Vocation Story. At the service of communities

Father Marcelo Fonseca Oliveira, a Portuguese Comboni missionary, chose at a very young age to follow God’s plans. We asked him to tell us about his missionary vocation and his mission in the Comboni Family.

I was born and raised in the village of Sobral, in Mortágua. I was 12 years old when some Comboni missionaries passed through my town, telling stories of their missionary life. One of them spoke about the reality of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I was enchanted by what he said and immediately felt a strong desire to do something like him.

I began my vocational journey at the age of 15 in the minor seminary. Then I studied philosophy in the postulancy of Maia and did the novitiate in Santarém. In 2001, I took my first religious vows. In the same year, I was sent to the international scholasticate of Kinshasa, the capital of the DR Congo, where I remained for four years, until the end of my theological studies. In 2005, I returned to Portugal where I was ordained a priest. I then spent six and a half years working in youth ministry and missionary animation.

In 2012, I returned to DR Congo for my first missionary experience. I was assigned to the Comboni community of Sant’Anna, in Isiro, in the eastern region of the country. I spent five years there engaged in evangelization in a parish of 120 km2, with around 50 chapels. We visited the various Christian communities either by motorbike or on foot, trying to reach them all regularly.

The smaller communities were more disadvantaged by the lack of priests and were forced to rely on the service of lay Christians for catechesis, prayer meetings and celebrations of the word of God on Sundays.

In 2017 I returned to Kinshasa, where I still am. My work takes place mainly in the office, as the main administrator of the Comboni work in this country. It may seem strange or even paradoxical, but despite being confined to my office, I am “open” to the various communities that the Institute has in this country: in fact, I have to deal with visas, passports, residence permits, travel, various documents, economic issues, projects… I follow with all the attention I am capable of the many problems and the thousand difficulties of the confreres, I take care of their movements, I follow their activities, I intervene when there is a need to resolve bureaucratic issues, and I try to help them in getting the donations they receive from relatives and friends… I share their concerns in terms of managing parishes, training or reception centres… In truth, I can say that I am aware of everything that happens in the province, in individual communities, in the missions…

The population of this immense African nation has been suffering from a chronic lack of security for years, especially in the eastern part, where armed clashes and ethnic conflicts are the order of the day, often due to the frantic race to grab the many precious metals hidden underground.

It is worth saying: the immense wealth hidden underground is the main cause of the misery of these people. The poor toil away, but it is the rich who export gold, diamonds, cobalt, and coltan (much sought after by the IT industry) abroad – and always in a roundabout way!

Fortunately, we can also count on the help of some institutions and the many generous people who continue to support the Congolese Church and the Comboni mission.

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