Comboni Lay Missionaries

Our experience as CML in Colombia during this quarantine

LMC Colombia
LMC Colombia



May 11, 2020

Dear Comboni Lay Missionaries

The year 2020 began with our presence as Comboni Lay Missionaries of Colombia in the neighbourhood of El Oasis, on the eastern outskirts of the municipality of Soacha, near the city of Bogotá. The Comboni priest Franco Nascimbene has been working there for five years and we are now sharing our experience of immersion with him. During this time, as a team, we have been thinking of ways to accompany all those affected by the current situation of COVID-19.

At the beginning of the quarantine we asked ourselves about the meaning of our presence in the middle of the community, since given the indications of the government we all had to be at home, temporarily suspending the pastoral activities planned for the year (catechesis, afro choir, eco environmental project and afro group).

Especially since we are in a neighborhood where the majority of the inhabitants depend on informal work and which is made up of minorities such as migrants (mostly Venezuelans) and those displaced by the violence of the departments of the Colombian Pacific. Although the incidence in terms of health has been minimal for the inhabitants of the neighborhood meanwhile there are no reported positive cases of people from the sector, the social and economic impact has brought an increase in the situation of poverty and in the guarantee of basic rights such as food, housing, health, recreation and education among others. When analyzing this reality as a team, we observe that the presence of the state continues to be minimal, and the food aid that has arrived in the neighborhood is not enough to supply basic food for the families.

Facing this reality, the following significant experiences have arisen and we would like to share with you, full of great joy:

Community prayer in the stable: During the first week of quarantine, during the prayer of the Comboni Missionaries’ team, the idea arose to share moments of prayer that would allow the people of the stable to generate more solidarity and hope. This idea was shared with neighbors from another church (evangelicals) who live on the same street and who joined the initiative. From the second week of quarantine onwards, this idea was born:

  • Every week two people on the block lead the prayer time.
  • There is a praise of gratitude accompanied by instruments such as the cununo, the bass drum and tambourines.
  • Each person from their home makes a prayer of gratitude and is accompanied by the chorus of the opening song.
  • The two facilitators of the weekly prayer share a biblical quotation and generate a reflection.
  • Then each family makes a prayer of petition.
  • The prayer ends with praise and a basket is placed in the middle of the street so that each neighbor can give something to eat to a family that needs it.

This experience, which we continue to live, has allowed us to get to know our neighbors, since for reasons of study or work, it was not possible for us to share these spiritual and community moments. In addition, two people have committed themselves to prepare the prayer every week, and from the second week onwards, a sound system and microphone are loaned out, with the participation of people from other streets. The most important thing is that from this community act, solidarity is experienced among the people who contribute with some of their food to benefit two families who need it every week.

Solidarity sharing: at the same time that we were asking ourselves as a team about creative ways to help our neighbors, we unexpectedly began to receive messages from people close to us, such as friends or relatives who, from Bogotá, were concerned about the situation in the suburbs. Then it occurred that we become bridges that would allow economic aid to reach them.

The first two weeks we went to the nearby supermarkets to buy supplies to help some previously known families. From there we focused on the people who would benefit from this aid with the collaboration of some Afro leaders with whom we had been working. We thought about the afro population that as a consequence of the quarantine have been left without jobs. That is how one afternoon we shared around 40 markets among our black brothers of the sector. Markets have also been shared with migrants, older adults, recyclers and mothers who are heads of households.

The tenderness of the poor: In Father Franco’s house, a table was set where each person could take 3 foods that they needed or leave something that they wanted to share. From this initiative, many small gestures of solidarity emerged, where those who had something else shared it with someone who needed it more, for example: 5 eggs, a pound of tomatoes, a package of rice. People who got help shared part of what they received with those who had more difficulty than them.  Currently, Father Franco spends his afternoons visiting different families in their homes to get to know their reality. In this exercise, he has met people who, having enough, have invited him to share with others who really need it.

As a team, we have been part of this experience of cooperation, we have experienced the joy of receiving food from people close to us, many times we have given what was due to us by emptying our hands but seeing how this giving multiplied into a new receiving.

Now we find ourselves thinking about how to support the academic process of the children, since with the strategy of distance education those who do not have an internet connection and the economic possibilities to pay for the copies they require, have been excluded.

United in prayer and mission from Colombia,

Alexandra Garcia, Vanessa Ardila, Father Franco Nascimbene

The Fourth day of our CLM continental meeting of America

LMC America

We have begun our morning invoking the presence of Saint Daniel Comboni so that we as CLM may live and follow a style of life that he lived.  We have begun the first part of the morning with some presentations of mission experience of some of our CLM.  Carol and Minerva share their mission experience and work that they do among the Misteco village, in Mexico.  They describe and share the difficulties, obstacles, limitations and fruitful gifts they have both experienced and received.  Their work among the village of the Mistecos is to accompany them by being present and being there with them.  Carol and Minerva both live and share their lives with the village of the Misteco, respecting their culture and working together among them without excluding their culture values, religion, and way of doing things. Then we have a guess speaker, Juan Manuel Garcia a professor coming from a Pastoral School of the indigenous people in Mexico City, whom gives CLM formation in the area of pastoral work within this people.  In between our formation class we were assigned group work, it enabled for some dialogue, and reflection of this type of pastoral work.  The various groups coincided with some thoughts such as obstacles, limitations, and realizing the importance of this kind of work.  The main focus and teaching that the CLM remained with is that “God’s heart is opened to all that want to know of him” which was a very enriching knowledge.  In the second part of the day we have two psychologist speakers, they provided useful information and knowledge on how to communicate more effectively among each other (CLM).  They used group interaction, as a dynamic to bring us together and practice our communication skills that we already possess in a more effective manner using strategies and methods.

LMC America

At the end of our day we concluded with Adoration to the Blessed Sacrament and were infused with an explosion of gratitude.

(Valentín and Yessenia)  

The third day of our CLM continental meeting of America


The Morning Prayer marked the beginning of our day with a very dynamic and colorful day that filled us with optimism.  Then we worked in groups, CLM were divided into five different groups in order to contextualize and synthesize on previous points that were previously agreed on.  The second part of the morning was used to form us in how to properly manage our web site:  Alberto de la Portilla, our coordinator of the central committee facilitated a training on how to access our web page and showed us the great advantages it offers making it possible for CLM to be connected from around the world.  Also the functions, the benefits it offers such as all the useful content that can be of interest, that can be found through this medium of communication.


In the second part of the day, we have been anxiously waiting to visit the Sanctuary of the Virgen de Guadalupe, (an emblem of the Mexican town).  Our pilgrimage began in the late hours of the afternoon and went throughout the evening.  The mass which was presided by the Provincial of Mexico and concelebrated by four participating Comboni priests it was a very exciting time in which we all participated. This visit to the Sanctuary injected in all CLM a spirit of mission in all of us.  At the end of the day we concluded with a visit to the Comboni Sisters at the Provincial house.  We celebrated with them their special moment of the new election in a new chapter in Rome, the election of their Mother Superior.


(Valentín y Yessenia)

The second day of our CLM continental meeting of America

rosario misionero

Today we started the day with a mass celebration with everyone carrying out our commitment as CLM.  During mass the idea that predominated was that a CLM is always a missionary, not mattering whether or not the CLM is carrying out mission work in or outside of his/her country of origin.  The activities of the day began with group work based on a previous study guide that was presented to the CLM for completion before our IV Continental meeting in Mexico. Each of the groups presented and informed according to the topics that were included in the study guide. We were enriched by the constructive information that all groups exposed and shared of what goes on in each of their countries. It is always enriching to see what others are doing in their countries and how they have progressed in this area of mission work since our last continental meeting.  Each representative of each country exposed and presented with such clarity on topics that were previously chosen for discussion.  In the second part of the morning we moved on to discuss the agreements that were previously made in Guatemala in   2014 for each country.  CLM from Columbia is the only country that was not able to send a representative to our meeting but they have sent their report via email and was read out-loud by Alberto.  Fisher, the coordinator of Peru presented theirs with such clarity and after is followed by a brief discussion of the same.  Yessenia De La O, representative for Paul Wheeler presented the report for Nap.  Cristina both a member of our International Committee and the representative for Brazil presented their report.  Mexico also presents their report with clarity and it’s followed by a small dialogue.  The next presentation is done by Mirella the coordinator of Guatemala.  More group work follows after to answer aspects not yet discussed based on the study guide. In the discussion floor groups exposed what was agreed in their respective groups that they were assigned too, in order to make a follow up on the agreements made in Guatemala 2014, whether if agreements were accomplished or not. After each presentation an enriched dialogue followed which helped to clarify some aspects of past agreements made in the meeting of Guatemala in 2014.

Valentín y Yessenia de la O

IV Continental meeting CLMs of America (18-24 September)

LMC America

Our CLM’s Gathering began Sunday 18th with the presentation by the Continental committee and by Father Erasmus, Provincial Comboni Missionary in Mexico.  Then we had a very original Dynamic directed by Leticia in order to learn more about each other as a group.  We then assigned group activities and practical responsibilities for these remaining days.  We started Monday with a very colorful mass that the Latino missionaries organized.  The Eucharist is the center and force of all missionaries, this was presented through words and gestures in the offerings that were presented.

LMC America

The activities of the morning were marked by the memory of our previous meetings and our commitments that were made especially in the meeting in Guatemala, which served to remind us of our lay community and our commitment to it. We reviewed the agreements previously made in order to live better our commitments in our various countries.  Achievements in these past years have been remarkable, especially in the area of communication.  Nevertheless, more commitment of our CLM and provincials are required in order to ensure a good follow up in all provinces.  The Central Committee updated and specified what their function and role are within the International movement. Alberto, Coordinator of the Central Committee exposed its operation and clearly presented and reminded us of the various agreements that had been made by the different Continental Assemblies in a very concise and clear manner leaving no room for questions. In the Maia Assembly, the base of its performance was set, and it recalls for much coordination between the different agents within the mission of the CLM’s.

The CLM are present in 20 countries.  Today we have various challenges as CLM in different continents.  One of the challenges is that is necessary to clarify our relationship within the MCCJ at all levels.  Another aspect that was emphasized on was the economic contribution that each member and country can give in order to help facilitate economic resources to those who have less.  It is necessary for all MCCJ and Provincials to have the capacity to accept and collaborate with the CLM in those countries.  We have major challenges today as a group in various levels and it is important to be conscience of them and be more coherent.

LMC America

Alberto de la Portilla recalls the challenges

  • Consolidate those groups (CLM) in our countries and promote vocations of same.
  • Involve everyone in a systematic way so that we all are an International CLM family.
  • Achieve a smooth communication process and be more corresponding in the decision making.
  • Carry out the challenges and commitments of Maia.
  • Enable a stability in the international coordination.
  • Enhance further knowledge and background that will help us grow.
  • Procure a style of Comboni family that Comboni would have liked.

The reflection of the evening was to care for the creation of the vocation as laity in the church and to protect it, this was presented by Cristina from the Central Committee.  The Comboni Lay Missionaries are called to continue the Kind of Life that Jesus led as well as Comboni.  We are also called to continue and with the making of Missionary animation. In the afternoon each country presents its responses according to the previous questionnaire that was sent to each coordinator: Columbia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, NAP, Brazil and in the evening Peru presents with two very interesting testimonies by Arequipa and Trujillo.

(Fr. Valentín García and Yessenia de la O)