Comboni Lay Missionaries

Updating the Plan of Comboni

Meeting of the Comboni Family in Spain

150 plan de ComboniTo celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Plan for the Regeneration of Africa written by St. Daniel Comboni, the Comboni family in Spain (Comboni Missionaries, Comboni Missionaries Sisters, Secular Comboni Missionaries and Comboni Lay Missionaries) will meet the weekend 5th and 6th of April in Madrid.

It will be a time of reflection, prayer, fellowship and working together around the challenges that arise from Comboni insights to the reality of today.

This meeting will run by way of workshops and will be animated by Fr Joaquim Valente, Head of Comboni Studium.

We want to reflect on the challenges posed by the mission today rereading the Plan of Comboni at family key. Each specific vocation brings nuances that enrich this analysis. Comboni created us as Cenacle of Apostles in Africa, where religious, priests and laity work together to create a synergy that involve the whole Church to deal with the most abandoned continent of the world, Africa.

Currently as Comboni family we are in Africa, America, Asia and Europe. We want to be together faithful and update this missionary call that we receive from Jesus under the charism of Comboni.

In the communion of the same Comboni and missionary vocation, we greet you with affection, the members of the committee: Pedro Miguel Andrés (MCCJ), Carmina Ballesteros (CMS) and Alberto de la Portilla (CLM).

A special training community

Comunidad de formaciónLast weekend we were in Madrid visiting Palmira and Carmen.

Within our Comboni family is normal for each missionary to prepare thoroughly before departing for mission. We always try to give the best of ourselves and this training is a must.

In this case we have a very unique training experience. Palmira Pinheiro is a Portuguese Secular Comboni Missionary who came to Spain to prepare before heading to the Central African Republic, makes this preparation with Carmen Aranda, Spanish Comboni Lay Missionary, also preparing to leave for the same mission. Without any doubt is a unique experience. It is a community of international training and also between members of different branches of the Comboni Family. This provides a unique wealth of experience and is a challenge for the trainer team accompanying the experience composed of Spanish CLM (Mercedes, Luis and Isidro) and Antonio Guirao Comboni missionary.

There is another peculiarity, this time this lay community include three others (a couple and a bachelor) from another association of Spanish lay missionaries (OCASHA).

This collaboration is the result of the Comboni family interrelationship that we have in the different countries and internationally, as well as the coordination and collaboration work that is performed within the CALM (coordination for the Associations of Lay Missionaries in Spain).All this reminds me of the dream that Comboni already had in the mid-S. XIX claimed the Council Vatican I (following his plan for the Regeneration of Africa): “The responsibility of the mission should be Catholic, not just Spanish or French or German or Italian. All Catholics should help poor black people … with our plan we aim to pave the way for the entry of the Catholic faith among all tribes across the territory inhabited by Africans. And for this, I think, should unite all the l initiatives”.

In a language of his time Comboni encouraged us to leave our limitations and particularism. He encouraged us to put the needs of the most neglected continent and its people, as a top priority. And all together we set to serve “the poorest and most abandoned” (as he said).

This Comboni´s dream of collaboration without interest among all it´s realized in this training community so varied as international .The whole Church in the service of the needy.

The rest of the weekend, Carlos and I continued working some issues of the CLM Central Committee. Happy and excited to see how these companions with availability and illusion are prepared for missionary service in Central Africa.

Once complete the missiology course of three months (where prepared with the other Spanish missionaries going out from this year), they will complete their training and perfecting the language in France. There, they will be living with the Comboni Missionary Sisters (more collaboration within the family) but we keep that story for later and we certainly encourage them to tell about it.

Greetings to all. Alberto

# YoSoyDomund: the faces of the mission

‘Vida Nueva Encounters’ addresses the challenges the Church is facing in this field

Carmen, Magdalena y AnastasioMagdalena, Anastasio and Carmen, ‘spokesmen’ of missionaries for Vida Nueva (Spanish magazine).


You may be wondering, if you have not heard already, what it means # YoSoyDomund. You will not be the only one, also bishops have asked. The answer is simple: it is the campaign that in twitterers language has launched PMS-Spain to make us aware that we are all part of the World Mission Day, a day-this year is celebrated on October 20, which was described by the emeritus Pope Benedict XVI as a “new Pentecost”.

And Vida Nueva, in its commitment to the mission and the missionaries, has decided to join the campaign through a new edition of the Vida Nueva Encounters as said its editor, José Lorenzo, at the opening of the dialogue: “From Vida Nueva, we have always followed with great interest the mission. It is a very important testimony to the world of today and you will always find us to help you in this task so necessary. ”

Attended the national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Anastasio Gil (AG), the Comboni Missionary Sister with 35 years of missionary work in Chad Magdalena Rivas (MR) and Carmen Aranda (CA), a young Comboni Lay Missionary, who will go to Republic Central next year.

QUESTION. – How do you live the mission?

AG. – From my dedication, almost “professional”, I am discovering the depth of faith, humanity and generosity in each of the missionaries. I have not found any unbecoming me from this. The missionaries, regardless of age, are young people because they have nothing to carry in their backpack, do not question why go to one place or another. Furthermore, when they are in the mission they are quiet people, calm, showing the patience of God. They know well the grass grows at night.

MR. – I think you idealize us too much, because we are human, poor, small… and many times we have a mission so great that it absorbs us. When I left in 1977 to Chad, I thought I had to eat the world. Always worked in the field of health: there I taught the most basic things, such as washing hands or filtering the water, and also directed a hospital of 130 beds. I have worked in villages, under a tree, in a shed, with malnourished children, polio. It is a path where you grow, but also discover and feel yourself smaller and smaller. I didn´t catechesis ever, but I felt one hundred percent missionary healing in the hospital.  Trying to be the little shadow of God that pass and leave some love, in a country in permanent conflict and in a situation of extreme poverty.

CA. –   For me, mission is life capitalized. I was three months in Ethiopia and I felt God called me there to meet me. Back, Africa came out everywhere.  So I left my job, my car and my house. I could do nothing, because what He is offering is something much better. I needed God to be my priority, and I made it in Africa. It was a very lovely call to be with the last. God does it very well: He cares you, pampers you and tells you the things you feel. In my case, there haven´t been resignations and, in this sense, it has been very easy.

MR. –   Living in mission is easy and very difficult. It’s easy if you have a vocation and if you find your place. No matter what you do, because you will be happy. And it’s terribly difficult, because you have no means and you attend extremes situations. But we can live because there are people in Spain, Italy or France to pray for us, support us, sustains us. Yes, I cried a lot.

CA. – I also had a horrible time the last month in Ethiopia…

MR. –   I cried a lot. You feel depressed, destroyed. For example, Saint Joseph Hospital, the only one in southern Chad and where I worked, is about to close because we have no funds. You feel tiny, poor and that you cannot do what you should. Providence has made that many doctors who come from Spain have fallen in love with it and have organized campaigns and parties to raise funds.

Grupo Vida Nueva

Q. – What is the Domund for you? How do you live it from each of your realities?

MR. –   In Chad we live in the same way. We held a vigil, pray and make a collect, because the poor can give from their poverty to help others, and can pray for other poor. We live the Domund with depth, are great days for us. In short, is living for the other, with the other getting on their skin. Another thing is that we need resources and support, as we have not learned to live on air. We have needs, but I think we should give more strength to the spiritual part of Mission Sunday, to that union. To me has really been helpful to never give up, and achieve to hold at my parish a Mass for the missionaries in danger. I said: “I cannot stand, but I cannot give up.”

AG. –   There is an Ecclesial communion, of spirit, of prayer and family. For obvious reasons, we glide to identify the Domund with an economic cooperation, but is a consequence of spiritual cooperation. We have to open the horizon and see what happens in other countries. The Domund is the best expression of the universality of the Church. The October 20 we are going pray in all churches for the people who have received the missionary vocation, we will feel in solidarity with them. Economic cooperation is essential, but not the most important. The Mission Sunday is the feast of the universality of the Church, “the new Pentecost,” Benedict XVI said.

CA. –   People who are suffering are our brothers and I cannot turn my back. The Domund connects us all and reminds us that we all, as Christians, are responsible for our brothers. I want to feel that those who live in other parts of the world are my brothers. I’m leaving soon to the mission and our formers are telling us to dismantle everything, not to be overwhelmed at the place of destination. I was born in a wonderful family and that’s free. I hope that I can use all my personal knowledge there, knowing that they have many things to offer. As Pope Francisco says, I will take Jesus Christ.

MR. –   On one occasion, in the hospital, I was trying to encourage a man who had a child there with meningitis, a disease from which he had already lost two others, and with his wife pregnant. I told him that God would deliver him from this suffering, because God is a Father. He said, “God is the father of whites. My children had died because we have no hospital nearby; those that I have at home have to walk 15 kilometers to go to school without breakfast… You have hospitals, schools, doctors and medicines. You can call God father “. You feel so tiny that you do not know what you have to answer.  I say I am the broom behind the door that people are going to look when they need it. It is not in a visible place, but it is always. Long before the missionaries were the protagonists, now it is the native clergy which has to be strong. Missionaries today must be the ones that hold the native and retired as the broom. Because of the war, I have had to sign three times in the embassy renouncing to leave the country under my responsibility. I cannot be a mercenary, in a situation of danger they leaves. I share the risk with them.

“I am finding the depth of faith,
humanity and generosity
in each of the missionaries.
I have not found any
I unbecoming of this. “
Anastasio Gil, director of PMS Spain.

Q. – Does your life change?

MR. –   For young people who came to Chad, life changed completely. A childhood friend, after making an experience with me in 1996, left her job and a significant salary to work for much less at Caritas. Also I have to say that after many years away, it is very difficult to live here. It’s another life, everything is different.

AG. –   When you go to the mission also realizes your radical weakness. Do not know how to eat, speak, move… That´s why we have to train ourselves to be the broom behind the door. And when you get back there are some problems, one of the most important is the lack of social coverage for religious and laity. Getting back, you have nothing.

MR. –   We must find a solution to that problem. A sister came from Africa with Dengue and had to be entered 20 days in a hospital. Now we have to pay the bill because she has no right for health care.

AG. –   Spain does not have, like other countries, a law for international volunteering. Moreover, the missionaries were excluded from the Statute of cooperators for ideological reasons. Right now there are economic problems, juridical and a legal vacuum.

“I have never done catechesis
but I have felt a hundred percent missionary
healing in the hospital.
Trying to be the little shadow
from God, Who pass and leaves a little love
in a country in permanent conflict
and in extreme poverty. “
Magdalena Rivas, Comboni Sister, 35 in Chad.


Q. – How do you see the future of the mission?

AG. – I really like that hopeful idea of John Paul II in Redemptoris Missio that we are facing a spring. The future of the mission is full of hope and vitality. There are many clouds that obscure the view, but the vitality of the churches in formation is so big and so strong that in the immediate future will be booming. The data always give a true foundation: the Church has grown in the last 30 years by 150% in Africa, 50% in America, 30% in Asia, 11% in Oceania and 5% in Europe. These data come in handy for us to realize that   Europeans are not the navel of the universe. We must take off the beret and think that the future of the Church passes through these mission territories. It is also true that the Spanish missionaries, for example, have an advanced age, but we had to realize that from the mission territories are emerging many vocations. In Vietnam, for example. The only danger I see is the perception that the mission is here, the new evangelization, and that we get closed in ourselves. The problems have existed since man exists. We must be universal and not stem the tide. The missionaries are now coming from the south: Vietnam, Laos, India, Brazil, Colombia, Nigeria…

MR. –   In Chad there are Japanese, Polish, Vietnamese, Indians, Mexicans, Colombians… And in my community, that we are six, there is a Ugandan, one Ethiopian, one Mexican, one Spanish and two Italian. Moreover, young people in Africa cannot enter the seminary until finish those inside, because there are no resources to support them all. If we were aware of all that goes into this, we would share in a different manner; the Domund will not be only once a year. We don´t live it as our own, and they are our brothers.

AG. – This is important, because we may think we are the center of the world.

CA. –   I aspire that the mission become also a source, that we receive from the other territories many thing that we have lost here, that they make mission here. Europe is not the center. Among other things, return to the family, as a space for the growth of children, so they can be capable of anything. Cooperation is not only secure food and health; it is to ensure a quality of life. And in this, they have a lot to say.

MR. –   In Africa they give much value to life. In fact, when a person dies, it doesn´t highlights the heritage but the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who leaves.

“I aspire that the mission become also a source,
that we receive from the other territories
many things that we have lost here,
that they make mission here.
Europe is not the center “.
Carmen Aranda, Comboni Lay Missionary, next year to Central African Republic.

Grupo Vida Nueva

Q. – Returning to vocations, how you perceive the situation from here?

CA. –   Other models should be promoted among children. Today, society  shows the Christian as persons who does not know how to live, as a simpleton. That is not so. We should propose another model for the child to choose.

MR. –   Many people do not have the courage to cut the umbilical cord. It is more difficult today, because of the lower number of children.

AG. – From the PMS we conducted meetings with young people who have lived or are living a temporary experience in the mission. Throughout the year but especially in the summer, there are about 10,000 young people living a missionary experience. They discover the figure of the missionary, the gratitude with which they settle and eventually interpellate. This is what is raising today. Vocations are not as numerous as 30 years ago, but they emerge. For example, now appear in the laity, with the same commitment than a sister or a priest. The laity has its uniqueness and particularity. Go to the mission as a layman or laywoman, not as a second division priest or as an auxiliary. They go with their own laity responsibility. They must have a professional job, volunteer, unpaid, ensuring its sustainability, and missionary, that is the adjective that qualifies the noun. They are not cooperators; they go to build the Kingdom of God. In this context, there are emerging vocations and we are very satisfied.


Q. – What can bring Francisco to the mission?

AG. –   Pope Francisco speaks a lot about the mission. There are two important documents: one on 17 May to the national directors of the PMS, and the message for Mission Sunday. In addition, the week from14 to 18 of October he decided to invite to the daily Eucharist in Santa Marta the groups working in Propaganda Fidei. From his words, I call attention to two things:   missionary activity is the paradigm of any pastoral activity, that is, has reference to the missionaries, and missionary commitment is not optional, but something that is the essence of being a Christian.

CA. –   I liked when he said that the Church is not an NGO and the idea that, following Jesus, otherwise spare. That is, you are richer the more able you are to impoverish.

MR. –   Just the simplicity and gestures invite us to shed our environments and go toward the poor and the needy. He, who comes from mission territories, feels it, he has lived and grown up with it.

With Francisco concluded an open and honest dialogue, a dialogue that puts the Domund face, a face that is present and future. Jose Lorenzo lock the meeting: “We give you the thanks. Your testimonies are very eloquent. In this field, you are at the forefront, offering a revitalizing example”.

In No. 2,867 of Vida Nueva.


Missionary Animation in southern Spain

During the last European assembly of the Comboni Sister I coincided with Pilar Sainz, Comboni Missionary Sister in Almeria. As a result of those days working together came out the invitation to spend the week of the DOMUND in Almeria. And that is how I finished with Pilar and Fr Joaquim (Spiritan Missionary of Cape Verde) doing missionary animation in schools, colleges and parishes of Almeria.

The variety of the groups that we visited was very wide.

Colegio Los MillaresI went to the public Elementary school “Los Millares”. Elementary students are very twitchy and when I did not even introduce myself I already had several hands raised. They are curious children interested in how people live in other countries, how they study, talk, eat … approach them the Mozambican reality is not easy or that they could understand macroeconomic values, ​​but they do understand the simple things of life. The way they access to water, the houses where they live or the materials used in school depending on the country where they were born.

Something similar, because of the age, I founded in the groups of First Communion of the Parish of San Isidro Labrador. Every afternoon 2 or 3 groups to explain the World Mission Day, to clarify the theme of this year “Faith + Charity = Mission” for children is not always easy. From this experience I wanted to highlight the drawings they made in their notebook after the presentation I made with photos about the way that the missionaries live in Africa (religious, priests and laity). It catches their attention how African can carry everything on their heads or how intense in the green landscape. I also share the Sunday Eucharist with them and they assisted me very well to explain to the elderly in the homily the way they live in Africa.

IES Bahía de Almería

For several days I also went to the high school “Bahía de Almeria”. In the institutes is very noticeable the difference of age between the first and the last courses. The embarrassment when asked is notable, but it is also easier to understand the nonsense of this world. The gap between rich and poor. What unites and difference us just because we have being born in different countries. I believe that the surprises eyes of some denoted the strangeness of the possibility of moving from a country like Spain to go and live in Mozambique. I hope at least that this question remains in their heads.

And finally let me write you about the time spent in the parishes of San Jose, San Isidro Labrador and San Francisco de Asís. They were two intense weekends, sharing in every Eucharist a little time. Becoming aware that the mission is a responsibility of the community, of every Christian. That the missionary do not leave but it is sent by the community. And the community is responsable of their financial support but mostly for promoting missionary vocations among their members and pray for those who send and the peoples with whom they share their daily lives.

Parroquía San Isidro Labrador Parroquia San Francisco de Asís

Thanks to the teachers of religion and the rest of their mates, catechists and parish priests during those 10 days that made ​​my stay easier. As well as the delegate of Don Antonio Martin Acuyoa missions and the Bishop of Almería Adolfo González Montes. Also to the priests of the priestly house of Almeria and their employees that welcomed me so well.

It was time to sow, hopefully the Spirit exhale life.