Hi to you all once more.
Between the weekend meeting of the General Councils of the Comboni Family and the next weekend, when we will meet as Central Committee in Venegono, north of Milan, I had a few days left to move around in Italy.
I asked Mark to contact the groups in the North to see if some could receive me and so spend some time together.
The answer was very positive and we were able to organize a good week visiting various CLM groups in northern Italy.
The program was pretty much the same for all. In the morning I traveled from one city to the next and in the afternoon, we shared a time for prayer, supper and a chat together. It was all done in a pleasant familiar style.
I am grateful to all for the effort it required in getting together on a week night with work, children and everything else. This includes each one of the MCCJ I met who welcomed us in their houses as a family and those who follow our groups, plus those who approached us to talk about our reality as CLM both locally and at the international level.
The first group I visited was in Padua, a group with many years of experience. They told me how the group started, their activities and what they organized in the course of many years, including many activities that later branched out in different directions.
I already knew some of them for having met them at international gatherings. They were very interested in knowing how other groups got organized and the type of activities and meetings they have. We also had the opportunity to talk a bit about the recent assembly in Rome.
I see that there is a growing interest in mutual cooperation, in order to go beyond what each one does locally and cooperate with others, learn from the experiences of others, share concerns and other things. May this move them to read the conclusions, that they seem to be too many, but if we take the time we will see their richness and the many ideas they generate for concrete activities for each one of our communities and in order to accomplish the common goal that we chose together.
The following day I went to Verona. They met me at the station and they took me to the Comboni community to greet Fr. Tacchella and then to the Sisters’ house to see Sr. Esperanza, who also deals with our group.
Afterwards, we had a wonderful meal together, meeting again those we had known in 2012 during our European meeting in Verona, and others.
We talked a bit about Spain and Italy, the beautiful places, and during supper we started our conversation to know what the group is doing, the challenges it faces and more.
We also gave a good amount of time to talk about the situation of other groups. We covered the challenges that the past assembly has given us, recognizing that often we concentrate ourselves in what is going on in our own local CLM group, the concreteness of our community. It is normal that our daily fare be our vital reference, as we pray and work together, but keeping in mind what other CLM communities are doing gives us new ideas and helps us grow. I also saw the challenge of reading all that we share, but at times the interest in wanting to understand the content and what we are requesting…
The next day I was able to take a short bicycle tour of Comboni’s city, to remember the most important spots, and then board another train, this time for Milan.
Again, I was met at the station and we met as a group. But not before taking a quick tour of the main attractions including the museum of the Risorgimento.
We had time for supper, meet again a few people, know some new ones and have a conversation. There is always time to get to know what has been done and a time for questions. Among them the topic of formation came up again: A formation that will help us grow in our vocation; the importance of prayer and of growth in our spiritual life as support and foundation of our missionary activity, together with the challenge of opening the groups for new people to join; the importance of knowing well our identity in order to present it and to help us discern our vocation and its consequences.
Then, the moment comes to ask for paths to help us move forward and my answer is always the same, that it is easy to read the agreements we reached in Rome. Our famous 96 conclusions have a lot to tell us, both in what to do, but above all in what to Be. They are the fruit of all these years of work and the contribution of the many countries and continents where we are present.
The following morning, again by train, we reached Venegono. Once again, we met at the station and then we talked about many important things.
The day just flew by and, at the end, we shared our supper and a good time of conversation, more informal this time and in small groups, but always interesting.
The concern for new vocations and the arrival of new people in the groups. The difficulties of the generation gap or how to render the groups appealing to the young when we are made up of families with children and with different rhythms.
We must continue to think and keep alive, believing in what we do and ask for help from others. We are not in a store window so that other may see us, but we are in the street, with people, and we need new hands that with clasp together in order to act, protect, caress, lead whomever is in need. We need new heads to give new ideas and solutions to the difficulties of daily life. We need new hearts that will give hope in difficult times.
We share a wonderful vocation, a gift of God that we must share with our neighbor. This is part of our responsibility.
Italy is getting ready for its national assembly in August. May it be an important moment of meeting again personally, but above all in order to continue to dream together, to turn into reality the common dream we shared in Rome, as the point where we place ourselves into service, to open our groups to new people who feel this missionary vocation and offer them a place where to grow, be formed, feed spiritually, prepare themselves to go forth, turn into reality the missionary dream of Comboni wherever we may be, aiming always at the “poorest and most abandoned,” as Comboni used to say.
Thanks for having me feel at home!
Alberto de la Portilla (CLM Central Committee Coordinator)