Comboni Lay Missionaries

“Trust in Jesus and follow him through the darkness,” says Anna Obyrtacz, a Comboni Lay Missionary in the Central African Republic.

Anna RCA
Anna RCA

She had never wanted to leave. She was dreaming about starting a family and live in Poland’s countryside, but one night in a Dominican church changed her life. Anna Obyrtacz, a CLM in the RCA, speaks of her vocation and her mission in Mongoumba, Lobaye, with the pygmies where she found God.

Reporter (R): Hi Anna! How did you receive your call to serve the Lord as a Comboni Lay Missionary?

Anna Obyrtacz (AO): I had never thought of mission. It had never been my dream or deep desire. I was a young woman looking forward to marriage and a good life in my country. But the Lord is great, and came looking for me to send me to his harvest. Me a missionary? At times, when I think of it I still find it funny, because for years it had never been a deep desire. But now, I assure you, I cannot think of my life without mission and daily I ask myself where this journey from the Lord will lead me.

I studied in Krakow, Poland, where I also started working. My meeting the Comboni Missionaries was totally accidental. For me perhaps, but not for God. It took place in March 2012 in a Dominican community I frequented. On that day, the Comboni Missionaries had organized an adoration.

R: And what happened next?

AO: After graduating and finding a job I continued my little life. I was thinking, as I said, to start a family. So, I was concentrating on my job and on my life of prayer, Mass, the Eucharist, daily prayer. Then, one day, I do not know why, I cannot say, I was inspired to join the student pastoral. It was a ministry called KOMPAS dealing manly with young people. On the invitation of a Comboni Missionary, I joined the team for a retreat. During this retreat I met several people, especially people involved in missionary activities around the world. I had the chance to talk with them about mission and about being a missionary. However, at the time I still had no thought of going to the missions.

R: But after this first retreat experience, you went to Africa. How do you explain it?

AO: Soon after that experience, I began to think of mission. The conversations I had had with the missionaries kept on coming to mind. So, I started having an interest in mission. I started knowing new people, especially among missionaries. Later I had the good fortune to be sent to Uganda for a month as a first missionary experience. It was in 2013. As I left Poland, I expected to find the worst in Uganda, but something within me was telling me that it was worth the try.

R: What was your first impression of Africa?

AO: I have a foggy memory, it was very hot (laughs). At first, I was under pressure and truly wanted to do everything I was told. We had passion, good will, but the language was our barrier. I remember the faces of the children in the orphanage where we worked, who wanted to talk to us, but since we only spoke English and they only spoke their local language, it was difficult. So, being unable to communicate, we simply stayed with them, without words, and this fact moved us deeply.

After spending a month in Uganda, I returned to Poland where I got in touch with the Comboni Missionaries to discern my vocation: to be missionary in Africa? Should I do it at home? Work? Get married?…

R: Did you struggle with these thoughts for a long time?

AO: Very often in life, monotony leads us to change life’s patterns. I thought that I needed to take time to discern my feelings. For this reason, having consulted people who were guiding me, I made a retreat with the Jesuits in Zakopane. It was a time of personal reflection, a meeting with my own self and with the Lord. During these precious days I spent with the Jesuits, the Lord answered all my worries and I also raised questions, but I trusted in Him. There are times in life when we have to learn to be “blind” and let the Lord guide us. In Polish we call it “seeing in the darkness.” You have to decide to step into darkness and let Jesus lead you.

Another facet of my vocation was the support of my family. They supported me a lot both at the beginning and then during my mission experience. I pray to the Lord that he may bless them and fill them with peace.

R: Why Africa and the Central African Republic?

AO: For the Comboni Missionaries Africa is a very special place. Our founder started his mission in Africa and had a real passion for the continent. At the time we had several options: Mozambique, Ethiopia and the RCA. RCA is a post-war country, very unstable, and many people were afraid to go there. There were many reasons to believe that mission in the RCA was going to entail lots of sacrifices: the poor, the war, insecurity, etc. What I dreaded the most was French (laughing). I had never studied it, you see? But I steeled myself with courage, especially following the example of Comboni, to serve the poor. Today I can truly say in all sincerity that the RCA is a marvelous country. Having come to the RCA, it has become like my second country.

R: How did you prepare to go to Bangui, considering your lack of French?

AO: It worked well. I officially joined the Comboni Lay Missionaries on June 12, 2015 in Warsaw before leaving for the RCA, where I was going to learn French. Then, we celebrated a mission sending Mass in my parish of St. John the Baptist in Oakwa on the feast of the Sacred Heart. The celebrant was Msgr. Grzegorz Rys. I went to Congo (RDC) for four months, where I was received by Irene, a Congolese CLM. She helped me understand the African mentality, especially in Central Africa. It was a great time, because I was not only there to learn the language. The day I left for Bangui, Irene gave this advice: “Remember that we are sending you to these people to try to understand them and to love them. Share with them what you have and you will find happiness.”

R: What were the first difficulties when you first arrived in the RCA?

AO: From Kinshasa, where we lived like we do in Europe, I found myself in a forest, without internet, electricity and hot water (laughing). At the beginning it was difficult. Difficult because I did not have many friends and had to start from scratch. But now I am happy, because I have gone much beyond friendship, and now I have a family.

R: What was your ministry in Mongoumba?

AO: The lay community of Mongoumba is made up of four people: one Italian, two Portuguese and I am Polish. We decide in common how to live and help each other. In Mongoumba, the lay people take care of education, the Pygmies and health. As for myself, I worked at the clinic. Concretely, I took care of the Pygmies first and then of undernourished children. Now and then we also organize sessions for the formation of caretakers, etc.

R: Is it a unique mission because of the Pygmies living there? And how do you help this minority?

AO: The Pygmies have a special place in our activities. They are a priority. In this part of the RCA they are not taken into consideration. These are the type of people that our founder wanted to know and serve. However, working with them is not that easy because, for example, they are very free people who do not like to be confined by a structure. Slowly, we teach them to read and write, to keep basic hygiene, how to avoid illnesses brought about by dirt, etc. I tried to show them other ways of life, to live independently, to administer the little money they have.

R: What are the needs in this area? What are the main problems affecting the RCA and its people?

AO: What we need most in the RCA is peace. Peace in the streets, in the hearts, in the cities. People want to live without fear, raise their children, work, grow. Th government must spare no efforts to ensure security for its people, who only want to live in peace. The other challenge for the RCA is education and the creation of business opportunities. Young people should be able to study well, in good conditions and find job opportunities at the end of their studies.

R: What are the dangers of missionary service in this region?

AO: In Mongoumba we are safe, being a rather secure area where we are not bothered. However, the RCA is very big and there are still areas where people are hiding, and live in constant danger because there is still armed conflict. Probably the only real danger is disease. Of course, there are medications available, but you never know where. God, however, always protects us.

R: What do you ask the world for the RCA?

AO: I ask one and all to support the RCA through prayer and especially with concrete help. I refer to help in the way of projects, financial contributions, etc. I also invite other lay people to come to this beautiful country.

R: Anna, what has mission in the RCA given to you personally?

AO: First of all, I learned to open up to other people, very often very different from the way I grew in a different culture. I learned to live frugally, humbly and be satisfied with what we have. This is one of the best experiences I have had. This experience also showed me that, when we leave our biological family, God gives another one.

R: What are your plans for your immediate future?

AO: After my vacation in Poland I will go to Canada for three years to study psychology. It is a program for missionaries. As I told you earlier, if God gives me life, I will return to RCA to bring psychological help specifically to those who have been traumatized by war and others. Back there, I will give hope to those who have been wounded and abandoned.

Interviewed by Eustache Michael Mounzatela

Diversity is truly beautiful

LMC Kinshasa
LMC Kinshasa

Dear Friends,

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”.

LMC Kinshasa

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.


Monica Jamer, CLM

Presentation of Monika on her way to Central Africa

LMC Polonia
LMC Polonia

My name is Monika, I am 24 years old and I am a physiotherapist.

All my interest are generally connected to my studies. I eagerly work in my profession because I feel that I found my faith in it. As young girl I discovered in my heart the need to serve those who need my help and those who are the poorest and the loneliest . In high school I was looking for associations, groups and people who would help me to go for a mission. To Comboni Lay Missionaries Movement I got because of my friend. It was her who recommended me they way in which Comboni fathers prepare young people for missions. After my first year in this formation I had opportunity to get experience on one month mission in Kenya. I had a chance to see how the missions are functioning and how the missionaries work. But more importantly, I could meet the people to whom I could help in the future.

LMC Polonia

This time has awaken even the bigger love to my responsibilities, to other people and to be with people and to see their sufferings. Motivated by my own needs, one year later I organized for myself and two other friends three months mission in Kenya again. In my first place -Lokichar I was working as a physiotherapist with disabled children. It was extraordinary place for me. On one hand, I saw there a lot of suffering, but on the other hand I felt a lot of love for this children and people who wanted to help them. I cannot find a proper words to describe my feeling and memories from this place. Together with my friend Martha we were helping the children but we also were praying with them, we took part in masses and our free time we devoted for spending time with the children: e.g. by talking with them or just making them smile or simply hold their hands. The second part of my mission I spent in the parish of Amakuriat. We could see there, how the mission parish works, how many kilometer one person needs to walk in order to get to small community and I also saw how they appreciated it.

CLM Poland

I would like to work in the area of spiritual life of those who I will be sent to because I believe that it is God who calls us to do so and to spread his words through our side and words too.

On 20 October 2018, I officially became Comboni Lay Missionary and I started my „community experience” – for next 3 months I lived with Comboni Missionaries in Cracow. It was very fruitful time: I started to learn French, I had classes about Bible basis, Daniel Comboni, missiology and international communication. I was also a voluntary worker in the Mother and Child’s house.

On 3 March 2019 in the Saint Jack’s church in Opole, I was officially sent for a mission in Republic of Central Africa by Opole diocesan Andrzej Czaja – and received a missionary Cross.

Now I am waiting for my visa, and hopefully I leave Poland in April. My first stop will be Democratic Republic of Congo where I will have 2 months of French course and then Republic of Central Africa – my new mission.

LMC Polonia

With prayer

Monika Jamer, Comboni Lay Missionary

Youth program in Daye

CLM EthiopiaLast Saturday with some members of our Comboni Friends group, we went to Daye – one of the Combonis’ missions among Sidama people. We met there with youth leaders from different outstations, more than 50 of them came. The topic was based on Matthew’s gospel and parable about talents. There was small teaching about, testimony of Adela about her talents and how she uses them to serve others, and then time to work in small groups to discover and share which gifts God gave us and how can we use them.

CLM Ethiopia

Youth had many ideas about the talents they can use in the church (to lead groups, to teach, to sing or play keyboard in the choir, to help those who left the church to come back, to take care of widows and orphans…). And after this more serious part, there was some fun, which we called “Daye got talent!”. Youth in groups prepared short dramas based on different parables. They got really involved in it! And showed that they have acting talents too! 🙂
We hope that this meeting inspired them to discover their gifts and use them. Also for us, it was very joyful and enriching time.

CLM Ethiopia

Magda Plekan. CLM Ethiopia

My school

CLM Ethiopia

I’m about to go back to Poland from my mission in Ethiopia. A great part of my service was teaching children in two kindergartens. I taught them English. The schools belong to the Missionaries of Charity (Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta). The first year of my teaching I was more focus on learning than teaching. I observed what other teachers were doing. I simply used to go to school and teach the children what came to my mind or what I found in the Internet. First year sometimes I was really frustrated with the situation in the school, especially with the attitude of the teachers. Some of the teachers prefer to sit all the class doing nothing, while the students repeat alphabet 100 times and even don’t recognize the letters. I could give many examples like this.  I tried to talk to the coordinator of the schools and later also to the Sisters. However none of them hoped to change anything. They knew how they work, they tried to talk to them, to organize a training with psychologist, but nothing has changed.

CLM Ethiopia

However I still wanted to work with them. Last year I started to organize teachers’ training every other week (one Friday in one school, the next week in the another school). Before every training I had to prepare some materials. I learned a lot to be able to share this knowledge with others. I still worked with the children, however at the beginning I prepared the English program for the whole year. I included many games, songs, various techniques and activities so the children had more fun and were motivated to study. Even when I didn’t have a lesson, the teachers should still follow the program and report what they did. I changed my schedule to be able to have similar number of lessons per week with each group in both schools.

I wish I could change something, especially the attitude of the teachers. I’ve learned one very important thing about motivation. Those who daily struggle to satisfy the basic needs of them and their families usually are not motivated to serve others, to do the good work for the society. Somehow it is psychologically justified. Only God can give the motivation beyond that. Some of the teachers really care for the children and their future, for the efficacy of their teaching. I’m sure that it’s God’s influence.

CLM Ethiopia

If the teachers don’t have any motivation coming from inside then they might be motivated from outside. That’s why I’m struggling now to arrange the implementing of the new evaluating system. Up to now, all the workers are very free to do what they want because there are no many consequences of that. If they work hard or are lazy, nothing changes. So now first of all, I’m trying to  encourage the coordinator and the Superior Sister to prepare the new system and implement it.

My work at school was evoluting while I was also developing my knowledge, skills and way of understanding. I know that the most important was not the knowledge I shared with the students or the teachers, but my presence. I’m aware that the children are too little to remember the English vocabulary in the near future. But surely they will remember me as someone who gave them joy and love. If I managed to teach the teachers something useful then it would be for the good of the children. The attitude is the most difficult to change. If there is a little improvement, I give the glory to God, because only He is able to renew the people’s heart.

My presence in the schools was a great lesson to me. I learned a lot not only about the profession of teacher and methodology, but also about the culture, about the people, their needs, their thoughts. Now I can understand them better. I know my perspective is different. I’m not frustrated anymore. I don’t judge them. I tried my best. The rest of the work I leave to God.

So… Who have learned more: the students, the teachers or I? I would say that I… But God knows… I think we all have learned something.

CLM Ethiopia

Magda Fiec, CLM Ethiopia