Three young Comboni missionaries talk about their vocation and their pastoral journeys.
My name is David Costa Domingues, a Comboni missionary from Portugal. I have just celebrated my priestly silver jubilee. I grew up in the simple but profound religiosity of my family and with a certain curiosity for the mission world, which at that time was still very vague. I was going to catechism and, one day, the catechist asked: “Who wants to be a missionary?”, “Me!”, I answered. Everything started from there.
Saying goodbye to family, friends, and my youth football team in Calvão was not easy. But I wanted something more serious and lasting. So, in 1984, I entered the Comboni Seminary in Viseu. I was not alone! A nice group of schoolmates and the football team joined this new adventure.
During the many years of training, I saw my companions take other paths. I moved on. After 14 years of studies, on 9 August 1998, I was ordained a priest in the parish of Calvão, surrounded by my family and the Christian community that had seen me born and grow.
Since then, 25 years of grace have passed, which took me first to the north of Portugal, to Famalicão, for five years (1998-2003), and then to the unknown world of Asia, where I stayed for almost twenty years (2003-2022). If it was all down to my own will, I would certainly still be there! But we are not missionaries to do what we want. Therefore, in June 2022, I agreed to leave Asia to come to Rome where I now find myself performing a different service: this time, to the whole Comboni Institute.
Of the many beautiful experiences, I have had over the past 25 years, here I recount one that has particularly marked me. Shortly after arriving in Manila, Philippines, I could not close my eyes to the reality of the many poor who live and sleep in the streets and struggle to survive, many times with what they find in the garbage from the rich.
So, I started bringing them rice, tins of food, and clothes.
Little by little, this became for me a pleasant habit of communion with these people, accustomed as they were to be ignored and rejected. Out of shame, they preferred to go out at night to look through the rubbish for their daily food. One day, in one of these dumps, I came across a boy who was rummaging through the dirt. I offered him the bag of food I had brought with me and stopped to have a few words with him. At that moment, a young pregnant woman approached and said: “I am so hungry.” The boy looked at her, lowered his eyes to the bag
I had just given him, and, without hesitation, offered it to her. “Take it,” he said. The young woman opened the bag, took a handful of uncooked rice, and began to eat it greedily. Such was the hunger she felt! It was experiences like this that gave me the strength to continue living my missionary life.
In recalling the past 25 years of my priesthood, I can say that I have lived them with all my heart, with joy and sadness, and also with some difficulties and frailties, but wholeheartedly. Precisely for this reason, I celebrated this jubilee with much gratitude. I have had many mission experiences over the years, many of them unforgettable. I have met so many people who, in different ways, have been – and still are – part of my journey. To all of them, I feel I must say: “Thank you from the bottom of my heart!”
Fr Eduardo: “People teach Me how to Be a Missionary”
I am Fr Eduardo Revolledo Villanueva from Lima, Peru. To talk about my vocation, I have to remember my experience in the Comboni parish “Cristo Missionario del Padre”, located on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. Since I was a child and adolescent I participated with great enthusiasm in the groups of altar servers, liturgy, catechesis, and youth. I feel that my vocation to missionary religious life was born from the contact I had with the Comboni Missionaries I met there.
Encouraged by the witness of the Comboni Missionaries, I started a journey of deeper discernment to discover what God wanted for me. With many fears and doubts, but with the conviction that God would accompany me, in 2008 I entered the postulancy of the Comboni Missionaries, the first stage of formation to religious life, and I started studying philosophy.
It was a very positive experience and I was able to share my vocational concerns with young Peruvians and Chileans who had the same ideals and wanted to be missionaries. Then I went to Mexico for almost two years to continue my formation process. It was the first time I left my country and had an international experience.
In 2014 I made my first religious vows. To carry out my theological studies, my superiors assigned me to Kenya. I was in that East African country for almost four years.
Going to another continent and learning new languages was, without a doubt, a great challenge for me. As a missionary, it was necessary to open my mind and heart, strengthen my will and determination to learn from the people and get to know their culture and customs.
After finishing my studies in Kenya, I was assigned to Asia. I spent the first year in Vietnam studying the language and then came to Taiwan to learn Chinese. It was there that I gave my life for the mission with perpetual consecration to God and ordination to the diaconate in the Comboni parish we serve on the outskirts of the capital Taipei. Later, I returned to Peru where I was ordained a priest for the service of the people of God.
At present, I serve as a parish priest in a parish on the outskirts of the city where the Comboni Missionaries live in Taipei (Taiwan).
The parish is small because the percentage of Catholics in the region is low, yet the Christian community is lively and very enthusiastic in the expression of their faith. The parish is very peculiar, as it welcomes Vietnamese immigrants and people coming from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
It is a truly multicultural place, where faith is the meeting point and the union. In the parish we carry out various pastoral tasks, such as accompanying groups of children and teenagers, caring for migrants, indigenous pastoral work, visiting families, and Bible courses.
Normally, we tend to think that missionaries are the ones who teach people about God. However, considering my short experience in Vietnam and Taiwan, I think it is the opposite.
It is the people I meet who, in their simplicity, reveal to me the merciful face of God. They are the ones who taught me how to be a missionary priest, encouraging me to be a close person, willing to learn day by day from them, who share with me their culture, their faith, and their experience with our God who is love and present in their hearts.
Father Moses, “the challenges that face me as a young missionary”
My name is Father Moses Samuel Huruwella, from Malawi. After 13 years of mission in Togo and Ghana, last July, I have just celebrated my first year in the parish of Chikowa, in the Zambian diocese of Chipata, but located very close to the border with Malawi, my native country. The parish was founded in 1941 by the Missionaries of Africa and in 1983 the Comboni Missionaries took it over. I am currently the parish priest and if I have to be honest, I will say that the mission here is not easy at all because there are many challenges that we have to face.
Nestled among the valleys, our parish territory is quite isolated and we are not helped by the poor state of the communication routes, which become impassable during the rainy season. The government has abandoned this area for many years, which is reflected in both the communication routes and other aspects of life.
The number of schools is insufficient and the numbers of enrolments are scandalous: less than 30% in the primary schools, even if the figure is even worse in the very few middle schools in the area. Even though, as missionaries, we have sought to intensify schooling, we face the reluctance of many parents who do not see the use of school and do not want to send their sons, let alone their daughters to school.
Many girls fall behind in their studies, which has consequences for them, such as the proliferation of teenage pregnancies. Another challenge is the shortage of teachers and the low level of education.
Health is another of our concerns. The list of diseases that people suffer from is long. There are frequent cases of malaria, anemia, tuberculosis, malnutrition, and tropical sores.
As for the life of faith, despite the presence of the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations, people remain very attached to their traditional beliefs. Even those who have accepted Christianity profess their faith in God while practicing their traditional beliefs. It is evident that, despite our widespread presence in the area, we still have much to do to inculturate the faith.
As a missionary, I accept all the challenges that the social reality presents, and with love and patience I try to adapt to people’s level of understanding and point of view, always respecting their culture.