Jub 150 : Remain faithful to your charism

Thank you to our Swiss confrere Roman Stäger, who published this article in German in the «Schweizer Kirchenzeitung» of January 18, 2018.


Jubilee of 150 years of “Missionaries of Africa” and “White Sisters”.

It was in an emergency that the Missionaries of Africa were founded: the priests and the Brothers on October 19, 1868, the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa a year later (September 9, 1869). The then Archbishop of Algiers, Charles Martial Lavigerie (1825-1892), had to take care of hundreds of orphans, who, victims of a widespread famine and a cholera epidemic, had left their villages. He had hoped to find priests and sisters on the spot for this work, he had to find that no congregation could – or would – put at his disposal the desired personnel.

Bring the Gospel into Africa

Lavigerie was created Cardinal in 1882. For a long time, he had been thinking of a missionary activity in this still unknown African continent, which was explored and more and more occupied geographically and politically. The convictions of the Archbishop of Algiers were clear: on the one hand, the gospel was to be brought to Africa by a community of missionaries; on the other hand, the missionaries would only be “preparers of paths” for the gospel. Wherever they are sent: they should first acquire the language of the locals and understand their culture. Baptizing was only allowed for adults who had freely chosen to become Christians and had accepted several years of preparation. For Lavigerie, the reason for the failure of many previous missions was in the haste to want to proclaim the gospel immediately.

At first, and with some exceptions, Africans were not accepted into the Society of Missionaries of Africa because of the conception of the mission of the “White Fathers”: the candidates for the priesthood would enter the local clergy, and the young people attracted by the monastic vocation would either go to one of the existing Western religious orders, or to an African religious community. In this way, the Missionaries of Africa contributed, in fidelity to their charism, to the birth of a dynamic local Church, by favoring the African religious communities. The same process was followed by the “White Sisters”: how many African congregations have they not founded and accompanied until their autonomy! The women and girls of Africa could – and should – be the ones to proclaim and live the gospel in an “African style”. This basic conviction still inspires today the Missionaries of Africa.

From the “white” Fathers to the Missionaries of “Africa”

And yet. For more than twenty years, many Africans have been attracted by the White Fathers’ vocation. For the first time in the history of the Missionaries of Africa, the General Chapter elected, in 2010, an African as Superior General. Since 2016, it is Father Stanley Lubungo, born in 1967 and originally from Zambia, who holds this office.

Called to live in communities

From the very beginning, Cardinal Lavigerie wanted international communities because, according to his opinion, they represented a more faithful image of Christianity than communities from a single nationality. The Swiss have also found their way to the White Fathers. The first contacts with the Society of Missionaries took place by chance: Brother Gustave Schurvey (1852-1911) – as the first Swiss missionary of Africa – discovered the White Fathers during his work in Leukerbad, and Monseigneur Burkard Huwiler (1868 – 1954) while studying at Einsiedeln College. The first house of the White Fathers was opened on August 15, 1911 in Fribourg.

The Formation of the future missionaries of Africa

Over the past 150 years, it has shifted from a Western-centered conception to an increasingly African inspiration. Many candidates, African and European, first studied in Western universities, including at the University of Fribourg. Nowadays, the future Missionaries of Africa, both Asian and Latin American, study first in their countries of origin. Only then are they registered in African Universities and Institutes; because a training imbued with “Africanity” can only be done in Africa. The “spiritual year” (formerly called the novitiate), a pastoral internship and theological studies are mostly in Africa. Specialized studies, such as Islamology or the Arabic language, are organized where the best skills are.

Commitment to the Eastern Churches.

The pastoral activity of the White Fathers in Jerusalem could be considered “extra-African”. After the massacre of Christians by the Druze in 1860, Lavigerie visited Syria and Lebanon. In Damascus, he thanked Emir Abd-el-Kader who had protected many Christians. Lavigerie thus discovered the Islamic world, Arab culture and the Eastern Churches.

Since 1878, the Missionaries of Africa are present at Ste. Anne in Jerusalem; they are in contact with the oriental rites in communion with Rome. They want to remain faithful to this commitment for the future. Efforts to train the Melkite Greek clergy for many years, such as the present clergy of the Ethiopian-Catholic Church, bear witness to this. The churches in Egypt and Ethiopia point out that on the African continent live Christian communities that do not belong to the Western Latin rite.

In dialogue with Islam.

One of the building blocks of the Missionaries of Africa Foundation was the orientation towards a presence among Muslims. This data came naturally from the first engagement in Algiers and Carthage. Until now, the White Fathers have remained faithful to this option of living witness and a Christian witness to Muslims. They promote active empathy in a world marked by Islam and the Arabic language, both in Africa and in other regions; a fairly large number of White Fathers consider dialogue with Muslims as the reason for their missionary vocation.

Option for Justice and Peace.

The Missionaries of Africa and the White Sisters remain faithful to their original charism after 150 years of existence. The dynamic of their charism requires looking, in the light of the gospel, at the new social, cultural and religious components of people’s lives. And this is not just about the political independence of African nations; the demands of the Gospel for justice and peace are also actively relevant in the context of international life. In this way, fidelity to the basic principles of the Missionary Society is expressed through openness to the concrete reality of life.

In 2016, the Missionaries of Africa and the White Sisters wanted their charisma to be not only valid for “Africa” but for the “African world”, regardless of what this world may be and wherever it may be. Their missionary commitment will no longer be limited geographically. Because a new era of history has begun: that of mobility. The migration of so many people is the most visible part of this global evolution.

Cardinal Lavigerie had vigorously engaged in the 19th century against slavery and the slave trade in Africa. Nowadays, we no longer talk about slavery, but about human trafficking, and even the sale of migrants. Many White Sisters work together with victims ravaged by modern society: orphans, unaccompanied children, raped women and girls. They continue that which, in Algiers, was at the origin of the Missionary Society. They try to enable these people to lead or regain a dignified human life; at the same time they give a credible witness for Christ.

150 more years? “Stay true to your charisma”!

Article of Roman Stäger, published in German in the «Schweizer Kirchenzeitung» of January 18, 2018.
Translated and adapted in French: Roman Stäger, Jean-Marie Gabioud.
Translated in English: Webmaster with the help of Google Translation  😆 

Celebrate the 150th in sobriety?

In 1968, the General Council of the time asked the question: “how to celebrate the Centenary of our Society”. We excluded a hulde zitting (tribute session) in Rome, expensive and without a future. The suggestion of Fr. Robert Chaput (always “down to earth!”) was chosen: give each confrere 5 dollars to celebrate the centenary in his community! I recall this fact which could inspire the current General Council to do something similar. It would cost less than in 1968, since our number has declined considerably!

Just a souvenir sent with my best regards!

Waly Neven, survivor of the council 67-81.

Webmaster’s note: Inflation must be taken into account! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices in 2017 are 603.4% higher than prices in 1968. Therefore, the $ 5 graciously offered to confreres in 1968 would now be equivalent to: 5 x 603.4: 100 = 30.17 USD or 25 €

150th Anniversary competition

This is an invitation from the Central Coordination Committee for the Jubilee of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of our two missionary societies.

As you know from April 30, 2016, we began a triennial journey that will culminate in the Jubilee Year from December 8, 2018 to December 8, 2019. The three years of preparation are like a spiritual and moral warming-up whose goal is not to exhaust us before the jubilee itself but to help us enter the Jubilee with joy and fervour. To accompany this preparation and to better live this jubilee year, we are launching the following three competitions:

Time remaining until the celebration !

Composition of a hymn for our 150th anniversary

A joyous hymn as the jubilee word suggests, which brings out the fundamental elements of our Lavigerian family: Christ, Lavigerie, passion for Africa, charity and missionary spirit. Who can participate in this contest: everyone, Fathers, Brothers, Sisters, candidates, parishioners and friends who have talent in this field.

In which language should one compose?

All the major languages (Western and African) of our provinces can be used as languages of composition, even if French, English and Swahili are preferred. Depending on the language used, certain hymns may be selected by certain provinces / sectors for local use. The first selection will be made at the level of the provinces and sectors which know better these languages.

Can we collaborate?

Of course! Someone can write, for example, the lyrics of the song and ask a musician to compose or find appropriate music. We can even appeal to our lay friends and parishioners who have this talent.

Deadline: successful proposals must reach the Central Committee by 31st December 2017 at this email address jubile150@mafrome.org

Composition of a prayer for our 150th anniversary:

A prayer of thanksgiving for the jubilee. Length: between 100 and 150 words!

Languages: French, English or Portuguese.

Who can participate: all White Fathers and White Sisters with their candidates.

Deadline for submission: successful proposals must reach the Central Committee by 31 December 2017 at this email address jubile150@mafrome.org

Composition of a video clip:

A kind of commercial spot of 2 ½ to 3 ½ minutes, which announces and celebrates the jubilee with, as main characteristic, the missionary joy and the daily and apostolic life of the sisters and fathers of yesterday and today.

Who can participate in this contest?

Fathers, Brothers, Sisters, candidates, parishioners and friends who have talent in this field.

In which language should one compose?

All the major languages (Western and African) of our provinces can be used as languages of composition, even if French, English and Swahili are preferred. Depending on the language used, some clips may be selected by certain provinces / sectors for local use. The first selection will be made at the level of the provinces and sectors which are better acquainted with these languages and which will subsequently communicate them to the Central Coordination Committee.

Deadline for submission: successful proposals must reach the Central Committee by 31 December 2017 at this email address jubile150@mafrome.org

Central Coordination Comitee
September 2017

Documentary videos on Human Trafficking in Africa

Here are quite a few documentary videos on Human Trafficking throughout Africa. To ease the flow, they are divided into pages. Here are the links towards the various countries :

Africa (p. 1) – Bénin (p. 2) – Burkina Faso (p. 3) – Cameroun (p. 4) – RDC (p. 5) – Côte d’Ivoire/Mali (p. 6) – Guinée (p. 7) – Kénya (p. 8) – Mali/Côte d’Ivoire (p. 9) – Mauritanie (p. 10) – South Africa / Mozambique (p. 11) – Nigéria / Europe (p. 12) – South Africa / Mozambique (p. 13) – Tanzania (p. 14) – Togo (p. 15) – Uganda (p. 16) – Zimbabwe (p. 17)


Human trafficking still rife is Africa (English / 3 :25 minutes)

Human trafficking worldwide and with examples from Africa.

Information on Human Trafficking

Trafficking is about :

“Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at the minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs; …” Continue reading “Information on Human Trafficking”

Back to the roots (150th anniversary)

Another movie by Manu Quertemont. Going towards the 150th anniversary, this movie is a poetic tribute to Varsenare, a place where many did their noviciate in former times, a place where many are now awaiting the day of the Great Encounter. Varsenare, a community of Faith, Joy and Hope. Thank you Manu.

Some countries have blocked this video on YouTube for a question of copyrights on the music of Toets Thielemans. If it is the case in your country, do request a link from the Webmaster for downloading the movie, indicating clearly who you are (reserved to the MAfr and MSOLA).