Emergency COVID-19 Appeal

Caring for the Elderly Comboni Sisters

Dear friends,

We all know how much the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people in many different ways. Our hearts and prayers are very much with those who suffered from the disease and lost members of their family.

It was well publicised that the Lombardy region in northern Italy was the first in Europe to be severely affected by Covid-19. Regional Lombardy councils and hospitals were unable to keep up with the alarming speed of contagion and ensuing deaths. Our own community of Bergamo Sisters which consisted of 61 nuns, were affected by the Coronavirus. Most of them fell seriously ill and unfortunately we lost 15% of our Bergamo community.

The worldwide members of our Comboni Community united in providing personnel, practical assistance and support to the Sisters in Bergamo. A number of Comboni missionary doctors and nurses from the Middle East, Kenya and Zambia, made themselves available and travelled during the peak of the pandemic in order to replace the dwindling lay staff and helpers at the Bergamo home.

From the moment the community in Bergamo was affected by Covid-19, the running and management costs increased tenfold. The Sisters have incurred enormous expenses to ensure the safety and protection for the Sisters and lay helpers. Substantial expenditure for external food management to replace staff absent because of the infection. The need for extra nursing/health staff to deal with the impact of the emergency, sanitation and disinfection of the rooms, coverage of funeral expenses, caused additional substantial outgoings.

All these extra expenses had a heavy impact on the budget of not only our Bergamo Community, but also another four Comboni Sisters Nursing homes extending to Verona and the Veneto region, where about 400 hundred elderly and sick sisters were being cared for.

For this reason we are now launching this appeal in support of the elderly sick Comboni Sisters who have spent 40 or more years of their lives helping those in need, mainly in Africa and Middle East but also in their local community when needed..

We are grateful for the help you can give towards assuring the care of our elderly sisters. This will also, indirectly, facilitate the younger sisters to continue in the missions overseas among the poorest people and communities.

On behalf of Sr Luigina Coccia, Superior General,

our sincere and heartfelt THANK YOU for your generous donation. Please be assured of our prayers for you and your loved ones.

Comboni Missionary Sisters UK with the Comboni Lay Missionary Community UK

How to donate

Please pay by card (via PayPal Donate button), make a bank transfer or send us a cheque– details below

For Online Payments:

If paying online via the Donate button below please click on the option ‘Use this donation for’ and click on ‘Caring for the Elderly Comboni Sisters’.

For Bank Transfers:

Please send us an email and we can send you our bank details combonicentre16@gmail.com

Please write the title of the project – ‘COVID-19 Appeal’ as the reference for the transfer

For Cheque Payments:

Make cheque payable to: Comboni Centre

Please write the title of the project – ‘COVID-19 Appeal’ on the back of the cheque

Srs Graça and Natalia
Comboni Missionary Sisters
2 Chiswick Lane
London W4 2JF

Meet two of our elderly sisters

Testimony of a Missionary by Sr Michelina

I am Sr Michelina Pirra. I was born in Northern Italy in the year 1937. When I was nineteen I heard about the Comboni Sisters and immediately became passionate about the missionary life and joined them. I was especially attracted by the way they lived: a simple life, dedicated to others, much close to the poorest people and working particularly in Africa. I still remember how hard it was for me to leave my parents, friends, and my village behind to join this missionary congregation.

Looking back, I see that the courage asked of me to follow this vocation was highly rewarded by the happiness it brought to my life. I was first appointed to Sudan – Khartoum to teach in the Comboni schools, some years later I was sent to   the Middle-East, where I continued to teach and start visiting Christians and no Christian families. I witnessed with great joy a gradual transformation of the place and of the people as new schools, hospitals, churches and other education centres gradually immerged.

I was always impressed by the eagerness in the children to learn, no matter the huge sacrifices they had to make to have to walk miles to attend school. While for me the hot climate, the study of the Arabic language and the insertion in the new culture were some of the challenges I encountered. In all this I was led by the belief that “Love overcomes difficulties ad makes all things possible”.

My eldest sister, Cristina Pirra, had also joined this missionary congregation. She served in Khartoum and Port-Sudan, teaching in the Comboni Schools for over 40 years. Cristina due to her poor health and age returned to Italy in 2016 and was taken to one of the Comboni Sisters care homes in North Italy, until she passed away in February 2019.

My sister and I lived long enough to see the fruits of our work. No regrets. Instead gratitude and joy fills my heart.

It is now a few years since I left my mission in Middle East and became part of the Comboni Sisters Chiswick community in London. I am no longer healthy and energetic as I used to be but I am passionate as ever. I now spend many hours in prayerful adoration before the Lord. I pray for people in need and those who help them both here at home and in other countries and continents.

Sr Michelina Pirra

Sr Chiarina

In solidarity by Sr Chiarina

I am Sr Chiarina Calcagno, born in Genova, Italy. I grew up in a big family where Christian values were lived and from a very early age I had the desire to share the good news of Jesus with everyone. I wanted to become a Comboni Missionary Sister, but my dad would not allow me to leave my family and country .God listened to my prayer and after a few years waiting my dad changed his mind and I joined the Comboni Missionary Sisters. I was in my late twenties and I was very happy to see my dream coming true at last!

After a few years in Italy and United Kingdom, I flew to Kenya where I lived for over thirty years. I felt at home at once. I had the joy of teaching in schools in different places of Kenya, among the Kikuiu, Borama, Rendille and Pokot tribes. The encounter with these different cultures and customs was a continuous challenge: for me new languages and new traditions…

I carry in my heart the joy, the songs and the dreams of the young African people. Their desire to study was strong and no sacrifice would stop them. Many had to walk from very distant villages to reach the school. Most of the girls were discouraged from coming to study mainly because their families wanted them to do the tasks at home and take care of the young children. Aware of this situation, girl’s boarding schools were built and a new era began for many of the villages girls too. The joint efforts, the commitment of the Comboni sisters, fathers and brothers together with the local people brought an enormous contribution to have a new way of life especially in areas where agriculture and looking after the cows was their only way of survival. Other sisters were offering other services in health centres, women promotion, teaching of the Christian faith .My greatest joy was to teach in school and to be able to share with them the good news of Jesus and his ever new message of love. Many of my students are now teachers in Universities, doctors and many other posts of responsibility. I feel deeply rewarded and proud of them.

Ten years ago I was asked to leave Kenya and come to London to be part of the Comboni sisters’ community in Chiswick. I am now 82 years old. I am happy I can give more time to pray for the many needs of our world. My personal and community prayer connects me with everyone. I cannot do much, but twice a week I still manage to go to help the refugees in the Jesuit Refuge Centre and the homeless Centre near Westminster Cathedral.

The COVID.19 is still affecting many people’s lives all over the world. Over 40 Comboni sisters in Bergamo- Italy were much affected and nine died in the same community. We are in solidarity with them too.

I am grateful to God, to Africa and to everyone who, in many different ways helped me to   fulfil the dream of my youth.

Sr Chiarina Calcagno ,

London, Chiswick

1st June 2020

Our Mission in the World

The Comboni Missionary Sisters are women consecrated to God, called to evangelise, to build bridges between people, cultures and religions.

To set the downtrodden free.

The vision of St. Daniel Comboni lives in us today wherever we are:

  • In Africa, where we have our missionary roots.
  • In Europe, America and Asia where we reach out in answer to the signs of the times.
Sister Doctor in South Sudan
Sr Dorinda Cunha leading a christian community in South Sudan

Our traits are:

  • Passion for mission- giving priority to Africa among the communities most in need.
  • Making “the power of prayer our strength”
  • We choose to live a simple life-style
  • We live in community made up with members of different nationalities and cultures, making common cause with the people wherever we are in our mission.

Our Spirituality

The spirituality lived out of the charism of Comboni is a dynamic reality which continues to grow as we live the experience of following in his footsteps. In this section we wish to share some reflections on how we are growing in our understanding of the spirituality which emerges from the charism.

We hope they will help you to deepen your knowledge of and love for Comboni and his mission.

This icon written by Domenica Ghidotti, entitled Comboni and the Women of the Gospel, is an attempt to capture some of the feminine dimensions of the Combonian charism as we live them out today. Here we offer an ongoing reflection on the various elements of our spirituality as depicted here.  Click here to see more on the reflections…

Comboni icon

Testimony from Chiswick in London

A Diamond vocation

It takes a particular, not to say, special kind of person of feel the calling to a religious life and then to answer it. The quote: “Many are called, but few chosen” (Matthew 22:14) from the parable of a king who held a wedding feast for his son, springs to mind. It is a concept found in Scripture and can and is interpreted in different ways both in secular and religious circles.

In whatever she did that would be her mission

Sr Ida Pedrotti, was one individual who was called and invited to experience a personal relationship with Christ; a relationship of obedience, charity and service which has lasted for six decades.

(to see read more on Sr Ida click here)

Sister Ida