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A graced history

Our history is significantly marked with the crown of martyrdom of our 25 martyrs – priests, brothers and sisters – who shed their blood at the service of the Gospel and the people in dangerous spots.

This year, the Institute of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus is celebrating 150 years of existence. It was on June 1, 1876 that St. Daniel Comboni founded, in Verona, Italy, the “Institute for the African Missions.”

Comboni summarized his intuition for Africa and his missionary Institute in the epithet “Save Africa with Africa.” He wanted the involvement of the Africans themselves in the evangelization and human development of the continent. To achieve this goal, Comboni dreamed of a ‘catholic’ institute that embraced priests, nuns, lay men, women from different countries, working in a collaborative and inclusive ministry.

The congregation’s beginnings were humble. At the end of the nineteenth century, it had only sixty priests, brothers and seminarians. Today, it comprises 1,529 (as of February 2017) missionaries spread across four continents – Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe.

Previously, the majority of the Comboni Missionaries came from the western hemisphere, mostly Italy, the home country of the Founder. Today, the membership panorama has changed remarkably. Amazingly enough, the sources of new and numerous vocations to our congregation are countries like the Republic Democratic of Congo, Togo and Uganda.

This new “vocational geography” has reached our leadership with 12 out of 13 provinces in Africa having as superiors African Combonis, with the current Superior General, Fr. Tesfaye Gebresilasie, elected in the General Chapter of 2015, coming from Ethiopia.

Such development is seen as the natural outcome of our Founder’s charismatic option for Africa and his full-hearted commitment to the continent. It signifies that St. Comboni has gained roots in the African soil with young people finding attractive his example of life and love of God and the mission.

This relative vitality spurs us to continue living out our Comboni and missionary vocation and pass it on to the younger generations.

Our history is significantly marked with the crown of martyrdom of our 25 martyrs – priests, brothers and sisters – who shed their blood at the service of the Gospel and the people in dangerous spots.

We thank God for this grace-filled history of ours that inspires us to continue witnessing the Kingdom of God in the footsteps of our Father Founder.


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