Comboni Lay Missionaries

In the world but NOT of the world!

LMC-Centroafrica

LMC-Centroafrica

Hi everyone!

I am André, a pygmy youngster, and I don’t know my age, perhaps between 7 and 9 years old, and I live in Ndobo, a camp in the forest of the Republic of Central Africa, near Mongoumba. My house, if you want to call it that, is like an igloo made of branches and dry leaves, with some boards as a bed. It has no bathroom, no kitchen, no TV or electricity, but fortunately it is close to a well a missionary dug some time ago, so I can drink and wash without having to walk for an hour through the forest.

Monday through Friday, together with my friends in the camp, I get up and go to school, walking about 4 km without shoes. Some days we get there a little late but, not having a watch, we do not know when it’s time to get up. Everything becomes more difficult during the rainy season, because the road turns into a swamp.

When we reach the parish of Mongoumba, we enter a room Cristina has prepared for us, where we all have a place with our name on it to wash up, put on our school uniform and, after having greeted Anna, Maria Augusta, Cristina and Simone, off we run to school. Often Maria Augusta comes to our class to help the teacher to “keep us under control,” since there are more than 50 of us, and to teach us French, even though we like to speak Sango, our language.

School ends around 12:30 noon, and we return to the St. Daniel Comboni room to change back into our tattered clothes and go to eat  at the “DA TI NDOYE” (House of Charity/Love), where on any given day they give us rice and beans, manioc mush and fish, or Makongo (worms) and ngungia! We eat fast, then we go wait for Simone and Cristina at the payotte near the church to return together to the camp where we play ball, we color or watch movies until almost dark. Then Simone and Cristina say good-bye and remind us that tomorrow we need to be on time!

My day ends in the darkness of the camp, without lights and perhaps with some strange little creature trying to get inside, lulled to sleep by the Central African sky, with its tapestry of stars looking like precious jewels. Oh, I almost forgot… I do not exist! I am in the world… made of flesh and blood, I can run, jump, play… but I am not of the world!

In the CAR there are many other children like me! We are not only exploited, because the resources found in our land are exported to places we do not even know to produce, TV sets, phones, computers, weapons, bombs… but we are out of the world… I am excluded, without documents, without a birth certificate, without a public record… that is…

…IN THE WORLD but NOT OF THE WORLD! (John 17:15)

A warm good-bye

Kisses all around

A large hug

A small prayer

André with

Paul, Pierre, Marie, Albert Dimanche, Pierre, François Albert, Philippe, Guy, Marie, Terese, Marcel, Gabriel…
(with Anna, Maria Augusta, Cristina e Simone)

Logbook of Simone Parimbelli

LMC RCA

LMC RCA

Hi to everyone. How are you? I have not written in 6 months and it is six months that I have not moved from Mongoumba. What can I tell you? I am well, as the Italian song says, it is difficult to find very serious words to pass on the emotion lived with the suffering humanity of the Central African Republic. I will try to reach your hearts on the strength of images from our pigmy children of Mongoumba…

Looking without speaking… to remain in your thoughts and prayers in this time of Advent.

Light blue like you, like the sky and like the sea

Golden like the light of the sun,

Red like the way you make me feel.

LMC RCA

…I draw grass, green like HOPE… like unripen fruit

…and now some blue, like the night

…white like its stars, with shades of yellow

…the air of MONGOUMBA can only be breathed…

…I do not have a color for storms

and with what is left I draw a flower non that it is CHRISTMAS, now that it a time of love…

Paul, Pierre, Marie, Albert
Dimanche, Pierre, François
Albert, Andre, Philippe, Guy
Marie, Terese, Marcel, Gabriel
Simone Anna Cristina Augusta…

…Merry Christmas to all!

LMC RCA

Simone Parimbelli, CLM in CAR

Retreat on “The Mission of the Comboni Lay Missionaries: challenges, dreams, hopes”

retiro LMC

retiro LMCOn Saturday and Sunday, June 16-17, we met at the “Osservanza” of Bologna, Italy to pray together and reflect on “The Mission of the Comboni Lay Missionaries: challenges, dreams, hopes,” under the guidance of Fr. Giovanni Munari.

From the group of Bologna, the following were present on Saturday afternoon: Micaela, Emma, Chiara, Eileen, Agostino, Giuliana, Annalisa and Michele. While from Padua the following attended:  Fabrizio, Francesca, Dorella e Roberto.

We started from the meaning of the term “Mission” and from the Word.

To begin, Fr. Giovanni reminded us that the Gospel is one and the same for everyone, be they lay people, priests, sisters, etc. The Beatitudes are a life ideal for everyone, and not just for members of consecrated life.

The Baptism we received gives full right (and duty) to each lay person to feel as an integral part of the Church, to proclaim the Gospel, to work for the Church. It is a “right of citizenship” within the Church for all the baptized. And if we want to build anything, we must do it based on the Word, not on documents.

We asked ourselves some questions. What does it mean to have the Gospel as the ideal of our life? Has the Church today gone astray? “What does the Spirit ask of us?” Why does Pope Francis speaks so often about renewing the liturgy? Do we, too, feel this need? Do we feel Faith and Life in the liturgies of our churches?

Then, starting from who we are and remembering that the Word, which we celebrate in the liturgy, is the foundation of our faith, we reflected on our relation with the world as Church.

The great revolution consists in understanding that the Church is not the center of the world, but it is the Church that rotates around the world, just as it was with the revolution of Copernicus.

And the renewal of the Church covers also the liturgy.

At this point we gave some time to an examination: as groups from Bologna and Padua we spoke of what we did in our territories during this past year. We underlined the wealth that each one of our groups carries after years of existence and of how we run the risk of losing it or dilute it and not being able to recognize it if we lack a shared memory.

After the reflection, gathered around the Word, each one of us showed a sign of the journey done during this past year: the leaflet of the “aperisuppers” of the Peoples organized in Padua, the leaflet of the parish encounters on the new styles of life organized in Bologna, some relevant books (the Ave Mary by Michela Murgia), the Wipala, a pencil recycled at 80% that does not break and writes even without a tip, the tags with our names, the nard oil.

After supper we got together to listen to the witness of missionary life given by Sr. Elizabeth Raule and Sr. Federica, Comboni Missionary Sisters working in Chad and the RCA respectively. It was beautiful to hear of the joy and passion that guide their steps despite the difficulties they meet on a daily basis in their work among those people (Elizabeth, who is a doctor, daily operates on many people seriously wounded by firearms and knives, because of the internal war raging in Chad. Federica, a nurse, works among the Pygmies in the forest).

On Sunday morning only the group from Bologna was present: Giuliana, Emma, Annalisa, Chiara, Micaela, Eileen, Lise, Agostino, Michele.

We started from John’s Gospel (6:1-14). After the multiplication of bread, Jesus asks his disciples to gather the leftovers: “gather the leftovers, so that nothing will be lost.”

What did they do with them? “They picked them up and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of barley bread left over by those who had eaten.” What was the reason for such an abundance?

We must be careful not to lose anything and, thinking of our groups, this Gospel invites us to collect the wealth of our journeys spread all over Italy.

Then we read parts of a document from 1994: The letter of the Superior General and his Council to all the confreres on the COMBONI LAY MISSIONARIES.

We suggest that you all take a look at it. It surprised us to read some definitions black on white affirming the importance of the Comboni lay missionaries within the Comboni Institute, defining the identity of the Comboni lay missionary (“touched, inspired and infused by the charism of Comboni”), stating the difference between a volunteer and a Lay Missionary, and other forms of nearness and missionary commitment. Did anyone know about the “Comboni associates?”

“The CLM constitute a new reality that demands from us trust, availability and creativity…” writes the General, together with many other good things that strengthen the strong relationship between priests and lay people within the Comboni family. Above all, however, this document reminds us that to be CLM is a vocation which, if inspired by God, grows night and day like that seed thrown into the ground, whether we are awake or asleep. At this point we all need to take time to reflect on our vocation.

In September we will start again to give shape and content to our journey through the next year, getting ready to face with faith and courage the challenges coming our ways, certain that in this journey we are not alone!

retiro LMC

The Bologna CLM Group, Italy

Logbook of Simone from the RCA

Simone Mongoumba

Hi to everyone. How are you doing? I hope you are well. Here the rainy season has begun and, to move around, we could use Noah’s ark. When it rains in Mongoumba, everything stops (I believe the same happens throughout the RCA), the children and the teachers do not come to school, you do not see anyone around and we could sleep all day long, lulled by the sound of the rain, and think of you in Portugal, Poland, Italy, all over the world. Mission has its pros and cons.

ESPERGESIA

I was born on a day
when God was sick.

Everyone knows that I live,
that I’m evil; and they don’t know
about the December of that January.
Since I was born on a day
when God was sick.

There’s a void
in my metaphysical air
that no one must feel:
the cloister of a silence
that spoke on the edge of a fire.

I was born on a day
when God was sick.

Brother, listen, listen…
Alright. And may I not go
without bringing Decembers,
without leaving Januaries.
Since I was born on a day
when God was sick.

Everyone knows that I live,
that I chew… and they don’t know
why there’s a squeal in my verse,
the dark uncertainty of a coffin,
from polished unrolled winds of the inquisitive
Desert Sphinx.

Everyone knows… And they don’t know
that the Light is consumptive,
and the Dark fat…
And they don’t know that the mystery encapsulates
that it’s the musical
and sad hunched back that denounces from a distance
the meridian step from the boundaries to the Boundaries.

I was born a day
when God was sick,
gravely sick.

(César Vallejo)

Simone Mongoumba

In this deep, thick, foreboding, sticky, penetrating, often desolated and discomforting night that envelops the entire Republic of Central Africa, there is lightning of blinding light lasting but an instant. It is the lightning of rifles, of shooting, of grenades followed by an awesome noise… and lightning of ESPERGESIA, lightning GENERATING HOPE.

In Bangui, in the neighborhood called Kilometro 5, in the parish of Our Lady of Fatima where I spent 45 days studying Sango, on May 1, feast of St. Joseph the Worker, during Mass, there was the lightning of weapons, shooting, of weapons, of grenades. It was a well-planned attack by people who want to see the night last forever. There were 16 victims.

We immediately perceived that the rumbling of the thunder of this explosion resounded around the world (someone even wrote to us from Brazil), we have felt the warmth of your nearness. We are OK. We were not direct witnesses. They tell us that slowly the situation is getting back to “normal.” In fact, that is how it is. After the lightning of weapons we have gone back to living in an even darker night.

Simone Mongoumba

In Mongoumbua there is lightning of ESPERGESIA, lightning GENERATING HOPE, infinitesimal, but of a blinding light: our visits to the Pygmies camps; Tuesday morning with the babies of the nutrition center; Sundays in the chapels for prayer with the community, sharing a bit of cassava and some small fish caught just for us; the Thursday meetings with a vocation group; the afternoons spent to draw and color; the endless hikes surrounded by cheering children; and the little newly born Pygmies, bundles looking at you with half open little eyes, who seem to tell you: “I was born on a day when God was sick, very sick,” butif I was born in this infernal night, there is still…

ESPERGESIA

Greetings, a hug and a kiss, prayers and THANKS

Simone CLM

A History made of Names

Palermo

The work we are doing as Comboni Missionaries and Comboni Lay Missionaries in the concrete situation of migration is essentially accomplished by networking with associations, organizations and movements, both ecclesial and social, involved in this area in recognizing and defending the rights of immigrants and refugees.

Since September 2013, the port of Palermo, Sicily, has become part of the line of Mediterranean landing spots where migrants from Africa and other parts arrive. At their arrival we are present to give out kits of clothing, shoes, a bag with a sandwich, an apple and a bottle of water, trying to establish a contact with the new arrivals. We don’t want to be simply a material presence, but we also try to collect information on how people arriving are treated, since they are already burdened by indescribable experiences suffered before or during the journey, and they are totally clueless about what expects them in Italy.

Together with the living, unfortunately, on many occasions, the bodies of those who died at sea have also arrived. From the very beginning, our concern has been to follow these bodies up to a dignified burial in the cemetery of Palermo.

Palermo

Every year in November, on All Souls Day, civil society joins the representatives of various religions for an interreligious service in their memory. It is an act of solidarity with the victims to denounce the causes of their death, among them the disgusting agreements of Italy, and behind Italy, of Europe with Libya, and other third parties that work to block or reject migrants.

We recognize the spreading of a culture of exclusion. Today, people feel free of any social responsibility, any tie with others, any common objective. It is urgent to focus again on the stories and the lives of migrants in order to stand up to racism and xenophobia, that are based on false assumptions and on information controlled and manipulated by the media. Through activities we promote in schools and in parishes, we present the stories of migrants by retracing the various phases of their journeys: the reasons why they left, their stay in Libya which upends their lives forever, crossing the Mediterranean and their arrival in Italy, where they end up being mere numbers. To go beyond the lies, to recognize and defend the rights of migrants as persons, are all very important steps in the building of an inter-cultural and multi-cultural society.

In cooperation with civic and church organizations we share lodging spaces for the migrants, and welcoming projects with the idea to produce grassroots meetings and a relation with the territory. In the accepting process there are critical stages tied above all to the excessive time they remain in centers of first acceptance and to the small number of special structures or places in the SPRAR. In many cases, the insertions of migrants turns into a veritable “lottery.” To reflect on the migrants means to rethink our social, political and ecclesial structures. It means to have the courage to change the current order of things. Palermo

Finally, the constant element of our presence is the prophetic denunciation of people and institutions who speculate on the hopelessness of the migrants, exploiting their labor, or of those, in the political underbrush, who end up grabbing funds destined for the arrival process.

Calvin wrote, “Any time you build a wall, think of what you leave outside.” What today looks like a protective structure, tomorrow could become a prison. Life develops and grows beyond the wall. But, if fear is contagious, so are courage and hope.
Fr. Domenico Guarino

Palermo, February 2018