Monday, April 7, 2003

Mission founder to be saint

Comboni went to Africa

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

Since the 1860s, Comboni Missionaries have traveled to Africa to do God's work. This year, founder Daniel Comboni will be canonized a saint Oct. 5 at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

"Comboni did the work of God; that we know. We're trying to be faithful to the mission and through that, we hope we're doing God's work," said the Rev. Paul Donohue of Comboni Missionaries, which has North American headquarters in Anderson Township.

For a person to be recognized as a saint, he or she must have lived a faithful life, and the church must recognize two miracles performed by God on the person's behalf.

Dan Andriacco, communications director for the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, said the church does not create saints.

"We're recognizing what we believe to be a reality. It doesn't add to them. It does something for us. It puts that person up as a model of a good Christian," Andriacco said. "The idea of saints is to inspire us to be better people."

Comboni was born in 1831 in northern Italy. He traveled to Africa with five other missionaries, but within a year he was the only one who survived. He founded his own institute for missionaries, and although he died in 1881 of a fever at age 50, the mission continued, Donohue said.

The mission now has 4,000 priests, brothers, sisters and lay missionaries in 40 countries in Africa, South America and Asia. They have formed hundreds of schools and continue to operate five hospitals.

Since his death, Comboni has been credited with two miracles.

In 1970, Maria Jose' Paixa'o went to a hospital in Sao Matesu, Brazil. She was diagnosed with a terminal infection in her abdomen. But after prayer to Comboni, she was cured, Donohue said.

Then in 1997, a Muslim mother of five children, Ludna Abdel Aziz, was ill after childbirth and expected to die in Khartoum, Sudan, the city where Comboni died. But nuns prayed to Comboni and placed a holy card in her bed, and she survived.

This past February, Aziz was able to travel to Mecca for the hajj, or pilgrimage.

"It broadens one's vision of God to see that the miracle involved a Muslim woman," Donohue said. "It shows us we need to open our theological vision to be able to see God working amongst all people."


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