole world” (cf. Writings, 3223).
People who have eyes that “know how to look” and are willing to “waste time” for others manage to create spaces for relationships and become themselves a gift for others with a view to mutual healing.
Relationships, gift and healing, lived from the perspective of love-gift – with different rhythms and sensitivities, as happened “on that first day early in the morning” – allow us to transform our faith into courageous hope, and to redeem history and the dignity of so many brothers and sisters on whom today’s societies have placed – and continue to place – “a large stone”, because they are hostages of selfish interests, contempt and indifference.
Courage and hope were the attitudes repeatedly recalled during our meeting with the circumscription superiors which ended on 19th March. We are fully aware of the situations – often tiring and demanding – in which we live and which could lead us to live the life of the Institute as a commemorative event and, therefore, only to be remembered. Instead, we must have the courage to reactivate a human and fraternal circuit, which allows us to give a new acceleration to the work of evangelization that we are carrying out in the different realities in which we live, ever more convinced that “a renewed announcement offers believers – even to the lukewarm or non-practising – a new joy in the faith and an evangelizing fruitfulness. In reality, its center and essence is always the same: the God who manifested his immense love in Christ who died and rose again. He makes his faithful ever new and, although they are old, they regain strength, put on wings like eagles, run and do not grow weary, walk and never tire (Is 40:31)” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).
We extend special good wishes to our elderly and sick confreres, to the populations recently affected by earthquakes in Turkey, Syria and tremendous environmental calamities in Malawi, parts of Mozambique and in Ecuador, and to all the people who suffer the horrors of war in different parts of the world.
May the Risen One support all of us with his grace and our missionary commitment, so that, moved by the strength of the Spirit, we may continue to be fruitful operators of justice, peace and fraternity for the humanity entrusted to us.
The MCCJ General Council