Perhaps this type of living in constant arrivals and departures may be the best way God has to show us the love he has for us and the secret formula of living at the service of others.
Thus, mission will always be a meeting of lives almost magically crossing one another, as if everything were already planted in our history. Mission will always be the concrete way of being living witnesses of a love that does not die. It is reborn and gives new birth.
Today we speak well about you. Afterwards, there remains the certainty that we were and always will be whole when we give of ourselves without self-interest, timelessly at all hours, when we step down from everything we have been building since forever and go back to being like children among them. We are family where smiles never end and tears sprout at times. We are a home where there is always room for one more. We will always be. Mission has not ended. It will never end. Because love always conquers. Mission is waiting for you and always will.
To enter into a new culture is a trip that requires dedication and gradual knowledge. Not only in order to see the gray of the palette, but also and above all, to notice the various colors on the palette and dab with more strength the pinks, the greens, the blues, the yellows, the reds… It means to know how to appreciate things, like a little child curious to discover this world and the next, enriched by knowing how things work. Without judging. Always with new eyes. And this is difficult, especially when we have grown up, and carry our own luggage, our vices, our opinions on everything and much more stuff.
To enter into a new culture, the much heard of and blessed inculturation , also means making the most of the time we are in school with our fellow students of Amharic class and other languages, or the afternoons with the MCCJ (Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus), and common prayers, visits to museums, sharing food which is quite different over here and almost always with a touch of berber, a local specialty that makes everything very hot, and then the outings with the community to have an ice cream or a Coke (yes, even here you can have all this!)
To enter into the new culture is not only like imbibing from the cultural shock I mentioned in my last article, a shock that makes us come down from the mountain. It is also feeling thirsty in the midst of all this and climb the mountain again. Listen to it now, no matter what difficult it might be. This is what I am doing now, climbing a mountain. We were given two weeks of rest from our Amharic classes, while schools are closed for vacation, and so we had the chance to go to Benishangul-Gumuz for a week. That is where, God willing, we will start our mission in
September. We also started a week of retreat.
I am currently in this retreat. It is an important time for me, to renew myself, to climb the mountain and to speak with God. It is a time to pray over all that I lived in Benishangu-Gumuz.
What did I see there? I remember as it were now the day we visited the villages of this area, where only the Gumuz live, to offer our catechesis. We left home about 4:30 in the afternoon. I traveled in the back of the 4×4 in the open air, even though there was room inside, where it would have been much safer because at any time it could have started to rain very hard, which is typical of this time of the year because we are in the kremt gizê (Amharic for rainy season). But I preferred the view, because it is always unique. Travelling outside also gave me the opportunity to spend time with the Gumuz catechists we were meeting. I did not know that the back of the vehicle was going to fill up with them, but that is what happened, because on the way to one of the Gumuz villages we were gathering several the young catechists. I watched the young catechists talking and laughing among themselves in their language, the Gumuzinha (another one I will have to learn), so I could not understand anything! In my mind I built up stories and phrases in Amharic in an attempt to talk to them. They also speak Amharic, but not all the Gumuz do. These are catechists picked by the MCCJ because they can be a bridge between the missionaries and the Gumuz. Besides giving their catechesis the also are Amharic-Gumuzinga translators and are the intermediaries between the Gumuz and us.
I then gathered some courage and started to talk with one of the catechists. We exchanged a half a dozen sentences. I felt friendship and the realization that I am different. The Gumuz are very friendly. Unlike the common reaction of many other Ethiopians who, when they see us, call us Farengi (foreigners), the Gumuz meet us with a smile. They see us as friends who have not forgotten them and are protecting them. They are very dark, unlike the typical Ethiopians who are a shade of brown. This is also one of the reasons they are marginalized, because many people do not see them as “racially” Ethiopian.
At a certain point the catechists were dropped off at different homes. We got off the vehicle with them and started calling the young people and the children to attend the catechesis. A handshake and we looked straight into one another eyes… How did I enjoy sharing this gaze!
We called out to a lot of people, but not everyone came. They are still afraid to leave their homes, considering what happened in June, when they were attacked by the Amhara. Just the same, many catechumens attended in the darkness of the night and filled this home made of wood planks where we held the catechesis.
What I saw and lived that week in Benishangul-Gumuz awakened in me contrasting emotions. Among them ideas on projects to get started, but also fears and a feeling of inadequacy. And here, during this week of retreat, it was a time to regain my confidence, for the same reason that made me say Yes, the day he sent me, like Mary, “Here is the servant of the Lord. Let it be done according to your word.” Climbing the mountain, I realize that I am not able to accomplish the mission. I am not, and we are not. But we are not alone. Oh, to accept our human frailty, our weaknesses and our dependence from God’s love at times can be so difficult! Very often to be human means to seek control of our own life. But we are mistaken. Do not fool yourself, Carolina, you are not the owner of your life. It is God’s gift. Strangely, here during the retreat I lived the day of the Lord’s Transfiguration, making it personal. I prayed. I let (and still do) this transfiguration take place in me. In fact, all I need is “not to be afraid.” Because here, on this mountain, I once again accept God’s invitation: “Get up, look, cross over, follow me, just as you are… with fears, weaknesses, mistakes, but also with gifts. Accept yourself as I created you! Follow me!” And I follow.
And as I follow him I leave you with a tender hug. I ask you for a special prayer for the mission God wants us to establish there. That it may not be the result of our European ideas of mission, but rather the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, because mission will never be our own. Mission belongs to God.
Your friend and Comboni Lay Missionary, Carolina Fiúza
I write to you as I contemplate the landscape. The sun is barely visible, but I can already see the silhouette of the volcano in the moonlight. Today I again climbed the mountain, one of those places where I lower my defenses and I can imagine, on the other side of sunset, the faces of those, not those I left behind, but all those who constantly allowed me – and still do – to fly, at times with fear, but still trusting in this great plan that God has for each one of us. For me. I look intently at the horizon, God and me. Me and God alone. He allows me to get close, and embraces me through the wonders that I can see. He waits for me in silence on top of this small mountain any time I believe that I cannot make it, any time reality becomes cruel, any time everything turns dark, or too heavy to carry… At these times, I climb the mountain, I let go of the heavier stones I carry in my bag, to be able to go on. I climb searching for silence, for hope, looking for myself. Looking for God.
The sun has already left this small mountain, and I am left alone with my thoughts. Thus, I remain alone with the cry of those who come this way, seeking refuge, seeking love, seeking God. During these unfathomable moments I become part of nature that surrounds me.
To climb the mountain allows me to get out of myself, to quietly observe nature around me, to feel all that I carry inside me, to realize that love is made up also of falls, that we also build with the stones found along the way. It allows me to see light. I allow my eyes to open and no longer face the darkness buzzing around me as I climb, I see the little lights shining in the midst of these people, I feel the divine presence among us all in these little lights, in these hearts seeking for him, in the hope of those who believe, in the perseverance of those who dot give up in the face of sorrow, in the knees of those who pray, in the courage of those who risk to move ahead, and then I see the lights that remain in me.
And, as I descend from the small mountain, I feel God again with me. Once again, he invites me to meet with the poor and the needy, with all those who open their doors to me every day, and with all those who still wait for me to arrive. He makes my burden light and makes me feel the joy to be mission in the only way possible, through love.
May we all be able to climb the mountain as often as necessary during this journey of life. May we always empty our bag we carry all the time. Let us not be afraid to speak of whatever happens within us when we are alone with God.
The formation meeting of the CLM took place in Viseu (Portugal) on July 12-14.
As another year comes to an end, it is necessary to have an adequate evaluation of the progress made by the participants, so we did not follow any specific formation theme.
The candidates began to arrive in the afternoon of the 12th. Every meeting is always a great joy! The latest news bits are exchanged in between smiles and hugs! We all feel welcome in this mission house that always receives us so well!
As usual, on Saturday we started the day with the celebration of the Eucharist in the large chapel, open to the entire local community.
After breakfast, we moved to the upstairs hall where we exposed the Blessed Sacrament. This way, in front of the Lord, it was possible to pray and reflect over the progress made during the past year of formation. Many questions come up and it is necessary to find answers, my answers to ach one! Analyzing the past and taking advantage of the present by questioning ourselves before the Lord of Mission, we find answers and take decisions for the future. A future we want to live with Him, wherever and with whomever he will wish!
Renewed and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, we met individually with the Coordinating Team. Thus the day went by, the great day of evaluation, which we all hoped it would be positive.
Several Comboni Lay Missionaries with mission experience, some with their children, joined us for the afternoon prayer. How beautiful to see the children at this prayer! Above all, we prayed for the CLM members who are in mission lands ad gentes. That they never run out of protection and hope! How strong is this desire to be united in prayer! In Jesus, who sends us, and in the Holy Spirit, who accompanies us, we believe that we have nothing to fear!
On Sunday, after morning prayer and breakfast, our relatives began to arrive to spend this day with us in an atmosphere of celebration and sharing. After the welcome by Fr. Francisco Medeiros, they all introduced themselves and the CLM Vânia gave an account of all that the CLM have done during the year, highlighting the news we received from Augusta and Cristina in the Central African Republic, Paula and Neuza in Peru, Liliana and her husband Flávio in Brazil, Marisa in Mozambique and Pedro and Carolina in Ethiopia. With great emotions on the part of their relatives, we saw pictures and videos of these members, showing very explicitly what it means to be missionaries with the poor and disadvantaged.
Immediately after that, we listened to the witness of María Augusta who recently returned from the Republic of Central Africa. Simply and with empathy, she spoke of the latest events, adventures and misadventures.
The Eucharist followed, a strong moment of the day, sharing the Word and the Bread, together with our faith and the Comboni charism that unite us all.
After lunch, where the tables were loaded an nothing was missing, the gathering continued in the afternoon. With games, jokes, songs, stories and so on, we had a fabulous time in the Portuguese fashion.
Many thanks to all, especially to the formators and the coordinating team, who followed us for yet another year.
In June our meeting was not the usual formation meeting of Viseu, but rather a gathering of the Comboni family in Maia, which happens there annually and is prepared and organized by the Comboni Family Commission. This year we gathered on June 28-30 over the theme, “Let your heart be mission,” as this year’s topic for the Comboni Family.
It was a very beautiful meeting! First of all, only a small but diverse group attended, greatly enriching the perspectives and the sharing of the topics. Secondly, it was a gathering rich in reflection themes, but in a spirit of sharing as a Comboni family strengthening our ties of communion and friendship.
On Saturday morning, after morning prayers, Bishop António Couto of Lamego spoke on “The heart in the Bible.” We delved deeply in the biblical meaning of the heart and its significance. Then we saw what it means “to be mission” and Dom António shared some perspectives on how to be mission and do missionary work today and in today’s circumstances, giving concrete examples of groups and people who perform fruitful missionary work today.
Then the participants shared in the formative theme given by the bishop of Lamego, answering some questions he gave us.
In the afternoon, Comboni Sr. Arlete spoke to us. She spoke of the life of St. Daniel Comboni, his “passionate heart” for Africa, his “cordiality,” namely, how his heart moved for “all and how he kept everyone in his heart,” and his devotion to the Sacred Heart.
Later we shared again in groups what we had heard, trying to reflect together on how to live today, and in the same circumstances, this same passion and enthusiasm of Comboni.
At the end of the day, we celebrated Mass and then we had a sardinada where we could converse, socialize and strengthen our friendships. It was a beautiful and agreeable time!
On Sunday, after morning prayers, we gathered to share what we had reflected upon in groups the previous day. From here came new reflections as we continued to share and it was a time of joint meditation and mutual enrichment.
We ended with the Eucharist. Then we entrusted to the Lord all the life decisions we could take during this gathering, together with our missionary enthusiasm regenerated and strengthened at this meeting.
In this meeting, praying and sharing together, we animated one another as Comboni family to be mission, to be enthused by the proclamation and the witness, and to do so “immediately” with vigor and perseverance, in all circumstances!
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