Meeting of Circumscription Superiors
We wish to remind all confreres that all the Circumscription Superiors– newly-elected and re-elected – must be in Rome from 4 to 25 February 2017, for the meeting with the General Council. The purpose of this meeting is to prepare for the service of authority and reinforce the ties of communion among the various Circumscriptions and the General Council.
General Secretariat for Formation Statistics
A global panorama of our vocations: there are vocations. We must thank God who continues to call young men and draw them to himself through the Comboni charism. It is true that, for some years, the geography of vocations has moved from the northern to the southern hemisphere. The diminution of vocations in the western world and their growth in Africa is creating not just a new geography of the Comboni presence in the Church but also a new cultural balance in the life of the Institute.
Almost all Circumscriptions have a postulancy. There are 240 postulants altogether. The Circumscriptions with most postulants are: Congo (40), TGB (30), Malawi/Zambia (21), Mozambique (21).
We have 8 novitiates with a total of 93 novices: I year 46 (39+7) and II year 47 (38+9): 4 novitiates in the APDESAM zone with 50 novices, (53,19%); 2 novitiates in Francophone Africa with 33 novices, (35,11%); a novitiate for America and Asia with 8 Latin-American novices (8,52%) and an Asian novice (1,06%) and a novitiate in Europe with 2 novices (2,12%). We have 16 Brother novice candidates, I Year 7 and II Year 9. There are 7 scholasticates and 2 CIF with 100 scholastics and 6 Brothers in formation.
Francophone Africa: 52 (46,02%), APDESAM 44 (38,94%), America 9 (7,96%, Europe 8 (7,07%), Asia 0.
- Total Scholastics: 125 (100 in the scholasticates and 25 on missionary service or missionary experience)
- Brothers in formation: 10 (6 at the CIF and 4 elsewhere).
Francophone Africa 6; APDESAM 2; Europe 2; America 0; Asia 0.
- Newly professed: 2016 – (30); 2015 – (32); 2014 – (34); 2013 – (21); 2012 – (29); 2011 – (33); 2010 – (25); 2009 – (27). If all goes well, in 2017 we shall have 48 newly professed! And in 2018, 47 newly professed!
- Perpetual vows in 2016: 21, including 5 Brothers. Newly ordained: 13.
- Age of the newly ordained at the time of their ordination – 2000 to 2016:
From 27 to 30 years 68 priests
From 31 to 35 years 141 priests
From 36 to 41 years 32 priests
An average of 15 ordinations per year.
TOTALS: confreres working in the vocations and initial formation sector: 142 (including 100 full time) distributed as follows: Vocations promoters (60); Formators: prepostulants / postulants (50); Novitiates (14); Scholasticates/CIF (18).
Confreres who left the Institute with temporary vows: the proportion of confreres in formation who left is completely normal, more or less as in the past and even lower than the average declared by other similar Institutes.
2009-2016: 101 (90 + 11) confreres left the Institute. In 2009: 18 (17+1); in 2010: 22 (20+2); in 2011: 22 (21+1); in 2012: 11 (8+3); in 2013: 12 (10+2); in 2014: 5 (4+1); in 2015: 10 scholastics; in 2016: 7(5+2).
February – That the decisions, the plans and the commitments taken during General Chapters, Assemblies and Continental meetings may be put into practice with enthusiasm and determination. Lord hear us.
March – For all women: that in every part of the world they may be accepted and respected with all their rights and that, in all situations, they may be witnesses of the tenderness of God for every human being. Lord hear us.
Models in the RL who are an inspiration to the community
Fr. Carmelo Casile, at present a member of the community of Casavatore, was formerly a formator of novices and scholastics in Italy, Portugal and Peru, and head of ongoing formation at the General Curia in Rome. Relying on this vast and long-lasting experience, Fr. Carmelo has prepared ten reflections on “Models in the Rule of Life who are an inspiration to the community”. “Most of these reflections – he explains – came to me during my service as formator in Peru, in the years after 1985. Afterwards, starting in 1995, I reviewed and updated them in Rome. I concluded the editing after the General Chapter 2015, between September to December of that year. On my part, I was simply trying to find those elements that might help me to elaborate some reflections to be used in the service of basic and ongoing formation”.
The text of the reflections is available on our website by searching “Modelli ispiratori”.
Guido Oliana, “The Transforming Power of the Gospel. The Kairos of Mission: Explorations in Comboni Missionary Perspective”, Nairobi: Paulines Publications Africa 2017 (pp. 415). Copies may be ordered by writing to Comboni Missionary Procure Juba or to the author.
Various News Items
The diocese of Tumaco has declared that in 2016 there were 139 murders caused by the drugs trade, guerrilla warfare and ordinary crime. In recent years the number was above 200. The reduction is mostly due to the FARC cease-fire which, on the whole, is being observed. Now that the peace agreement has been ratified, it is to be hoped that the situation will improve, even if this is far from certain. In this situation, the efforts of the Church and the presence of the Comboni Missionaries played their part.
In the ‘Nuevo Milenio’ quarter (traditionally controlled by the FARC), Fr. Michele Tondi has consolidated the family groups, assisted by Fr. Fufa Ensermu who also established the ‘Escuelita’ in the Panama quarter, one of the most violent of the city.
Fr. Daniele Zarantonello, Parish Priest, has directed various parish and diocesan projects, especially that of the training of catechists in the various sectors of the zone, animating the priests and particularly the young black people. For the very first time, a procession, successful beyond all expectations, was organised for the feast of St. Daniel Comboni.
Fr. Jaider Pinzón and Fr. Fernando Flores, together with young people inspired by a ‘great missionary restlessness’, are carrying out a mission along the rivers of Tumaco diocese while the new formator, Fr. Martin Bolaños, is staying in Medellin for extraordinary activities.
Retreat and Provincial Assembly
In the month of January, the Comboni Missionaries of Congo Province experienced a time of grace: the retreat animated by Fr. Jeremias dos Santos Martins, Vicar General, and Fr. Pietro Ciuciulla, General Assistant. The two council members arrived in Kinshasa on December 29, 2016, and, on December 30, they received the perpetual vows of the scholastics Henri Likingi and Boniface Gbama. Following that, they left for Kisangani.
On January 2, Fr. Pietro and Fr. Jeremias joined Fr. Joseph Mumbere, the Provincial Superior, for a visit to the 36 Comboni postulants of Kisangani and their formators. The visitors reached Isiro on January 4 and, the next day, they visited the community of Mungbere, where we have several pastoral commitments, in particular the pastoral care of the pygmies and the pastoral health care of Anuarite Hospital, which has become a point of reference in the area for the quality of its service. They returned to Isiro on January 8.
The provincial retreat took place from January 9-14 with 23 confreres in attendance, coming from the three areas where we work: Kinshasa, Kisangani and Isiro.
Following the retreat, most of the participants went on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Blessed Anuarite Nengapeta, to ask for her intercession in view of the Provincial Assembly for the formulation of the Six-year plan, due to take place from January 16-22, 2017. Fr. Pietro Ciuciulla presided at the second Sunday Mass for the pilgrims from the city parishes. In his homily he invited his confreres to follow the example of Blessed Anuarite who was able to place Christ first in her life right up to the day she died.
The community of Nuremberg has received a special gift, a wooden nutcracker made by Haile, a young Ethiopian who has lived in our community under church asylum. Meanwhile, he has been attending school and learning the carpentry trade. Church sanctuary is a form of asylum that has existed in Germany since 1983. Later, this initiative gave rise to ‘Church Asylum’ run mostly by the Evangelical Church but also by catholic communities and free churches which receive, for a given length of time, refugees with no legal right to stay in the country.
If they were to be repatriated to their own countries, they would certainly suffer violations of their human rights, torture and even death. Church Asylum is tolerated by the state as it trusts the ‘human treatment given by the Churches’.
In 2014, also the community of Nuremberg decided to welcome one or two political refugees. We give them board and lodging. They are not allowed to leave the house for six months but after that they may seek political asylum. So far, about a dozen have been admitted composed of Ethiopians, Syrians and Iraqis. Most of them were Moslems.
The experience of the past three years has been positive. These young people did integrate well into our community life and help in the kitchen and in the garden. However, they need to be accompanied – and this takes time and patience – because they occasionally go into crisis thinking of their uncertain future. Unfortunately, the requirements for obtaining political asylum are becoming ever more complicated and there are always new laws being passed which cause young people from the same country and with the same problems to be treated differently: some are given just a few months and others a residence permit, while still others run the risk of immediate expulsion.
Meeting of Comboni Brothers
Nine Brothers working in the Comboni provinces of Brazil and Ecuador met in the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil from January 11-15. Bro. Alberto Lamana Cónsola, Assistant General, travelled from Rome to attend. The Brothers welcomed the occasion to get to know one another and to share their missionary experiences lived in their different Latin American contexts.
Bro. Simone Bauce, an Italian, presented a synthesis of what has been said from 1990 until today at the Brothers’ intercontinental meetings. Following this panoramic view, the missionaries reflected and formulated some proposals on how to improve their service on the continent.
They acknowledged that they must be involved in vocation promotion, in order to make the missionary Brothers’ ministry better known. In view of this, they recognized the need to ensure the preservation of the Afro-Ecuadorian Centre of Guayaquil (Ecuador), as a Comboni Activity of Human Promotion (CAHP), as in n. 45.7 of the Chapter Acts 2015. To this end – they said – the Institute must ensure the continuity of personnel.
Continental Assembly for Formation
From 22 to 29 January, 2017, the confreres who work in vocations promotion, basic and ongoing formation in the Circumscriptions of America and Asia met at Quito, Ecuador, for their Continental Assembly for Formation. Among the participants there was Bro. Alberto Lamana (Assistant General and special envoy from Rome), Fr. Rafael González Ponce (continental coordinator of the sector and Provincial Superior of Ecuador), Fr. Siro Stocchetti (Centre for Ongoing Formation - Rome) and Fr. John Baptist Keraryo Opargiw (General Secretary for Formation - Rome).
At the opening of the Assembly, Fr. Rafael warmly welcomed everyone and briefly explained the socio-political and ecclesial situation of Ecuador. In his opening remarks, Fr. Opargiw highlighted the particular and specific traits that should enlighten and guide the members of the assembly: it is a post-Chapter meeting, we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Institute, we have the recent publication of the new version of the Ratio Fundamentalis, and the participation of the coordinator of ongoing formation.
The first day was devoted to the ongoing formation of the participants. On the second day, Fr. Opargiw and Fr. Stocchetti presented the theme: “Our Comboni formation as a single and unifying project.” The following three days were given to reports from the various circumscriptions followed by discussions in view of elaborating proposals to be presented for approval at the continental meeting.
Verona African Film Festival
Here are the details of the 2016 edition. Spectators in the city numbered 4,832, of whom 3.289 were students and 219 teachers. There were 5,674 spectators in the province of whom 4,654 were students and 340 teachers. A total of forty-one films were shown in Verona and in the province.
In the month of December, 2016, Afriradio had an average of 2,185 daily listeners. This is almost three times the daily 743 listeners a year previously, in December, 2015. Once-off listeners totalled 3,137. This is almost double the number for December of 2015 when they numbered 1994.
2. FM Radio Stations
“Matatu” and “Gr Africa quotidiano” (Daily African News) are broadcast with the Nigrizia logo by 17 FM radio transmitters that are part of the “Corallo” circuits of the CEI, of the Paulines “Marconi Circuit” and the network of Radio Popolare, Milan.
A further two stations, Circuito Marconi - Milan and Radio Icaro - Rimini, have asked to evaluate the possibility of broadcasting “Gr Africa quotidiano”.
A third weekly production, “Sunny Day”, in collaboration with the monthly magazine PM, is now being considered.
3. Social media and the website
Afriradio, at present, carries and promotes Nigrizia – mainly through its own radio but it would also be possible to do so using the social media and its own website: Afriradio has more than 3,300 followers on Facebook and almost 700 on Twitter.
Matatu e Gr Africa quotidiano - in collaboration with Nigrizia - are also available to users as podcasts, using the Spreaker platform, on Youtube and on the Nigrizia website (only Gr Africa).
In 2016, the website had 108,304 users (with 335,975 page hits). Of these, 64.4% were new visitors and 35.6% were returning visitors. It has about twenty collaborators but, of these, five or six write frequently. Articles written by collaborators and published on the site vary from 15 to 20 each month. There are usually from three to seven Flash News items each day.
The social media network is well frequented and the number of people who follow us and interact with us is always on the increase (at the moment 23,677 “followers” on Twitter and 14,080 “likes” on Facebook).
On 17 January, at the African Museum in Verona, an international exhibition of works has been opened on the theme “At table”. Eighty painting by international artists, exploring the theme in its many dimensions, so confirming the importance and popularity of the theme proposed. The Biblical aspect was also in evidence. For all people, food is important as is the act itself of sharing it. Around the table the world is to be found, each people with its own traditions, colours and stories; each person with his or her own experiences and differences. When the inauguration was over, there was a supper with the flavours of India, Peru, Eritrea and Italy and with drinks from Senegal. The exhibition will be open until 19 March.
Ordination to the diaconate
The scholastic Prosper Tehou, a young Comboni missionary from Benin, was ordained deacon by Archbishop William Slattery, OFM, on Sunday 15 January 2017, at St. Augustine’s Parish, Silverton, a suburb of Pretoria. Some days before, on Friday 6 January, Prosper took his perpetual vows in the chapel of the Comboni Centre, his present community. The ordination Mass was concelebrated by many confrères and priests friends of Prosper. A good number of parishioners also attended the celebration, with some friends and relatives of Prosper living in Pretoria.
Prosper will continue his service in the South African Province until April when he will go back to his home country of Benin to prepare for his priestly ordination.
Refugee camps for Sudanese in north Uganda
Ever since the day he arrived in the parish, Fr. Jesus Aranda Nava, the new Parish Priest of the parish of the sacred Heart in Kajo Keji, in South Sudan, watched a continuous flow of people who, taking with them their few possessions, made their way towards the border with Uganda. It was 3 December, 2016, and the flow continued also in the days that followed. More than 50,000 people living in the district of Kajo Keji have abandoned their homes due to the insecurity created after hearing that they would be attacked by armed groups opposing the government. The same tactic was used in the areas around the city of Yei, forcing the people to abandon their homes, leaving the small towns and villages empty of people.
Following this, the Comboni community of Kajo Keji decided to form a group and go to visit the refugee camps in Uganda to see personally what was happening and to make a pastoral visit. Fr. Mosè welcomed and accompanied them, given that most of the people from Kajo Keji had settled in his zone.
In the refugee camps, children and youths were being enrolled in pre-school, elementary school and secondary school. In just a few days, around 4,000 pupils were enrolled and many more were still waiting to be registered. The visiting Comboni group, with the authorisation and the help of those in charge of the camps, were given permission to organise religious celebrations in the various camps.
The situation of these refugees – as can be plainly seen – is very difficult and frustrating. They do receive food but just enough to survive.
The Comboni community of Lomin Kajo Keji has therefore decided to provide for the spiritual assistance of the refugees and to organise a team who, with the help of some refugee catechists, can regularly cross the border to carry out the pastoral work.
Superior General’s Visit
During the month of January Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse visited the Delegation of Chad. It was a long and intense visit that lasted more than three weeks. From January 2-7 he took part in the Delegation’s Assembly which had as its topic the formulation of the Six-year plan, in line with the directives of the last General Chapter. The last day of the Assembly was given totally to a meeting with the Superior General based on the life of the Institute, which helped us to open our eyes to the reality of our Institute and the challenges it will face in future years, both at the level of personnel and of commitments.
The day after, Fr. Tesfaye started meeting the confreres individually and visiting the communities.
The fact that the Superior General wanted to come to Chad at the beginning of his mandate is a sign of the interest the Institute has in our Delegation, a land of first evangelization with very complex and diverse realities. The visit ended with a meeting with the Delegation Council on January 20-21, after which Fr. Tesfaye returned to Rome.
Francophone Africa meeting
From 19 to 21 December, at Lomé, in the provincial house of Lomé-Cacaveli, the Francophone Circumscription Superiors met in the presence of Assistant General Fr. Pietro Ciuciulla. Those who took part in the meeting were: Fr. Joseph Mumbere, Provincial Superior of the Congo (second mandate), Fr. Fidèle Katsan, Delegate of Chad, Fr. Médard Longba, Delegate of Central Africa, Fr. Girolamo Miante, Provincial Superior of Togo-Ghana-Benin (ending his mandate) and Fr. Victor Kouande, the new Provincial Superior of TGB. For health reasons, Fr. Giorgio Aldegheri, Delegate of the RCA (ending his mandate) could not attend.
The agenda consisted in sharing the work of the Circumscriptions in preparation for drawing up their Six-year plans and also in view of a Six-year plan for Francophone Africa. There was also the work of tackling themes concerning important areas of collaboration such as formation, mission promotion and the economy.
With Fr. Pietro present, the meeting also reflected on some aspects of general planning to be implemented in local situations: the new Mission and Formation Secretariats, the commission for the revision of the Rule of Life and the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Institute. There also came to light some new directions for work and reflection to study the situation of urban pastoral service, Islam, Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation.
There is now a plan to hold Provincial Assemblies in the four Circumscriptions, in January 2017. The theme will be the Six-year plan; in February, there will be a meeting in Rome for all the provincial and delegation Superiors. It will be a good opportunity to define together the new strategies, keeping in mind the current Six-year plan and the indications of the meeting in Lomé.
Let us pray for our beloved dead
THE FATHERS: Francesco, of Fr. Giampietro Pellegrini (DSP); José, of the sc. Telmo Efraín Castillo Merino (EC); Jesús, of Fr. Angel Yañez García (BR); Anton, of Fr. Günther Ludwig H. (DSP).
THE MOTHERS: Santa, of Fr. Gianluca Contini (C); Asunción, of Fr. Daniel Cerezo Ruiz (A); Maria dos Anjos, of Fr. Carlos A. Nunes (P).
THE BROTHERS: Juan Carlos, of Bro. José Antonio Coto Casal (M); Norbert, of Fr. Georg Klose (DSP); Pietro, of Fr. Giuseppe Ambrosi (I); Alema Yohannes, of Fr. Asfaha Yohannes Weldeghiorgis (EGSD); Filiberto, of Fr. Gaetano Beltrami (I); Albino, of Fr. Ottorino Gelmini (I).
THE SISTERS: Maria, of Fr. Bernardo Bonazzi (I); Aloisia, of Fr. Silvester Engl (DSP); Carolina, of Fr. Josef Knapp (DSP).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. Marialaura Fiori; Sr. Giannamaria Bruni; Sr. M. Albertina Beretta; Sr. Angela Grazia Vitali; Sr. M. Roberta Ciccone.