Comboni Missionaries

South Sudan

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Map of South Sudan (Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin)

Our history in South Sudan

Historical notes on the Comboni Missionary presence in South Sudan

1.1 – Daniel Comboni
Daniel Comboni reached South Sudan on February 14, 1858 at Holy Cross mission on the banks of the White Nile (lat. 7°). For health reasons he left it on January 15, 1859. His first contact with South Sudan was marked by sufferings and the death of his companion, Don Oliboni. He and his companions went back to Italy very sick.
Deep in his heart, Comboni cherished all his life the wish to return to the equatorial regions of Central Africa. This earnest aspiration was not to be fulfilled by him personally, but by his followers as soon as the historical circumstances made it possible.

1.1.1 – First missionary presence (1901–1964)
The first missionary station in South Sudan was opened by the Comboni Missionaries in Lul among the Shilluk in 1901. Kayango and Mbili, near Wau, among the Jur were opened in 1904. To these followed many more foundations of missions all over South Sudan and many missionaries worked and established Christian communities.
In January 1, 1956, Sudan became independent from the British-Egyptian rule. But the civil war, called later the Anyanya One, had already begun in 1955. It was caused by unjust and unfair treatment of the Southern population by the Government of Sudan. The Anyanya war ended in 1972 with the Addis Ababa Agreement.
The rapid expansion of the Church in the Sudan received a severe blow in 1964, when all expatriate missionaries working in the Southern regions were expelled from the area.

1.1.2 – Second missionary presence (1971–1992)
While in exile, the Comboni Missionaries continued to hope firmly for a return to Southern Sudan.
In 1971, a Comboni community made up of Sudanese confreres, returned to Nzara, among the Zande. With the Addis Ababa Agreement (1972), there came the chance to return but at a rather slow rhythm, due to the many difficulties in obtaining entry permits from the Khartoum Government.
In 1979, there were 15 priests and seven brothers working in South Sudan and their number kept increasing year by year.
In 1980, the General Council, following the advice of the Khartoum Province, divided the Sudan in two administrative missionary areas, i.e. the Khartoum Province and the South Sudan Region, at first headed by a representative of the Superior General (Fr. Cefalo – 1 June 1981) and subsequently by a Delegate (October 15, 1982).
In 1983, the second phase of the war between North and South began with the insurrection of the Bor Garrison led by John Garang and the beginning of the activities of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
In these years, the Delegation increased in personnel and commitments and on March 12, 1985 it was elevated to the status of a province. The elected provincial was Fr. Cesare Mazzolari who was succeeded by Fr. Abel Modi in 1990 when the former was appointed Apostolic Administrator of Rumbek.
The SPLA, having consolidated its hold on vast regions of South Sudan, tried twice to take Juba in 1992 (June and July) but only made life more miserable for the poor citizens of Juba.
For safety reasons all the expatriate missionaries were asked to leave the town: the Sudanese confreres remained in Juba up to 1994.

1.1.3 – Third missionary presence (from 1990 onward)

1.1.3.1 – The New Sudan Group
Because of the guerrilla situation, many stations were abandoned one by one due to the lack of security and the missionaries went to Juba. Some remained; others left and started pastoral work in the liberated areas of South Sudan. The decision to be present in the liberated areas was not an easy one: it came after a long discernment of the General Council and with the encouragement of the Pro-Nunzio, the Sacred Congregation of Evangelization of Peoples and the Bishops. In July 1991, seven confreres were appointed to the ‘New Sudan’ group. Fr. Calligari was the coordinator.
The presence of the group in the liberated areas was not easy, due to the alternating evolution of politics and war and the internal split of the SPLA during the second half of 1991. At the end of that year, the New Sudan group of Comboni Missionaries consisted of 13 confreres with four communities: Nzara, Loa, Isoke and Yirol.
From March to June 1992, the Forces of the Government of Sudan recaptured many towns and rural areas from the SPLA, causing death and displacement among the population.
By the end of May 1992, except for the community of Nzara, all the Comboni personnel of the liberated area were asked to leave South Sudan. These confreres met in Nairobi for a re-assessment of the situation. As a result, some were assigned to other provinces, and some took care of Sudanese refugees in Kakuma (Kenya) and Kocoa (Uganda). By the end of July, there were nine confreres left in the New Sudan. Fr. Francesco Chemello was appointed coordinator of the group.
Between the end of 1992 and 1993, there was the time to search for new locations inside South Sudan: it was the most unsettled phase, since confreres were obliged to flee abruptly from one place to another, due to the alternative development of the war between government forces and SPLA and among the factions of the SPLA itself.
With the falling of Kaya (August 1993), on the border with Uganda, into the hands of the government, all links with the stations inside South Sudan were cut off. All relief activities through Uganda towards Bahr El Ghazal and Western Equatoria received a big blow and many Sudanese fled to Uganda and settled in the area of Koboko and Lodonga. Church activities could not be planned any more from Uganda, so the point of reference became Nairobi due to air transport facilities.
Tentative plans were made by the Diocese of Rumbek to have a presence in Thiet and Nyamlell, but without result: Church personnel had to be evacuated. However, the period between the end of 1994 and 1998 was without major disturbances; this allowed the opening of several other communities.

1.1.3.2 – Southern Sudan Delegation (1995)
On January 1, 1995, the New Sudan group became juridically the South Sudan Delegation. Fr. Francesco Chemello was appointed Superior of the Delegation. The personnel by this time consisted of 16 confreres. The General Council took to heart the situation of South Sudan and sent more personnel, especially after the visit of two general councilors: by the end of 1996, the confreres were 28 and in 2000 they were 36.
During this time, new missions were opened: Agang Rial, Marial Lou and Mapuordit among the Dinka; Nyal and Old Fangak among the Nuer; Narus among the Topossa; and Lomin among the Kuku.
1.1.3.3 – South Sudan Province (2002)
Upon suggestion by the confreres, a formal request was submitted to the General Council on the occasion of the Intercapitular Assembly of September 2000 to return the delegation to the status of province. The request was accepted and the South Sudan Province was formally constituted on January 1, 2002. Fr. Ezio Bettini became the Provincial.
1.1.3.4 – Return to Juba
On January 9, 2005, in Nairobi (Kenya), the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) signed the historical Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with the Government of Khartoum which brought about the end of the second civil war. In the following year, the provincial moved to Juba, to the Comboni House, while extensive repairs and maintenance works were still going on.

Daniel Comboni

Daniel Comboni

Saint Daniel Comboni was born on 15 March 1831 in Limone sul Garda, Italy and died on 10 October 1881 (aged 50) in Khartoum, Sudan, Africa. Venerated in Roman Catholicism he was Beatified on 17 March 1996, in Rome, by Pope John Paul II and Canonized on 5 October 2003, in Rome, also by Pope John Paul II. His feast day according to the Roman Liturgical Calendar is on 10 October.

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Our mission

The Comboni Missionaries are a society of Priests and Brothers founded in 1867 by St. Daniel Comboni, as an International Missionary Institute,

  • for the evangelization of peoples
  • bearing witness to the Gospel in dialogue and cooperation with other cultures and religions,
  • in deep respect for all human beings with preference for the poorest and marginalized,
  • fostering their development in a more just, fair and equitable world.

The Comboni Missionaries welcome young people ready to dedicate their lives to the service of the Gospel in every country the Superiors may assign them

WHAT DO WE DO?
The Comboni Missionaries dedicate themselves to the spreading of the Gospel and to foster human development in 40 countries worldwide. In Africa they are present in 16 countries.

In South Sudan the Comboni Missionaries collaborate with the Local Church

  • in first evangelization and pastoral care among the Dinka, Nuer, Bari, Mundari and Kuku communites
  • in the formation of leaders, lay ministers, priests and missionaries, and in mission animation and vocation promotion
  • in mass media, thruogh their participation in the Catholic Radio Netowrk (CRN), the largest radio Network in Africa, which has been very instrumental on the socio political life of the country
  • in fostering education and health care 
  • in promoting Justice and Peace and Reconciliation

What we do

The Comboni Missionaries dedicate themselves to the spreading of the Gospel and to foster human development in 40 countries worldwide. In Africa they are present in 16 countries.
In South Sudan the Comboni Missionaries collaborate with the Local Church

  • in first evangelization and pastoral care among the Dinka, Nuer, Bari, Mundari and Kuku communities
  • in the formation of leaders, lay ministers, priests and missionaries, and in mission animation and vocation promotion
  • in mass media, through their participation in the Catholic Radio Network (CRN), the largest radio Network in Africa, which has been very instrumental on the sociopolitical life of the country
  • in fostering education and health care
  • in promoting Justice and Peace and Reconciliation

FIELDS OF WORK

  • Pastoral work
  • Education
  • Capacity building
  • Health
  • Radio
  • Agriculture
  • Justice and Peace

 

HISTORICAL NOTES OF THE PRESENCE OF COMBONI MISSIOANRONARIES IN SOUTH SUDAN

Historical notes on the Comboni Missionary presence in South Sudan

1.1 – Daniel Comboni
Daniel Comboni reached South Sudan on February 14, 1858 at Holy Cross mission on the banks of the White Nile (lat. 7°). For health reasons he left it on January 15, 1859. His first contact with South Sudan was marked by sufferings and the death of his companion, Don Oliboni. He and his companions went back to Italy very sick.
Deep in his heart, Comboni cherished all his life the wish to return to the equatorial regions of Central Africa. This earnest aspiration was not to be fulfilled by him personally, but by his followers as soon as the historical circumstances made it possible.

Read more...

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