Comboni Lay Missionaries

Essa Luta is Nossa (This is Our Fight)

LMC Brasil

PODCAST 2 – BEGINNING WITH SONG “Essa Luta è Nossa Essa Luta è do pouvo…”

Hi, we are Anna and Gabriel, and this is Ciranda, the podcast about our mission experience in Brazil. In which we try to bring you into the everyday life experiences and choices of those who live in this part of the world.

Edvar Dantas Cardeal lives in a small village, on the outskirts of Açailândia, in the hinterland of Maranhão. Unfortunately, he still does not own his history, because he lives where no one would want to live. When he arrived in Piquiá, he really liked the name of the place, an homage to one of the region’s largest trees with delicious fruit, The Piqui.

The community of Piquiá de Baixo (so called because it is located in the area lower than the next neighborhood) was created in the 1970s, when this part of the region was still called “the gates of the amazonia,” rich in vegetation. People planted and fished from the river that kissed the banks of the community. It was a little paradise in the memories of the inhabitants.

Then in the 1980s, the “development” came, which even changed the name of the village to “Pequiá,” an acronym for “PetroQuímico Açailândia.” Açailândia itself, or “Açaí City,” another tasty fruit typical of the region, has lost the meaning of its name, where progress and respect for life cannot coexist.

Next to Edvar’s house were installed 14 steel furnaces, a thermal power plant, and, to top it off, a steel mill. The people of Piquiá did not even know what a steel plant was and what this would mean for their health, their lives, and that they would become little more than gears in this industrial machine. Companies came with manifestos of jobs, jobs for all, but the intent was always and only to settle there making the most at the least possible price, deceiving the community and destroying the way of life of those families.

It is 2005, Edvar heads to the small house of the Piquiá di Baixo inhabitants’ association of which he is a member, it might seem like just another day but perhaps he does not know that from that day began the real struggle and resistance of his community! He was tired of seeing iron dust fall from the sky and settle on every surface he finds. He sees friends and relatives increasingly starting to get sick, strong respiratory complications, skin infections, constant headaches, intestinal problems, exhaustion…his much-loved village was falling apart more and more.

Edvar waited 60 days before he was able to pick up a pen and a blank sheet of paper, he does not know how to start writing this letter, how to use the best words to tell about his community, but he knows for sure to whom it will be directed: To President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva!

Soon after time, the response arrived, with directions pointing to routes and public bodies that the community should seek out. The people of Piquiá soon realized that alone, though many, they would not be able to fight against a boulder the size of a steel mill, so little by little they managed to weave around them a strong network of allies, who took the community’s grievances and demands to international institutions, such as the UN. Thus the struggle that was started by Edvar became everyone’s, the community of Comboni Fathers and the associations that over time joined in this great resistance.

Of all the mobilizations carried out by the community over the years, some were very notable, such as the one that took place in December 2011, when hundreds of residents marched and blocked the super road that connects Açailândia to São Luís. The blockade lasted longer than 4 hours in a prolonged protest with burning tires. Another noteworthy protest was the one that forced the Steel mills to pay for expropriation, when residents made a real cooperative effort and, divided into shifts, closed the entrance and exit gates of the industries for 30 hours.

“We must do the possible in the impossible” was what Edvar repeated to his people in Piquiá, and this struggle, of all people, paid off. Through all this mobilization, the approval of the urban project for the new neighborhood was obtained on December 31, 2015. Due to bureaucracy, which is one of the tools of oppression of the poor, the resources to start the work were not made available until November 2018, when work began on a new Neighborhood: “PIQUIA DA CONQUISTA!

Edvar Dantas Cardeal died on January 23, 2020, a victim of the same disease he was fighting. His lungs were contaminated with iron dust, and his struggle ended after more than a month in the intensive care unit, due to respiratory failure and other complications.

Edvar Dantas, who started this struggle, will never see its end, but his ideas and hope live on in the new people of Piquiá da Comquista!


The struggle, therefore, is still ongoing and its outcome is open to debate.

The community’s achievements have been significant, especially considering the disproportion in scale between the local community and the national/global industry. Perhaps this is why the claims of the Piquiá de Baixo Community transcend the local struggle and become a larger banner that exposes the other side of development agendas. At the same time that it reaches international levels (such as the UN), this struggle takes place on the ground of the community, in direct human relations, as so well expressed in the letter that Mr. Edvard wrote to his nephew Moisés: The beauty of this battle is that we do not get tired, and when there is a defeat we react with more enthusiasm and conviction: it is very clear that we are victims, there is an obvious injustice! The law cannot be wrong: we will be compensated! Sometimes even grandparents delude themselves and dream like an inexperienced young person…. After all, it is hope that sustains us. But I learned, Moses, that hope is a child who needs two older sisters: patience and wisdom.


This is the ciranda song; it is danced in a circle, each member hugging his or her neighbors and moving to the rhythm by stamping their feet loudly. This song is a dance related to the Brazilian folk tradition.


Anna and Gabrielle, CLM in Brazil

How it all began

LMC Piquia

PODCAST 1 – Beginning with ciranda song.

This is the ciranda song, you dance in a circle, each member hugging his or her neighbors and moving in rhythm by banging their feet loudly. This song is a dance related to Brazilian folk tradition.

Hi, we are Anna and Gabriel, and this is Ciranda, the podcast about our mission experience in Brazil. In which we try to take you into the everyday life choices of people living in this part of the world.

We start with a question that we have been asked on several occasions over the past year: what does it mean to leave with the Comboni Lay Missionaries? Who are they? And why specifically in Brazil?

We got to know the reality of the Comboni Lay Missionaries (CLM) after some word of mouth until we met this reality in the Venegono area. The LMCs were created following the charism of Saint Daniele Comboni. A priest, from the first half of the 1800s, who dedicated his life to the mission in ways that were new for the time and probably also for today, with the goal, as he said, of “saving Africa with Africa.”

Comboni Lay Missionaries carry on this spirit in the various missions around the world by accompanying the presence of Combonians on the ground.

To better understand this new way of doing and being mission, which is different from what we had known in the past, we did a 2-year journey of getting to know the CLM, at the end of which, together with our reference group, we were proposed to do a period of experience in an international reality. We had proposed ourselves for the mission areas of Latin America, and at the same time in the mission in Brazil the urgency had arisen to find a couple of volunteers who could carry on the presence of the Laity, already inserted for several years in the reality of Piquià. So, in May 2022, we left, leaving our little house in Cuneo in the direction of Brazil, in the state of Maranhão, municipality of Acailândia, specifically in the small neighborhood of Piquià. This 3-month experience allowed us to touch the Combonian way of life, to learn Portuguese, and to observe the reality of the various projects in which the Comboni family is involved. These are mainly 3 realities: the casa familiar rural (a school for children from rural areas), the reality of Piquià de Baixo (a community affected by pollution from steel industries), and the interior families living in the countryside, isolated and affected by the world of agribusiness (i.e., deforestation and monoculture of soy and eucalyptus).

The time spent in Piquià was a short time but enough to make us realize that this would be our home for the next 3 years.

The uniqueness of this experience is also the choice to do common life with the Combonis, who live in the house next to ours. Therefore, not only are we included in the parish and engaged in the various pastoral activities but we share with them prayer times, dinners and other moments of daily life, making choices in common. This is the Comboni family, where lay people and Comboni fathers do mission together.





Anna and Gabrielle, CLM in Brazil

Sharing… so that life and dignity will not be denied to anyone.

LMC Italia

Hello everyone,

We are Ilaria and Federica, two Comboni lay missionaries belonging to the local group of Verona (Italy). We are here to tell about ourselves, not so much because of what we do, but to share the joy and beauty of participating in the life of this world despite its contradictions and difficulties. We live to express how much humanity in the everyday can be found wherever we go, embracing every brother in the Living God: He allows Himself to be encountered precisely in the most marginalized, the loneliest.

After a missionary experience in Uganda, we felt a deeper call that made us want to orient and dedicate our whole existence in a missionary life.

By chance, or rather through various God-coincidences, we met Fr. Eliseo, a Comboni priest and superior of the Motherhouse in Verona. From this meeting began a new Combonian journey in which so many questions and so many previous pieces, began to take life, form and answer precisely in this Family with which we rediscover the values in which we strongly believe, of an outgoing and universal Church that welcomes everyone but especially the last.

In this journey of knowledge, of life, we are also very grateful to the brothers/sisters of the local group of Verona; with them the journey in the Comboni charism becomes concrete in many initiatives of sharing, of participation in the local missionary life, of growth on a human, spiritual, social and faith level.

All this led us to mature the decision to train for an upcoming departure in an international Combonian lay mission, and for this reason we now find ourselves completing our formation by sharing a few months in a Comboni lay missionary community called “La Zattera,” Migrantes Second Reception Center, in Palermo.

The community is made up of a married couple Tony Scardamaglia and Dorotea Passantino and a woman Maria Montana, who 15 years ago had the intuition to create and personally experience welcoming migrants. Our daily life in addition to being enriched by sharing with their presence is also shared with 8 immigrants who live here. Daily life, which for them is a continuous conquest in the field of recognition of rights, becomes for us a school of formation to different cultures, to many “sacred” stories that enrich our daily life and make it special.

Our service then for a few days a week is dedicated to Centro Astalli, a voluntary association for the defense of rights, integration and inclusion of non-EU immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers where all services offered to users are first and second reception. For both of these realities, words are really little compared to fully experiencing all aspects of them. It is difficult to explain in a few lines the beauty that we experience and share with them every day; surely we understand that it is a great gift that we are receiving.

We have been here since mid-April and every day we try to live and grasp the Lord who passes through the daily gestures, in their faces and in the stories of their history. We have to say that Palermo is really amazing us, it is incredibly beautiful but not only the city, especially the people who represent it. From the first day we arrived, the welcome, passion and desire to help sets them apart. There is still very much a sense of helping each other here, a sense of belonging to a family, a sense of always living with an open heart for everyone. The local people really do their best to make you love this land of a thousand flavors.

In addition to this, we also met and shared a few moments with the Comboni fathers who are in the parish located in the Santa Lucia area and with the Comboni sisters who instead live in the parish of Nicola di Bari in the heart of the Ballarò neighborhood.

Our days are never the same, they are always open to a thousand changes, to the encounter with the Other by living in the here and now what the day offers you in complete gratuity and fullness.

We would also like to share a reflection that struck us a lot and that we believe can accompany us on whatever we do in our lives. It is a phrase by Don Tonino Bello: “Give others the true image of the Church: that is, people who welcome one another, who sympathize with one another, who are not liars, who have the language of transparency, who do not disguise things or disguise their person.”

We experience more and more that in order to change this hostile time, it is necessary for each person, in his or her own small way, to always take a step toward each other even when it costs so much, but it is indispensable to always take a step forward. We always believe that sharing with others leads to achieve unthinkable things in everyone’s life, that is why our dream of going out on mission and sharing we want it to be everyone’s, and everyone in his or her own small way to feel a part of that Church that is Everyone’s in its simplicity, transparency and in welcoming everyone.

We believe in it so much and we will never stop witnessing and trying to live it so that life and dignity will not be denied to anyone.

Thank you to those who gave us the opportunity to be able to share what we believe in and live.

If you want you can follow us on social where you will find all the ways to contact us and also become part of the future mission, goodness and this beautiful extended Combonian family.

Until next time, with many unexpected news and let us always be led by the Spirit!!!!!! Peace and joy.

Ilaria and Federica

Follow us on Facebook page and Instagram at the following: Ilaria and Federica LMC

Presentation of the book “Africa, cradle of social transformation” in Verona


The book “Africa, Cradle of Social Transformation” written by Domenico Agasso, which reconstructs the missionary journey and vision of Fr. Francesco Pierli [right in photo], was presented in Verona on Saturday, April 1. The volume traces the stages of Fr. Francesco’s life highlighting his vital experiences and the historical processes from which his research and praxis of social transformation developed.

What emerges is a profoundly Combonian journey, reflecting the ideas, values and style of St. Daniel Comboni’s Plan for the Regeneration of Africa with Africa. Continuity and discontinuity at the same time, as often emerges in Fr. Pierli’s own reflection. Discontinuity in that times have changed a great deal, with a quite different mentality and socio-economic structures. We thus encounter a thought that critically confronts the great social and cultural transformations of our time and operates a discernment in order to respond to the epochal challenges that arise according to God’s dream.

It can be understood then how from his origins in post-World War I Umbria, marked by strong tensions and demands for social justice, Fr. Pierli developed a particular sensitivity and interest in the social doctrine of the Church and the vocation to social and “political” responsibility of Christians. He lived the season of the Second Vatican Council and put it to good use, inspired by the vision of Gaudium et spes and Lumen gentium. He becomes involved with both the magisterium and the social praxis of the Church, and when, at the end of his term as Superior General of the Comboni Missionaries, he landed in Kenya, he founded the Institute of Social Ministry in Mission (now the Institute for Social Transformation) at Tangaza College (in the Catholic University of East Africa). It was 1994, a year full of events: that of the first synod for Africa, in which he participated as an expert; the first democratic elections in South Africa, sanctioning the transition after apartheid; but also the genocide in Rwanda, a predominantly Catholic country. The African Synod called on the Church to embrace the social mission of the church in response to the major challenges on the continent. The Institute founded by Fr. Pierli was the first response to that invitation: to form social ministers equal to such great challenges.

A living testimony of the impact of the Institute’s work came from Dr. Judith Pete, a former student of Fr. Pierli’s, who now teaches at the same university and is in charge of the UNESCO Universities in Africa program, which promotes the synergy between learning and service on the ground. In addition to recounting how her encounter with Fr. Pierli profoundly marked her life, she emphasized the importance of the pedagogy used in the Institute, which harmonizes theory and practice, professional preparation and attitude of service and integrity. Most importantly, he emphasized how the Institute for Social Transformation’s programs contribute to the formation of leaders dedicated to social transformation in Africa.

Prof. Mario Molteni, from the Catholic University of Milan, spoke, recounting the fruitful collaboration with Fr. Pierli and the Institute he founded. A collaboration that launched a master’s program for the training of social entrepreneurs, with a direct slant on start-ups with social impact. A program that was only possible to start because of Fr. Pierli’s courage and vision that made it possible to have an effective, open and creative counterpart in Africa. Today that program has spread to 20 African countries and in the next few years it will come to 5 more. It is not just an academic program in partnership with African universities, but a network of entrepreneurs and local business services for significant social impact, organized under an organization called E4Impact. Recently, this initiative was visited by President Mattarella during his official visit to Kenya, selected for its innovation and significance. Indeed, to overcome the socio-economic injustices and environmental unsustainability that are leading the planet toward catastrophic scenarios, we need a new model of development, as Pope Francis also often insists, for example in Laudato si‘ and with the Economy of Francis movement.

At the end of the event, Fr. Pierli was asked what has been the most difficult challenge of all these years. Without hesitation, he emphasized the difficulty of changing mindsets and attitudes, and power relations, that induce dependence rather than autonomy and interdependence in Africa. We still have not overcome the heavy colonial legacy. The journey for social transformation continues.


Here is the video of the book presentation with speeches by, among others, the author and Fr. Pierli himself.

LA ZATTERA (THE RAFT)- Comboni Lay Missionaries in Palermo


We present the experience of La Zattera (The Raft) community in Palermo, created by some families of Comboni Lay Missionaries, for thirteen years it has been playing a welcoming role for foreign migrants, through paths of support and sharing.

“A free port, safe,” a community that involves many people who contribute to the creation of many activities, and who support this experience of fellowship and understanding for a better world.