A missionary call at the centre of his life

I was invited to preside Mass at Regina Coeli (Madadeni, Section 6) as the people gathered to remember Fr Carlos Matias Domingos IMC who served in that parish and area for a number of years. Below is part of the homily.

* * *

Consolata Missionaries come in all sizes, shapes and colours. You have them tall and short, with hair or bold, thin and fat, young and old… You have them from practically every continent in the world.

What brings us all together is not the size, shape and colour but a particular call we have received. 

This is what we see in today's gospel too (Mark 1: 14 - 20). John had been arrested. Jesus starts preaching. As he starts preaching he also starts calling… Simon and Andrew (brothers), James and John (brothers). All of them fishermen but very different people. Jesus passes, calls them, they leave their nets and follow him. 

We share the same experience. We are all very different but we have been called by Jesus with a very specific call: to go all over the world to proclaim the Good News, to proclaim Jesus consolation of the world. This is what gathers all of us. A Consolata Missionary is identified by this call.

There is another dimension we see in this Gospel that we too experience. Though Simon, Andrew, James and John had different personalities, all of them were “fishermen” and, though they left their nets and family, there was no need to leave the special gift they had… On the contrary, Jesus asks them to put it at the service of the Kingdom: “I will make you fishers of men”. The fishermen become fishers of men.

It's been over a week since we received the news of the death of Fr Carlos Domingos. Social media has allowed us to let everyone know but also to unload and share our sadness at the news. It has been a space of mourning. It has been a space where we have been sharing our memories. It has also been a space to support each other in faith.

Not that I had time to read and collect everything but a few things come to my mind. 

Carlos was for us a kind of ‘computer genius’, able to work with his hands, he was a story teller, a ‘practical man’, available when needed most, close to the poor, a pastoral man, a counsellor… and so on...

Many people are gifted as Carlos was. What is the particular aspect we want to remember today? To me, is the fact that all these gifts were not to serve himself but to serve others, were not for his own self-promotion but for the Kingdom of God, for the missionary call he had received. 
  • I guess the first thing we would say of Fr Carlos is that he was a “computer genius”. I always explain what I mean by that with an image. While you and me ("normal people") whenever we get a virus in the computer we would try to get rid of it, Carlos would probably save it and try to understand how it was made… His gift with computer was put at the service of "mission".  He developed a software to register baptisms, he got people to load the registers of different parishes (probably paying them himself) with the goal of one day having one central database for the whole diocese. Back from my trips to the parishes I would share with him "technical problems" with his software and he would fix it and issue "a new version".
  • Fr Carlos was a man ready to work with his hands. Who does not remember him loading the tent in his bakkie and helping to put it up for a celebration? He would also work with others to fix some of the churches we had in the different missions… In 1995 he worked for many hours on top of the roof of one of our "isolated" chapels to make sure the roof would not be stolen. Back home he said: "they can still steal it but... they will have to work hard to do it!"
  • We remember Fr Carlos as the “story teller”. He had a great brain, consuming magazines and sharing stories with all of us at home and in the homilies.
  • Fr Carlos was a practical man. Whoever worked with him in Madadeni would always be grateful at the maps of Madadeni he prepared for us allowing us to reach any family quickly.
  • We remember him as someone who was always available. How many times Fr Giorgio told me the story of forgetting there was a funeral and asking Fr Carlos to go to celebrate Mass? Carlos would never complain. He would just “print a homily” from his computer, get ready and go.
    He was also available to move when he understood there was a need. I think he did not like moving just for the sake of it but he would when there was a need. In 1995 (having been just a few months in Madadeni) he moved to Piet Retief for six months to help me because I was alone.
    Later on I appointed him to Blaawubosch convinced he would be there for many years but after a short time I appointed him to Damesfontein as no one else could go as priest-in-charge.
  • I experienced him as a counsellor. This is a very specific aspect which is not just related to the advices he could have given you in your lives but the ones he gave me during the time I was "Superior Delegate". I would go to his room late in the evening, he would stop everything he would be doing, listen to me and give me his point of view on a certain matter. We travelled and attended meetings together. His help and support was immense.

I could go on and on. We can talk about his care for the youth, the poor (he was famous for buying cheaper coffins and keeping them at the presbytery in Blaauwbosch…!), the visit to the families, catechetics and so on...

What I would like to point out is that like the four we have seen in the Gospel, Carlos was called to leave his family, his country (his missionary life was divided between Portugal, Kenya, Italy, South Africa and Ethiopia!) but not the gifts he had received. On the contrary. He was called to put all of them – not at his own service, which he could have done – but at the service of the missionary call he had received. And so he did! This is what we all remembered in the different testimonies we heard this evening.

Like the proverb says… “the wise man points to the sun; the fool keeps on looking at the wise man's finger”. His life always pointed to Someone else, the One who had called him. 


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Bishop of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland)

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