Daniele Comboni (15 March 1831 – 10 October 1881) was a Roman Catholic missionary and Saint, the missionary in the heart of Africa who was beatified in 1996 and canonized by John Paul II in Rome on October 5, 2003. Daniele Comboni, the son of poor gardeners who became the first Catholic Bishop of Central Africa, and one of the great missionaries in the Church’s history, was born at Limone sul Garda, and the native Comboni’s House has been for more than a century a source of inspiration to generations of people, missionaries and lay persons committed to helping others. The Combonian missionaries are happy to give you an opportunity to learn more about their Founder, the place that tempered his spirit and the ideals for which he lived and died. Comboni Missionary Center Limone sul Garda welcomes anyone who seeks an intense religious experience in a world of silence and prayer and in contact with nature, welcome priests, monks, nuns, seminarians, clergy and laypeople for workshops, retreats and spiritual exercises. Saint Daniele Comboni’s house in Limone sul Garda is also the site of pilgrimages for diocesan and parish groups.
COMBONI’S LIFE AND DEES
Daniele Comboni is born at Limone sul Garda on 15th, March 1831, into a family of cultivators employed by one of the rich local proprietors. Poor in material things, this poverty forces Daniel to go away to school in Verona, in the Institute founded by Father Nicola Mazza. During the years spent in Verona, Daniel discovers his calling to the priesthood, completes his studies of Philosophy and Theology and, above all, is entranced by the mission of Central Africa, drawn by the descriptions of the missionaries who return from there to the Mazza Institute. Comboni is ordained in 1854, and three years later leaves for Africa himself. After a journey of four months the missionary expedition that includes Comboni reaches Khartoum, capital of the Sudan. The impact of this first face-to-face encounter with Africa is tremendous, Daniel is immediately made aware of the multiple difficulties that are part of his new mission. But labours, unbearable climate, sickness, the deaths of several of his young fellow-missionaries, the poverty and dereliction of the population, only serve to drive him forward, never dreaming of giving up what he has taken on with such great enthusiasm. After withessing at the death of one of his missionary companions, Comboni, far from being discouraged, feels an interior confirmation of his decision to carry on in the mission: “O Nigrizia o morte!” – Africa, or death. It is still Africa and its peoples that drive Comboni, when he returns to Italy, to work out a fresh missionary strategy. In 1864, while praying at the Tomb of St Peter in Rome, Daniel is struck by a brilliant inspiration that leads to the drawing up of his famous Plan for the Rebirth of Africa, a missionary project that can be summed up in an expression which is itself the indication of his boundless trust in the human and religious capacities of the African peoples: “Save Africa through Africa”. n spite of all the problems and misunderstandings he has to face, Daniele Comboni strives to drive home his intuition: that all European society and the Church are called to become much more concerned with the mission of Central Africa. He undertakes a tireless round of missionary animation all over Europe, begging for spiritual and material aid for the African missions from Kings and Queens. Bishops and nobles, as well as from the poor, simple people. As a tool for missionary animation he launches a missionary magazine, the first in Italy. His unshakeable faith in the Lord and trust for Africa lead him to found, in 1867 and 1872 respectively, two missionary Institutes of men and of women: these become known more widely as the Comboni Missionaries and the Comboni Missionary Sisters (Verona Fathers and Sisters). He takes part in the first Vatican Council as the theologian of the Bishop of Verona, and gets 70 Bishops to sign a petition for the evangelisation of Central Africa (Postulatum pro Nigris Africæ Centralis). On 2nd, July 1877, Comboni is named Vicar Apostolic of Central Africa, and ordained Bishop a month later: it is confirmation that his ideas and his activities considered by some to be foolhardy, if not crazy are recognised as truly effective means for the proclamation of the God News and the liberation of the African continent. In 1877 and 1878 he and all his missionaries are tormented in body and spirit by the tragedy of a drought followed by starvation without precedent. The local populations are halved, and the missionary personnel and their activities reduced almost to nothing. In 1880, with unflagging determination, Bishop Comboni travels to Africa for the eighth and last time, to stand alongside his missionaries: intent, also, on continuing the struggle against the pernicious Slave Trade, and on consolidating the missionary activity carried out by Africans themselves. Just one year later, overwhelmed by his labours, by many deaths in quick succession among his collaborators, by a wave of calumnies and accusations that are a bitter burden, the great missionary falls sick himself. On 10th, October 1881, only 50 years old, marked by the Cross which, like a faithful and loving bride, has never let him, he dies in Khartoum, among his people. But he is aware that his missionary work will not end with him: “I am dying”, he says, “but my work will not die”.