The Spirituality of the Comboni Missionaries

150-Anniversary-Logo-1“The Spirituality of the Comboni Missonaries” by Kathleen M. Carroll
in Comboni Missions Vol. 55 No. 3

A Thousand Lives for the Mission.

Of all the introductions one might have to a way of living, this was my first impression of St. Daniel Comboni. Every Catholic religious community has its own character, its own unique way of ministry and witness. The Jesuits are always talking about setting the world on fire and the greater glory of God. The Franciscans are focused on channels of peace, and care for creation. The Dominicans are known for their learning and preaching and the Holy Cross Fathers are perhaps best known for football (Go Irish!). But what did St. Daniel mean with his oft-quoted “thousand lives” line? It first appeared among his writings, in the words, “I have only one life to consecrate to the salvation of these souls: I wish I had a thousand to spend them all to such a purpose” (Writings, 2271). At his canonization in 2003, it was selected as a motto for the Comboni Missionaries. But there are more than 3,500 Comboni Missionaries worldwide, well in excess of the goal, it would seem, so I was still mystified by the significance of the statement…

photo 3_1edWherever the Comboni Missionaries work, their concern for the people they serve is not solely confined to matters of faith. Much of their work consists in meeting the material and psychological needs of their people. Food, water, medicine, and shelter are primary concerns, but equally desperate is the need for education, training in justice and peace, and counseling for those affected by trauma. One missionary told me that the people where he works have a new word for food: “Comboni,” because the support they receive from the Comboni feeding center is often the only sustenance  they receive. Fr. Jesus Aranda, originally based in Kajo-Keji in South Sudan, has accompanied his people on their exile in Uganda. More than 1.3 million people have fled violence and civil unrest in South Sudan and are living in refugee settlements in Uganda. With his confrere Fr. Isaac Martin currently recuperating in Kampala, Fr. Jesus has remained to minister to his refugee flock. Two Comboni Missionary brothers are with him to assist, but he is the only priest available to his congregation of several hundred thousand. While they cannot meet all the needs of the people, they are there to make “common cause” with them as they suffer. One of the traits that has most impressed me about the Comboni Missionaries I have met is their dedication to learning the  languages of the people they serve. Learning any new language can be challenging enough, but they must also master dialects and local expressions to truly communicate with the people. For added  challenge, sometimes these languages do not have written expressions or grammar. The Comboni solution? Write one. There are a examples in the Comboni musuem in Cincinnati where the Comboni grammar is the only  one in the world…

The Comboni Missionaries do not place a higher value on their own lives than the lives of the people they serve. The don’t seek comfort when others are in pain, or plenty while others hunger…

See the FULL article HERE.

Learn more about Comboni Missionaries HERE.


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