Last October 13, 14 and 15 in the Parish of Our Lady Mother of the Good Shepherd, belonging to the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus (MCCJ), in the city of Cali, Valle del Cauca, the Comboni Lay Missionaries of Colombia (CLM), lived a very special meeting with the community; in this meeting we had planned important events; The first was to meet personally the members of the community who are in the process of formation, in the stage of discernment (because all our formation meetings have been virtual), this meeting in person this year lent us to share the feelings, meet the personalities and discover the desires of each of the members who are part of this lay process. The second moment was so that through the experiences of three kinds of missionaries in the world, we could get a better idea of what it was to discern in the life of each one of these persons. And last, but the greatest moment, was the great step taken by three CLM, who have been formed for more than 3 years in the service of the mission, choosing the last and the abandoned as our first option; Father Franco Naschinbene, spiritual advisor appointed by the MCCJ to accompany the CLM of Colombia, consecrated Yaneth Rocío Escobar, Felipe Eugenio Mora Parra and Patricia Rodríguez Cerquera, consecrated us as Comboni Lay Missionaries, so that from our lay life we would commit ourselves to focus our efforts and to give reason of the eternal love, in which we believe, through the liberating service to our poorest and abandoned brothers and sisters.
Our meeting began on Saturday, after prayer, with the support of Marco Farias, a MCCJ religious brother about to take his permanent vows. He shared with us from his life story, his moment of discernment and showed us how through daily life, God makes the call and sows the seed necessary to follow Him; Brother Marco, at this time, is in his period of preparation for his final vows, that after living two years of mission in South Africa, this fact revealed to us that formation and preparation should always accompany our journey to and from the mission. At the end of Saturday morning, we complemented our reflection with a time of meditation; we were in a beautiful park in the middle of the city of Cali, there we “eclipsed” trying to guide our discernment, helped by a navigation instrument, which was a compass, which symbolized our constant effort to seek God through the mission among the last ones.
Saturday afternoon was completed with two wonderful testimonies, which in spite of being different, complemented each other perfectly; Tito and Regimar, a CLM married couple of Brazilian origin who are in Mozambique, in one of the international missions of the CLM, shared with us their daily life and their joy of serving among the people, they showed us how to survive the “hurricane” (literal and symbolic) that is the change of life in a mission, how, day by day God is showing us the way and that even though we have estimated and planned our destiny, it is He who is giving us the guidelines to follow it; This married couple shared with us their joy of the option they have taken and that after two years in mission, they plan to renew for another two years.
Finally, at the end of Saturday afternoon, we received the testimony of Xoan Carlos, a Spanish CLM who has been living for 24 years in Brazil accompanying the indigenous communities of the Amazon and the peasant people of the State of Maranhão in the northeast of Brazil; here he is doing a mission from another point of “combat”, that of justice and peace, defending the rights of marginalized peoples, especially in the mining area of Açailândia and rebuilding the rural sector from the people themselves, through peasant homes. This testimony made us see the importance of the integrality of the mission and that although he arrived in Brazil for a three-year mission, God, in his infinite wisdom, extended it a little more, extending it to his whole life.
Marco’s testimony focused on the ability to decide for a life option in the midst of so many possibilities offered by the world and the testimony of Vladimir and Regimar and Xoan Carlos focused on two of the different services that as CLM we have for the missions around the world. To close the day Father Franco, gave us a retrospective of the process of discernment of Jesus, that from the biblical context, where he clearly identified the humanity of Jesus, the son of God in the midst of the world and the option he took to do the will of the father in the service of the poor and forgotten.
On Sunday morning during the main Eucharist, we made the act of consecration as CLM in Colombia, a consecration that has generated in us a serious and responsible commitment that also “stoked the fire and the ardor” of the longing for a missionary outing. Through the act of consecration, we were officially recognized as part of the great Comboni family and became Comboni Lay Missionaries of Colombia consecrated to the service of the last and abandoned.
At the end of the Eucharist we went out in groups of two to make some visits to families of the community, in these tours we found wonderful stories of the community, that trying to summarize them here would be a challenge almost impossible to meet; in these visits the community transmitted us mainly the joy of the personal encounter, but also gave us to know their own and different realities and how, despite so many difficult situations, they live the experience of the community serving their neighbors, their family, the parish or simply whoever requires it.
On Sunday evening we lived a moment for recreation, thanks to the animation of a trio of Andean music, offered as a detail of the host laity of Cali and the community; this moment was for the encounter with ourselves, a moment of evaluation and sharing the feelings of the whole experience.
This type of meeting and the fact of sharing personally with all the Comboni Lay Missionaries, help us to continue on our way, to continue preparing ourselves for the moment that will lead us to live our mission experience, whether here in the country, in Africa or wherever God has prepared our missionary journey.
Photo. Consecration Eucharist.
Photos. Moment of consecration as CLM.
CLMs consecrated in 2023.
From left to right in order, Patricia Rodríguez, Felipe Mora and Yaneth Escobar.
Photo. Retreat participants
From left to right in order, Father Franco Naschinbene, Jenny Trujillo, Father Alfred Mbaidjide, Brother Marco Farias, Yaneth Escobar, Luz Elena Silva, Hector Vela, Patricia Rodriguez and Felipe Mora.
By Patricia Rodríguez Cerquera, CLM consecrated from Colombia.