The Feast of St. Daniel Comboni, Fr Louis Okot, mccj



Rajaf, 10 October 2019

My Sisters and Brothers happy feast!

This month of October is marked by three significant ecclesial events: the Extraordinary Mission Month (announced by Pope Francis), the Centenary of faith of the archdiocese of Juba and the feast of an outstanding figure: St. Daniel Comboni. All these events aim at re-awakening in us the missionary consciousness of going out to preach and proclaim the gospel. The life of the church rotates around the urgency of bringing the Gospel to our wounded world. It is our responsibility to constantly remind the world of the unconditional love that flows forth from the Heart of Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd for all humanity and especially the most disadvantage and needy of our society. This same love which flew from the pierced Heart of the Good Shepherd moved Fr. Maximillian Ryllo, Annetto Casolani, Ignaz Knoblecher and Fr. Angelo Vinco to sail to this land. Fr. Angelo Vinco later will inspire the young Comboni to shift his desire of going to Japan to (Central) Africa. St. Daniel Comboni detached himself from what was dear to him (land, culture, aging parents, etc) and travelled up to Central Africa with other six missionaries sent by Mazza in 1857. Due to hardships they ended in Holy Cross (Shambe) where several of them died including Oliboni the leader of the expedition. Comboni never reached Gondokoro but all the same Africa will constantly dominate his heart… a heart that lived only for Africa and Africans. The happiest of his days was when he died in this Africa, on the 10th Oct. 1881. In another attempt some followers of Comboni (missionaries) under the guidance of Bishop Francis-Xavier Gayer, arrived Gondokoro in 1910 with the intention of reviving the mission – Fr. Giovanni Batista Pedrana 1913. In 1919 they open a station in Rajaf which eventually became the first centre from which the evangelisation of Equatoria started. Among the missionaries that worked in Rajaf we remember the first group formed by Msgr. Giuseppe Zambonardi, Fr Lorenzo Spagnolo, Fr Luigi Medici, Fr Fausto Federici, Fr. Stefano Patroni, and the Brothers Lazzari Gaspare and Zordan Giuseppe. Then other missionaries joined: Fr Domenico Gocci, Fr Rosciano Giuseppe, Fr Polacco Battista, Fr Polati Andrea and Fr Rosanelli Renato with the Brothers Morcelli Tobia, Barzaghi Angelo and Vanzo Enrico. We also have to mention the Bishop Mazzoldi Sisto. In early eighties the last Comboni community was formed by Fr Tito Giuntoli, Fr Mattia Bizzarro, Fr Mario Busellato, Fr Giuseppe Farina and Bro. Ambrogio Confalonieri.

Comboni faced with hardship would said, “I would like to have a hundred tongs and a hundred hearts to speak for poor Africa which is the least known and most abandoned part of the world and so the most difficult to evangelize. But the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary are enough for all, and I expect miracles through their mediation. Many sacrifices will be necessary, but the sacrifice to make Africa Christian is worth them all.  The lives of my many companions, who died during the explorations we carried out ten years ago as far as 2 degrees North, were accepted by God and will be, I hope, the seed of new apostles and of many Christians.” Yes, indeed the lives of his companions has become the seed of new apostles. Today all our dioceses are led by the sons of this land and moreover, we have more than 500 religious compose of 49 congregations spread throughout the country. They dedicate themselves generously in several ministries such education, health, care of orphans, parish pastoral work, etc. We would like, in especial way, to remember Sr. Veronica and Fr. Victor who recently were killed in Yei and Ciuebet respectively. They not only share the life of our people but they watered our soil with their blood. In this way they shared the destination of the Master.

As we continue to encounter challenges, we are invited to deepen our relationship of trust in the Lord. The vocation to go forth is our identity and we are ready to continue to give our lives up to the last drop to make the disadvantage of our country experience the unconditional love that flows from the pierced heart of the Good Shepherd.