On the weekend of May 18-19, the CLM formation group gathered for its monthly meeting with the following theme: “Mission today: How? Why? For what? The Church in action.”
Even though the number was lower than usual, the gathering was quite rich in content. We started with the great question: Why mission? The various answers arrived to the same conclusion that it is the love of Jesus that moves us to go further out. And to help us remember that Jesus was the first missionary, the theme continued with the passage of the Road to Emmaus where the disheartened disciples recognize Jesus like the “One” who set their hearts on fire with his words.
Besides Bible passages we also reflected parts of the Encyclical Redemptoris Missio of Pope St. John Paul II over the enduring value of the Missionary Mandate, reflecting the key words about the meaning of Mission and of being a Missionary. In this encyclical, Pope St. JPII invites the Church to renew its missionary commitment, stating that “Mission is a problem of faith, the correct measure of our faith in Christ and in his love for us.”
On Saturday after lunch, we visited the house of the Comboni Sisters, who shared with us some of their experiences, and witnesses of missionary life.
After this time, we returned to our theme and moved on to the reading of the Pastoral Note of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference on the Mission Year and the Extraordinary Mission Month, inviting all Christians to live a year of constant encounter with Jesus. To be in a permanent state of mission, to live the mission and mission renewal.
That evening we saw the film “Francis and Clare,” a show that made us reflect on their lives embattled for the love of Jesus and their dedication to the emarginated.
The Sunday started with a beautiful dedication to our Mother, Mary Queen of Missions, by starting our first prayer of the day in front of an image of her outside the house. After breakfast and up to the Eucharist, we studied excerpts from the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and we contacted by a video call Pedro Nascimiento and Carolina Fiúza who shared their experiences from their arrival in Ethiopia. Then we ended this very fruitful meeting with the Eucharist and the certainty that we were leaving with the joy of Jesus who made us and wnts us to be missionaries, every day and everywhere.
It has been two months now since I am in Africa. My first stop was Democratic Republic of Congo. First thing that surprised me when I landed in Kinshasa was the temperature, it was very, very high. I was already in Kenia twice so far, so I supposed I would not be very surprised by African reality, and for sure not by the weather!
At the airport, there were waiting for me two persons: father Celestin, responsible for CLM movement in DRC and Tiffany – CLM Coordinator. They took me to the provincial house of the MCCJ where I was welcomed very warmly by all CLM and Comboni fathers’ community.
During these two months spent in Kinshasa, I focused mainly on learning French, but also on experiencing community life, in big international group. It showed me that diversity is truly beautiful. So many different cultures, different languages, habits, it can really work and give joy to the people who live together. We can find something that connects us: first of all – God, other people, happiness of being together, common mission and care of God’s work. Of course, life with other people is not easy, but the awareness that we share the same goal helps a lot.
As I mentioned before, time spent in Kinshasa was mainly to learn French, quite difficult experience for me, but it really taught me many things.
At the beginning, I tried to mix up French and English, but most of the time I still used simple English instead of French. The later, the harder, more and more people required from me to speak French, but that worked for the best! I was of course stressed and frustrated, but I knew that was for my own good and I am grateful for that time. Every day I tried to speak more and more in French, sometimes I felt shameful because of my spelling or grammar mistakes, but it was an additional motivation to improve my language skills.
Now I know, why it is so important to speak, even with mistakes, because someone can correct them. We need other people to help us with defeating the barrier of speaking (even with the mistakes). That is why community is so important.
In our Comboni spirit it is crucial to appreciate people we are among, their presence and support, their motivation. Alone, we do not have so much strength as we have together. Maybe you can find this as an ideal vision, so perfect that cannot be true, but that is my experience both from Cracow and Kinshasa.
This time showed me how adequate are the words: “God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called”.
When I had some free time on Saturdays, together with Enochi (CLM from Kinshasa) I served people on the street. It was a program called “meal from your heart”. It was prepared by one family for people who lived on the street. Kinshasa is a very big city, and people came from different parts, just to have a warm meal. During a couple of hours, we were giving around 250-300 plates. I realized how blessed I am that I have something to eat, access to drinkable water, place to sleep and clothes to wear. There is so many people in the world who cannot afford it. I have in mind pictures of young boys who “take a bath” and washed their clothes in the small moat near to the provincial house. I will remember it for the rest of my life.
Time in Kinshasa allowed me also to experience the happiness of people here, despite of difficulties, they need to go through. To see their energy and commitment.
Now, for over 3 weeks, I am in Bangui – capital of Republic of Central Africa. I will stay here also for two months to learn Sango – local language. I got to know my community – Christina and Simone, I will live and work with them in Mongoumba. On Friday 28 June, we celebrated together the Day of Holiest Heart of Jesus Christ. It was time for adoration, dinner and talk together.
I wanted to ask you all to pray for me, for the people I meet here, for all I am about to do here, my mission and my life. I will also pray for you.
July – That in moments of loneliness and difficulty we may feel the presence of the Lord and succeed in making these situations into occasions of closeness and listening to his Word so as to become light and hope for the whole world. Lord hear us.
In mission between Kenya and Ethiopia, our CLM Carolina Fiúza writes for the digital newsletter of the diocese of Leiria-Fátima (RED). We share the article with you.
I write to you as I am about to end my stay in Nairobi, Kenya. It was a tourist tip I really desired. For reasons beyond my control I had to exit Ethiopia, because the visa we as missionaries use to enter the country is a business visa valid for a month. For longer stays, such as my two years, upon reaching Ethiopia, during this month we must obtain a residence certificate. But my business visa expired and, in order not to remain in Ethiopia illegally, I had to step out into Kenya for a week, then come back and start again the residence process. The exigent bureaucracy makes it difficult for us to enter the country. Perhaps we can say that, generally speaking, the history of Ethiopia is marked by demanding regimes and imperialist systems that were very controlling. This the history that marks the population! Let it suffice to say that they lived under an emperor up to 1974 and it is one of the few African countries that were never colonized… Ethiopia has history, a great history!
Feelings of sadness and frustration added up the day I found out that I had to leave. Mostly, because I had already started to attend Amharic classes two weeks earlier. So I was going to miss a week of classes at the school, which is the door to enter into the culture, where they plant the sounds of the words in our heads, making a melody that I am beginning to love. It is not an easy language! I must admit that I feel the paradox between the enthusiasm of being like a little girl learning words by imitation (how to say colors, food, animal, etc.) and being doubtful. I feel that learning quickly this language will be a complicated affair.
It was not enough just to learn Amharic, a complicated language, that now I have to go to Kenya, miss classes, slow down my learning of the language! This way I do not know when I will be able to do what I came for – mission! – This is what I was thinking.
We fall into the temptation to think that mission is to do, to be successful, to plan everything at a practical level.
But let us not fool ourselves. I am fooling myself if I think that my true mission will start the day I will begin to live with the Gumuz and start a project with my group. We forget that it is not the great things that we see and touch that will produce much life. Not a few times it is in silence that we do the most.
I could tell you that it is easy to personally understand this paradox of waiting. This time spent learning the language makes me feel the lack of practical results. By I gratefully remember the words of my friend, CLM Cristina Sousa, who is currently in the Central African Republic, when she was saying with a play on words that she was leaving for the mission to graze (pastar). To graze, translates in our Portuguese saying that if you graze, you are doing nothing. But you can change it into P’astar, namely To Be. And reflecting on these wise words I tell myself, Carolina, you have already started! The same I say to all of you… for you, mission has already started from the moment when you came to be in the world as God’s creatures.
First you are surprised, then you understand. So goes the saying. Having accepted that the Lord wanted me to know a new and wonderful country like Kenya, now I can say that it was worth coming and it was for me a necessary visit. Nairobi is like a European or North American city – it’s green and organized, despite the heavy traffic, cars, people, but it does not have the heavy air we breath in Addis Ababa. Besides studying Amharic through the audios my classmates sent me when they had internet connection, I got to know the center of Nairobi with two Kenyans, members of the Parliament Mass choir, in which I took part at the invitation of Comboni Fr. Giuseppe Caramazza. It is also a business city, and it is enough for this to glimpse at the great Kenyatta Convention Center, a 28 story building, which is the venue for many assemblies, seminars, exhibits and international meetings.
Speaking of Mass, its red soil is already a symbol of its preparation and celebration. Many people gather very early to prepare what will be the real celebration. One of the choir members told me: When you go to attend a festival or a concert, you get ready, don’t you? Therefore, we must do the same, or better, for the Eucharist, because there is no greater feast. And here, this is the rule. This is a Eucharist where nobody just comes, but participates, from children to grownups. They all have something to contribute to the banquest with their voice, dancing, palms, etc.
A transversal reality, not only in Kenya, but also in Ethiopia is that at the Eucharist you do not look at your watch. It is not the kind that lasts 50 minutes or an hour, where often we see people busy with their watch, in the hope perhaps that the Feast may be close to the end. Not so! Here the Eucharist lasts about one and a half to two hours. The rhythm is given by happy songs and dances, a well defined rhythm that awakens the soul… and then I become aware that my own body is swaying, waking up. And suddenly, after we have been filled up by this banquet that gives us life, the feast in the Lord’s house is over and those who had been invited to it linger at the entrance to converse. I look at my watch, time just flew by!
And so it is. Time here flew! Just like the hugs I am sending to you, filled with good memories.
On June 13, at 8:30 in the evening, the diocese of Bologna, with a Mission-sending Mass celebrated by Bishop Zuppi, sent me off as a Fidei Donum missionary.
This second tour Ad Gentes was born within the diocesan mission center, to which I belong, that decided to start a partnership with the diocese of Salvador, opening new ways of cooperation between the two dioceses.
This pleased me immensely because it would make it possible to open a new window on the Latin American reality, in this case on Brazil, for the missionary center that is currently only involved with the diocese of Mapanda, Tanzania.
It is also an “unusual” sending for the CLM, because this is not a commitment of the CLM or of the Comboni Missionaries, but rather the result of an external cooperation which could produce new openings in the future.
I will continue to belong to the Comboni Family as a CLM, keeping my contacts and ties with its organization, with the various groups and the central committee that approved my choice by stating that “mission belongs to God and not to human beings.”
I will be part of the Community of Trindade, that welcomes street people, and I will be involved in welcoming and listening to the people who are welcomed, besides taking part in workshops and services, including a street newspaper published by the Community.
It will be a totally new, hard, concrete and authentic experience, including sleeping on the floor, sharing common street problems arising from marginalization, dependence and resurrection but, as Comboni says, lived with daring and perseverance in the journey. And I add: with feet firmly on the ground and eyes gazing up to heaven.
“I wish you to wear a dress that will never be fashionable;
I wish you strong hope in your feet,
Pants of commitment and two-color sweaters:
The color of freedom and the color of co-responsibility.
And wear a beautiful hat, the one of knowledge and of a critical sense.
We must dress up this way all the time.”
(Fr. Luigi Ciotti)
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