Catholic Aid Agency Highlights Comboni Missionary Sisters’ Apostolate in Ethiopia

Credit: Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

The apostolate of the members of the Religious Institute of Comboni Missionary Sisters among the indigenous in Ethiopia has been highlighted in a report, which Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International published Friday, October 23.

The Sisters whose evangelization mission involves “preparing catechumens for the reception of Baptism and a number of engaged couples for Catholic marriage” have reached out to members of two indigenous communities in Northwest Ethiopia, Gumuz and Agaw, the leadership of ACN has reported.

“Most of the people here still follow traditional pagan African religions and their lives are overshadowed by all kinds of superstitions,” the leadership of the Catholic pastoral aid organization says in the report, referring to the members of the Gumuz and the Agaw communities who inhabit the Benishangul-Gumuz region of the Horn of Africa country.

The Comboni Sisters in Ethiopia carry out their mission among the Gumuz, a people who “believe that the blood of a woman in childbirth will bring a curse upon them,” the leadership of ACN indicates.

An expectant woman from the Gumuz community, including young girls with no experience in childbirth, “must leave her village, go to an isolated spot, and bring her child into the world alone and without help,” CAN officials report and add in reference to women who seclude themselves to give birth, “Many die as a result.”

Due to their strong traditional beliefs, members of the Gumuz community did not record a baptism until 18 years ago, ACN officials say and note that since then, “there has been continued and growing interest in the Catholic faith, and year by year there are increasing numbers of baptisms, including even in some of the remotest villages.”

Children and the young people are reportedly showing an interest in the Catholic faith, according to ACN officials.

They add that men are “harder to reach” mainly because “polygamy is widely practiced among them and consequently a man who accepts baptism can no longer live with several wives.”

Many women are also embracing the Catholic faith, officials of the 73-year-old organization say in the October 23 report seen by ACI Africa and add that for women, “the Gospel is a source of liberation.”

However, ACN leadership observes that members of the two communities “are only at the beginning of their road of Christian faith and still need intensive pastoral accompaniment and support.”

Amid the changing religious dynamics of the people of Gumuz and the Agaw ethnic tribes, the Comboni Missionary Sisters are doing their best to evangelize.

The Chapel of the Sisters “is a meeting place for a range of different gatherings aimed at strengthening and deepening the people’s faith,” ACN officials report.

They, however, note that the Sisters are experiencing some challenges in their pastoral work such as not having sufficient materials for their catechesis work and the formation of catechists; inability to service the car that they use to access the villages; as well as their inability to complete the construction of a Chapel in one of the villages.

As a way forward, ACN officials are proposing to reach out to the Sisters with a contribution of 6,500 Euros (USD 7,706.30), they indicate in their October 23 report.

Founded in 1872 by Italian-born missionary St. Daniel Comboni, the Religious Institute has 1267 members serving in four continents, 227 of them in Africa.

Besides Ethiopia, the Comboni Sisters serve in Zambia, Eritrea, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Egypt, Congo, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Mozambique, and South Sudan.

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]