On Saturday August 1, 2020, solemnity of Saint Alfonso María de Ligorio, the Laity from different parts of the country of Mexico, we held a national meeting, to share our experience in the pandemic. Lay people from: Michoacán, Guanajuato, Guadalajara, Morelos and Mexico City participated, accompanied by our national advisor: Gustavo Covarrubias MCCJ. We started with prayers to promote the missionary spirit, starting with the prophet Naum 1, 7. Then, we share the way in which we are living our vocation as Comboni Lay Missionaries.
We were enlightened by reality, meditating on the different social, political and family scenarios that we face and the way in which we can live them just as Saint Daniel Comboni would have done. Taking three strategies: Prayer, solidarity and cooperation and being signs of Hope in the world. Subsequently, we meditate on the Word of God to translate into concrete commitments in our missionary work: Prayer, meeting the other, working little by little in different missionary days, always giving priority to health, taking as reference the valuable and worthy which is human life.
Lastly, we share the panorama of mission at the international level and close with a moment of prayer to invoke the maternal protection of Our Mother Mary of Guadalupe, committing ourselves to remain consolidated as a single Comboni missionary family.
“Without the laity the mission work is sterile” (EC 1219).
Echoing the message of Pope Francis to live in an extraordinary way the month of October, during which we celebrate World Mission Sunday, the Comboni seminary of San Francisco del Rincón, Gto., held the yearly meeting of the Comboni Ladies Auxiliary (known as Damas Combonianas in Mexico) and Benefactors.
Starting very early in the day, about 350 people arrived from several areas of the States of Guanajuato and Jalisco to share a day of fun, prayer and meetings. In attendance were Comboni priests and brothers, seminarians, religious and lay people and, above all, friends who share the same filial relationship with God as an ecclesial act, which is communion and source of a new life together with many other brothers and sisters. (From the message of Pope Francis for World Mission Sunday 2019). As one of the Comboni women said: “Coming here, I feel at home.”
They are, in the words of Pope Francis, “a Church going out to the farthest borders, requiring a constant and permanent missionary conversion.” Perhaps they do not leave their country to proclaim mission, Christ’s Great Work of Mercy, but they are always going out to meet others and to ask for support for those who have been chosen to witness to the prophetic vision of the Church in faraway lands.
Mrs. Macaria Bendita, a Comboni dama of the Dolores Hidalgo, Gto. group, is a great example of this Church going out, of constant and permanent conversion. For about 50 years she has been sending literature to friends and acquaintances inviting them to support the missions by prayer and financial help. She commented that engaging in this activity has been a source of great joy for herself and for her family.
Later, during the welcoming and coffee session, everyone was invited to listen to presentations and take part in missionary activities and songs. “How beautiful it is to see over the mountains the messenger announcing peace.” (Isa 52:7) These words seemed to come alive looking at the Comboni women and other benefactors as they listened attentively and with enthusiasm to the Comboni Missionary Fathers Mario Alberto Pacheco Zamora and José Arellano. Both of them had a lot to share from their experiences in the Philippines and in Egypt respectively.
Mrs. Macaria herself commented on how these witnesses are a source of joy and increase the desire to keep on working for the missions.
In the course of the Eucharist, Fr. Enrique Sánchez recognized, thanked and encouraged the work of the women and other benefactors, saying: “With your prayers, sacrifices, work and affection and with the collections you do for the missions, you are like the wheels of a car, like little ants who with anonymous and discrete work, you are not even aware the good you do for the missionaries, allowing them to realize their vocation without having to worry about tomorrow. You are the people who make it possible for the Comboni Missionaries to continue to bring the good news to many nations of the world.”
The Eucharist was followed by a meal, the cutting of a cake, a raffle and music. In this context it was possible to notice the communion and festivity generated by the gathering. It makes the participants feel important and recognized in their work and, as Mr. Armenta, a benefactor of the San Felipe group added, makes them feel at home.
The example of these women and benefactors invites us to think about the meaning of ourselves as being baptized and sent. That very important message that Pope Benedict XV gave us in the encyclical Maximum Illud, 100 years ago, referring to the missionary mandate to go into the whole world and freely proclaim the message you received without excluding anyone, is still relevant in today’s society. We are not called to proclaim the gospel in order to “conquer,” like in the days of colonization, but with the conviction that our belief in Christ, alive and risen, is a richness to be shared, communicated and announced.
On last August 17 and 18 a retreat of information was held to help new people get to know the Comboni charism as Lay Missionaries. About 30 people attended coming from Tabasco, Michoacán, Jalisco and Guanajuato. We started with some integration activities and animation, then we moved to our first workshop given by the CLM José Dolores (Lolo), who gave us seven tips to reach interior peace. After that we greatly enjoyed a holy hour where we strongly experienced the presence of God. To end the first phase, we moved on to supper and a camp fire, to spend some time together and tell some of the stories that have left a sign in our lives and hearts as missionaries.
The next days, we started with a community prayer to offer to God our
family and our mission. It was followed by a workshop given by the CLM
Juan José, who spoke on Comboni spirituality.
The Eucharist followed, celebrated by the Fr. Lalo, who currently works in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which filled us with emotions and joy. During his homily he told us something about his experience there and moved us with his message. Following that, we had a short presentation on the work, formation, promotion, mission, etc of the Comboni Lay Missionaries at the international level, given by the CLM Daniela Becerra, who also gave us a little tour of Kenya, Africa. The CLM Lolo and Maricruz spoke about this experience and taught us something about the Swahili language. Before that, however, the CLM Verito Arenas, coordinator of the CLM in San Francisco del Rincón, spoke on the work they do locally.
Following all that, the group was divided into two in order to write a letter of commitment. One group was guided by the CLM Beatriz, of the National Formation Team, and it was made up of CLM who have already finished two years of basic formation. They wrote their petition to the coordinating team of Mexico to be allowed to continue to work permanently one more year in the community. The other group, made up of those who had been newly invited to become CLM, listened to the witness of CLM Adriana, the National Coordinator, who spoke of her life and experience in Peru. After writing their letters, the two groups joined again so that the new ones could witness the commitment of each CLM. The joy and emotion were such that several were deeply moved by this. After hugs and congratulations to the new CLM, we closed our retreat with some time of celebration where we could share the joy we had experienced during these days. We wish to thank all the participants and are grateful for the support we received from some benefactors. We will keep praying for you, for the new Lay people and for missionary vocations…
I am Monica Cervantes Suarez, I am 18, and I was born in the city of Sahuayo, Michoacán. I am about to start my university studies majoring in integrative medicine. I wish to share with you my experience in this missionary journey. Beginning when I was denied access to the career I wanted, I started looking for something else that would fill this void I felt, because I was far removed from God, and even though my parents are active in Church family movements, I kept a distance from all that.
I must confess that, if I had any missionary inclination, it was more out of curiosity about knowing different cultures and traditions, above all for the adventure, for seeing new places, etc. I had the opportunity to attend a national mission congress for children and adolescents with the them: “WITH JOSELITO IN THE MISSIONARY HEART OF VOCATION.” I really did not know what I was doing there and at the beginning I felt out of place, but everything changed within me when I realized that I needed to discover my life’s mission.
After this experience, I decided to get in touch with the CLM Beatriz, who had spoken on the Missionary Vocation and given an account of her life at the Congress, to ask her to let me attend the mission camp. Having received a positive answer, I started with my formation to attend the Holy Week Mission Camp. I was waiting for my departure day with much enthusiasm but, when the time came, I felt both a lot of fear and at times joy, because what I had been awaiting for so many years was about to come.
We arrived at the parish of Metlatonoc, a community of Vicente Guerrero, where I stayed for a week. We faced several difficulties to get there, including a long journey, and steep uphill roads where we had to leave the car and walk to the place. But staying in the community I had the chance to discover that there is greater joy in giving than in receiving and also that a missionary learns from the community that accepted us with joy and enthusiasm. We worked as a team. We worked with the girls, forming three teams to share the themes and the eucharistic celebrations. Because we had no priests, we did not have the Eucharist, but we had the celebration of the Word in which I was chosen to lead the Easter Vigil. I felt a great responsibility and, wanting everything to turn out well, I was very nervous. Just the same, by the end I felt the peace and joy of having lived this great experience. Without a doubt, the Lord was able to seduce and trap me so that I may continue to serve. Coming back, I could look at life differently, trying to see always the positive side of things. I continued to follow the missionary activities and the meetings that have helped me to discover my vocation.
I just finished attending another National Youth Missionary Congress in July, in Villa Hermosa, Tabasco. The theme invited me to go beyond myself: CHRISTIAN YOUTH AT THE PERIPHERIES OF THE WORLD. There I could share experiences with people of my age who, just like myself, have questions as they try to discover their journey in a life of service in mission.
Now I am anxiously waiting for the formation retreat that will take place at the Comboni Seminary of San Francisco del Rincón, Gto. There I will start the process of formation as a Comboni Lay Missionary, since I feel that I identify with the missionary charism of St. Daniel Comboni.
Today, 25 years from the beginning of the CLM in Mexico, we gathered in Sahuayo, Michoacán to start our 19th National Assembly with great joy, faith and enthusiasm that spur us to continue in this vocation, because, as St. Daniel Comboni said, “This work will not die.”
On June 30 we reflected on our commitment to the lay vocation. In this journey, the call is the compass guiding our steps and pointing to the right way, since our vocation is to do what lines up with our passion that, in one way or another, contributes to the building of a better world: to give help and light, to generate wellbeing, to be guides and spread harmony. We all need to find our vocation, because it brings us to enjoy life more. The advice on this matter was: “If you are doing what you have a passion for, keep on doing it even better.” To follow one’s vocation involves getting to know one another and develop our talents. What am I good for? It means to feel called by God, as special people over whom God placed his sight.
Later, on July 1, we reflected on what must set apart a CLM, and we agreed that the CLM must show a fraternal spirit, act in solidarity and empathy in order to free and walk with the poorest and most abandoned. As for his personality he is a brother who gives confidence, makes you feel part of the family and shares with you sorrows and joys. Even more, he must be loving, generous, and feel the freedom and the joy of serving. In this vocation, not everything is easy, so that even we may not like to stay in it, God wants it and he keeps us going in difficult moments.
Along these same lines, we began to develop a work plan based on the lay missionary experience of the group. In order to progress with this plan it is necessary to observe, to be realistic, to listen and learn from simple things in order to finally to be able to act with patience. Not always can the missionary solve problems, but a process may be started so that there will be change. So, from the work experience among the indigenous communities of Guerrero, we identified these areas of activity: education, employment, nutrition, women’s promotion and inclusion of the disabled.
At the same time, we had the joy of sharing this festive occasion with a group of friends who accompanied us and worked during these days on a life project and reflected on the lay vocation, seeing whether it could be with the CLM. Besides listening to the witness of missionaries, they also took active part in the moments of prayer and celebration.
Finally, the big day arrived, July 2, when we had the opportunity to listen to the missionary testimony of the Mexican CLM who pioneered this work. It was a blessing to enjoy the presence of the Cornejo Castillo family, Olivia Ayala, Martha Navarro and Manuelita Valladares who, by their witness and commitment, left footprints to be followed in this journey.
The Thanksgiving Mass was presided over by Fr. Enrique Sánchez, the MCCJ provincial. Without any doubt, it was a very emotional time to say THANKS to all those who have written parts of this history and to those who are still writing it.
We are also grateful for the presence of Bro. Joel Cruz, mccj and Fr. Gustavo Covarrubias, mccj currently moderator of the CLM in Mexico, and all those who joined our festivities in prayer and from the heart.
Life is made up of moments. It was in July 1992 that the first formation meeting of the CLM took place, followed by July 1996 when our first CLM Silvia, Pablo, Oli and Ana Luz were assigned to Guatemala. In this same month we have given thanks especially for those who have accepted the missionary call to go to the mission ad gentes.
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