Leer – Nyal
Leer Comboni Missionary Community
Where we are
Our missionary community is based in Leer, a town which is located about 120 kilometres southwards Bentiu, the capital city of Unity State. We live and work amongst the Nuer people, whom belong to the Nilotic group and are the second largest ethnic group in South Sudan.The Nuer people are referred to as Naath in their own language. Nuer is the English terminology correspondent to Naath. We have made home amongst the western Nuer since 1996. Our community has been entrusted with the pastoral care of Saint Joseph the Worker Parish, which is under the Diocese of Malakal, whose Apostolic Administrator is Msgr. Roko Taban Mosa. This immense parish is comprised of four counties: Leer, Mayendit, Panyijiar, and Koch.
Where we come from
We form an international community of:
• Fr. Jacob Solomon Shole, from Ethiopia
• Fr. Pellegrino Mario, from Italy
The mission we do
It is a mission of first evangelisation. Our work as missionaries is basically divided into pastoral and human promotion. Through these evangelising works we announce and witness Jesus Christ and his Kingdom of love, justice, and peace. Priority is given to the formation of local Christian leaders, teaching on and celebration of the Sacraments, human promotion and awareness to JPIC issues.
The general objective of St. Joseph Parish:
Our mission is to evangelize through the proclamation of the Word of God and the testimony of life, so that the person of Jesus Christ may be widely known and deeply encountered, to contribute with the building up of the Church as the Family of God, and, in a spirit of solidarity, to promote the Common Good, Reconciliation, Justice and Peace.
The specifics objectives are:
a) To increase the Christian formation of all the faithful by putting the Sacred Scriptures into their hands, so that the Word of God may be known, loved, pondered and preserved in their hearts, and by training and empowering the pastoral agents for evangelization.
b) To build up the Church as the Family of God so that each member should play a role and the Christian families may become true “domestic churches” contributing to the progress of society by putting their energies at the service of the common good towards a more fraternal life based on the Gospel, while preserving its own essential values.
c) To continue working towards the organization of each Christian community, so that, as far as possible, they can provide for their own needs aiming at self-sufficiency.
d) To bear witness to Christ through the promotion of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace, so that a more just, peaceful and reconciled society may be built.
In the footsteps of Comboni
Following the footsteps of Saint Daniel Comboni, we make common cause with the most poor and abandoned. In the diversity of ministries we do in the parish and in the field of human promotion (VTC/Nursery schools), we encourage one another, so that every confrere sees his service as the expression of the community at his back. The revision of our ministries at community level helps us to avoid isolation and foster an evangelical sign of communion in the place where we are.
Saving Africa with Africa
We favour a good relationship with the Nuer people believing that they are the main actors of the transformation towards a self reliant and supportive community. The empowerment we foster implies a trust in our people of the area. More than ever, at this particular moment in the history of the Republic of South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, we need to form and empower local leaders according to the values of the Gospel, the Social teaching of the Church and the Document of the Second African Synod (Church in Africa for Justice, Peace and Reconciliation).
For a better result of our ministries we try our best to learn the Nuer language, which helps us to enter into their culture and to get as well as to receive the message across, and to collaborate with other forces on the ground, especially the Comboni Missionaries Sisters and the civil society (NGOs). We do training in our different ministries, making them aware of their potentialities, promoting local ministers and leaders, thus looking forward to a self reliant community. The parish pastoral council and other meetings with the leaders are privileged moments to foster it.
Our Pastoral & Human Promotion Ministries
a) Catechetical Centre ‘James Duol Kai’ (CC) – This pastoral centre was set up with the main purpose of fostering the integral formation of catechists and other church pastoral agents. It is run by the MCCJ and CMS in collaboration with the catechists John Betoang, Michael Gatluak, Stephen Deng and Matthew Papuom. Sr. Anna Gastaldello is the coordinator. The plan is to foster “the formation of formators” and all the catechists and other leaders are the main beneficiaries. There is also a parish coordinator of the pastoral care of the families.
b) Pastoral Care of the Families – This activity is ministered towards the married couples and their families and to those preparing themselves to celebrate the Sacrament of Matrimony in the Church. It gives pastoral guidance and support based on the Gospel values and the teaching of the Church concerning family. Fr. Francesco Chemello and the catechist John Nhial coordinate this activity.
c) Youth Ministry – The young people, the majority in the parish, bring joy, hope and challenges into the Church. The Youth Ministry deals specifically with them. It tries to offer youth a pastoral accompaniment through a systematic formative programme which includes Bible, JPIC, others relevant youth issues, vocation promotion, sport activities and entertainments. The Youth Ministry has its own structure built in permanent material and is coordinated by Fr. Raimundo Rocha, James Dack Major and Sch. Jacob Solomon.
d) Bakhita Group – It is a teenager group. They also attend formation on suitable topics that are relevant to their age. Most of them assist the celebrating community as altar servers and alleluia dancers. As they grow older they eventually are integrated into the youth ministry.
e) Women Ministry – The Women Ministry deals with the organised and non-organised women groups of the parish. It fosters women promotion through Christian formation, education and inclusiveness, which is so much needed in the Nuer society where women are often left at the margin in the decision making process and excluded from other forms of participation. It has its own physical structure built in permanent material. Sr. Laura Perin is the Women Ministry coordinator.
f) Missionary Animation and Vocation Promotion – Our missionary community is committed to stimulate the missionary spirit in the conscience of the people of God among whom we work. It is also our duty to contact possible candidates to missionary and religious life as well as to the diocesan priesthood and other church’s ministries. Fr. Raimundo, Sr. Laura, Sch. Jacob and Br. Hans make up the vocation promotion team.
g) Justice and Peace and Reconciliation – Justice and Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC), besides being a ministry of its own, is also an integral part of the mission of the Church and, as such, it becomes an important dimension which should seriously be taken by the various ministries and work of human promotion. As a ministry, it aims at the formation of leaders in line with the Social Teaching of the Church and the II African Synod (at the service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace) and the mobilisation of the community to take necessary actions of Justice and Peace. This ministry is coordinated by Fr. Raimundo Rocha.
h) Bible Readers – This group is committed with the proclamation of the Word of God as it is read at mass on Sundays. They should read, reflect on and pray with the Holy Scripture before it is proclaimed.
i) Comboni Nursery School – This parish school is set up for children between five and seven years old. Its aim is to offer a good elementary education based on the national curriculum, but also on the values of the Gospel. The school opens the possibility of good relationship and formation with the pupils’ parents. It is under the coordination of Sr. Agata Cantone.
j) Vocational Training Centre St. Daniel Comboni (VTC) – The VTC belongs to the Comboni Missionaries South Sudan and is run by two Comboni Brothers. It was set up with the purpose of offering technical skills on agriculture and animal production. Besides this, the students also acquire a basic knowledge in Mathematics, English, CRE and Entrepreneurship. There are plans to offer them more streams like metal work, carpentry, women promotion and masonry. The parish coordination seeks to make a bridge between VTC and the parishioners. Br. Nicola Bortoli is the director and Br. Hans Ritterbecks is in charge of the administration at the VTC. Scholastic Jacob Solom and Sr. Julia Carmita are members of the VTC teaching staff.
Note: The Comboni Mission in Leer was attacked and looted on 30 January and 1 February 2014 as government forces approached the town which had been under the control of armed opposition forces since the beginning of conflicts on 15 December 2013. The missionaries were forced to leave their residences and run to the bush where they came under attack by mercenaries who shot at them and took their belongs. Thankfully no one was physically injured. Two vehicles of the mission were taken and another vehicle was set ablaze in the incident. The residences of the missionaries, church facilities and church schools were completely looted and some partially destroyed. Some church facilities were burned down. The entire Leer population fled to the bush and villages. Leer town was also burned down. After spending eighteen days in the bush, the missionaries were evacuated to Juba, capital of South Sudan. The mission was suspended in the end of February 2014 due to insecurity. It was resumed in August 2014. Leer was attacked again in May 2015. The missionaries were all evacuated in time. A few months later the missionaries resumed their activities in Nyal, southern of Leer parish, where they have been able to carry out their work up to date.