By Fr. Antonio La Braca – During the annual assembly of the Comboni missionaries in South Sudan in January this year, I had the impression that we breathed air of failure and sadness: 46 Comboni communities to close, merging of provinces, decline in finances, decrease in numbers, Comboni missionaries in closure.

It is to be told to confreres, even of other provinces, that we do not diminish because God is no longer happy with us, but because we have acted upon our charism and fulfilled our purpose! That is MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Consider where we brought the Africans from what they were. They were made slaves at the time of Comboni with the conviction that they were not like other human beings: now they are PRESIDENTS, MINISTERS, PROFESSORS, BISHOPS and CARDINALS of the Holy Catholic Church!!!

With this I do not mean that we have to sit on the laurels and resign ourselves to disappearing; but we should rather be happy, full of holy pride and optimistic about the future challenges.

Therefore, the Institute should be receptive, able to read the signs of the time and open to the necessary changes the new reality is proposing to us.

I am truly convinced that our Comboni charism continues to attract and concern Africans today. In fact, Africans have fallen into other types of slavery: in South Sudan they might be named TRIBALISM and CORRUPTION. We must have compassion on them and pull them out of this abyss without a future.

And how can we do that? With a NEW EVANGELIZATION which is grounded on an authentic Christianity. This new evangelization must be done with the WITNESS of our holy life, full of love for God and prayer, and detachment from the things of this world, humility and devotion.

I think it has also come for us the time when it is not good that we devote ourselves too much to human promotion. We should, instead, dedicate ourselves much more to adoration and contemplation in the midst of the poor or marginalized people of cities and villages. We should be more devoted and concerned to pursuit eternal life for both ourselves and the people we live with.

There are now many NGOs that, though defective or confused, do the real diaconia. So far we have rightly done it, but to the detriment of direct evangelization. Moreover, this new evangelization must be seriously done. We must first of all prepare ourselves by coming to know the culture and psychology of the people with the aim to meet especially the ADULTS! Then, missiology and anthropology should be our first interest besides our theological and catechetical preparation.

Nowadays it is not enough using the catechism made of questions and answers and making people to sing sentences by heart. It is not enough using the method of “bite and run away”, namely concerned only about numbers of attendance and baptisms. We should rather involve adult people in our pastoral plans. We should also include young people. For this reason, I am more than convinced by now that the new formula of being Church are the small Christian communities promoted with knowledge, commitment, and generosity.

But now I stop here with my words as I don’t want to end up in an unexciting preaching.

Fr. Antonio La Braca, mccj