July – That the CLM, in their forthcoming continental meetings, may allow themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit and so respond generously to the needs of the people they meet in the various countries. Lord hear us.
To be formed is to be configured to the Heart of Jesus the Good Shepherd
“What is your name?… Go to your home and family and announce to them what the Lord has done for you and the mercy he has shown you”. (Mark 5,9 ff)
“In the mystery of the Heart of Christ, the missionary contemplates, in their fullest expression, Christ’s innermost attitudes and makes them his own: his unconditional giving of himself to the Father, his all-embracing love for the world and his involvement in human suffering and poverty” (RV 3.2)
“Formation must, as a priority, concern itself with interior motivations and educate towards facing, with creativity, competence and flexibility, the challenges emerging from new situations” (Ratio Fundamentalis 113)
In communion with all humanity, this year we are celebrating the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the extraordinary context of the COVID-19 pandemic that is still causing so much that is tragic and sorrowful all over the world. With confidence in God, we address an invitation to the whole Institute to contemplate the Heart of Jesus while opening our hearts to the mystery of his love so that this mystery may touch us deeply, free us from all the forces that keep us imprisoned and isolated and may help us to be faithful to our consecration and our mission.
As missionary disciples we enter the school of the Heart of Jesus who, in his humanity, reveals to us the Heart of God – the Heart of the Good Shepherd who goes out, approaches the poor, the suffering and the marginalised, inviting them to emerge from their isolation and their incommunicability, prepared for communication and a quality encounter with God, with others and creation. It is about participating in that love that always communicates itself, and that, if it is received by the beloved, always gives life, brings about growth and educates in the sense of the Latin word educere, which means bringing out what is best in the human being.
It’s important to remember that this encounter with Christ sets in motion a process of conversion, of formation and transformation, or better still, of “Christification” that lasts a lifetime and must touch the heart. The content of our initial and ongoing formation consists of the holiness and transformation of the person into Jesus Christ according to the dual complementary orientation of the sequela and imitatio Christi. Therefore, to be converted into another Christ is for us a privilege granted us by God’s mercy and grace and, at the same time, a responsibility that commits us to the coherence of life with the pressing and incessant question: “What would Christ and Comboni have done in this same historical situation of mine?“.
It is Christ who, with his merciful heart, takes the initiative of asking each one of us “What is your name?”,as he did of the possessed man referred to in the passage above.Toknow a person’s name, according to the Hebrew mind, means entering into the depths of his personal life. This question shows his interest in us as people loved by God and helps us, on the one hand, to reinterpret what is within and around us so as to discover where our hearts lie, who we really are and, on the other, shows us the Heart of Christ full of love, compassion acceptance and tenderness.
As Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus, both in our initial and ongoing formation, it remains the commitment of the person and of the Institute to cultivate, deepen and contextualise our spirituality of the Heart of Jesus so that our whole life may increasingly adhere to the “programme” contained in our name.
It is Christ who, with his welcoming heart, shows his full trust in others, no matter what their situation, values them and restores them to their communities, to their homes, symbols of places of hope, of cordiality and human warmth. Life is made up of quality communications and relations. Saint Daniel Comboni speaks of the Institute “as a Cenacle of Apostles, a centre of light sending out so many rays that shine, giving warmth and revealing together the nature of the Centre from whom they emanate” (cf. Writings: 2648). Our hope is that the Heart of Jesus may truly be a Centre of communication among all the confreres and that we may make of fraternal communication an instrument for building bridges, to unite us and share the beauty of being brothers in mission, in an epoch marked by contrasts, division and indifference.
Lastly, as we reflect this year on the theme of ministeriality in the Institute, let us pray that the contemplation of the Heart of Christ may help us to live the mission, not superficially as a role to be filled but as a service to the Kingdom of God and an expression of a process of kenosis and decentralization. We wish you all a Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart!
The General Secretary of Formation and the MCCJ General Council.
Among the novelties brought about by this sadly famous Covid-19 pandemic is that it does not give much room for charitable action or heroism in favour of others. In old times of plague, whoever chose to do so could dedicate himself totally to the plague-stricken even at the risk of his life. This was done by people who were later declared saints, such as Louis Gonzaga, King Louis of France or Daniel Comboni. But that’s now forbidden. We are in a super-organized society that acts according to scientific hygiene criteria, and what we are told is that the best way to help others is to stay at home to reduce the risks of contagion. However, there is always room for generosity, even in times of coronavirus.
I say all this from a corner of Africa where, thank God, the coronavirus has not “yet” arrived and where government measures of isolation are not as draconian as they have been in Europe. But we are still conditioned in many ways by the virus, which is like a sword of Damocles that hangs menacingly over our heads.
I live in the mission of Gilgel Beles, in Ethiopia, with two young Comboni lay missionaries, one Spanish and the other Portuguese, who arrived here a year ago. Nothing was known about the coronavirus at that time, and they came full of enthusiasm to do many things for others. They gave themselves without measure in services such as teaching everything they were capable of teaching, visiting the villages, taking the sick who fell in their path to the health center… They worked hard to make the most of the brief two-year period of their stay.
Then, unexpectedly, in the middle of the work, so to speak, came the coronavirus. Many organizations called on their members to return to the nation of origin. They too were called. If they stayed, it was their responsibility. And they did not hesitate in their choice: they remained “on their own responsibility”, even when the mother of one of them is awaiting a delicate cancer operation and even when they themselves are afflicted by continuous attacks of typhus and typhoid fever, which weaken both of them…
And here they are. As I said, it’s not that the containment measures are particularly harsh. The range of movement is still quite wide, at least as long as the first contagions don’t show up in our area.
However, the whole rhyme of the activities has suffered. With academic life totally paralyzed and meetings banned, they can no longer teach groups and the library that they had opened no longer has any customers.
Despite all these limitations, they try to resist to the limit. They have become attached to these people and, although they cannot do many things “for them”, they can be “with them”. And they feel that the simple presence in these moments of tribulation is a value that in itself justifies both coming and staying as long as possible.
Fr. Juan González Núñez
From Gumuz, Ethiopia
“We would wish to share with you the following remarks. Our Comboni Family (MCCJ-CLM-CMS-SCM) has a long and valuable tradition of engagement in various pastoral activities with a strong social dimension. We also have a well-established history of 12 years of participation in the World Social Forum and the Comboni Forum “
“… In the 2018 Comboni Forum, held in Salvador de Bahia (Brazil) on the occasion of the World Social Forum, the participants suggested that all members of the Comboni Family engaged in social ministry could reflect on their activities. To look at this ministry from the light of the Gospel and of our specific Charism, the participants proposed an analysis and evaluation all the activities in which we are engaged. At our recent meeting of the two General Councils in April 2019 and of the General Administrations of the four branches of the Comboni Family in June 2019, we welcomed this proposal and we decided to create a commission that could draw up a roadmap and coordinate the various activities to implement the proposal… “
The nominated commission consists of:
Daniele Moschetti, (firstname.lastname@example.org), mccj
Sr. Hélèn Israel Soloumta Kamkol (email@example.com), smc
Marco Piccione (Venegono): (firstname.lastname@example.org), lmc
Sr. Maria Teresa Ratti (email@example.com), smc
Fernando Zolli (firstname.lastname@example.org), mccj
What is reported is an extract from the letter with which the general superior of the MCCJ (P. Tesfaye Tadesse) and the general superior of the Comboni Sisters (Sr. Luigia Coccia) communicated at the same time the birth of the commission for the ministry and the purposes of this commission.
Over the months, some people have added to the commission who have made an indispensable contribution in terms of experience and knowledge in order to achieve the most complete and exhaustive possible work.
The three concrete activities that the commission had undertaken to achieve its objectives are:
- Map all the social ministerial activities of the Comboni Family
- Publish the 2nd volume, which follows the 1st from the title: “Be the change you want to see in the world”
- Organize participation in the World Social Forum (FSM) 2020
For the first activity many of you have already been involved and we take this opportunity to thank you for your valuable contribution. From the collection of all the files received by the commission, a database will be drawn up thanks to which it will be possible to have a photograph of all the social and JPIC activities in which the Comboni family is engaged in the world.
But this post wants, above all, to give you the good news that has been completed and that is now available, the 2nd volume of the book on social ministry of the Comboni family entitled “WE ARE MISSION: witnesses of social ministry in the Comboni family“, which presents with more detailed informations, some projects in which fathers, brothers, sisters, seculars or lay people are engaged and which have been considered particularly significant to illustrate the methods and style to live the aspect of the Comboni charism which provides for a concrete social commitment. Alongside the presentation of these projects, there are some reflections from witnesses who will certainly be able to help in reflection and discernment on these issues that are so important and, I would say, characterizing our being Combonians.
The book is available in four languages (Italian, English, French and Spanish). It will be distributed in the Comboni houses but some copies will be reserved for the laity.
Unfortunately, the last activity foreseen for the commission, namely the participation in the WSF initially scheduled for 2020, is currently pending. In fact, due to the sad health situation that is affecting the whole world, the forum has been postponed to 2021.
Instead, the forum of the Comboni family usually scheduled immediately after the WSF, it was decided to do it in another period. At this time, it has been set from 12 to 16 December 2020.
Hoping that the tool of the book will help us in our daily mission and in feeling even more family united by the gift we have received of the Comboni charism, we greet you and send you our best wishes and prayers so that even from this difficult moment we can get out more fortified in faith and in the certainty of being accompanied by a God who walks with us.
Marco Piccione, CLM
We can tentatively define ministeriality as the Church’s transformative presence at all levels and of all dimensions of society. Hence, ministeriality indicates a service of the Church to the contemporary world, through a diffuse presence in society, like the yeast in the dough, transforming it towards the ideal of the Kingdom of God. Ministeriality goes beyond the Church boarders to the society at large where Christian live and express their faith in the daily work.
We know how this presence in society has changed through the centuries, as well as its conceptualisation in the Church’s magisterium. We have moved from separatist models, attempting to create an alternative, holy society, to more recent understanding of a Church immersed and incarnated in the world, yet not of the world. The concept and practice of ministeriality have also followed the same journey of transformation. We are shifting from power to service; from almost exclusively Church-focused ministries to accepting that pastoral action for social change is broader than the Church, beyond the borders of the formal Christian communities.
No need to say that, in this process of revival of ministeriality, Vatican II represented a milestone. The Church radically changed the understanding she had of herself, passing from being a fortress under siege or a ark in troubled waters to being a community of disciples, a ‘people of God’ in the contemporary world (see Gaudium et Spes). The vision of Vatican II had an enormous impact on all ministries in the Church. Membership in the Church was not measured anymore on priestly ordination and submission to ordained ministers but on baptism. All forms of lay apostolate, across all aspects of the life of the Church, by any member of the Church –whether lay or ordained– stem from baptism, and they are direct participation in the saving mission of the Church (Lumen Gentium 33).
It should not be a surprise, therefore, that the event of Vatican II and its aftermath has seen the emergence of new movements in the Church, all linked to potentially new ministries: the liturgical movement, the biblical movement, the peace and human rights movement, the ecumenical movement. To this, we add the emergence of an entirely new consciousness and competence of lay people in society. Paul VI extended the central ministries of the Word (office of Reader) and the Altar (office of Acolyte) to all lay people, now conferred not by ordination, but by institution so to distinguish them very clearly from the sacrament of priesthood (Ministeria Quædam, 1972).
In the troubled years after Vatican II, ecclesial lay movements grew in importance, especially during the pontificate of John Paul II. They embodied the spirit of the Council, i.e. the presence of the lay in the society, underlying a certain independence from the traditional, territorial Church. Lay gathered not any more, or not only, according to a territory (the traditional parish), but more according to other criteria like profession, religious culture, spirituality. These movements were the direct transformative presence of the Church in society, founded on the spirit of Vatican II. However, some of them were progressive, open to newness, in honest dialogue with the contemporary world, ready to a mutual exchange for the collective growth. Others, on the other hand, were nostalgic of a past when there was a more visible presence of the Church in society as a clear point of reference and moral guide. Post-Vatican II theology and pastoral practice did not succeed in eliminating or reducing, the historical tension concerning the different modalities of the presence of the Church in the world.
The advent of Pope Francis and his pontificate can be considered another milestone in the development of a new Christian awareness and the Church’s presence to today’s world. Some scholars define Francis as the first truly post-Vatican II Pope, in the sense that he totally incarnates the spirit and the theology of the Council. It was clear at the word ‘go’ of his pontificate, in that evening of his election, when from the Loggia of St Peter, he asked the people to pray for him and to bless him. It was a bright “Vatican II moment”, a moment of magisterium not in written form, but in life (M. Faggioli).
Several aspects of Francis’ life and teaching mark a new consciousness of the Church about herself and her role in society. For reason of space, I will mention only a few.
The first is a call for the creation of a new mindset: from a unique experience of God as Love to a new vision of the Church as the place where this Love becomes visible, inclusive, unconditional, and efficacious mercy. In such a Church, we begin thinking “in terms of community and the priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few” (Evangelii Gaudium, 188). Such an attitude necessarily leads to “a new political and economic mindset, which would help to break down the wall of separation between the economy and the common good of society” (Evangelii Gaudium, 205).
The methodology, which Francis proposes is “initiating processes rather than occupying spaces” (Evangelii Gaudium, 223): vision and service are more important than self-assertion and power. Hence, ministeriality (Church’s service to humanity) is nothing more than the implementation of the vision: a Church with a ministerial system focused not on power flowing from a role (priesthood) but on a common being (baptismal vocation) and a common path (determined by the Church’s prophetic imagination).
Ministeriality calls for complementarity and collaboration. This is well expressed in the word synodality. Journeying together, “synodality”, is the other fundamental characteristic of the Church envisioned by Francis. Synods existed already before Francis, but he has given them new power and role, making them events of true communion and ecclesial discernment (Episcopalis Communio, 2018). Some say that synodality is the real paradigm shift in his pontificate; undoubtedly, it is a constitutive element of the Church. It appeals to conversion and reform within the Church herself, so to become a more listening Church. It also offers new insights for the society as a whole, “the dream that a rediscovery of the inviolable dignity of peoples and of the function of authority as service will also be able to help civil society to be built up in justice and fraternity, and thus bring about a more beautiful and humane world for coming generations” (Francis, Address at the ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops, 2015).
Openness to the dream for a new society involves not only each baptised, but each person of goodwill longing and acting for justice, peace, and the care for creation. The sharing of such a thirst for righteousness and the recognition of what social activists are already doing was the leitmotif of the messages of Pope Francis to the representatives of popular movements, during their World Meetings (2014-2017). Once again, Francis recalled the idea of walking together (synod), supporting the struggle of the popular movements. It is the image of a synodal and ministerial Church, at the service of humanity, which recognises the ministry of many people of different religions, trades, ideas, cultures, countries, continents, and respects the diversity of each one. Francis used the image of the polyhedron (an image used also in Querida Amazonia, 2020): it “reflects the confluence of all the partialities that in it keep their originality. Nothing is dissolved, nothing is destroyed, nothing is dominated, everything is integrated” (Message to the popular movements, 2014). It is the same shift initiated by Vatican II, from a pyramidal structure of the Church to a communal one, in which every richness is recognised and appreciated in its diversity. In summary, the idea of ministeriality is founded on a clear understanding of Church and an identifiable praxis in, for, and with the world, characterised by dialogue, openness, readiness to recognise, to learn from, and to walk together with any person of goodwill engaged for the transformation of the society.
Fr. Stefano Giudici, mccj