“The fragility of man and the world: a look at the challenges of the mission”
With this very current theme, the annual Conference of Formation of the Secular Institute Cooperators of Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate (COMI) took place in Rome from 28 February to 1 March, 2020.
The COMI are consecrated lay people who share the Oblate charism and commit themselves to live it in society and in the Church. Founded in 1951, thanks to the encouragement of Fr. Gaetano Liuzzo OMI, members of COMI are now present in four countries that belong to three continents: Italy, Uruguay, DR Congo and Argentina. Their Constrictions and Rules, which received pontifical approval in 2001, provide for collaboration with the OMI Congregation and the presence of an Oblate Assistant who guarantees their communion in the Oblate charism. Their current Assistant is Fr. Fabio Ciardi OMI.
“In these three days of fraternal and joyful gathering, together with some OMI brothers and lay associates who share the charism, we have communicated our weaknesses, as persons and as an Institute. We recommitted ourselves to bear and share each other’s burdens, but above all to look at the mutual beauty that missionary work brings to the Church and society today,” said Pina, a COMI, at the end of the Conference.
The conference began with a brief greeting from the President, Ileana Chinnici. It was followed by the presentation by Fr. Francesco Volpintesta, OMI, who under the theme ‘The courage to listen to life’, spoke of how Saint Eugene de Mazenod became aware of his weaknesses and allowed the grace of God to act in him until He gave him “a heart as big as the world”.
On Saturday afternoon, Cristina Jiménez Dominguez, consecrated COMI and geriatrician by profession in Madrid, delivered a speech entitled ‘The joy of Simeone’, reflecting together on how the elderly and the sick can be encouraged to look at the arrival of their definitive encounter with God and Eternity with the eyes of faith. Then, Fr. Aldo D’Ottavio, OMI told us about his ‘Experience of Service and Mission’ among factory workers, experiencing the poverty and vulnerability of those who often find themselves at the bottom of the social ladder. Finally, on Sunday morning, the young activist Lorenzo Vecchi, engaged as a volunteer of the COMI, dealt with the issue of ‘Climate Justice: a new mission frontier’, presenting the need and urgency of living a coherent lifestyle with respect for and protection of the creation.
Concluding the Conference, the President reminded us how our fragility can hide new opportunities, which must not frighten us, but must become an instrument for God’s action in us.