Good morning everyone.
We leave you the testimony of our CLM family from Guatemala in Brazil. It is a report published by the POM in Brazil.
The Comboni Lay Missionaries of Guatemala are concerned with the proclamation of the Kingdom in an integral way: being there, teaching, evangelizing with doctrine and witness, sharing some bread, some refreshments, giving a little monthly help, both in Santa Cruz Chinautla and in the Chispuditos programme. Our material resources are few, however, God has allowed us to remain in his works, our greatest resource is the desire to proclaim God’s love.
Love, the driving force, the charism of Comboni, the way:
“We will have to work hard, sweat, die; but thinking that one sweats and dies is for the love of Jesus Christ and the salvation of the most abandoned souls in this world, I find the necessary consolation not to give up in this great undertaking“.
(St. Daniel Comboni)
These times of COVID, in which it is forbidden to “be” with people, to “tire and sweat”, literally, is not possible. This has been a time for reflection, for reorganization of the mission, it has been necessary to make an effort to discover, with God’s help, how it is possible to announce Jesus from the “passivity” of our house. At the beginning of the pandemic, uncertainty, some optimism as well, we thought it would be a matter of only a couple of months, we have been here for three months already, and the health crisis currently being experienced in our country is going through the most critical days.
It has become necessary to find a way to at least take something… however little it may be… Fr. Roberto, parish priest of Santa Cruz Chinautla, told us. This suddenly makes us feel as if we were some kind of philanthropists, and not missionaries announcing Jesus. It was time to be on the social networks to raise funds, and to bring only things, not presence, not sharing time, not “be”. It seems that we are carrying out the mission in the style of Comboni, half way.
The Catechism of the Church says: “With the help of the Holy Spirit, Christians must distinguish between the growth of the Kingdom of God and the progress of the culture and promotion of society in which they are involved. This distinction is not a separation. Man’s vocation to eternal life does not suppress but rather reinforces his duty to put into practice the energy and means received from the Creator to serve justice and peace in this world”. (CEC 2820)
In other words, the Church shows that we are on the right path. And I offer, together with the present missionary action, the following prayer:
“Lord, more than the material, make people receive hope, and believe in your love and in your presence always, especially in the most difficult moments“.
“…Holy and capable. The one without the other is worth little to the one who follows the apostolic career. …The missionary must go to heaven accompanied by saved souls. And although they must first of all be holy, that is, completely free from sin and offense against God, and humble, this is not enough: they need to have charity, which is what makes them capable”. (St. Daniel Comboni)
Third Anniversary Chispuditos Program in La Aldea la Salvadora, Santa Catarina Pínula, Guatemala
I give infinite thanks to the love of God, His Mercy and Providence, for these three years of service in the Chispuditos Program. (Chispuditos, is the name of a food that is given only for children enrolled in the program, between the ages of 6 months to 6 years. The objective of the food is to provide the vitamins and minerals necessary for the integral development of the child, help strengthen their immune system, and prevent anemia and malnutrition. In Guatemala, there are several places where this program works, it is free, sponsored by foreign benefactors).
Since June 10, 2017, every first Saturday of the month, the CLM of Guatemala, arrive at the village La Salvadora, to pray, share, give an evangelizing message, accompany, weigh and measure the children registered and keep their growth record. It is a wonderful experience, we return home with our hearts full of joy and gratitude. The last time we did the program activity was on Saturday, March 7. Days later COVID 19 arrived in our country, the first case appeared around March 12. As in all parts of the world, it trampled on our freedom of meeting and moving, limitations began and that prevented and continues to prevent meetings up to this day. Because of responsibility and conscience, we kept the social distance and took the measures to wash our hands and #StayHome as it has been seen all over the world.
After a few days of uncertainty, we began to discern how to move forward with the missionary service in the Chispuditos Program. It was then that, thanks to Divine Providence, we made solidarity campaigns through the social networks to get economic contributions and donations of different products. Thus, we took some food for the families three times, during March, April and May. These deliveries have been made taking certain safety measures: use of a mask, social distancing and to avoid gathering, only one person would come to collect the aid. It was beautiful to see everyone’s responsability, not one person failed to follow the instructions.
There is nothing in the world that impedes the proclamation of God’s love, the pandemic teaches us that we must continue with the mission, in different ways, but to continue, always ahead, with joy and happiness, to announce the Living Jesus.
So how do we celebrate the third anniversary of the program?
Since the pandemic, we made a group of WhatsApp with those families who have this means, they have committed to keep informed those who do not have it. The celebration was not with a cake or a meeting, the celebration has been virtual with many messages of love and encouragement, through videos, audios, and virtual cards, that each CLM in Guatemala made, and also some people from abroad like Sonia Lara, on behalf of the CLM from El Salvador, Fr. Máximo Huamán from Peru and The Camey Family from Brazil.
The party had so many virtual contributions that it lasted 10 days! From the 1st to the 10th of June.
Currently, there are 34 children enrolled in the program. Six have persevered since 2017, two since 2018, sixteen since 2019, and ten children who barely registered between January, February, and March of this year. I pray to God for the mother of each child, that the program will be completed until her son or daughter turns six years old. The youngest of the 34 Chispuditos is 8 months old and the oldest is 5 and a half years old.
A hug to every CLM in the world. My solidarity for those who have been infected with the virus, my prayers for your health and that of your family.
“Holy and capable, making common cause with the poorest and neediest”
(St. Daniel Comboni)
Saturday, February 22 The alarm clock rings at 5:15 am. Time to get up and get ready to leave by 6:30. On the way I pick up my other missionary associates. We are on the way to Santa Cruz Chinautla where, a year ago, we started this adventure. Every third Saturday of the month it is the same routine.
We could have reached Santa Cruz in 40 minutes, but because of the Saturday morning traffic in Guatemala City, it takes one hour and a half. When we get there, and the children are waiting, their smiles make us forget the time we spent traveling.
This is how it is all the time… The same… Then come the greetings. Then a prayer to start with, the recitation of the Rosary, a short celebration of the Word, since Fr. Roberto, the pastor of Santa Cruz, had apologized the day before for not being able to come to celebrate the Eucharist, due to other important commitments. By the time prayer is over it is 10 in the morning, time to eat something, some bread with beans and a drink of Jamaica for all… the menu the kids love the most.
Joy, peace, trust, service, always the same… the older children eat fast, take seconds on bread and drink, since there is enough for all, thanks be to God. The little ones cannot finish their share and put it away to eat it later… It is always the same.
We follow with a short catechism lesson… some knowledge… We tell the children about God the creator of the human being… we are all equal, intelligent, free and able to love. We have the same dignity as persons.
The theme is quite deep and it is passed on with stories, drawings, songs, games. We give out drawings to be colored and, finally, the children get to share what they have learned in their own words… The same… Almost always the same…
To send them off, they line up for a piece of candy and then we take them home to get a little closer to the adults in the community. At the end, everyone is happy. They are joyful, animated, thanks to having met others…and to be the other, about 35 of them, boys and girls between the ages of two and 12, more or less.
They are innocent, trusting, sincere, spontaneous and this way… in the same way… the older ones mind their younger siblings as it is customary, because the parents are usually working at this time on Saturday morning.
They have fun, they learn, they share among themselves and with us. Always the same…
But it is different… They are different and renewed because the Holy Spirit makes all things new, a new day, a new encounter, different gratitude to God’s gift. It is a different date, a different joy, a different air, a different caress from the sun and the wind. God renews everything…
Everything is unique, everything is amazing, it was the same… but different… the same to human eyes… different in the eyes of God… It is a different effort. It is a different tiredness and a different joy and peace, not like those of last year, nor of one… two… or six months ago… the one of Saturday, February 22, 2020 is unique and special.
Passion for mission, written in the heart of each one, comes from heaven, makes it all the same and all different. All that we live in, tomorrow will be different, renewed by the Spirit of God, even though it may all look the same… And so, this blessed vocation of being a Comboni Lay Missionary will develop.
It will always be the same… But different because of the love of God.
“Holy and able, making common cause with the poorest and most abandoned” (St. Daniel Comboni)
Comboni Lay Missionary, Province of Central America, Guatemala
I write today with great joy, remembering that we have already been here in Brazil for nine months. It has been a full experience of growth and of spirituality. Every single day we experience a meeting with the Lord in different marvelous and inexplicable ways that suggest a tender planning on His part. A little at the time we have discovered the longings God was planting in the heart of St. Daniel Comboni. In each one of our days we have discovered Divine Providence and the knowledge that what we are living is nothing but God’s will.
Much of this has been thanks to my connection with the women through many different activities. At Comboni House I have been meeting them personally. Every Monday about 40 or 45 women come to learn crocheting, paint on cloth, and carry on various activities. Right now, I am teaching them free hand drawing. This started because several of them wanted to do their own drawings in order to paint them on cloth. Earlier in the year, I was not able to recognize them all, but now I already know several by name and have a closer relationship with some of them. It was interesting how it all started, because at the beginning I only had five students in it, and they kept on working even though I had to leave them, because painting needed more help. However, at the end of the semester there was an evaluation and many of them were interested in learning how to draw. It was a great gain, because now I have 24 women who are striving to learn free hand drawing. For me, it is a form of confidence, learning to give each one her proper space, welcoming them each Monday, being mindful of what they need, thus creating an atmosphere of mutual trust, resulting in this desire to be together. Today, I am happy with this little step I have taken. It took time, but now I understand what the missionaries have been saying, namely, that it takes at least one year to get to know the community and, especially, to earn the people’s trust. I am also working with a group of women in Ype Amarelo where we started with three women and now we have seven. We have made candles, engaged in printing activities and we are now starting with embroidering. I was very impressed by the response of the women of St. Hedwig. This group started after an evangelization mission our pastor held to animate the community. Now there are 16 women attending faithfully to learn crocheting. Later on, we will move on to painting and drawing.
The striking thing about these communities is the relationships of friendship that arise among the women and the good it does to their personal development. Many of them suffer with problems related to their children, spouses and work. Alcohol and drugs are very much part of these families’ life and “craftwork” is their space where to feel strong, stop smoking as one of them said, to curb these desires and turn from bad habits to art. These activities also help some of them to earn a little extra income, because what they have is not enough to live on. Certainly, I would love to have something extra to buy material and help them more, because for sure some have the means, but for others it is difficult even to make a little contribution. Now I feel closer to them, and it is easier for me to better understand their decisions, their joys and their sorrows because we live in the same neighborhood, in the same conditions, under the same influences and social problems. I know that, in the midst of all this, there is hope and the smiling faces of these women, enlivened as they rise out of depression, as they find this creativity within themselves and feeling valued and useful, is beyond comparison. Without any doubt, God is present and allows me to know him in this way, in his chosen daughters, the beloved for whom he came into the world.
These are valiant women fighting against the current, in a society that marginalizes and judges, but where the Lord makes their faces shine with his light.
Mission changes our lives, and it is changing mine making me be more compassionate with those who suffer and making me understand that there is a reason for every decision for better or for worse. It is only necessary to let go of our skin and live under someone else’s in order to share the same feelings, the feelings of Christ.
A warm embrace. Keep on praying for us, that our family life may accomplish God’s will.
Ana Cris, CLM