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Press Release

of the Comboni Missionary Sisters

The Comboni Missionary Sisters, in collaboration with the magazine Donne Chiesa Mondo, which dedicates the entire February issue to the female mission, present the book by Maria Tatsos, “Fortunata Bakhita Quascè – Una donna libera contro la schiavitù”  (“Fortunata Bakhita Quascè – a free woman against slavery”), the first Comboni Missionary Sister of African origin (Monti Nuba – South Sudan).

The event will take place in Rome on 25 January 2023 at 11.30 in the Sala Marconi, Palazzo Pio (Piazza Pia, 3).

The speakers will be Maria Tatsos, author of the book that recounts in novel form the extraordinary spiritual and human story of Sister Fortunata Quascè; Sister Anne Marie Quigg, Superior General of the Comboni Missionary Sisters; Raffaella Perin, lecturer in the History of Christianity at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan; Lucia Capuzzi, journalist for Avvenire and Artistic Director of the Milan 2022 Mission Festival, as well as contributor to Donne Chiesa Mondo; and Rita Pinci, coordinator of the Editorial Committee of the monthly women's magazine of L'Osservatore Romano. Sister Gabriella Bottani, Comboni Missionary Sister, former international coordinator of Talitha Kum, will moderate the event.

With this issue”, says Rita Pinci, we have decided to talk about mission and women missionaries by asking ourselves what it is that leads so many women to the missionary choice. We retrace the history of two millennia, starting from Mary Magdalene who first announced the resurrection, thus beginning the missionary movement, and we analyse how the idea of 'planting' the Church in other peoples, places, spaces, cultures was overcome after the Council, redeeming the origin of the mission, which is the outgoing Church. With the cover title ‘We are all missionaries’”, continues Pinci, we intend to emphaszse the advocacy today of religious and lay women, which is faith, human and social commitment, generosity and total gratuity. Mission is a principle, it is a way of coming into contact with others, with the Other. It is concern for the excluded”.

Fortunata Bakhita Quascè has been a sister to me in the effort against trafficking”, says Sr. Gabriella Bottani, “her free life, her faith, her courageous perseverance, have sustained me in difficult moments”.

In 1853, at the apparent age of nine, a Nuban girl ransomed from slavery, Fortunata Bakhita Quascè, arrived in Verona. Without having any written documents, because Fortunata left none, but with the scrupulousness of historical research, Maria Tatsos recounts her story in a historical novel in coordination with the Comboni Sisters working against human trafficking. Sister Fortunata Bakhita Quascè was educated in Italy, at the Istituto Mazza in Verona, where she met Saint Daniele Comboni. Adhering to the plan to regenerate Africa with Africa, young Fortunata returned to Africa in 1873, with a caravan of 30 people led by Comboni himself, including a group of 14 African governesses. She was a teacher and knew Arabic and Italian perfectly. Throughout her missionary life, first as a laywoman and then as a nun, she devoted herself to the education of young girls ransomed from slavery. On 7 August 1879, in El-Obeid, Fortunata asked to enter the Institute of the Pious Mothers of Nigrizia, known today as the Comboni Missionary Sisters. She took her first vows in 1882, after the death of Saint Daniel. From 1883 to 1885 she lived in Mahdist captivity, and after managing to escape together with Maria Caprini, in 1888 she was part of the first community of sisters in the antislavery Colony Leo XIII at Gezira, Egypt, founded by Msgr. Francesco Sogaro, Apostolic pro-vicar of the Vicariate of Central Africa, to welcome refugees from Sudan, ransomed from slavery. Sister Fortunata died on African soil on 12 October 1899, aged just over 50.

The life of Sr. Fortunata Bakhita Quascè reminds us that the mission has its origin in the encounter with Christ and takes place through the witness and proclamation received from concrete persons. From people from whom Fortunata received care and education. It was thus that she recognised the dignity of being a beloved daughter of God”, says Sr Anne Marie Quigg, Superior General of the Comboni Missionary Sisters, continuing, “Love reaches us where we are, and calls us, today too, as it did for Fortunata, who felt the invitation to participate in Saint Daniel Comboni's plan for the regeneration of Africa and returned to the land where she had experienced slavery, to be an educator of little girls who, like her, were freed from slavery, to be close to them in rediscovering the gift of dignity. Mission is to let oneself be loved by Christ and, remain in his love (Jn.15:9) through gestures of care, of solidarity, of sharing, of peace, especially towards those who are most wounded by injustice and relegated to the margins of society because of so many iniquitous situations, in every age and in every place”.

It will be possible to ask questions to the speakers at the end of the speeches; no interviews will be given after the event.



Journalists and media workers wishing to participate must apply, within 24 hours of the event, via the Holy See Press Office online accreditation system at: press.vatican.va/accreditation



Please note that in order to attend the book presentation it is mandatory to register by clicking here.