Comboni Lay Missionaries

The True Easter Resurrection

LMC Mozambique

With joy and gratitude, we are writing to you news directly from Mozambique. Our first month passed very quickly, intensely and with great depth. Right from the start, we were welcomed with great enthusiasm, by the people of this land who are still suffering from injustice and have no hopeful outlook for the future. The Macua people, really have a big and generous heart, despite the suffering in their gaze.

In this first period, where we are still trying to figure out where we are, we had a great gift, that of sharing with them, the four most important days of the Easter season, from Holy Thursday to Easter. We left home early Thursday morning and until Easter Sunday afternoon, we lived in the village in close contact with the people. We took few things with us, the essentials to get through these days. Obviously in these communities, we were welcomed with open arms; and village living with them, meant no water, no light, sleeping on the ground with scorpions, bats etc… without all the comforts that we in the West now take for granted.

For us, it was four days of true essentiality, of pure love that allowed us to love their story even more and to question ourselves about the way we are close to each other, about the importance of the style with which to be on mission. How much richness we received, how much we learned from them once again, to live the essential in depth and richness that the Lord continues to give us every day! Right away, our lives are being shaped to a new form, the one that our brothers/sisters are teaching us every day. Our lives, are really experiencing an Easter Resurrection, thanks to them and thanks to what the Lord teaches us every day thanks to his Word which is Life and lifeblood to make a path in his Will (and not in what we instead seek to fulfill ourselves, to give answers to our sense of being here by only executing projects). For us, even before we came, it was very clear that the beauty of life and of being a mission is precisely to share our whole being with them, on the same plane with them. I think this point for us is fundamental and above all it is a way of life that each of us can feel inside, but it takes great courage to live it in simplicity and love of each other. We are strongly convinced, that the greatest witness we can give, is precisely the Christian way and attitude and not words… instead so many times we just go and get lost in this without a true witness of who we are, but especially of Who we love.

We feel that this presence of ours here is really accompanied by the presence of the Lord. We really missed re-embracing poverty, essentiality and total sharing with the most lonely and abandoned. It is a great gift to live the mission because it is Life, it is joy, it is courage, it is going out of oneself to give oneself totally to the Other.

For this richness that we are receiving in our lives, we want to thank all the people who are supporting us, who are accompanying us with prayer and with their becoming close, because this is also an outgoing Church, where the problem of a person, becomes the problem of a community. We believe very much in this dream of life, which the Lord has placed in our hearts, and we always trust in Him, who knows better than us the way and the ways to build a new different way of being in mission. And let us always remember that: “if I exist it is because the other makes me exist” and this should be a fundamental point on which to build bridges and not walls.

We embrace you with much esteem, gratitude, affection and we really hope that all our joy, may come to you to build something different together, where you also together with us are in communion in this journey of life. We continue to pray for all of you and carry you in every step we take always looking for the Face of God; we also rely on your prayers. See you for the next post…

With love Ilaria and Federica

GUARDIÕES: The fight for the land

LMC Brasil

“HELLO, WE ARE ANNA AND GABRIELE, AND THIS IS CIRANDA, THE PODCAST THAT TELLS OUR MISSION EXPERIENCE IN BRAZIL. IN WHICH WE TRY TO TAKE YOU INTO THE EVERYDAY LIFE CHOICES OF THOSE WHO LIVE IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD.”

Even today, after a morning of pouring sun, the rain visited us, half an hour of a powerful storm that dissolved in a few seconds, like the rapid passage of a plane. The rainy season has become this, a short cold shower, everyone wonders if it is a coincidence that it no longer rains for entire weeks as it happened in the past, but it is clear that climate change is screaming loudly here too.

You don’t reach these levels overnight, there is always a path and a story behind it, and the history of this land has very deep roots.

It all started a long time ago. In fact, from the time of the colonial invasion to today, Brazil has never implemented a popular agrarian reform. Consider that in a huge area like that of Brazil, only 1% of landowners own almost 50% of the total cultivable area in the country, and half of these large properties are totally unproductive and could therefore be expropriated for agrarian reform. Brazil is also the largest territory in the world in terms of possible arable land. It is for this reason that for decades the right to land has been conquered and not received by right, it is a fight against the system that has seen the birth of large movements such as that of the LANDLESS (MST), movements that fight to be able to live there where many, with roots in the land and fields, have always wanted and would like to continue to live.

Thus the idea of an occupation was born: hundreds of families reunited, organized themselves, occupying large plots of land to attract the attention of the federal government. Raimunda, waiting to receive this land, lived camped with her family for years, in tents made up of plastic sheets and 4 sticks, inside which there were pots and coal for cooking, clothes, hammocks to hook between a tree and the other, and then children born in the middle of the woods, raised far from life in the city. All in a true sense of community, of struggle, of life shared with little, waiting for the big day when we can finally receive a piece of land to build our own homes, surrounded by trees and fields to cultivate.

The inhabitants of the Francisco Romao Assentation have won the right to the land after 10 years of living in camp.

When they arrived in that territory they discovered that it was Government land, which had been occupied by a landowner illegally, the whole area had already been deforested to create an immense pasture of dairy cows, destroying the surrounding vegetation.

This phenomenon of illegitimate land appropriation is known as “Grillagem”, a practice of forced aging of false documents that are placed in a box with crickets, making them yellowed and gnawed, giving them an ancient and more credible appearance, a phenomenon of forgery to illegally take possession of vacant or third-party land. The families denounced this illegality to ask the government for the possibility of having part of that land and being able to cultivate and reforest it. After years of struggle and reclaiming the land, each family managed to have a property where they could do what they had always dreamed of: living off the land in a sustainable way. It’s an incredible story that of the assentamentos, places where life flows to the rhythm of the countryside.

You enter the settlement on dirt roads, a bright red earth, and you are immediately surrounded by houses and courtyards full of fruit trees and medicinal plants of all kinds, of which the families know every benefit and valorize them for purposes to the last sheet. When we go to visit them they tell us with great nostalgia about those times gone by: the times of precariousness, but also of union, happiness and sharing. The houses were initially made of mud and straw, people lived very little. Life in absence was a constant sharing of one’s possessions, the goal was for everyone to be able to live off that land and for issues to be resolved together, under the canopy in the center of the town, a space dedicated to community meetings. Together we decided what to grow (corn, beans, castanha), we decided where to build the school, together we fought to get tractors, we fought to have a public health building. These were the foundations for allowing a dignified life, and they were built together. A dignified life that allowed for at least 3 meals a day, with rice, beans and cassava, basic elements of Brazilian cuisine. Throughout this process, women were the true protagonists, taking care of the house, taking care of the children and helping the men in the fields, a true example of strength and leadership.

Community, solidarity and doing together, this is the common thread that has made it possible to win many battles and with which the assentamentos were built and still resist, places of life, struggle and defense of peasant life. Farming families have always had one great goal: to plant and harvest food, but also to reforest and protect native vegetation. This is why we called them Guardioes: the guardians. Guardians of nature, guardians of the well-being of the soil and of that piece of the Amazon that has been entrusted to them. Guardians of the community and of peasant life, of the fight against a system that wants to take away the life of the least and give strength to the powerful. Guardians of that land which has now been completely destroyed.

In the next episode you will know other stories of women who have chosen to fight in the face of all this. We wish you a good continuation and a happy and peaceful Easter and resurrection in the Lord.

Anna and Gabrielle, CLM in Brazil

Lay missionary experience of Ilaria Tinelli and Federica Rettondini in Modica

LMC Italia

“What is essential is invisible to the eyes.” We wish to begin with this beautiful phrase, taken from The Little Prince, because it perfectly sums up what has affected us most in these months of life lived to the full here in Modica.

After spending a few weeks in Verona, attending the course at the Unitarian Center for Missionary Formation (CUM) and receiving the mandate from the Bishop, we returned to this land so rich in life and passion, which we missed so much. We spent a few days passing through the community of Avola, for testimonies in the parish and in some schools. Here, too, we touched with our own hands so much generosity, warm welcome and gracious kindness, but above all the “thirst” for a God who is fullness of life and truth, and also that great desire that each of us carries in our hearts to always be sister/brother, or “home,” to someone.

When we returned to Modica, as always, people welcomed us with open arms, and we became part of the various activities going on, such as the Italian school, in the morning, with the immigrant women and, in the afternoon, with the children at the “Crisci Ranni” educational worksite and the boys here at the Badia.

Well beyond the activities that take place, the beauty of this experience lies precisely in seeing and especially feeling that people are really generous and beautiful, always ready to dedicate themselves, with all the love and passion they possess, to assist others and create an extended community where everyone feels called to make common cause and feel like one family.

What struck us in a special way-and was felt by us as a “great gift”-were the young people we met in the schools, during catechism classes, especially in preparation for Confirmation. Amazing were the high school youth (in particular, those from the Liceo Classico and Ginnasio in Modica Bassa), capable of delivering us so much “beauty” made of values, hope and joy. In them we sensed a great desire to live a “big life,” to spend themselves in something great. But they need us adults to learn to listen to them, being close to them and accompanying them.

There were some moments in class when they “gave themselves up” in a profound way, and we understood how gently and carefully their lives need to be guarded. How often we adults, on the other hand, judge these young people, “labeling” them perhaps even just by the way they dress. Instead, they have their own world of expressing themselves, and they need to be helped to “bring out” what they have inside.

Here is a fact that struck us. One evening, we went for a little walk in Modica Alta, to see the view, to contemplate the beauty of creation. Arriving at the locality “Il Pizzo,” we saw a group of 20 to 30 boys laughing and joking. We approached them and slowly, very gently, greeted them and then chatted a little with them. Nothing special, mind you. But great was our surprise when they thanked us for the simple fact that we had had the courage to greet them, to stop, to share our lives with them, and also to listen to them. They told us, “Usually, if not almost always, we are ‘criticized’ and kept away.”

With this few lines, we wish to invite you to have the courage to “get our hands dirty,” to dare in our lives. Life is worthy if we spend it for the last! And when our path encounters obstacles, let us continue undaunted on our way, knowing that the Lord is always present and ready to guide us. The important thing is not to give in to any compromise of any kind, but to continue faithfully on “the way of the Lord.”

Thank you, guys. You are the “beauty of this life.” And we are certain that “beauty” and “created fullness” will always remain indelible in the heart of each of us.

Thank you, Modica, for making us experience six super-dense months of fullness. We will always carry you indelibly in our hearts!

With affection and deep gratitude,

Ilaria Tinelli and Federica Rettondini

Happy New Year from Kitelakapel

LMC Kenia

Greetings from Kitelakapel!

We hope you are doing well. We are doing great. We are starting the new school year. Linda and Pius return to schools to teach life skills. I spend more and more time in clinics. I am patiently waiting for my official work permit. Our pastoral work, the Why Blue Sky project supporting teachers, also return to the regular schedule.

Last 3 weeks, the turn of the old and new year, we spent on the road. Just after Christmas, which we spent in Kitelakapel, we went to the Turkana region inhabited by the tribe of the same name. We went there together with Guilia and Hani who visited us again 🙂 . We went to visit two Comboni missions in Lokichar and Lodwar. Built from scratch by the Comboni Missionaries. In the middle of nowhere. In Lokichar there is a church, a school and a center for children with various disabilities. In nearby villages there are further schools built by the Comboni and handed over to the people. Similarly in Lodwar. Schools, chapels, health centers. From people to people. Created with love to serve others.

On Monday we returned from Nairobi. We spent a week there, completing various formalities, but also getting to know numerous projects such as a children’s center in the middle of the largest slums in Africa, run by our friend from the CLM community, or the Kivuli Center street children’s home founded by the diocesan priest Kizito. As an international community, we also participated in the annual meeting of the Kenyan CLM group. Together we summed up 2023 and planned 2024. During the meeting, new leaders were elected and at the solemn Holy Mass, one of the candidates, Mercy, officially became a lay Comboni missionary. It’s amazing how much we feel part of this group.

We have various ideas in our heads and planned workshops. The new year promises to be intense. We will keep you updated on what’s going on with us.

Marzena Gibek

Comboni Lay Missionary –Kitelakapel, Kenya

CFR: school of resistance

LMC Brasil

Today is Monday, one of the busiest days, another week begins again at Casa Familiar Rural, the agricultural school where I am helping out. Off we go: 7:30 a.m. me and Nete, the school’s cook, start doing the week’s shopping for the 30 first-year students, 8:15 a.m. shopping done. 8.30 am I call the driver of the two buses to confirm transportation for the students, some come from very far: they leave home at 6 am, only after 3 hours by bus they arrive in town.

In the square in front of the market everyone gathers, they come from various parts of the region, and at 10 a.m. a bus picks up the boys and goes to the school.

The Rural Family House is located in the middle of a mixture of “countryside and forest.” To get there you’ll have to pass through the working-class Jardim de Aulidia neighborhood, a cluster of houses all looking the same scrolling across the hilly horizon, a sardine quarter just outside Açailandia. After passing it you will find yourself in front of a mud house, as we would say, built with biomaterials, finally surrounded by greenery.

Now you continue along the long unpaved road, on either side flow pastures as far as the eye can see in an up and down between the hills of the valley. Halfway along the road the landscape changes, on the left there is cultivation in Agroflorestry System while on the right there is an area of living forest, still intact, until, at last, in front of you is the Casa Familiar Rural.

Don’t imagine a big school like the ones we are used to; a maximum of 35 to 40 students a week study here. It’s a friendly environment, very rustic, it’s a “schoolhouse,” with dormitory spaces, two classrooms, the large dining hall with wooden tables, the library, the computer room and the lab. And then all around green spaces managed in various ways: vegetable garden, fruit garden, bee house, medicinal plants, chicken house and pigsty. All in function of study and learning.

The students in the house are young people between the ages of 15 and 19 who are doing “ensino medio,” which lasts three years and is the equivalent of our high school with an agricultural focus. These young people come from the countryside, from farming families where they are labor force as well as children, which is why the school uses what is called the Pedagogy of Alternation, since during the year they constantly alternate a week in school and a week at home, so as not to take away an important support from the work in the fields, but also because through these years of study the goal is for the boys and girls to take home new techniques and improve the family agriculture by developing it from an Agroecological perspective.

A special feature is that there are 10 hours of lessons each day: basic subject and technical subjects: from mathematics to animal husbandry, from bovine-culture to history. An intense program between practice and theory, a school that becomes family because of all the time spent together, and becomes home because everyone has responsibilities to keep this place clean by doing their part.

But this is not just a school like any other: it is a school that symbolizes RESISTANCE. In fact, here it is necessary to resist in order to survive what is called AGRONEGOTIUM, that is, those big producers of Soja and Eucalyptus, who with their monocultures invade, devastate and undermine the preservation of the environment, incentivizing deforestation and the use of agrotoxics through aerial dispersion. A tool that is killing in small doses communities still trying to live off the countryside and family farming.

Those who choose to come to this school choose to give a different future not only to their family but also to their community. The goal is to train these boys and girls to care for their land through innovative agricultural methodologies capable of adapting to the environment without destroying it.

Anna and Gabriele, CLM in Brazil