Theme One: The Role of the presbyter
Most of the members of the communities that participated believe that the Word of God is the origin from which all ministries spring forth and that to be meaningful and effective all ministries must have the Word at their centre as the fountain from which they get their nourishment and energy.
Service of the Gospel means service to others (especially the poorest and most abandoned) as well as service to our fellow confreres. True greatness is to be found in littleness, humility, and loving service to others.
Missionary “ad gentes” means “servant-leadership-style”, not “commander-style”. Let us always remember that Jesus made himself a servant, never dominates or oppresses anyone… but gave himself as a ransom for all.
A presbyter is “in persona Christi”, to show the face of Christ. Some are good in words and preaching but not in actual servant-type of service.
At personal level the confreres recognized a call to grow in love and appreciation for the Word of God, and tried to know it better, spending more time reading, praying and studying it, certain that this increased “assimilation” will result in better service to the People of God.
At community level, during the weekly community Eucharist, we committed to share more from our own personal experiences during the week, especially those reflections and events triggered by the Word of God meditated during the previous week.
Theme Two: Ministerial Collaboration
Ministerial collaboration in pastoral teams and within the Comboni Family shows the beauty and efficacy of collaboration. This, nevertheless, can be beset by obstacles and difficulties of different kind. In order to overcome these hurdles, the members must practice mutual trust, humility, and appreciation of each other.
Collaboration is a call that comes to us because God calls us together as one community. However, we must look for an equilibrium: personal gifts and personal responsibilities. Where is co-responsibility, interaction, participation, etc.?
Encourage more to become living witnesses of the Gospel as the “salt of the earth and the light of the world”. Use our individual gifts from God for the service of all specially to those who are in need.
If among us it is difficult already to collaborate, then also will be with other people. Misunderstandings can be a factor that hinders collaboration.
The confreres suggested the following elements to be part of an Action Plan for our community regarding ministerial collaboration: more attention to details, slow down and appreciation for each other.
Theme Three: Evangelization and ministries
The history of the Church among the Neur founded by lay ministers stirs our admiration as it resembles the experience of the early Church marked by a strong missionary spirit of the disciples. The first announcement by lay people and families followed by the formation of the catechumenate was a typical methodology amongst the Christians in the Neur land. Later, the laity invited the Comboni Missionaries to
complete the ministerial collaboration with the priestly ministry. Missionaries were wise enough to recognize the work of the Spirit amongst the people and adopted a simple lifestyle and journeyed at the same pace of people.
Dialogue is very essential in every collaboration of ministries. Besides, discernment is to understand God’s will with the help of prayer. Sometimes our limit is the tendency of believing we are “professionals” that we know everything. The lay people can also know and do many things, not only the community leaders.
All of us are blessed or gifted. Evangelization is urgent and essential. Evangelizers must be evangelized, first of all.
Theme Four: The Ministerial Contribution of the Laity
The laity have also their own giftedness especially in service and collaboration. Some gifts still need to be discovered, recognized, developed, and used… for the common good.
Many are really devoted and well-involved, particularly the women. Some are also more dialectic, careful, and jealous. They feel the belonging to the Church, so they are active.
Laity needs formation, of course, especially about some priorities… for Christian life growth. One risk is when social involvement becomes a “fashion”. Let us empower, support and the guide the laity in proper way.
Priests must not treat them as social workers or servants but should be with love in achieving the groups / parishes objectives.
The confreres shared their experiences of ministerial collaboration with the laity having underlined the positives aspects of collaboration and the exemplary witnesses and lifestyles of lay people.
Amongst the qualities the laity bring into the mission of the Church is creativity. But a “clericalist” leader, pastor or parish priest may stifle the creative contribution of lay people.
In a Comboni set up, our Lay Missionaries are committed and exemplary offering a constructive contribution to missionary service by means of their spirituality and professional skills. This beautiful aspect demands a constant vigilance and commitment so that the collaboration between laity and priests/brothers may stand out as a witness.
There are attitudes that we can promote and practice more towards our laity, such as openness, sharing with them our charism in a forum setting, etc.
Theme Five: Social and Ecological Ministry
One of the first ideas put forward was that we are stewards of creation, and as such we must respect, appreciate, be grateful and care for the wonder of our planet.
Ecological conversion, it was said, is a process that requires effort and, therefore, a long-term commitment. For example, to reduce consumption does not come easy. On this and other issues, whatever actions we adopt must be the result of a common decision. Individual actions have an impact on others, for example, the cutting of trees will reflect itself negatively in other areas of life.
Missionary work must be in the forefront of awareness and education towards the care of nature. For example, in the region of Karamoja, Uganda, missionaries managed to educate young people on the need of cleanliness, plastic disposal and rubbish collection. In Brazil, the Synod on the Amazon reiterated the need to include social and ecological justice as part of our ministry.
There is a common conviction that Pope Francis’s document Laudato Si’ was influential in our lives so much so that it brought about changes in our perceptions and need of action. In one of the formation houses, Laudato Si became a sort of refrain reminding everyone to clean, save water, recycle, and segregate rubbish. In our community, we wish to continue the good practices to which we have been committed – care for garden in the courtyard of our house, planting of fruit trees, rubbish separation.
Theme Six: Sinodality
Our Institute has been using the synodality methodology in its general chapters, provincial assemblies and even in the communities. It is a theological method that gives way to everyone to participate, accepts the diversity and takes on board a variety of opinions.
Nevertheless, we recognize that one of our fragilities is precisely the difficulty in working together as it demands patience, mutual understanding, and a slow process. And yet, we continue putting our effort in collaborating with one another as our preferred way to work.
St. Paul’s ecclesial vision of the “one body of Christ” made up of different members playing an important role for the proper functioning of the body is quite enlightening.
Three points which are an action plan were pointed out: a) To use some community moments to “lighten up” and share life in a more light mode; b) We commit ourselves to make an effort at participating more in the community councils by listening and giving our opinions and suggestions; c) At the community mass, we shall endeavour at sharing more on personal level mingling the Word of God with our individual journeys.
Theme Seven: The Ministerial Role of the Brother
Comboni has in mind that brothers do more than priests: “In Central Africa, …because the black students and the neophytes… are with the brothers, and they observe and listen to them more than they can observe and listen to the priests” (W5831).
The presence both priests and brothers in Comboni congregation is foundational. In a clerical Institute like ours, the brothers remind us of fraternity.
Brothers need to be well-identified, especially that it is more demanding in human point of view than intellectual formation. Some seem to have low-esteem and not much authority.
Some congregations of brothers have clear identification of charism (like Marists for schools, Guanellians for the sick) but Comboni brothers are for all around.
Let us pray and more intensively promote the vocation for brothers in our Delegation.
Delegation of Asia
January 14, 2021