Comboni Lay Missionaries

The Women, visible sign of the love of God

Grupo manualidades Brasil
Grupo manualidades Brasil

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.

Grupo manualidades Brasil

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.

Grupo manualidades Brasil

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

New Location: Santa Cruz Chinautla, Guatemala

LMC Guatemala

In Guatemala we, the local CLM, started this year 2019 asking God to enlighten us on where we were going to serve this year. In Santa Caratina Pinula we are continuing with the program of child nutrition of Chispuditos. However, we are temporarily leaving behind the monthly day of mission experience there and we are ready for a new location… to bring joy… faith, hope… peace… consolation, in solidarity with the injustice and deficiencies suffered by other Guatemalan brothers.

Now the Lord is bringing us to the municipality of Chinautla, in the Guatemala department.

Its center is Santa Cruz. It is located in the northern part of the department of Guatemala, only about 12 km from the capital. They are famous for their hand-made pottery. The entire population is indigenous and they are ethnic Pocomam.

They have been suffering under a lot of political abuse and corruption, because the mayor’s office has been monopolized by the same mayor since 1985. He has always supported whatever government has been in power, until he was arrested for corruption in 2015. In spite of the arrest, this individual was able to have his own niece elected mayor for the 2016-2020 term and got out of prison a few months after his capture, the gravity of the accusations facing him notwithstanding.

The people are poor and abandoned… the municipality of Chinautla does not allow the garbage trucks to drive over there, because they want to discourage the people so they will leave and then they will be able to exploit the village construction material. So the locals throw the garbage here and there, especially in the river that crosses the village, because they do not know where to put it, or how to take it to the main dump. They live in extreme poverty, have no place to go… nor will they want to… it is their land… all of them are owners.

That is where Jesus has guided our steps… all for his honor and glory. Fr. Roberto Gómez Palma is the pastor of Chinautla, people are mostly Catholics and the evangelical sects have not done much of anything. We have been there a couple of times, on February 23 and March 16, and we already see that the people are friendly and trusting. They send their children to our activities. Both the older and the younger ones come on their own, very independent and sure of themselves.

We ask the Lord to give us all we need to proclaim the Kingdom and share the joy of the Gospel. Also that he give us light to identify the needs where we can cooperate as Comboni Lay Missionaries. We place ourselves in the hands of Providence and trust in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, in the style of Comboni.

“Holy and Capable, making common cause with the poorest and most abandoned”

(St. Daniel Comboni)

Lily Portillo

CLM-PCA, Guatemala

Chispuditos Program in the Village of la Salvadora, Santa Catarina Pínula, Guatemala

LMC Guatemala

Comboni Lay Missionaries of the Province of Central America, Guatemala

LMC Guatemala

Chispuditos is the name of the food given only to children taking part in the program, between the ages of six months to six years. The purpose of this product is to provide vitamins and minerals necessary for the integral development of the children, helping to strengthen their immunological system, and to avoid anemia and malnutrition. In Guatemala the program is working in various places, it is free, and it is sponsored by foreign benefactors.

How is it that we, the CLM_PCA of Guatemala know about Chispuditos?

This is the story as told by Ana Cris de Camey, who is currently a missionary in Brazil:

“The month of February, 2017 was the first time we reached the village of la Salvadora and, as part of our missionary activity, we started home visitations with the idea of getting to know the families and their needs. That is where we met María Mercedes and Walter. She was 24 and he was 37. They had seven children, the last two being twins, a boy and a girl, Fabián and Tania, who were severely undernourished, pale, without hair, with spots on their heads and with a severe rash. The worst part is that they could not sit up even though they were already one and a half year old.

María Mercedes said that she was taking them to the national hospital Roosevelt once a month, where they were being treated for chronic malnutrition, were giving them some milk products, but it was not enough for them. For certain it was a precarious and difficult situation for the mother, who had problems finding food for the children since her husband did not have a job and was not even looking for one. On top of that she was the victim of physical and verbal abuse.  

On that same day in the afternoon, we talked with the community to find a way to help them because their situation was beyond deplorable. Miriam, also a CLM, commented about the Chispuditos program held at the clinic St. Daniel Comboni, run by Sr. Sarah Mulligan, SC.

Miriam spoke with Sr. Sarah and they allowed us to take up this nutrition program. Then several of us went to learn about the program to implement it at la Salvadora.

At first they lent us the scale to weigh the children and the ruler to measure their stature. After that and with the help of the parish of Santa Catarina Pínula, we were able to buy the equipment for our children.

On July, 8, 2017, for the first time we brought in the Chispuditos. On that same day we weighed 40 children, several of them healthy, while in others with malnutrition visible through their frail state and others too fat. By then we had already learned that this, too, was a sign of malnutrition.

We kept up the visits on the first Saturday of each month to measure and weigh the children, give them the Chispuditos, and giving encouragement to the mothers, besides teaching them some recipes to include protein and other ingredients that children need in order to grow.

Tania and Fabián:

Three months into the program, on October 2017, Fabián died. It was very tough because in all possible ways we were fighting to help these children escape malnutrition. They say that he gave a deep sigh and died. This was certainly due to the general weakness of his body and the heart gave up beating. We stayed close to María Mercedes and her family. She went to live with her mother and on various occasions we brought her the Chispuditos so that Tania would not stop taking it. Between the Chispuditos, the increased attention, the support of her grandmother and uncles, after two months we could already see the difference. She was a different girl, had a good color! She was a dark girl, with black hair, a great smile and a lot of energy! She was sitting up and was beginning to take her first steps. On that day I cried to see the mercy of God through this little girl. Unfortunately, her brother had to die, but it was not in vain. Today it gives us great joy to see the attention given to Tania, to be a different girl, that she may walk and grow.

As CLM we make every possible effort to help these women to grow spiritually and to better feed their families, and also that the children may escape malnutrition and have a better life. It involves years of work, but we know that already today we are beginning to see some fruit.”

Currently the program still works in the village la Salvadora, after one year and eight months, even though, having started with 40 children, we only have 12 still in it. Last Saturday, March 2, 2019, 11 new ones arrived. We rejoiced in our hearts, thanking God for all this. We have earned the trust of our community, and we hope these children will persevere and that the number of children benefiting from the Chispuditos will increase.

“Holy and capable, making common cause with the poorest and most abandoned”

St. Daniel Comboni

LMC Guatemala

Lily Portillo

CLM-PCA, Guatemala

Comboni Lay Missionaries PCA, Yearly Silent Retreat

LMC Guatemala

LMC Guatemala

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”

(St. Daniel Comboni)

LMC Guatemala

Lily Portillo, CLM-PCA

Visitors from Rome

LMC Guatemala

LMC Guatemala

Fraternal greetings from Guatemala!

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

LMC Guatemala

Holy and able making common cause with the poorest and most abandoned

St. Daniel Comboni