Rich Land, Poor Land When Will the People Get a Share?
We Are a Mission A Comboni Lay Missionary Perspective on How to Serve
Ecological Spirituality A Changing View for a Changing World
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From the Editor’s Desk
THE COMBONI MISSIONARIES
The Comboni Missionaries have celebrated more than 150 years of service to the poorest and most abandoned people of the world. St. Daniel Comboni had a dream for Africa, for the Gospel, and for the future of the Church that would lead him far from his home in Italy and the culture and comforts he cherished. He knew that the scourges of slavery, exploitation, and colonialism failed to respect the human dignity of the peoples of Africa, and of the poor and marginalized in every corner of the world.
As I pen this note on one of the shortest days of the year here in North America, I am mindful that our world is full of dark news. I wanted to bring you a bit of bright with this issue. Fortunately for me, the Comboni Missionaries are always lighting the way with their ministry. While working in difficult conditions, each one is finding a way to make things at least a little better for the people they serve. In this issue, you’ll read about the missionary witness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a Sister who stands by her patients, and a lay missionary’s look at what it means to serve. We also have news from Ethiopia and our efforts to spread the Gospel amid renewed violence. We’ll see how a school in Kenya is fighting to stay viable amid the pandemic. Fr. Rafael Güitrón Torres, mccj, shares a deep look at how our spirituality is changing to include all of creation. And, of course, we’ll share updates from around the province and around the world. But the brightest part of these dark days is the faithfulness of our friends and supporters around the world. The entire Comboni Missionary family thanks you for your generosity and offers our prayers for a peaceful new year.
He founded two Institutes of religious life, for men and
women, and today inspires lay missionaries and people around the globe
to share in the noble mission of bringing the Gospel—and the peace and justice of
the kingdom of God—to all who have never heard it, and to those who need to hear it again. Today, the Comboni Missionaries serve in more than forty countries in Africa, America, Europe, and Asia. True to St. Daniel’s vision “to save Africa with Africa,” the missionaries themselves come from all reaches of the earth, working together in a common cause. They have been working in North America for eighty years, focusing on pastoral work among African- Americans, Appalachians, Native Americans, and Hispanics, seeking always to adapt their ministries and their methods to the people they serve.
EDITOR Kathleen M. Carroll firstname.lastname@example.org Send Letters to the Editor: email@example.com Volume 58, No. 4 A $15 annual donation is greatly appreciated. Comboni Missions (ISSN 0279-3652) is an award-winning publication of the Comboni Missionaries and a member of the Catholic Press Association. Published quarterly.
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8 DRC, the World’s Richest, and Poorest, Land With $24 trillion in mineral wealth, why are the people struggling?
Ethiopians Caught between War and Disease Promising peace talks have given way to new violence.
We Are a Mission A Comboni Lay Missionary perspective on how to serve.
10 Making Mercy Her Business Sister Angelina didn’t think that religious life was for her, but St. Daniel Comboni changed her mind.
-6- Around the World
-21- Supporting the Mission -22- Around the Province -23- Vocations
14 Ecological Spirituality Our changing world needs to be seen in a new, more holistic way.
Cover - photo Adobe Stock. 4 - photo Adobe Stock. 5 - photo Adobe Stock. 6 - stories CNA, photos CNA,Wikimedia, bishops’ conference of Bosnia & Herzogovina, and Redaktor01 Remik Kubicki. 8 - story elements Agencia Fides, photo MONUSCO. 9 - photo Wikimedia. 10- photo and story elements CMMB. 11 - photo Marco Gualazzini viaWikimedia. 12-13 - Story and photo courtesy of Thomson Reuters Foundation. 14 - Story and photos originally appeared in Worldwide magazine; feature photo Pixabay. 18-20 - feature photo by Our Lady of Africa parish Mbuya; story originally appeared in World Mission, support photos supplied. Back cover - Adobe Stock.
The Year of St. Joseph With the beginning of Advent 2020, the Church entered a year dedicated to St. Joseph, patron of the universal church. Pope Francis established the year in a decree issued December 8. In addition to the decree, Francis issued an apostolic letter dedicated to the foster father of Jesus. Entitled Patris corde (“With a father’s heart”), it contains some of the Holy Father’s personal reflections on St. Joseph. “My desire to do so increased during these months of pandemic,” he said, noting that many people had made hidden sacrifices during the crisis in order to protect others. Each of us can discover in Joseph—the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence—an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble,” he wrote. “St. Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”
The decree said that, “to reaffirm the universality of St. Joseph’s patronage
in the Church,” it granted a plenary indulgence to Catholics who recite any approved prayer or act of piety in honor of St. Joseph, especially on March 19, the saint’s solemnity, and May 1, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. The decree continued: “In the current context of health emergency, the gift of the plenary indulgence is particularly extended to the elderly, the sick, the dying and all those who for legitimate reasons are unable to leave the house, who, with a soul detached from any sin and with the intention of fulfilling, as soon as possible, the three usual conditions, in their own home or where the impediment keeps them, recite an act of piety in honor of St. Joseph, comfort of the sick and patron of a happy death, offering with trust in God the pains and discomforts of their life.”
The Pope’s Prayer Intentions
JANUARY Human fraternity
May the Lord give us the grace to live in full fellowship with our brothers and sisters of other religions, praying for one another, open to all. FEBRUARY Violence against women We pray for women who are victims of violence, that they may be protected by society and have their sufferings considered and heeded. MARCH Sacrament of reconciliation Let us pray that we may experience the sacrament of recon- ciliation with renewed depth, to taste the infinite mercy of God.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
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PRAYER TO ST. JOSEPH Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To you God entrusted his only Son; in you Mary placed her trust; with you Christ became man. Blessed Joseph, to us too, show yourself a father and guide us in the path of life. Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen. —Pope Francis
Around the World
UNITED STATES US bishops approve use of COVID vaccine
NIGERIA Clergy kidnappings continue
A priest of the Congregation of Sons of Mary Mother of Mercy was kidnapped in Nigeria in December while traveling to his father’s funeral. Fr. Valentine Ezeagu was driving in the south- eastern state of Imo Nigeria on December 15. Four armed men attacked the vehicle, forced him into the back of his car, and sped off, according to a statement from the priest’s religious congregation, citing an eyewitness. The priest was on the way to his home village in Anambra state, where his father’s funeral Mass had been scheduled for December 17. Priests are increasingly becoming kidnapping targets in Nigeria. At least 8 were taken in 2020, including an 18-year-old seminarian. Among kidnapping victims here, priests often are held longer (one as long as two years) and are more likely than others to never be returned.
The United States bishops’ conference has said that Catholics can take two of the three avail- able COVID-19 vaccines, even though they were developed with a “remote connection” to “morally compromised” cell lines. In a statement released Monday, the bishops also said it is morally permissible in some circum- stances to receive a third vaccine, developed in close connection with aborted cell lines, but that Catholics cannot allow the pandemic to “desensi- tize” or “weaken our determination” to oppose the evil of abortion. “In view of the gravity of the current pandemic and the lack of availability of alternative vaccines, the reasons to accept the new COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are sufficiently serious to justify their use, despite their remote connection to morally compromised cell lines,” said the bishops.
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Around the World
BELARUS Exiled archbishop ministers via Internet
BOSNIA& HERZEGOVINA Bishops call for justice
Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the archbishop of Minsk- Mohilev and president of the Belarusian bishops’ conference, was turned back at the border August 31 when he attempted to return home following a trip to Poland. The authorities later claimed that his passport was “invalid,” but invited him to appeal the decision. He had spoken out in defense of protesters after they were targeted by police following an election in August in which the incumbent, Alexander Lukashenko, claimed victory with 80 percent of the vote. The election result prompted mass demonstrations calling for the resignation of Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994. The archbishop held a virtual Advent retreat for his flock and urged Catholics to consider the deeper spiritual reasons for the “unprecedented socio- political crisis” facing Belarus.
The Dayton Agreement, signed in Paris 25 years ago, ended the Bosnian War but failed to create “a stable and just peace,” the Catholic bishops of Bosnia and Herzegovina have said. The bishops called for “a just and purposeful internal organization” of the Balkan country. “This organization must be accompanied by the enactment of just laws that will ensure real respect for all individual and collective rights, without the possibility of domination of the stronger or more numerous, and enable the correction of all old and the prevention of new injustices,” the bishops said in a November 20 statement. “Almost the entire Catholic population in one half of the country... has been eradicated, and in the other half, it is continuously declining, mainly due to the departure of young people from the country and entire families— mostly due to crime, corruption and political selfishness in the country and poor evaluation of professional work.”
Dispatches from the Field
Fr. José Arieira de Carvalho, a Portuguese Comboni Missionary who has been living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for more than a decade, describes conditions there as a “disastrous sociopolitical situation.” In the northeast, where the DRC borders South Sudan and Uganda, he reports, “rebel groups roam across the region, looting and murdering . . . and driving people from their villages, and making the main roads impassable.” On October 30 an attack by a group called the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) killed at least 21 (top) UN peacekeeping forces are struggling to protect civilians from the violence in Kivu, in the northeastern reaches of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (left) Fr. Jos é is pictured on the right.
DRC: The World’s Richest, and Poorest, Land
Kathleen M. Carroll
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Dispatches from the Field
While mining is a leading industry in the DRC, very few residents get a share in the vast wealth hidden below the land.
people, including Catholic catechist Richard Kisusi. A Catholic church was desecrated, a clinic was looted, several houses were burned down, and an undetermined number of people were kidnapped. A joint project of Human Rights Watch and the Congo Study Group called Kivu Security reports that nearly 700 civilians have been killed by the group this year. Msgr. Sikuli Paluku, Bishop of Butembo-Beni, requested assistance from UN forces in the region to protect the civilians. Business Insider ranks the DRC as the poorest country in the world, with an average per-capita income of less than $400 per year. Roughly the size of all of western Europe, the DRC has had its development curtailed by a series of factors, including several recent Ebola outbreaks and political conflict that lasted through most of the 1990s. Perversely, the DRC is also estimated to be the richest country in the world in terms of natural resources, with mineral deposits worth more than $24 trillion. It has vast supplies of diamonds, gold, copper, Wolframite, cobalt, and coltan—the last two of which power nearly every electric vehicle and mobile phone on the planet.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reports that last year, the bishops of the province of Bukavu, which comprises six dioceses in the region, expressed their concern over the situation, but also warned against drawing simple interpretations. “We [are] of the opinion that the fighting within the communities on a national level is possibly being used as a pretext to hide a conspiracy between internal and external players to obscure the ruthless exploitation of natural resources.” Fr. Gaspare di Vincenzo told Agencia Fides, “While the whole world, including Congo, was struggling with the coronavirus, here the war continued undisturbed, and is worsening. We Comboni Missionaries try to provide basic necessities. Obviously, as UNICEF has said, children pay the highest price. In addition to having lost
family members and witnessing violence, they suffer from severe malnutrition. We have fifty orphans and street children here, but the situation of the children in our country is dramatic. The archbishop of Kinshasa, Msgr. Fridolin Ambongo, recently appointed to the college of cardinals, spoke at a 2019 ACN event in Paris about the daily violence and the unjust distribution of wealth in the DRC, lamenting that though the DRC is an “immensely rich country” it “is at the mercy of the evil heart of humanity. Large corporations are acting like predators.” “The Church, however, has decided to support those who are suffering. And the Lord hears the cries of those who are suffering better than the most beautiful music of the powerful.” ∎
Comboni Missionary Sisters
Sister Angelina Nyakuru became a fixture at Mother of Mercy Hospital in Sudan. It is the only referral hospital for more than one million area residents. It has no ICU, no ventilators, no hand sanitizer, and often even lacks ordinary soap. And COVID-19 is coming to Sudan.
Making Mercy Her Business
Kathleen M. Carroll
Sister Angelina Nyakuru grew up in Uganda. Her father died when she was just eight years old. “Life was difficult, but my mother always encouraged us,” she says. “I prepared for my First Communion with the nuns and priests at the mission station of the Comboni Missionaries from Italy. There I met Sister Paola Cagliari, who was a nurse and she took care of people affected by leprosy.” Leprosy carried a great stigma—as it still does in many parts of the world. Though not as contagious as its reputation would suggest, many sufferers face isolation and social shunning along with the disease. Sister Angelina noticed that Sister Paola did not seem to have the fear that others had when it came
to dealing with those who had leprosy. “Every day,” she says, “she would pray with them and clean their wounds. I thought this was very strange, because in my culture leprosy was a curse. You are not supposed to go near people with “This is very interesting, but I am going to be a doctor. This is not my business.” it. Those affected are isolated and shunned. So, I remember wondering why Sister Paola was touching them. Deep down in my heart I desired to be like her, so that I could be close to these people who were suffering.” This impulse to care for others had several hurdles to overcome,
though. While Sister Angelina was inspired by the witness of the Comboni Sisters, she did not think that such a path was possible for her. She says, “I told myself, ‘No. She’s white; I am black. She’s an Italian; I am an African. There is nothing that can make me do what she does.’” She says she immediately “rubbed the idea out of my mind.” But, she remembers, “Many years later, when I was in high school, studying to become a medical doctor, I went to the school chapel to pray. I found a small pamphlet, and the first words my eyes landed on were, ‘If I had a hundred lives, I would give them for the Africans.’ I had discovered the words of St. Daniel Comboni. He was the first bishop of Central
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Comboni Missionary Sisters
Africa, and founded the Comboni Missionaries. I thought, ‘This is very interesting, but I am going to be a doctor. This is not my business.’” Sister Angelina continued on her path, studying for her college entrance exams. “But I kept thinking about the pamphlet. So I wrote to the Comboni Missionaries, telling them that something had touched me about this St. Daniel Comboni so much, that I wanted to become one of his followers. In 2000, after ten years of religious life, I became a permanent member of the Comboni Missionary Sisters.” Sister Angelina was head of nursing at Mother of Mercy Hospital in Sudan, in the Nuba Mountains. The mountains lie along what is now the border of Sudan and South Sudan. But South Sudan had not yet acquired independence and the region was a perpetual battleground. Comboni Missionary Bishop Macram Gassis resolved to build a desperately needed hospital in the area. Children play on the wreck of an Antonov transport plane in the Yida refugee camp. These planes were used to drop shrapnel bombs on civilians almost daily. More than 68,000 of the people who fled the Nuba Mountains are living here, about twelve miles away.
(19 miles) away and moving toward us. You could hear the big artillery. It was frightening. Everyone on the staff decided to leave, but Dr. Tom put up his hands and said he wouldn’t go.” “So I told the Sisters I wouldn’t leave either,” Sister Angelina says. “All the Sisters stayed, and one priest. Everyone else relocated across the border for two weeks until things calmed down.” “My calling began as a little girl when I saw Sister Paola serving lepers. And I was I so happy when I was sent to South Sudan, where my deep desire to help people suffering from leprosy was finally fulfilled. I was able to clean people’s wounds, to be close to them, and I was able to serve them. Sister Paola is still alive. She is very old, but she is the one who inspired me to follow this path to serve God and the poor.” ∎
He recruited several Comboni Missionary Sisters along with Dr. Tom Catena, an American working for the Catholic Medical Mission Board. Sister Angelina arrived in Gidel along with Dr. Catena in the spring of 2008 to open the 430-bed hospital. Mother of Mercy is the only referral hospital for the more than one million residents of the area. Its location has made it a godsend to the people, but also a target for the military. The now-deposed regime of Omar al-Bashir accused the residents of supporting rebels, and launched a relentless bombing campaign that forced many to flee. Those that remained behind could not grow crops or raise animals because of the constant bombardment. Sister Angelina says, “In 2015 there were rumors that northern soldiers were just 30 kilometers
Ethiopians Caught between War and Disease
An Ethiopian woman who fled the ongoing fighting in Tigray region prepares a meal in Hamdait village on the Sudan-Ethiopia border in eastern Kassala state, Sudan. REUTERS/El Tayeb Siddig (Story and photo courtesy of Thomson Reuters Foundation.)
When migrant worker Lula flew home to Ethiopia after eight months in Saudi detention, she thought her ordeal was over. But instead of returning to her family in Tigray, she found herself stranded in the capital, unable to contact her parents and daughter as fighting has cut off the northern region and raised fears of a humanitarian crisis. Lula is one of dozens of migrants who returned from Saudi Arabia last week to find that internet and phone connections to Tigray have been suspended and roads and airports closed.
“I have tried to contact my family but the phone is not working,” 29-year-old Lula, who declined to publish her full name, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Addis Ababa. “It is concerning not to hear from them at this point.” Two weeks of escalating conflict between federal forces and rebellious local rulers has killed hundreds and pushed 30,000 refugees into Sudan, leading the UN to warn in November of a “full- scale humanitarian crisis.” It has called into question whether Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Africa’s youngest leader and last
year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, can hold his fractured nation together ahead of national elections next year. More than 14,000 Ethiopians have returned from Saudi Arabia since March, according to the UN migration agency, IOM, where many like Lula were detained in camps that the UN described as overcrowded and unsanitary. Every year, it is estimated that tens of thousands of Ethiopians travel irregularly to the gulf in search of better paid work. Many end up exploited as maids or on building sites.
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More than 80 out of about 260 migrants who flew home to Ethiopia after the conflict broke out had to stay in a hotel in Addis Ababa because they came from Tigray and had no relatives in the capital. This included about 20 minors. Shimeles Belaso, a director at Ethiopia’s ministry of peace said that the stranded returnees will be transported to their respective towns and villages when the situation calms. “There are now security issues ... just letting them go there is troublesome and (they could) be troubled and endangered,” he said. “Therefore, the Ethiopian government is handling them, covering all the necessary costs for them.” Lula was relieved that she had a friend in Addis Ababa who was willing to take her in, providing some home comforts and a familiar face to help brush away her painful memories of prison in Saudi Arabia. Her dream of working abroad fell flat this year when rebels in Yemen—through which she and scores of other migrants were travelling to Saudi Arabia— rounded them up, while shooting and calling them “coronavirus carriers” and took them to the border. Lula was one of thousands of migrants who were held in Saudi detention centers, described by Human Rights Watch as squalid and abusive, before being repatriated
to Ethiopia. “There were illnesses, hunger, deaths,” Lula recalled. “It is better to beg in your own country,” said Lula, who has twice made the dangerous journey to Saudi Arabia, adding that she would not return there illegally. Kassahun Habtamu, assistant professor at the School of Psychology of Addis Ababa University, said that the conflict and ensuing communications blackout put returnees at risk of developing mental health problems. “Their migration experience is a very big burden by itself,” said Kassahun, who has studied the mental health problems faced by Ethiopian returnees from the Middle East. “And this conflict now ... they don’t know what is happening to their family members, they can’t even tell them that they are back. So this is a double burden, and it is very, very stressful.” For Lula, the only option now is to find work in Addis Ababa while waiting for the conflict to end. “I’m worried not to find a job, to have no money,” she said, after days of fruitless searching in the capital. “If the roads were open and I could see my daughter, I would go today.” ∎
Fr. Pedro Hernandez, a Comboni Missionary from Mexico, has been working in Awasa, Ethiopia, for 20 years. He sees hope on the horizon. The Comboni Missionaries have worked in this region of southeast Ethiopia for 35 years, founding missions at Killenso, Soddu Abala, and Haroo Waato. Prior to their arrival, the Catholic faith was almost nonexistent. Now there are 16 new Christian communities, a new church, and a library. Recent violence threatens the progress made under the new prime minister and the country is still beset by drought and inflation. “We must rebuild and strengthen a climate of democracy and peace,” says Fr. Pedro, “working alongside and with people, so that they become more and more protagonist of their future.” ∎
Fr. Pedro holding Bible classes at Killenso.
Rafael Güitrón Torres, mccj Ecological Spirituality
What is the root cause of this ecological crisis? Surely, we can affirm that it lies on the devaluation of life and its meaning. Confusion and disappointment are fluttering in the hearts of many people, even though for others, this situation may provoke, in turn, an awakening and openness to new horizons of humanity. Some people, thirsty for meaning and roots, turn their gaze towards spirituality as one of the sources to quench their thirst. Spirituality refers to the quality of being concerned with the human spirit
or soul, as opposed to material or physical things. It seeks the integration of the human being’s thirst for unity and harmony; a willingness to care for creation; an openness to transcendence; a tension between the earthly life and the craving for salvation. Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si’ (LS), invites us to turn to our interior life if we want to heal the world. He repeatedly promotes a culture of life or a way of being in the planet that protects all forms of life and cares for spirituality (LS 63, 64), and states that this is
medicine for the ecological crisis. This search for spirituality moves our hearts to look for God and His presence among us. God imprints the seal of His creation through two calligraphies: the canvas of nature from where we can extract His mark, and the Word of God, a Word incarnated in the history of salva- tion, as we find it in the Bible. Both are papyri engraved with environmental characters (those sprung from creation in its beauty, as well as elements of nature present in the sacred texts), in need of being examined to generate a creative action (LS, 85).
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In the light of creation and in front of the text of the burning bush, we take off our shoes with a humble heart and open our intelligence to contemplate nature and, with it, the One who is Beauty and Life. God invites the human being to a spirituality of a new genesis through his loving epiphany: Creation becomes an environmental covenant that, through its care, transforms humanity (LS, 240). Finally, the trace of God’s Spirit is found in the cosmos which is, at the same time, his gift and vestige; wisdom that emanates from nature, or ecosophy. However, it demands that its message be interpreted, in order to nourish and motivate the fluttering of the spirit of the peoples. Ecosophy is the wisdom that comes from the relationship of interdependence between the elements of the cosmos, God, and the human being, forming a cosmo- theanthropic bond. As Raimon Panikkar (1994) affirms, it is about the relationship of the One with the Whole. Indeed ecosophy, as wisdom- spirituality, defines a mode of an integral relationship between nature and society; it engenders a healthy communion that cares for the common home (LS 78). If the human being forgets the essential elements that generate life, its immediate consequence is similar to the contraction of Alzheimer’s disease, the annihilation of history and the destruction of nature—an ecocide. Therefore, it
is fundamental to recognise the ecosophy transmitted to us by peoples scattered throughout the length and breadth of the planet, who represent traces of the Good and the Truth and knowledge of an integral ecology. The Worldview of Ecosophy The purpose of this reflection continues exposing some of the cultural knowledge present in the different peoples of the world, which should be the points of reference for the human search for sense and global solidarity (LS 201). The ecosophies of the peoples of the American lands propose life, in harmony with nature, as their fundamental principle; a diversity of narratives within a religious and spiritual sense of existence; the importance of education in knowledge and skills for life; a sense of the meaning of life and death; a hierarchy of values; justice, presented always as the way to restore order; forms of self-government based on uses and customs; a cosmo-vision of good and evil that articulates morality; and finally, the principle of identity, meaning that one is a person because one belongs to the community. All these values of life are reasons for a radical demand to care for and nurture a good living in the territories between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Moving on, let’s briefly explore the sub-Saharan ecosophy of Africa, especially in the Bantu tradition
which comprises more than 400 ethnic groups. The heart of their perspective is found in the Sotho proverb, Motho ke motho ka batho babang (a person becomes a person because of other people), referring to those who contribute in making one a human being. So, the identity and relational values of the Bantu spirit are defined in the light of the Ubuntu/botho (humanity) ecosophy.
“A person becomes a person because of other people.”
Indeed, some central elements of this African cultural knowledge are: the interconnection and communion as founding the fundamental values of the tribe; the community as the origin and destiny of the individual and the inalienable duty to become fully its member; the value of the family, in a broad sense; fraternity as a principle of coexistence and a guarantee of survival; communion between generations: the past, the present and the future, and the ancestors; group solidarity in the daily struggles; ecological harmony as essential to life, i.e., the prayers and rites propitiatory for, for Ubuntu-humanity that creates the community of people and, therefore, forms the individual (Nontobeko 2006). Finally, Africa is the land where life dances to the rhythm of the drum. example, a good storm. It is the cosmo-vision of
The ecosophies of the peoples of the Americas propose life in harmony with nature as their fundamental principle. (Image of an indigenous man from Amazonia in Brazil.)
Fraternity is one of the fundamental principles of coexistence and a guarantee of survival in traditional Africa. (Image of a nurse visiting a patient at home.)
In the same way, the European continent is home to movements that signify old/new values that prevent forces, in a particular way, against an environmental destruction. So, the fruit of this encounter/divergence, as far as ecosophy is concerned, interweaves the following paths: the search for a balance between matter and spirit; the education for the care of the biosphere; the common good as an ecological principle; the value of an eternal instant that combines yesterday’s and tomorrow’s time;
the constant change of cultural paradigms; the promotion of solidarity-based economies; proximity as an integrating element; the demand to link truth and politics; and the relationship between the environment and religious belief (Maffesoli 2017). The European paradigm incorporates action that tends to heal the relationship between society and nature, going beyond a simple respect for the ecological, toward an integral care for creation.
The Asian continent, sanctuary of important spiritual movements (Tianchen 2003), proposes the following founding elements: nature is endowed with a capacity to harmonize itself and its balance is the moral criterion for human relations; there are vital rhythms that need to be respected; a principle of benevolence that demands a healthy relationship between humanity, earth and heaven, for the flourishing of the Pure Earth; frugality, as a demand that limits human excess; the
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person is not the master of nature; the need of harmonious coexistence with other living beings and the fact that truth is reflected in human actions. In short, it promotes the safeguarding of the social and natural environments, thus guaranteeing the salvation of the spirit of humanity. After reviewing the values of the main ecosophies throughout the planet, we may consider the need for integrating them towards an ecological spirituality. Ecological Spirituality Humanity is facing the problem of an environmental uprooting, i.e., the lack of ground, identity, history and spirituality. Uprooting is the process in which people lose contact with their own vital roots, those that define them in a socio-cultural and geographical environment. It produces evident effects such as political indifference; ethical relativism; objectivism; domination of the quantifiable; migrations caused by ecological reasons or habitat destruction; degradation of justice; adoration of power/money; lack of creativity; absence of religious inspiration and depersonalization. The person loses one’s vital references and habitat, one’s place of cultural and historical coexistence, producing a suffocation of the fluttering
FR. RAFAEL GÜITRÓN TORRES is a Comboni Missionary working in Tenamaxtlan, Mexico. nourished, where the person lives together with others and prepare themselves to resume again the adventure of life, in the communion of the One with the All . ∎ of the Spirit. However, it is in the common home or territory where the human being takes root, grows, and dies as an incarnated spirit that loves life by rising to transcendence. Spirituality becomes a well that contributes to satiate the human aspiration for a better environmental world, from the ontological demand of unity in diversity. This implies some prerequisites: human greatness that creates communion; care for creation; seeking quality lifestyles; enjoying sobriety as an authentic mode of existence; incarnating a mystical prophecy; fighting for the common good; promoting peace and learning to rest (LS 222–227). Spirituality is thus the oasis where the ecosophies brought by the pilgrims of life converge. It is the oasis as a propitious space-time that breaks down all barriers and creates the persona of the common home. Spirituality is the place where the traveler dwells and is
The ecosophies of the Asian continent promote the safeguarding of the social and natural environments, thus guaranteeing the salvation of the spirit of humanity. References Maffesoli, Michel. 2017. Ecosophie. Du Cerf, France. Nontobeko, Winnie Msegana. 2006. The significance of the concept ‘ubuntu’ for edu- cational management and leadership during democratic transformation in South Africa. Stellenbosch University, South Africa. https:// core.ac.uk/download/ pdf/37319167.pdf. Pannikkar, Ramon. 1994 . Ecosofía, para una espiritualidad de la Tierra. San Pablo, Madrid. Pope Francis. 2015. Encyclical, Laudato Si’. On the care for our common home. Vatican City. Tianchen, Li. 2003. Confucian ethics and the environment. Culture Mandala 6, no. 1, art. 4. The Centre for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies, Queensland.
Comboni Lay Missionaries
We Are a Mission
One day, while I was walking around the city, I saw the following sentence on a painted wall: “Trees do not eat their own fruits. Rivers do not drink their own waters. The wealth of gifts is always for the benefit of others.” I do not know the graffiti artist nor the original author of the sentence. However, it has been used many times by Pope Francis. This phrase—whether it was originally thought in a Christian sense or not—leads me to a deeper reflection on vocation, from the beginning of vocational discernment until its daily living.
We are often tempted to look at our life only from a personal per- spective, almost independent of the world around us, in a tangle of phrases and questions where the I/ me is always at the center: What do I want to do with my life? What future do I want for myself? There is nothing wrong with the personal desire for happiness and self-realization. The problem arises when, by repeating these phrases so centered on “me,” we start thinking of vocation and life from a selfish point of view, as if it were possible I want to be happy! I want to be fulfilled.
Susana Vilas Boas
“In vocation, the missionary dimension is always present. We are a mission. Therefore, we put ourselves at the service of all those we love, those around us, and even those who live beyond our borders.”
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to live fully without personal effort and being a gift to others. In wanting to be the first beneficiaries of the gifts of our vocation, we unconsciously set out with a self- centered perspective that makes us look at vocation as a lottery that we are going to win and not as a gift that we receive, a gift that places us at the service of humanity around us. Being a Light Pope Francis warns us of this problem, cautioning that the vocational experience cannot be understood as a banner that we raise for all to see and enjoy. It is like a gentle breeze that, in a discreet way, caresses, refreshes, and calms as it passes. Its action is neither exhibited nor self-centered; it is discreet, but ever-present. For this very reason, the pope recalls the words of Saint Alberto Hurtado who stated that “being an apostle does not mean wearing a lapel pin; it is not about speaking about the truth but living it, embodying it, being transformed in Christ. Being an apostle does not mean carrying a torch in hand, possessing the light, but being that light. The gospel, more than a lesson, is an example. A message that becomes a life fully lived.” As in the graffiti I found in which the gifts imply effort, generosity, and renunciation (the tree must be fruitful. It must bear fruit and it must renounce it so that others can benefit, be
didn’t count on. And what do we actually do when this happens? Do we simply take the time to enjoy the moment? No! We immediately call someone to tell them what hap- pened. Often, we can’t even contain the joy we feel and immediately share the feeling with our family and friends. How sad it would be to have no one to share good news with! Our happiness is reduced when we realize we can’t share happy moments with others because of our loneliness. It is the same with vocation. It is something bigger than us. It grows and expands as joy and a challenge beyond ourselves, as we become missionaries and a gift to others. It ceases to be a prize and instead transforms into a joyful service—a true gift—for all those we love, for those around us, and even for those we don’t even know personally. Fruitful Life The ideal of an easy happiness that many times society, the media, and even our circle of friends seem to want to “sell” is far from possible. The virtualization of happiness leads to a funneling and drastic reduction of existence and the very meaning of life. When we think about the great names in history, of those who are examples of life for us, we find that these are people who have given up a lot and lived in concert with their vocation, whose gifts have been fruitful in their lives. As such, they were able to transform the world in a way that their names are still remembered until today. Of course, we don’t have to “stick to history,” but can we refuse to be part of it? Certainly, people like St. Daniel Comboni or Jesus Christ himself continue to mark us, but were their lives easy or lived in a self-centered way? How much self-resignation did they demonstrate, and how many sacrifices did they make? However, when we think about meaningful and fulfilled lives, these names come to mind. Despite the many trials, difficulties, and obstacles they had to face,
“Trees do not eat their own fruit. Rivers do not drink their own waters. The wealth of gifts is always for the benefit of others.”
strengthened and, in turn, also bear fruit for others), the missionary dimension of vocation is always present.
When we think about it, what would a full life be like if we were completely isolated from the world around us? What would happiness be, if we lived only for ourselves? We all have good experiences—a good mark on an exam, an acceptance to college, a job offer, or some kind note of appreciation from someone we
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Today is the time of God, the time when he acts and accompanies us in our actions. For this very reason, Pope Francis never tires of warning us and urging us to take action in the here-and-now of our lives. “Young friends, don’t wait until tomorrow to contribute your energy, your audacity, and your creativity to changing our world. Your youth is not an ‘in-between time.’ You are the now of God, and he wants you to bear fruit.... The best way to prepare for a bright future is to experience the present as best we can, with commitment and generosity” (Post- synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Christ Is Alive, 178).
they were able to live happy lives, not because they lived in the midst of laughter and financial wealth, but because each tear, every pain, and each moment of suffering was experienced for a greater good—not for oneself, but for the benefit of others. Because God never leaves those who love him, all those painful moments have turned into triumph, joy, and true life. Isn’t that what we all want? Don’t we all yearn for a life that, despite the difficulties, is a fruitful sign of hope that generates a greater joy? ∎
SUSANA VILAS BOAS is a Comboni Lay Missionary from Portugal who served in the Central African Republic.
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Supporting the Mission
Heather Kaufman COVID-19, it was the story of 2020 and I suspect it will be the center of many stories in 2021. It is pretty safe to say everyone has been touched by the pandemic in some way, but how we have been touched varies in a multitude of ways. Recently, I learned about the St. Daniel Comboni Secondary School in Kenya. The school, established in 2017 in honor of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Comboni Institute, serves students in Nairobi. The vision of the school is to offer a more holistic education to young people from different backgrounds so they may give back to society in the future. Some students come from lower-middle-class suburbs, others from the city slums. Yearly school fees per student are $442 and the total salary cost for the entire staff is $54,000 per year. Sharing the Burden
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The school was just beginning to establish itself when COVID-19 hit. Because of the pandemic the government closed all schools. St. Daniel Comboni Secondary School has hosted no
To contribute to our worldwide COVID-19 relief efforts, please use the enclosed envelope or visit our website, www. combonimissionaries. org/give.
classroom learning since March 2020. As a result the staff took a 70% pay cut and, more tragically, many of the students may drop out because their families need them at home or they simply cannot pay their fees. Those fortunate children who had a unique opportunity for an education are now back in the
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slums, facing the real possibility of never returning to school. It has been a devastating blow to the future of these children, to the school, and to the community. Administrators are scrambling to find funding from outside sources to ensure students can return and the staff can be paid. This is just one example of how the pandemic has touched lives in immeasurable ways. In the midst of all of this I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to do my job of fundraising for the missions. However, so many people have stepped up and helped, from distributing medicine and oxygen tanks to COVID patients in Peru to feeding programs in Ethiopia. I’ve had the privilege of watching this generosity make a difference. Your outpouring of support is humbling. We are incredibly grateful. ∎
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HEATHER KAUFMAN is director of development for the Comboni Missionaries, North American Province.
Around the Province
Upcoming Events Our parishes and mission centers have had limited availability to the public due to the pandemic, but our many ministries continues. Daily, weekly, and monthly Masses are celebrated online — as are book clubs, youth group meetings, and more. As the country slowly opens back up, our ministry online continues. Visit combonimissionaries.org/event for a full list of upcoming events. California Rosary Night: We invite you to join us in praying the rosary every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. PST via Zoom. Noches de Rosario y Oracion: Los invitamos a nuestras Noches de Rosario y Oración semanales. Actualmente se están iniciando a las 6 p.m. (PST) en español cada martes a través de Zoom. ¡Todos son bienvenidos! Holy Hour — Hora Santa: The First Friday of every month at 7 p.m. PSD Father Jorge Elias Ochoa broadcasts The Holy Hour. We invite you to join us on Facebook Live and YouTube @Padre Jorge E. Ochoa, mccj. La Hora Santa se transmitirá en vivo a las 7 p.m. PSD cada primer viernes del mes con el Padre Jorge Elias Ochoa, mccj. Te invitamos a que nos acompañes en Facebook Live y YouTube @Padre Jorge E. Ochoa, mccj. Young Adults Night: Every month, the Comboni Missionaries host the “Hearts of Worship” young adult night led by Father Jorge Elias Ochoa. The meetings are bilingual, and we welcome all young adults ages 18 to 35. Call our office at 626-339-1914 for more information. Around the Province
Cada mes, los Misioneros Combonianos organizan la noche para jóvenes “Hearts of Worship,”dirigida por el padre Jorge Elias Ochoa. Nuestras juntas son bilingües, y les damos la bienvenida a todos los jóvenes de las edades 18 a 35. Llame a nuestra oficina al 626-339- 1914 para obtener más información. Cincinnati First Friday Mass — Misa del Primer Viernes: First Friday Mass will be celebrated the first Friday of every month at 8 a.m. EST — live from the Cincinnati Mission Center. We invite you to join us on Facebook Live: Comboni Missionaries - North American Province. Comboni Book Club: The third Thursday of every month, the Comboni Mission Center hosts a book club — all are welcome. To be added to the book club email list, please contact Lindsay Braud at communications@ combonimissionaries.org. Please join us if you can! Chicago Daily Mass: Mass is celebrated daily on the La Grange Park Comboni Mission Center Facebook Page. Mass in Spanish is at 9 a.m. CDT. Mass in English is at 6 p.m. ∎ Be sure to follow us on Facebook for all our latest news and events.
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If you feel called to share the joy of the Gospel with those most in need through a life of service as a Comboni Missionary, we invite you to learn more about our charism, mission, and way of life. To learn more about becoming a Comboni priest or brother, contact the headquarters of the North American Province in Cincinnati, Ohio, at (513) 474-4997, or visit our website at www.combonimissionaries.org.
If you are enquiring about life as a Comboni Missionary Sister, please contact their Richmond, Virginia, location at (804) 266-2975. For more about the lay missionary adventure, please contact Paul Wheeler, director of the Comboni Lay Missionary program, at (708) 588-1602, or visit www.laymission-comboni. org. We invite your interest, questions, prayers, and support ! ∎
Comboni Mission Center 645 S. Aldenville Avenue Covina, California 91723 (626) 339-1914
Comboni Mission Center 1615 E. 31st Street La Grange Park, Illinois 60526 (708) 354-1999 St. Lucy Parish 118 7th Avenue Newark, New Jersey 07104 (973) 803-4200 St. Joseph Parish 148 Madison Avenue South Kitchener, Ontario N2G 3M6 (519) 744-4680
Holy Cross Parish 4705 South Main Street Los Angeles, California 90037 (323) 234-5984 Sacred Heart Parish 9935 Mission Boulevard Riverside, California 92509 (951) 685-5058