Home > Archives > 12 - 2003 > «Saint Joseph, the real father of Negritude»
from issue no. 12 - 2003

«Saint Joseph, the real father of Negritude»

We print a preview of one of the sixty-seven unpublished letters of Comboni that have been brought to light by researchers

by Stefania Falasca

The little image with Jesus, Mary and Saint Joseph which Daniele Comboni always carried with him and before which he used to pray

The little image with Jesus, Mary and Saint Joseph which Daniele Comboni always carried with him and before which he used to pray

For the centenary of the death of Daniele Comboni in 1991, the General Direction of the Combonians published the letters and reports of their founder. The volume Writings, numbering 2,207 pages, brings together 904 of the 1,300 documents the Institute possessed at that time. Those texts have now been increased by 67 new finds, the fruit of the recent research of such scholars as Massimo Zaccaria and Giovanni Seccia, the Combonians Josef Uhl and Piergiorgio Prandina. «These new documents, which are still to be studied and critically presented by the historians,» the archivist Father Pietro Ravasio explains, «illuminate and confirm Comboni’s image and spiritual identity, they enrich the story of his missionary experience and bring out the controlling ideas contained in the “Plan for the regeneration of Africa with Africa” and of the “Postulatum pro Nigris” at Vatican Council I, contributing to highlight the ecclesial importance that his canonization offers».
By the kind permission of the General Direction of the Combonians, that has allowed us to inspect some of the new finds, we print one of them. It is a letter written by Comboni to the Lateran Canon Regular of the order of Saint Augustine, Johannes Chrysostomus Mitterrutzner of the abbey of Novacella, near Bressanone. A figure of prime importance in the study of central Africa and the history of the missions in Africa. A great friend of Don Nicola Mazza, founder of the Missionary Institute where Comboni had trained, he wrote and published, among other important and detailed work, dictionaries of African dialects and translated the whole of Luke’s Gospel into the Dinka language. He was always a precious and irreplaceable point of reference for Comboni. Of the letters Comboni sent to Mitterrutzner about thirty have survived. This unpublished recent discovery, the original manuscript of which is in the abbey of Novacella, is dated 1875. That was the year in which Comboni, after receiving the appointment of Provicar Apostolic to central Africa and the task entrusted to his Missionary Institute by Pius IX, performed the solemn act of consecration of the vicariate to our Lord of the Sacred Heart in the mission post at El-Obeid. In this long letter, from which we print an excerpt, Comboni confides to his friend that he has learned of his future nomination as first bishop of central Africa (a nomination that came into effect two later years) and tells of the vicissitudes he has found himself facing in that difficult mission.
From the story emerges, in unusual detail, all his unshakable faith in Providence and his “nonchalant” trust in Saint Joseph, whom he here describes as the «true father of Negritude».

Italiano Español Français Deutsch Português