Eight Comboni Missionary Sisters pose for a photo outside
Black and White image of the first Comboni Missionary sisters wearing the old style habits

On New Year’s Day in 1872, in Verona, Italy, St. Daniel Comboni officially founded the Comboni Missionary Sisters. He was not new at working with religious women. In fact, for some twelve years, the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, whom he had first met in the Holy Land, sustained his missionary vision both in Egypt and in the Sudan. Much earlier on, in Verona, he had learned from the group of young African women teachers living at the Mazza Institute the essential role that women would play in the evangelizing endeavor of the Church.

From the small group of five Sisters with whom he first traveled from Italy to Egypt, to something over a thousand living today in 145 multicultural and multigenerational communities, the Pie Madri della Nigrizia — now known as the Comboni Missionary Sisters — strive to witness to God’s merciful presence in a world filled with marginalized and impoverished people. They seek to remind everyone that God always hears their cry, and always comes to their rescue.

Comboni Missionary Sister Maria Teresa Romo, originally from Portugal, says, “Retracing our history is important to remember and to give thanks, but also to find the light we need to live the present and the future in a ‘charismatic’ way. Charism,” she says, “shapes the lifestyle and the services with which we respond to the needs of a given time in a given place. Living charismatically is equivalent to assuming and carrying out our task in the world.”

She notes that modern life is complex and declining numbers of those pursuing a religious vocation is just another challenge. But, she says, there are new opportunities in this as well. “It urgently pushes us to reorganize our presence, our governance structures, and our missionary methodology.”

Sr. Martina Prado Fernandez, missionary and vocational animator in Madrid, Spain, told Fides, “This year is an opportunity to reread our history and find further confirmations in it that give us energy and courage to navigate the complexity of our time. The Jubilee is certainly a moment worth recognition, because the history of our congregation allows us to recognize the guiding hand of God, who has so often led us on unknown paths, protected us, strengthened our faith, and nourished in us the courage to go forward.”

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