The Congregation of the Comboni Missionary Sisters (CMS) was founded by Saint Daniel Comboni in 1872 in Verona, Italy. Since Bishop Comboni had asked the collaboration of volunteers from various countries to work in the mission of Africa, the Orders he founded are International.
The Comboni Sisters have been present in the Vicariate of Arabia with a community in Aden since 1950 and another in Bahrain which was opened in 1953. When in 1973 the communist government closed the mission of Aden and the Comboni Sisters were repatriated, the need arose for another community not far from the community of Bahrain for mutual help and exchange.
Around that time the population of the Gulf was expanding very rapidly as a result of the oil boom which attracted people from many parts of the world. The Catholic parish of Dubai in particular registered considerable growth. For this reason, Bishop Bernardo Gremoli was trying to secure the presence of sisters for both the church and the school. His desire was met when three Comboni Missionary Sisters arrived in Dubai on September 6, 1977.
As they took over the work in St. Mary’s Catholic High School, the primary concern of the sisters, who soon increased to five, was to orient all the efforts of the school to ensure that its students would have an excellent education and would be ready to face the many challenges of a rapidly changing and globalized society. Besides a good scientific education the students are guided and encouraged to search for truth and good values through religious teaching which is imparted to all: the Bible for Christians, the Koran for Muslims and there are instructions for Hindus.
Through the educational activity the School aims at bringing students of different cultural and religious backgrounds together, educating them to build bridges in a globalized and multicultural world so as to achieve a peaceful coexistence as a just society.
Since in St. Mary’s School the English language learning programme is giving very good results, the community has welcomed several Comboni Sisters, particularly those of Temporary vows, who came and remained in Dubai for the time needed to get a good foundation and knowledge of this language and be prepared for their future work, particularly in Africa.
Presently, three Comboni Sisters are offering their missionary service in the School, in fraternal cooperation with Brother Joseph M. Joseph of the Congregation of St. Patrick’s Brothers, Principal of the School, and his confrere Brother Paul Parecattil.
In the Parish the Comboni Sisters have been given the responsibility to coordinate the catechesis of children, youth, and adults with its multiplicity of activities. Special programs are the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and the training and on-going formation of catechists. One Sister is particularly involved in family ministry and counseling. The Sisters are also present in various parish groups such as the Legion of Mary, prison ministry, hospital visitation, visit to labor camps.
The constant growth of the parish brought its membership up and soon it was necessary to involve volunteer lay personnel without whom it would be impossible to reach out to people in need. The Sisters, faithful to their Founder who envisioned local churches evangelized by the people themselves, put a lot of effort in the formation of the laity obtaining very good results. Their development was constant, gradual and diversified and now St. Mary’s Church can rely on a host of lay volunteers, both men and women, who are very much involved in the evangelization of their brothers and sisters.
From the very beginning of their presence in Dubai the Comboni Sisters have been working side by side with the Capuchin Priests and their collaboration has always been and continues to be very cordial and fruitful.