Canad Missions News Fall 2021

Comboni Missionaries

No. 253 Fall 2021

“I like to think that even those who are most frail, limited and troubled can be missionaries in their own way, for goodness can always be shared, even if it exists alongside many limitations.”

(Pope Francis – Christus Vivit)

Three Comboni seminarians enjoy a relaxing moment in Kenya.

We cannot but Speak about what we have Seen and Heard

who is originally from Egypt, shares that he was not specifically interested in foreign missionary work until he had the opportunity to travel to the country of South Sudan with some Comboni sisters for an “experience of mission.” Mina says the experience had the effect of shattering some of the prejudices he had about Sub-Saharan Africa. Through the immersion experience he was able to see the richness of the culture and how God is present among the South Sudanese people while visiting various families and listening to their stories of daily life and faith. He was also able to share his own spiritual journey with the people he met. As Pope Francis adds in his message: “By its very nature, the life of faith calls for a growing openness to embracing everyone, everywhere.” With his own journey in mind, Mina can also proclaim: “We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard.”

The title of this year’s World Mission Sunday message from Pope Francis is “We Cannot but Speak about what we have Seen and Heard” from the Book of Acts 4:20. Pope Francis writes: “Once we experience the power of God’s love, and recognize his overwhelming presence in our personal and community life, we cannot help but proclaim and share what we have seen and heard.” A good example of this is Mina Albeer Tawfik Kalds Abdelshbid (middle of above picture), who is a seminarian at the Comboni Scholasticate in Nairobi, Kenya. The Comboni Missionaries have 10 scholasticates or houses of formation across Africa, Europe and Latin America where approximately 112 scholastics (seminarians) and 14 religious brother candidates, from 22 countries, receive their respective theological, pastoral and professional training. Mina Albeer Tawfik Kalds Abdelshabid,

Inside this issue

u Religious missionary vocations u The Hope School u Yes, He is Black u Casa Social Daniel Comboni u New Bishops for S. Sudan

From The Editor’s Desk

his experience in Brazil where he seeks not so much an “understanding”

In his message for World Mission Sunday, which will be celebrated on October 24, 2021, Pope Francis writes: “As Christians, we cannot keep the Lord to ourselves: the Church’s evangelizing mission finds outward fulfillment in the transformation of our world and in the care of creation.” The Church exists to evangelize; to share the Good News! In this issue of Mission News, we read about the various ways the Comboni Missionaries participate in the Church’s evangelizing mission. Our brief article at the bottom of Page 2 presents to us in numbers who are the future religious Comboni Missionaries and there is definitely a shift taking place. Given the ethnic tensions that exist in present day Ethiopia, our story on Page 3 is about the Hope School, which is administered by Comboni Sisters in collaboration with some lay missionaries. The School tries to incarnate the gospel values of peace, coexistence and hope. Part of the Church’s evangelizing mission is to bring about a better understanding of the Bible. On Page 4, Comboni Fr. Justin shares Comboni Fr. Elias Essognimam Sindjalim, Secretary General for Formation, presented the current picture of young vocations in the Comboni Missionaries, from which one can see howAfrica is the continent of hope with regards vocations to Comboni consecrated missionary life. “It is a moment of blessing as it was for Europe after the Second World War”, says Fr. Elias. In May of this year 2021, thirty-seven novices made their first profession: 8.1% come fromAsia, almost 19% fromAmerica and 72.9% are African. Theology students and brothers in the final stage of basic formation are 147 in this formative year 2020-2021. 86.39% are African, 2.04% are Asian, 10.88% are American and 0.68% European. Of these 147 students, 10% are siblings. The Comboni vocations that register the highest numbers of candidates for missionary

of the Bible, but rather a “savouring” of the Word of God.

Saint Daniel Comboni 1831-1881 First Bishop of Central Africa and Founder of the Comboni Missionaries Serving in 42 countries worldwide. In Africa: Benin, Central African Rep., Chad, Dem, Rep. Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, s Togo, Uganda, Zambia. In the Americas: Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Cost Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, United States. In Asia: Macau, The Philippines, Taiwan. In Europe: Austria, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Spain.

Over the past year the Comboni Family has been reflecting on the role of social ministry in their evangelizing work. The Casa Social Daniel Comboni on Page 5 is a wonderful example of its integral role. As a young nation, South Sudan is also witnessing the appointment of a new generation of bishops as outlined on Page 6. Two of these bishops are Comboni missionaries and they are collaborating in a special way. As always, we thank you for your solidarity in our missionary efforts and as Pope Francis writes in his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, by our shared passion we are building “a community of belonging and solidarity worthy of our time, our energy and our resources.”

Missionary Vocations by the Numbers

life and young people in formation in Africa come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Togo-Ghana-Benin, Mozambique, Malawi- Zambia and Uganda. Lately the numbers have been growing in South Sudan and Kenya. (Comboni Missionaries)

Comboni Missionaries

No. 253 Fall 2021 Publisher: Comboni Missionaries Editor/Writers: Don Toomey Photos:

Comboni Press Mundo Negro New People World Mission National Library of Canada ISSN: 0328-9872 www.ComboniMissionaries.org

First professions to religious life in Mexico.

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The Hope School

From The Missions

Our school time, especially kindergarten and elementary school, usually marks our lives in one way or another. Great memories pile up: friends who are a large part of who we were, teachers who touched our hearts and opened paths that we did not even imagine. However, in Ethiopia, school can have a more complete meaning. In the region of Gumuz where I live, the Comboni family has 5 kindergartens (three run by the Comboni fathers and 2 by Comboni sisters) and a primary school (run by the Comboni sisters). All these centers were requested by the local government itself, more than 20 years ago, which understood that this poorly developed region needed educational spaces that met two objectives: to promote education in order to guarantee an autonomous and dignified future; and to create spaces where boys and girls of all ethnic groups can coexist in equality and companionship, so that the division (so present and so deep in the region) gradually disappear and a fraternity is fostered. This has been the goal of the Comboni family as well all these years. However, the social reality has changed a lot in the last two years. When I arrived in Ethiopia, this region was experiencing an ethnic conflict between some ethnic groups (with murders, displaced people, burning of houses, etc.). When the situation was stabilizing, Covid-19 appeared to break normality again, which closed everything and spread panic once again. Without having managed to stop this problem, a new ethnic conflict, even more serious than the previous one, hit the lives of the inhabitants in the region. The situation demanded a response and the school of the Comboni Sisters, which I write about now, became more than a center for living together, it became the “Hope School.” Faced with the reality of violence, many people, mainly women, children and the elderly, chose to leave their homes. Many went to hide in the forest, but the vast majority of those who lived around the school, almost instinctively, and out of enormous confidence in the sisters, chose to take refuge en masse in the school. It was amazing to see how they entered by the dozens, or hundreds, with the few things they could grab before fleeing, in an improvised diaspora, carrying belongings, children, babies, grain, animals, etc. The school opened its doors, and it became, more than their home, their refuge. The classrooms were emptied and transformed into places to sleep, cook, eat and receive care. As the weeks passed, the situation eased some and people returned to their homes, but not to normalcy. Fearing that their belongings might be looted, they feared mainly for the grain collected throughout the year. They put their hope back in the school, which reopened its doors and allowed them to carry that grain, in 100-kilo bags, to be stored in the only place they trusted at the time. This situation was especially serious for the boys and

girls, who were living in fear and felt unprotected. The sisters, aware of this, put the school back at the service of children, creating a space of trust. Despite the fact that all the educational centers in the area were officially closed, the doors of our main center were opened almost daily to give support and allowed them to paint, draw, read or write, and what was most successful was organizing games and sports activities. At that time, the most important thing was not that the children and young people learned, but that they could enter a place where they felt safe. Throughout this process, my mission partner (Pedro) and I wanted to get involved as much as possible (although sometimes it was impossible for us to get around due to the danger of the ten kilometers of road that separated our house from the school, due to attacks, raids, shootings, etc.). Our daily work, our enthusiasm and our strength were mainly focused on accompanying and helping to carry out the daily activities for boys and girls; as improvised teachers, sports coaches, monitors and companions. We tried to offer a space of welcome and hope to all. In February 2021, after the situation had stabilized enough, the school officially opened its doors to the new year. The students, from the age of 3 to the end of primary school, returned to their classes. They were eager to return to the place from which they never felt separated; the place that was for them the only space of tranquility and carefreeness. Parents, for their part, will feel more relieved than ever, since, if in the moments of greatest torment they trusted blindly to protect their sons and daughters (the most precious gift they have), the return to school will fill them with renewed enthusiasm. That is why, although it has another name, I have preferred to baptize it as “The Hope School.” (Comboni lay missionary David Aguilera Pérez-Mundo Negro)

Children are eager to resume their learning at Hope School.

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Yes, He is Black

From The Missions

When in 2018 I was asked to work in the city of Manaus, capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, I remember saying “I view Manaus favorably!” Later, I had the opportunity to get to know the city, and on my return they asked me what I thought. I answered a bit metaphorically: “Here the challenges are few and small. Few like its rivers and small like the Amazon. We will need five or six generations to solve them.” Since 2019 I have lived in Manaus and despite the pandemic that we are experiencing, my conviction has not changed: I view Manaus favorably! Before arriving here, I spent ten years in Salvador de Bahia working with Afro-descendants and in dialogue with the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomble. I also spent nine years in Fortaleza and between these two Brazilian presences, 11 years in Spain. The challenges I have encountered were not on my agenda, but I am not changing Manaus for anything. I consider myself a “gardener of the Word” because my presence in the heart of Brazil has as its main purpose biblical and theological formation at the Institute of Theology, Pastoral and Higher Education of the Amazon (ITEPES), where seminarians, permanent deacons and lay people receive some of their formation. I also teach biblical subjects in a Pauline center and in various parishes, in addition to participating in radio programs and other pastoral activities. It is a joy to share the Word of God with multicultural

must be explored with love, passion and competence. This is my dream and what keeps me happy: to take the Word of God to the heart of all Christian communities of the world. Animation and missionary biblical formation are the way, taking into account that it is not about “knowing” but about “savoring”. It is necessary to provoke a thirst for the Word, to quench it and that is something that requires passion, time and dedication, as with Jesus towards Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, the blind man from birth or his disciples. It is hard work, but it’s worth it. Among those who speak about the Bible in Manaus there are charlatans who conquer multitudes of people with sweet words that do not give life, joy or hope, and who do not help to face the innumerable mourning of this pandemic that is leaving so many people injured, without comfort and hope. We see and feel all this and it hurts to see so much indifference and arrogance by government officials who have not fulfilled their obligations. The consequences translate into suffering and death. Therefore, maintaining or regenerating hope thanks to the Word of God in the midst of this situation is a missionary duty. (Comboni Fr. Justino Martinez – Mundo Negro)

communities. This was not always the case during my years in Salavador de Bahia, because many times my listeners were all of African descent. I remember a meeting of black consciousness and awareness with about 70 adolescents in Salvador in which I was the only non-Afro. We were all in a circle and Raquel, one of the animators, asked: “Here, are we all black?” “Everyone,” the adolescents answered unanimously. Raquel repeated the question and the answer was the same. The young woman pointed at me. “Justino is black too?” There was silence in the room. Anderson got up and said: “Yes, he is black!” But she did not give up: “Anderson, is Justino also black?” Anderson then responded with ease: “Sure, if he behaves like us, Justino is also black.” I always remember that anecdote with great joy. Following Pope Francis in his encyclical Querida Amazonia, I try to motivate children, youth and the elderly to become passionate about the Word of God and discover that it is a mine that

Fr. Justin (second from left) at a biblical conference in Manaus, Brazil.

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Casa Social Daniel Comboni

From The Missions

One day I would like to have a big house like this to welcome other people and help them too.” Sara expresses herself with almost the same words: “I am very happy because I will be able to help my family, my children and also other women.” Today the young women are dedicated to making small handicrafts, such as handbags and purses, the sale of which helps defray household expenses. Other afternoons are spent in the garden, learning to cook or listening to lectures on life education or disease prevention. Also, three times a week, depending on their educational level, they take a literacy or French course. The teacher is Ruth, who points out that “there are certainly many differences between them, that’s why we work in two groups. Some cannot read and are barely able to hold a pen and need special attention, so I feel that most of them are thirsty to learn and take responsibility for their lives.” On weekends, a young Congolese Comboni Missionary, Sister Henriette Mfutu, supports the community, and every Sunday, although most of them are not Catholic, they all participate in the Mass at Mater Dei parish, 500 meters from the house. The Comboni missionary sister is aware of how important it is to prepare for the “return to society,” that is why every month she visits the girls’ families to ensure that they will have their support. She, too, looks for tailoring workshops and beauty salons where the girls can do professional internships for three months, before opening her own business. Finally, the sisters give them a certain amount of money to start their independent life. “The results are encouraging,” says Sister Giovanna, who adds that “we have several girls who have opened their small businesses and we know that everything they have learned here will be transmitted to a sister, to her neighbor and will have a multiplier effect. As a missionary, to see someone’s life flourish gives me great satisfaction and compensates for all our efforts.” (photo & text excerpted – Enrique Bayo - Mundo Negro)

Among the many initiatives of the Catholic Church in favor of the promotion of women in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I visited a project coordinated by Comboni Sr. Giovanna Valbusa, who arrived to the Congo in 1977. The Kimbondo community of the Comboni Missionaries is on the outskirts of Kinshasa, along the Matadi highway, which reaches to the Atlantic Ocean. Previously it was a formation house for young aspiring missionaries, but when this formative stage moved to Kisangani, the Comboni Sisters decided to use the house in a project that responded to one of their missionary priorities: the promotion of women. At the beginning, they wanted to open a reception center for women who were leaving prison, offering them accommodation for a time and helping them in their social reintegration. But in the end they decided to open the house to all kinds of marginalized women. In May 2018 they started with the first group in the house they would name Casa Social Daniel Comboni. “We didn’t want to call it a ‘center’ because we want the women to feel like family and for this to be their home as long as they live here,” says Sister Giovanna. During my visit, there were eight women welcomed, although there are more than 26 who have passed through the house, mostly young people between 20 and 26 years old. “Our only objective - points out this Comboni missionary - is to help these women to stand up and take control of their lives and that is why the only requirement we demand of them is that they want to come and work, because nothing is given. We offer them a chance, but they have the last word. If they let themselves go and do not help themselves, there is nothing to do. “ Young girls live at Casa Social for a maximum time of one year, and those who are mothers must leave their children with a family member to make the most of the time. This decision must be contextualized in the local culture, where children do not suffer any trauma if they stay with an older sister or aunt. In Europe it would be different. The Casa Social Daniel Comboni offers two training possibilities: dressmaking and hairdressing. The students follow a six-month course, Monday through Friday mornings, at the Center for the Learning of Specialized Trades, located not far from the house. According to Sister Valbusa, this place offers many advantages. “In the first place, it has quality training and provides an official certificate if the final exams are passed; in addition, it accepts to enroll new students every beginning of the month, which gives some flexibility to incorporate a young woman throughout the year. And finally, we prefer for them to leave the house and meet other people to socialize. If not, it would be very hard to always be locked up. “ During my visit I found the young women in the garden, working around a table. One of them, Joelle, is in her sixth month of training: “The tailoring course has helped me a lot.

Sr. Giovanna with some of the youth at Casa Social.

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New Comboni Bishops for S. Sudan 2011, a week after South Sudan gained independence. Msgr. Christian Carlassare was born in in Schio, (Vicenza) Italy in 1977. After primary and secondary school, Msgr. Carlassare carried out his postulancy and philosophical studies in Florence and would then complete his Baccalaureate in Theology at the Gregorian University and a Baccalaureate in Missiology at the Urbaniana University in Rome. He was ordained a Comboni missionary priest on September 4, 2004. After ordination, Msgr. Carlassare was sent to South Sudan and became vicar and pastor of Holy Trinity Parish (Old Fangak County). While in South Sudan, he held various roles in the Diocese of Malakal and within the Comboni Missionaries. Update: Msgr. Carlassare travelled to Rumbek on April 15th in preparation for his episcopal ordination scheduled to take place on Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021. In the early hours of April 26th, Msgr. Carlassare was shot in both legs by two armed men who knocked on his door at his residence in Rumbeck. The following day he was flown to Nairobi, Kenya and admitted into the Nairobi Hospital where he is recovering from his injuries. On May 5, Bishop Matthew Remijio was appointed apostolic administrator of South Sudan’s Rumbek Diocese. “Bishop Remijio will temporarily govern Rumbek Diocese until the Bishop elect, the Most Reverend Christian Carlassare is healed, ordained and takes over the governance of that Diocese, hopefully as soon as possible,” The episcopal ordination of Mons. Christian Carlassare has been postponed until he has completed his convalescence.

Vocations

Missionary Prayer Intention Fall 2021:

In November 2020, Pope Francis appointed Comboni Fr. Matthew Remijio Adam Gbitiku, currently vice rector and treasurer of the International Theologate (seminary) of the Comboni Missionaries in Nairobi, Kenya, as Bishop of the Diocese of Wau (South Sudan). Mgr Matthew Remijio Adam Gbitiku was born in 1972 in Mboro (Diocese of Wau). His primary education as well as initial years of religious formation were completed in Sudan and later in Uganda. He obtained a Baccalaureate in Theology from the Instituto Superior de Estudios Teologicos Juan XXIII-ISET in Lima (Peru). He was ordained a Comboni priest on October 3, 2004. After his ordination he became parish vicar of Masalma, in Omdurma (Khartoum), later becoming parish priest and spiritual director of the Legionaries of Mary of the Archdiocese of Khartoum and Consultor of the Rongo Group Association. From 2008 to 2010 he obtained a Licentiate in Spiritual Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Afterwards, he held various roles within the Archdiocese of Khartoum. He was ordained a bishop in January 2021. On March 8, 2021, Pope Francis appointed Comboni Fr. Christian Carlassare, who has been the vicar general of the Diocese of Malakal since 2020, as Bishop of the Diocese of Rumbek in South Sudan. At 43, the missionary becomes the youngest Italian bishop. Rumbek was elevated to a diocese in 1974. The see became vacant in July 2011 following the sudden death of Bishop Cesare Mazzolari. The Comboni missionary bishop collapsed during Mass on July 16,

Mission News Comboni Missionaries and the support of missionary activity through prayer and economic assistance to the neediest Churches. Lord hear us. LORDHEARUS. 148 Madison Avenue South Kitchener, Ontario N2G 3M6 CANADA PHONE: 519.744.4680 FAX: 519.744.4840 cmoffice@combonimissionaries.ca www.combonimissionaries.org That the celebration ofWorld Mission Sunday may increase in the People of God the passion for evangelization

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Donations payable to: Comboni Missionaries

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Do you feel called to serve others as a priest, brother, sister or lay missionary? Contact our vocation director: Comboni Fr. Brian Quigley 519-744-4680 cmoffice@combonimissionaries.ca VOCATIONS & MISSIONARY SERVICE

Bishop-elect Christian Carlassare (left) and Bishop Matthew Remijio.

The world is our mission.

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