Last weekend, February 9-10, the CLM of the PCA in Guatemala enjoyed the gift of the annual retreat. It took place at Casa Comboni in Guatemala City.
The lay participants were 18 and it was organized by Bro. Humberto Rua, our moderator, and by Fr. Victor Hugo Castillo, who kindly prepared the topic for the meditations of the two days.
The objective of the retreat: to take a spiritual time out in order to recollect within ourselves the essentials of missionary life and gather strength to face the activities of this year.
On Saturday, scrutinizing the Word of God in the Gospel of Mark, we reflected on Jesus as the Son of God:
* The Good News is Jesus of Nazareth, man and God, crucified and resurrected, Jesus as the Lord of History. Starting from this truth, the mission of the Church consists in speaking of God, not only creating communities, but also leading people to make a profession of faith. It is to re-establish hope which is so fragile in our days, and return dignity to those who do not believe they have it.
* The Baptism of Jesus and ours, that makes us Children of God, even though it gives us the Spirit, nonetheless it does not exempt us from temptations, hence we must defend us with the Word and here the proclamation begins.
* In the temptations in the desert Jesus defeated the Devil by the strength of the Spirit. The missionary is not super-man or super-woman, but it is their human experience that makes them able to help others. Vocation is a daily struggle and conquest, a pathway between temptations and victories.
Following, we had confessions, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and a time for meditation and silence. We did not forget about a time of enjoyment which is only possible in Godly endeavors.
Sunday, “the Mission,” the great gift of God to us without our deserving it.
* Mission is born when the disciple feels called by the Father. He then goes looking for his brothers everywhere. This love is not selfish. The mission of the disciples is exactly the same as the mission of Jesus.
* Apostolic life does not consist in doing a lot of things, because Jesus already saved the world, nor by starting from what he did, but only starting from one point: the cross.
* The greatest wisdom: “Mission consists in teaching the Word of God, the Good News. Mission is not in giving things, because giving the Word is much more than anything.”
* The activity of God is to be adored in spirit and truth. The missionary is a worker, cooperator of God, and proclaiming the Gospel is the proclamation of the truth that sets us free.
These were some of the points of the retreat. I could write much more, but in general terms, for in these topics we meditate starting for the Word.
We ended with a delicious lunch.
Blessed be God who has called us and gives us the ability to “go to the world and proclaim the Good News to all of creation” (Mk 16:15)
“Holy and able making common cause with the poorest and most abandoned”
Perhaps the perception we have of ourselves down here has lessened due to the greatness of the world to which we feel we are called. Perhaps, a little at the time, we have let go off things to hold on to the world, the people, and love. Already we have nothing. Nothing is ours. There is nothing that cannot be given, shared with all those who walk side by side with us. It is a lot that we are not alone, and that all that we have is shared not only among ourselves, but with the world. We are part of a whole that only has meaning in the daily sharing and the life we have and we know is joined to others.
The scenery reflects the grandiosity of our interior, the grandiosity of the little miracles of which we are only spectators, as being the grain planted in fertile soil, we are channels of meaningful life. It is not just us, but we are more than the sum of the parts. We are from God. We are his instruments, his hands, his feet, and his embrace. We are imperfect and wounded, in a world full of sorrow and suffering where in love we dare to sow the paradise of God’s love.
Each morning we go out to meet the others, out of the comforts we have, of what is ours, we go to meet love. We go, hoping that on every street and at every corner we will always have two arms to help people grow with us. We are nothing, but in our humble state we are what is truly existing within ourselves. We cannot even count the lives that have already crossed ours, nor the number of smiles, tears and hugs we have shared in the simplicity of a home’s front steps. This is how it is, love deprived of superficiality, integral without color or race, simply being. And we are called daily to let it be and grow.
Each day we give our life without plans nor schedule. We offer ourselves. Many are the times when we feel that it is God himself who calls us at the door through many faces, many personal histories and people. We are available to the love aimed at us, which calls us at each moment. We are open to the call of Jesus who calls us daily.
We are soil open to care for others and to the possibility of growing hand in hand in Jesus’ journey. We are the cross carried on the shoulder and arms of others who are lost and cannot walk. It is not easy. We know by our own lives that it is not easy. But this is the only way it has a meaning for us.
Mission is life, our life, their life and the life we accept and give by proclaiming a Gospel living in each one of us. With each step we are witnesses of a Jesus who wants to live in the simplicity of our hearts. It is in recognizing ourselves as family that, in each day, in each visit we offer ourselves and grow.
The soil is barren and the mountains around us are often the way home for many. Protected by the imposing presence of the Misti and the Chachani, holding to our walking sticks, we cross the limits of what we can see and off we go looking for the face of God among those farthest away. We climb and descend mountains, following contorted paths. We go beyond the physical limitations of our bodies that often demand rest. We have gone beyond our limits, in the certainty that He is our strength and our life. With the certainty that ours is the mission of carrying him and of announcing him where He already is, where His seed is already there, where God already exists, where the only thing missing is that he be remembered, named and proclaimed. We go beyond our peripheries to the peripheries of the world to be the symbol of life, of love, of Him.
We do not have much. We live simply and humbly among the people of God. In the simplicity and poverty of the life we lead is the treasure in vessels of clay of our hearts: the love of God.
It is good, very good, to allow ourselves to be moved by all who have become part of our history. It is good to be a shoulder of support, to be a place of refuge, to be Neuza and Paula just as we are, and share in simplicity this gift of our life. And to help others to discover the gift of their own. We belong to what is brought to us, to those who go off, and to those who come and to all those we leave along the way. Step by step we discover mission, we are mission. We belong to a mission which is not ours, but belongs to the One who daily sends us to love more.
We are part of the Comboni’s thousand lives for the mission. Together, we rediscover new Africas, new peripheries. Ours is not a little bit, the flatlands of comfort. We go. Together we go beyond the mountains, beyond even ourselves. Together we go to meet new peripheries, where we have not yet been and have not yet reached. If you only knew, if we knew how many Africas are left to discover, how many peripheries are there thirsting for God, for his love and for the miracle of love, which is the Eucharist. This is why we are here. For this we go to this meeting of love turning our lives into mission.
In our daily prayer we discover the path to be followed, the beauty of an unending mission, without borders, without limits. He is the limit. Actually, he does not have any. We move forward in the certitude that we are not alone because we find his arms at every dawn and at the end of day. We walk knowing that we always arrive where he is waiting for us. No matter how long the day will be and the life histories we meet and involve us, often including the tears we share. Yes, Lord, here we are, takes us where you want us to be. And even if life takes us far from here, we are Peru in the same love that brought us here and binds us as sisters and brothers to the end.
We are writing today from this violated community, which we know well and which we visit again today, after having celebrated with it several times in the walk, life and resistance to the expansion of mining.
We also write from the many Latin American communities affected by the arrogant violence of extractivism, today silently embraced the little Brumadinho, in tears.
We are in solidarity with the families of the victims and the communities of faith, who will have the hard challenge of rebuilding hope. We also join the Archdiocese of Belo Horizonte, which with the words of the Gospel defined the tragedy as “abomination of desolation”, referring to the “absurdities born of the gains and contempt for the other, the truth and the good of all ”
We continue accompanying and advising the churches involved in the territories injured by mining and in all open conflicts between extractive companies and communities (Only in Brazil there are more than 70 Dioceses where these conflicts were mapped).
Impunity consolidates crime
The company VALE SA, together with BHP Billiton, is responsible for 19 deaths and pollution of the entire Doce River basin, on November 5, 2015. The same damage was repeated three years later, with a trace of much more serious deaths, is the confirmation of the incapacity of management and prevention of damages, disinterest and criminal behavior.
This responsibility also involves the State, which grants licenses to extractive projects and should monitor them to guarantee the safety and dignified life of the communities and the environment.
The State’s responsibility is twofold, because impunity and the lack of complete and enough reparations for the victims of the Navy crime was one of the main conditions that allowed the new crime of Brumadinho.
Embraced, the capital of mining companies and political power, facilitate the installation or expansion of large extractive projects, minimizing the conditions and licensing rules thereof. The “Córrego do Feijão” itself, whose deposit of toxic waste was broken, obtained in December 2018 an environmental license for the expansion of 88% of its activities. In the Council of Environmental Policies of the State of Minas. Only the National Civil Society Forum on the Management of Hydrographic Basins (FONASC) voted against the expansion, denouncing “insane” mechanisms to reduce the demands in the licensing of large mining projects.
Disasters caused by irresponsible behavior of companies allied to the public power can not be called “environmental accidents”.
Organized civil society but not listened
Since 2011, the population of Brumadinho and the region are demonstrating in an organized way against the mine, its impacts and threats. The FONASC, in December 2018, wrote an official communication to the State Secretary of the Environment, requesting the suspension of the licensing of the “Córrego do Feijão” mine. The International articulation of those Affected by the Vale denounced in the Shareholders’ General Assembly of the Vale, in April 2018, “the dangers of the repeated process of reducing expenses and costs in its operations”, making explicit mention of the various waste deposits.
Those responsible for these crimes cannot claim justifications for ignorance. On the contrary, in the name of progress and the profit of the few, there is a systematic disqualification of different voices.
With energy, we echo the words of Pope Francis in the Encyclical Laudato Si ‘: “in the debate, local inhabitants must have a privileged place, those who question themselves as to what they want for themselves and their children and can take into consideration the purposes that transcend the immediate economic interest “(LS 183).
Make it flexible until it breaks
The newly elected President of Brazil, in response to the pressure of the person who financed his campaign, expressed the plan to make environmental control and licensing as flexible as possible. He criticized the alleged “environmental fine industry”; his government stripped powers from the Environment portfolio, suspended contracts with NGOs committed to defending the environment, extinguished secretariats that worked for public policies against global warming.
Also the previous governments facilitated the uncontrolled expansion of mining in the country, promoting the National Mining Plan and reformulating, by decree, the Legal Framework of Mining.
Recent events demonstrate, violently, that these policies are a collective suicide and a threat to the lives of future generations.
This growth model is unsustainable and lethal; You cannot blackmail people who need jobs to survive in regions controlled by mining, without guaranteeing safety, health and social welfare at the same time. The problems are not solved “only with the growth of the profits of the companies and of the individuals”. “It is not enough to conciliate, in a medium term, the care of nature with financial income, or the preservation of the environment with progress. In this issue the average terms are only a small delay in the collapse. It’s simply about redefining progress. ” (LS190,194)
Frequently, companies and governments appeal to the mediation of conflicts with communities through “dialogue”. They seek, even, the intermediation of the churches, to offer these processes greater credibility.
Also, institutionally they have invested in extrajudicial mediations and terms of behavior adjustments to make more effective and quicker the repair of damages and environmental violations.
The lack of implementation of mitigations and reparations, the neglect to prevent new disasters and the repetition of irresponsible and criminal practices confirm that: this type of proposal is not a true dialogue. It is a strategy of companies to seduce public opinion, guaranteeing a kind of social license to pollute, reduce popular resistance and avoid big capital can be converted to the values of sustainability and the common good.
More than this “dialogue”, asymmetric and disrespectful, we trust in the democratic rules of environmental protection and the rights of the populations, as well as in authorities that effectively monitor their respect and punish those who violate them. We support a Binding Treaty for Business and Human Rights, at the international level, and a responsible, effective and prompt judicial response for those who bet on impunity or, at the most, a slight financial incidence of rare fines applied.
Socio-environmental crime is not an accident!
From Brumadinho and from Latin America, January 26, 2019
We, the Comboni Lay Missionaries in the province of Central America, Guatemala, feel happy for the forward progress Jesus has guided us on in order to offer and grow in the love and missionary service in the style of Comboni.
In early January the MCCJ of the PCA held their yearly assembly. This year was special because it included the presence of their superior general, Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse, and of Fr. Alcides Costa, assistant general.
As part of their agenda, they included a time with us, the CLM of the Province of Central America (CLM-PCA).
On Wednesday, January 9, to be exact, we accepted the invitation that Fr. Victor Hugo Castillo, Provincial Superior, and Bro. Humberto Rua, our moderator (who also attended the meeting) had extended a few days earlier.
Nine of us, CLM, attended and we had the opportunity to talk with them, to tell them about our activities during these last four years concerning formation, mission experiences, mission promotion, together with our projects for the future. They listened attentively and gave us time to expand on anything, if we wanted to. In the end, Fr. Tesfaye told us how he appreciated the answer we have given to Jesus and also our availability to proclaim the Kingdom in the style of Daniel Comboni. He encouraged us to move forward and assured us of his support.
We, the CLM-PCA, thank the MCCJ provincial Council of Central America, who wholly supported us during these four years. They did it in our formation, in our organization, by including us in their six year planning of two years ago and with their availability to help us at any time.
We thank Fr. Tesfaye and Fr. Alcides, for the time they gave us. We have felt motivated to continue in this loving madness for Christ, in this passion for mission.
Lily Portillo, Guatemala
Holy and able making common cause with the poorest and most abandoned
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