Evocation of the 19 martyrs
of the Church of Algeria
The Dominican Jean-Jacques Pérennès lived for a long time in Algeria during Fr. Claverie’s time and coordinated the examination of the file for the beatification of the 19 martyrs of Algeria. In his lecture he talks about the 19 martyrs he has necessarily learned to know better through their writings and stories.
This very beautiful lecture, given in French as part of the 150th anniversary, is worth listening to, even if, unfortunately, the sound quality is not optimal.
Below you will find the audio link for the conference, and below is the PowerPoint that Father Jean-Jacques used throughout his conference.
Like all the provinces of the Society, Rome celebrated its main event at the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Lavigerie Family, namely the White Fathers, Missionaries of Africa, founded in 1868, and the White Sisters, Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa in 1869.
The Symposium had long been planned to be in line with the International Conference of Major Superiors (UISG) in order to encourage the participation of the Superiors General of the 21 African women’s congregations often founded by a White Father confrere (bishop) but especially “accompanied” by the White Sisters.
The success of this symposium would not have been as spectacular without their extremely energizing presence; if the preparation of the 150th anniversary celebrations of our foundations brought our two congregations/society closer together, this symposium confirmed their complementarity, already present in the vision of evangelization of sub-Saharan Africa of our founder Cardinal Charles Martial Lavigerie: Africa will not be evangelized without the presence of women apostles who will accompany African women and families to know, love and follow Jesus.
The main purpose of this symposium was to raise the visibility of the Lavigerie family in the maze of congregations present in Rome. The invited audience was essentially composed of men and women religious present in Rome, who regularly rub shoulders with us, without necessarily knowing us in our specific charism. The theme was: “The significance of 150 years of Mission in Africa for the Universal Mission of the Church”. While the date chosen favoured the participation of African women’s congregations, it was less favourable to the presence of many members of general councils visiting their congregations at this time of the year. The 210-seat auditorium at Urbaniana University, which we had rented for the occasion, was nevertheless almost full.
The conference began with the intervention of the two main speakers. Our confrere, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, spoke non-exhaustively about the “Contribution of our two institutes to the missionary work of the Universal Church”, noting in his conclusion that, from the very beginning of our foundations, the encounter – initially with Islam, then with all Africans and all religious realities – has always been essential in our charism, as well as the struggle for Justice and Peace for and with the people in whose service we work. You will find the link to the text of his speech at the bottom of this page.
Sister Carmen Sammut, Superior General of the White Sisters, presented the essential characteristics that make the White Sisters Missionaries especially to women and for Africa, initiators who will allow the Africans themselves to continue the work of evangelization in Africa. She then drew the portrait of 7 women, missionaries of Our Lady of Africa, all models of women missionaries in the service of the universal Church. The link to the text of his speech is at the bottom of the page.
After a 30-minute break, three speakers took part in a roundtable discussion with public interaction after the presentations. Through the account of some recent encounters with very simple people in his diocese, Bishop Richard Baawobr, M.Afr., spoke of the urgency of sharing the person, the lifestyle and the message of Jesus in the human encounter. It is in the Word of God, shared within human-sized Christian communities, that our efforts to evangelize are rooted. The link to the text of Bishop Richard’s speech is available at the bottom of this page.
In a very theological intervention, Don Antoine de Padou Pooda, a priest from the diocese of Gadoua, Burkina Faso, teaching missiology at the Urbaniana and declaring himself heir to the White Fathers, then spoke to us about the heritage and spiritual fruitfulness of the “Lavigerie Family” in Africa. The link to the text of Don Antoine de Padou’s speech is available at the bottom of this page.
Sister Lea Belemsaga, Superior General of the Sisters of the Annunciation of Bobo Dioulasso, concluded the Round Table presentations by presenting a Power Point on three of the 21 congregations founded and/or accompanied by the Lavigerie Family. Sister Lea’s Power Point can be downloaded here and the link to the Power Point text (in 3 languages) is available at the bottom of this page.
The Symposium participants then gathered to share, in a spirit of conviviality, the evening meal around an excellent buffet before returning to the audience for the last part of the Symposium, a concert given by a Togolese artist who came with his family from Milan, in northern Italy. At the bottom of this page, you can enjoy a compilation of this concert.
The Symposium was moderated with great talent by our Confrere, Diego Sarriò, who summed up the event by quoting Don Antoine de Padou Pooda: “The Lavigerie family, by its international and intercultural character, extends Pentecost as a cenacle where the Kingdom of justice and peace is already in action.” Father Stan Lubungo, Superior General of the White Fathers, closed the Symposium shortly after 8:30 pm.
On the occasion of the 150th anniversary, the Missionaries of Africa, together with our Sisters MSOLA, are holding this Saturday a SYMPOSIUM at one of the Universities of Rome. The General theme is the “Significance of 150 years of service to Africa for the Universal Mission of the Church”.
At 3pm, two personalities will make a 20 minute presentation. Our confrere, Mgr. Michael Fitzgerald, will speak on the “Contribution of the two institutes to the Missionary Work of the Universal Church”. As for Sr. Carmen Sammut, Superior General of the MSOLA, she will present a talk on “Women apostles: some portraits”. There should be time for interaction with the 200 guests that are expected to attend.
At 5pm, there will be a Round Table with three speakers who will introduce their topics in 10 minutes to start off interaction with the public. Don Antoine de Padoue Pooda, a priest of the diocese of Gaoua in Burkina Faso, teaching missiology at the Urbaniana University in Rome, will speak on the “Inheritance and spiritual fecundity of the ‘Lavigerie Family’ in Africa”. Our confrere, Mgr. Richard Baawobr, will deal with the question “Why evangelize? The contribution of the Bible and Small Christian Communities”. As for Sister Lea Belemsaga, general superior of the Annunciation Sisters of Bobo, she will speak, in the name of all the congregations sponsored by the Lavigerie Family, about “The ‘FIAT’ of the african woman: fundation of 21 female congregations for the Mission”.
After sharing a buffet, we will come back to the Hall for the last part of our symposium, a concert by a Togolese singer and composer, Arsène Duevi, who lives with his family in Milan. He will take us to a singing journey to the very roots of humanity: Africa!
Following are a few video clips made on various themes, which will be shown during the 30 minutes before the beginning of the symposium. You will also see the programme advertised in between, with a glimse on our Togolese artist.
As part of the Jubilee celebrations in St Anne’s we organised, on the 7th of March, a morning of lectures and presentations about the Society. We invited the staff and students of Ratisbonne, the Salesian theology university where our candidates go for their theological formation.
We started with a talk by Dave: “150 years old and still going strong!” – a presentation of some of the elements of our history which help us to understand who we are today.
This was followed by a talk given by Frans Bouwen who spoke about the presence of the “White Fathers” (as we were always known) in Jerusalem.
After a break Fr Gaëtan Tiendebéogo presented the film “Witnesses of the Greatest Love” which was about the “martyrs of Algeria” and which was made by the Chemin Neuf community. Finally three of the students shared something of their own personal experience of life with the Missionaries of Africa. Nelson Ekeh spoke of inter-culturality in the Society, Thierry Uyirwoth of his experience of community and Belito Joaquim of our commitment to JPIC. The morning finished with lunch shared by all the participants. The general agreement was that the morning had been both interesting and enjoyable.
Some of you have asked for the written text of this very interesting conference. In the meantime, I have adopted and edited the conference title used in the written version. I also received the Power-Point presentation that I have inserted after the sound file below. For the moment I only have the French versions of those two documents, but the English text of the conference should follow soon.
Gisela Schreyer, archivist of the MSOLA, tells us about the history, little known to the White Fathers, of Mother Marie Salome, considered to be the co-founder of the White Sisters with Cardinal Lavigerie.
Here is a text that comes from Uganda, where the Vocation animators from both institutes of the Lavigerie Family have organised together some vocational activities in the context of the celebrations of our 150th anniversary.
We are very grateful to the Lord for the gift of our two institutes founded by Cardinal Lavigerie. In this line, we acknowledge the different activities that have been taking place in collaboration in the field of Missionary Vocation Animation and awareness to the youth.
Here in Uganda, from 11th to 17th January 2919, the vocation teams of MSOLA and M.Afr. organized a “come and see” session in the context of the 150 years of our foundation.
Eight aspirants of the M.Afr. and eight aspirants of the MSOLA participated together with the MSOLA pre-postulants.
On Sunday 13th January we made a pilgrimage to some important sites linked to our historical background in Uganda. We visited the Rubaga Cathedral, the hospital and the cemetery where the pioneer MSOLA were buried. We also went to Nabulagala where the pioneer M.Afr. were buried and to the Munyonyo Martyrs Shrine where King Mwanga sentenced to death the then future Uganda Martyrs. At all these sites , we stopped and got some historical explanations and prayed with gratitude for all the 150 years .
On Tuesday 15th January 2019, we all met at the MSOLA house in Bunamwaya for a common session. Sr. Harriet, who came all the way from Rwanda, together with Sr. Theopista Mbabazi animated the session. In the morning, Br. Francis gave an input on Cardinal Lavigerie in the context of 150 years of our foundation. This was followed by some group work and sharing.
We also marked the day with Holy Mass, for which Fr. Otto Katto was the main celebrant. It was nice to see how the young people aspiring to be missionaries were joyful at Mass and during the session. One would imagine how Cardinal Lavigerie must have been happy seeing the future Missionaries working together.
In the afternoon, there was an input presented by Srs. Harriet Kabaije and Theopista Mbabazi concerning our activities today in the context of 150 years especially our struggle against human trafficking. This was also followed by some very enriching group reflection sharing about our present activities in the struggle about human trafficking and slavery.
It was also striking to see how the aspirants were able to identify the current situations where they feel called and how they were connected to our mission today. These were some of the outstanding points that motivated the aspirants in M.Afr. and MSOLA: the legacy of our ancestors in faith , the high influx of refugees, not being materialistic, helping the needy, a desire to promote Justice and Peace, love and unity, the diminishing number of Missionaries in Europe and the inner force to commit to prayer. Indeed God speaks to the hearts of his people. And the question remains: Whom shall I send?
We were grateful to the MSOLA who received us so well. The aspirants were very happy to have lived this beautiful experience of good collaboration between MSOLA and M.Afr. We are planning another common session in May in the context of the 150years.
During the audience, I was only allowed to take pictures from my seat. So I couldn’t take a picture of our group during the audience. Here are three official photos, for which we have purchased the publication rights:
Here is the picture of the thanking word from our Superior General Stan Lubungo.
The handshake of Pope Francis with our Superior General:
Shortly after the Pope had entered the Hall, our superior general, Stan Lubungo, addressed the Holy Father with a word of thanks in the name of the two congregations. Here is the text :
We, the Missionaries of Africa and the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa feel very honoured to be with you today. This year we are commemorating one hundred and fifty years of our foundation by Cardinal Lavigerie in Algeria. We give thanks to God for all the graces received during these years. We are very grateful, Holy Father, that you spared some time to be with us despite your very busy agenda.
We praise God for our brothers and sisters who, over hundred and fifty years have brought the Catholic faith to many African countries. They helped establish the African clergy and formed many female African congregations in different countries. Today, we are together present in 41 countries, of which 22 are in Africa. We continue to collaborate with the local Church at whose service we are in parishes and in other ministries.
We inaugurated our Jubilee Year on the 8 th of December last year, on the Feast of Mary Immaculate Conception under whose protection our Founder placed our two Institutes. The inauguration took place in Tunisia where Cardinal Lavigerie was also prelate. The closing celebrations will be on 8 th December this year at Namugongo, the shrine of the Uganda Martyrs.
We give thanks to God. The inauguration of our Jubilee coincided with the beatification of the nineteen martyrs of Algeria, among which are four of our brothers who gave their lives to the service of our Muslim brothers and sisters in the country of our foundation.
Holy Father, on this significant Jubilee for our family, we ask for your paternal blessing on our two Institutes and its members where ever they are as we seek to keep alive the charism of our Founder.
We are happy to offer you a representation of the Manga hoe from Burkina Faso. This invention of one of our confreres in the 50s was designed for weeding and ploughing in shallow soil. It represents so well your task to plough and weed the shallow soils of our hearts sowing in them God’s Word.
Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa Missionaries of Africa
Most of us were very excited on Friday the 8th of February, as we were being invited by the successor of Peter at a private audience in the Vatican. The two General Councils, brothers and sisters from the two congregations, a few provincials already in the house for the forthcoming provincials’ encounter with the GC, some 80 persons all together were well in time to meet the Pope at 11am. The number of steps we had to climb was, to the least, very impressive, but finally there we were in the Clementine Hall, waiting for our Brother and Pastor Francis. A very official encounter, very comforting and meaningful to each one of us.
Here is the text of his address to us. The original was in Italian, we had a French translation. This English version is a translation from the French by your servant, with the help of the very good software deepl.com
Dear brothers and sisters,,
It is with great joy that I welcome you to the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Society of Missionaries of Africa and the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa. In thanking your Superiors General for the words they have addressed to me, I wish to express my cordial greetings and spiritual closeness, as well as through you, to all the members of your Institutes, present in Africa and in other parts of the world. Thank you for the service of the mission of the Church, lived with passion and generosity, in fidelity to the evangelical insights of your common founder, Cardinal Lavigerie.
Over the past three years, you have been preparing to celebrate this jubilee. As members of the great “Lavigerie family”, you have returned to your roots, you have looked back on your history with gratitude, to give you the means to live your present commitment with a renewed passion for the Gospel, and to be sowers of hope. With you, I give thanks to God, not only for the gifts he has given to his Church through your Institutes, but also and above all, for the fidelity of his love that you celebrate with this Jubilee. May this Jubilee Year strengthen in you the assurance that “God is faithful, he who has called you to live in communion with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor 1:9). May your consecration, your ministry thus be able to manifest concretely, in your fraternal life and in your various commitments, the fidelity of God’s love and its closeness, to sow hope in the hearts of those who are wounded, tested, discouraged, and who feel abandoned so often.
Dear friends, you know that when Bishop Lavigerie, then Archbishop of Algiers, was led by the Spirit to found the Society of Missionaries of Africa, then the Congregation of Missionary Sisters, he had in his heart the passion for the Gospel and the desire that it be proclaimed to all, making himself “everything to all” (cf. 1 Cor 9:22). For this reason, your roots are marked by Mission ad extra; it is in your DNA. Thus, following in the footsteps of your founder, your primary concern, your holy concern, “is that so many of our brothers and sisters live without the strength, light and consolation of the friendship of Jesus Christ, without a community of faith that welcomes them, without a horizon of meaning and life” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, n. 49). But, in the light of the journey made since your foundation, you know that the proclamation of the Gospel is not synonymous with proselytism; it is this dynamic that leads us to be close to others, to share with them the gift received, the encounter of love that has changed your life and that has led you to choose to consecrate your life to the Lord Jesus, Gospel for the life and salvation of the world. It is always with him, through him and in him that the mission is lived. So I encourage you to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, so that you never forget that the true missionary is first and foremost a disciple. Have at heart to cultivate this particular bond that unites you to the Lord, by listening to his Word, celebrating the Sacraments and serving the brother, so that your words and actions may manifest his presence, his merciful love, his compassion to those to whom the Spirit sends you and leads you. May the celebration of your jubilee thus help you to become “nomads for the Gospel”, men and women who are not afraid to go into the deserts of this world and seek together the means to lead their fellow human beings to this oasis that is the Lord, so that the living water of his love may quench all their thirst.
May this Jubilee Year also contribute to the development of fraternal bonds between you, because the proclamation of the Gospel can only be lived at the price of true missionary communion. With the strength of the Holy Spirit, be witnesses to this hope which does not disappoint (Cf. Rm 5:5), despite the difficulties. In fidelity to your roots, do not be afraid to venture out on the paths of mission, to witness that “God is always a newness, which urges us to leave without respite and move beyond what is known, towards the peripheries and borders” (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, n. 135). May the Holy Spirit make you build bridges between people. Where the Lord has sent you, contribute to the growth of a culture of encounter; continue to be the servants of a dialogue that, while respecting differences, knows how to be enriched by the difference of others. And I thank you in particular for the work you have already done in the service of dialogue with Islam, with our Muslim sisters and brothers. Through the style and simplicity of your lifestyle, you also demonstrate the need to take care of our common home, the land. Finally, in the wake of Cardinal Lavigerie, be sowers of hope, fighting against all current forms of slavery. Always seek to be close to the small and the poor, to those who expect, at the periphery of our societies, to be recognized in their dignity, to be welcomed, protected, raised, accompanied, promoted and integrated.
With this hope, by entrusting you to the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Africa, I give you and all the members of your communities the Apostolic Blessing and I call upon God’s blessings on those whose lives you share, where the Lord has sent you. And, please, don’t forget to pray for me. Thank you.