Comboni, DANIEL, missionary, b. March 15, 1831, in Limone San Giovanni near Brescia, Italy; d. October 10, 1881, at Khartoum. Educated in Mazza’s Institute, Verona, he learned, in addition to theology, several languages and medicine. Ordained priest in 1854, he was sent (1857) by Don Mazza to Central Africa, but returned (1859) because of ill health. After teaching in Mazza’s Institute from 1861-64 he published “Piano per la rigenerazione dell’ Africa” (Turin, 1864) and visited France, Spain, England, Germany, and Austria to collect funds. In Verona Comboni established (1867) his Istituto delle Missioni per la Nigrizia to educate priests and brothers for the missions, and the Istituto delle Pie Madri to supply female help; he also opened similar institutions in Cairo, Egypt, to acclimatize missionaries for the fever-stricken regions of Central Africa. Appointed (1872) Pro-vicar Apostolic of Central Africa (vicariate since 1846), embracing Nubia, Egyptian Sudan, and the territory south to the Lakes (with nearly 100,000,000 inhabitants) Cornboni began his great work with only two missions, El-Obeid (Kordofan) and Khartoum. Others rapidly followed: Berber, Delen, Malbes (near El-Obeid). In 1877 Comboni was made Vicar Apostolic of Central Africa and titular Bishop of Claudiopolis. His death was pronounced a “great loss” by Leo XIII.
Comboni aroused the interest of Europe in negro missions, and journeyed five times from Africa to Europe to secure missionaries and funds. By means of his intimate acquaintance with the khedive and the Governor of the Sudan he effectually checked the slave-trade. Besides his “Quadro storico delle Scoperte Africane” (1880) he contributed material for scientific works, notably on geography. Mitterrutzner’s works on the Dinka and Bari dialects (Brixen, 1866, 1867) are based on Comboni’s manuscripts. He was a “language genius” (Cardinal Simeoni), master of six European tongues, of Arabic, and the dialects of the Dinka, Bari, and Nuba negroes. His “Istituto”, since 1894 the Congregation of the Sons of the Sacred Heart, continues his work in Central Africa. Msgr. Geyer (appointed vicar Apostolic in 1903) was assisted in 1907 by 29 priests, 23 brothers, and 35 sisters ministering to 11 churches, 9 schools, and 6 orphanages.
JOHN M. LENHART