We continue this series of testimonies with José Carlos Rodríguez.
A journalist of formation, he worked for more than 20 years as a Comboni missionary in Uganda reporting on conflicts and as a social worker after the civil war. He is the only Spaniard to have spoken with Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, during meetings and talks in which he participated with the aim of restoring peace in the country. He has also worked on conflict resolution projects in D.R. Congo and in the Central African Republic, where he continues to work today.
We continue this series with Fr. Enrique Bayo Mata, a Comboni Missionary who spent fifteen years in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Fr. Enrique tells us about his rich experience of learning the African liturgy and his work on the continent, which includes, in addition to pastoral service, publishing, radio and television. For many years he has collaborated with the CLM in Congo, at the African level and even within the Central Committee of the CLM.
(Interview in Spanish)
Since April 2018, this is the third time that the Comboni Lay Missionaries of Congo commit themselves to the mission ad gentes and ad vitam in the international movement of the Comboni Lay Missionaries.
There are six new members (6): Flory SEZABO, Paulin KUVULA, Guy SINYEMBO KALENGE, Fabienne EKENGE ALENGO, Christian NSONA and Cécile WAMBA, who have freely and voluntarily decided to commit themselves before God and the Christian assembly this Sunday 11 October 2020 in the parish of St. John Paul II of the Comboni Missionaries.
“You too go into my vineyard” (Mt. 20:3-4). “The lay faithful are also personally called by the Lord, from whom they receive a mission for the Church and for the world”.
All lay people are missionaries in virtue of their baptism, referring to the words by which Jesus Christ, Crucified and Risen, before ascending to heaven, entrusted to the Apostles the missionary mandate: “Go, therefore, from all nations, make disciples, baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”, in fact, it does not cease to resound, as a universal call and an ardent appeal.
As the Comboni laity grows over time, the province proceeded, for the third time, to the definitive consecration of 6 members and this, during the Eucharistic celebration presided over by its Chaplain, Fr. Célestin NGORE GALI, mccj and animated by the Choir afriquespoir des Laïcs Missionaires Comboniens, on 11 October 2020.
After pronouncing the formula of commitment before the altar, the chaplain imposed the cross on them, a sign of the following of Christ. Jesus died crucified, nailed to a cross. For Christians, the cross is the symbol of Christ’s death and resurrection. For Comboni too, suffering was represented by the cross: “We will have to tire, sweat, die; but the thought that we sweat and die for the love of Jesus Christ and the salvation of the most abandoned souls in the world is too sweet to make us turn away from this great enterprise”. It is the sign of salvation that God offers to all mankind. And the Writings of Comboni, a sign of his definitive belonging to the Comboni family.
As a driving force in mission promotion, after having organized its second provincial assembly in December 2019, the province is working to hold its 20th Congress next November 2020, together with the other Cenacles of Prayer and Missionary Spirituality.
In summary, the activities of participation for the creation and promotion of Cenacles of Missionary Prayer (MSC) and similar are developing normally. In addition to the realization of the Mission Ad Gentes, therefore, we inform that there are two members, one of whom had just completed his mission in the Central African Republic and the other is doing it locally in an orphanage.
I feel like an heir of the prophetic vision of St. Daniel Comboni wanting to “Save Africa by means of Africa,” whose vision has now been expanded to Africa saving the world. The Lord tells us: “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)
On the morning of Sunday, March 15, that promised to be a beautiful day I arrived in my mission land with my luggage, the Republic of Central Africa. I have no words to describe how I felt in the utmost depths of my being at that time. I landed in Bangui, after a long period of formation that included a community experience in Kinshasa. It was for me a moment of heartfelt emotions, on the one hand I felt the joy of being in mission, on the other hand I felt the pain of separation in leaving behind the country of my birth, the land of my ancestors, my family, my work, my community, my friends, etc… I still had in mind my last face to face meeting with my father the night of my departure and then this morning my mother who accompanied me to the airport together with the chaplain of the CLM of Congo, Fr. Celestine Ngore and our coordinator of the CLM in Kinshasa, Mr. Gerard Kambaji.
By then I knew that I belonged to a new family, I had been adopted by a new land and was happy to know that the Lord was waiting for me, here in the CAR, and that here I had new brothers and sisters.
The adventure begins
When I arrived in Bangui I was well received by Fr. Claude-Bernard, mccj who had come to pick me up and take me to the community where I was going to live. When we reached there, he showed me the place and told me that I needed to be quarantined there for 14 days to check on the coronavirus. That is when I realized that I had reached Bangui at a time marked by the pandemic of Covid-19. This was being a particular difficult time for the Comboni delegation in the CAR, because the first Covid 19 case in the country had been the one of a Comboni Missionary who had tested positive upon his return from Italy. Thus, his confreres who had been in contact with him when he returned to Bangui, were quarantined for 15 days to check on them. In this context, the government adopted preventive measured to limit the risk of contagion in a country where the health structures capable of fully facing this pandemic are few. So, every individual entering the CAR must be quarantined for 15 days.
At first it was difficult for me, and I had moments of loneliness in a house I hardly knew. But even though I was physically alone, I felt united to thousands of people who are isolated in this world, prisoners unjustly held in their cells, sick people without help, marginalized people living alone, plus I was receiving supporting and life-giving messages from all over through the social media. I felt strengthened by the words of our founder that “the works of God are born and grow at the foot of the Cross.” And since it was Lent, I took this opportunity to enter more deeply into this mystery and to offer my mission to the Lord and spend some time listening to him. And finally, like Comboni, I thanked Jesus for the crosses.
Discovering the CAR
At the end of my quarantine I did not show any sign of the virus, and could get out and meet the others, but always following the safe distance rules. So that, together with the fathers we started the legal steps for my papers. I could finally see Bangui, the monuments in the various squares of the city, like the Martyrs, the Peace monument and those of Bartolomé Boganda and Oumar Bongo Odima, just to name a few. It is a city with a rich culture. The trees were covered with dust because this is the dry season lasting six months. I could see and listen to the locals, and it was nice to listen to this new language, and speak gently and beautifully a language that uses also Lingala words we speak at home. Aside from these few words, it was also difficult for me, because I could not understand anything else in this language that we back home call Sango, where Sango means a minister of religion, while here it is the name of the language. So, I realized that I have to learn it all even though I thought we would have more similarities between the CAR and the DRC, because they border each other and we share several tribes. I concluded that I had to learn everything without exception, because Africa is one but varies according to the culture of each country.
At this time, while the entire world is affected by the coronavirus, the CAR authorities have declared a health emergency and have invited people to isolate themselves and strictly forbidden the gathering of more that 15 people. In view of this, they have closed the schools, the churches, the bars, and all sporting events or events of any type. But around here, people in general do not respect the order of the authorities to stay apart. I am realizing that it is difficult for the majority of the people who are poor and live on a day-to-day basis as we say around here. So they need to go out to sell or to look for food for the family. Here is where I realized the presence of the Lord’s grace and of divine protection.
For the time being I am staying in Bangui to keep on learning the language and other things that will be useful in my mission of Mongoumba. Our founder, San Daniel Comboni, asks for the formation of persons who will be holy and capable. During this time of preparation, I keep on being patient, open and listening attentively with the attitude of a child. I as you to pray for me and I will not forget to do the same for you.
On Sunday, February 2, 2020, the Comboni Lay Missionaries of the Congolese province, represented by the communities of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa, sent Mr. Enoch Malumalu, coordinator of the COLAMICA St. Mary Goretti, to the mission of Mongoumba, in the region of Lobaye, Central African Republic.
The Mass of thanksgiving was celebrated in Kinshasa in the parish of St. John Paul II, in the presence of about one hundred local faithful, family members, Enoch’s friends and acquaintances attending the Mass of the Presentation of the Lord at the Temple. The Mass was celebrated by Fr. Simplice Mbassi, a Josephite priest and concelebrated by Fr. John Paul Etumba, a Comboni Missionary and pastor of St. John Paul II, and with the participation of Deacon André Mbala, mccj, and the Comboni Sisters. In his homily, Father remembered the importance of the feast and of the event: “On this day, Jesus is consecrated to God in the Temple of Jerusalem and this day has become the feast of all consecrated men and women who have given their lives to Christ. But this day is also the celebration of the messengers.” Commenting on the liturgical texts, he emphasized the importance of prayer – that must be regular and perseverant – in mission and in the use of material means. This was followed by the imposition of hands, the blessing and the missionary send-off.
In his intervention, Enoch invited the African youth in general and the Congolese youth in particular to discover their missionary vocation, to commit themselves to serve our poorest brothers and sisters and persevere so that “to save Africa with Africa” be a concrete reality. The faithful present at the Mass as well supported the sending off of their brother Enoch with a special collection picked up during the celebration.
This event took place after a period of specific formation, which included a time of community living experience, and one of mission formation (inculturation) lasting six months each. Mr. Enoch Malumalu, Comboni Lay Missionary of the Province of Congo, will leave Kinshasa in early March to take up his mission in Mongoumba, in the region of Lobaye, Central African Republic.
It will be the first time when for some years there will be a CLM of African origin in this international community, and it is an opportunity to thank God and hope for a greater African presence in our common responsibility to continue our mission. This continuity includes the analysis of the reality in which we live as a CLM community, together with the Comboni family and the Comboni pastoral community, as we discern our present and our future.
CLM of the Province of Congo
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