EPO – Jubilee celebration in Jerusalem

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.

Dave Sullivan, M.Afr.

Jérusalem – Semaine de l’Unité des Chrétiens

Regard œcuménique sur l’année 2018 avant la semaine de prière pour l’Unité

JERUSALEM – Le mercredi 16 janvier 2019, l’Ecole Biblique et Archéologique de Jérusalem a accueilli la traditionnelle conférence que donne le Père Frans Bouwen, M.Afr., avant la Semaine de prière pour l’Unité. Le père blanc, spécialiste des Églises orientales et du dialogue avec les Églises chrétiennes d’Orient a présenté l’actualité œcuménique de l’année 2018 aux fidèles et religieux de Jérusalem qui se retrouveront à partir de samedi pour vivre un temps de communion à travers des célébrations quotidiennes.

La semaine de l’unité est un événement de grande importance à Jérusalem, la présence des différentes Eglises chrétiennes a encouragé celles-ci à s’accueillir les unes les autres chaque jour pour partager un temps de prière. Ces célébrations attirent de nombreux fidèles et certains d’entre eux sont même des pèlerins qui viennent tout spécialement dans la Ville Sainte pour participer à cette Semaine si particulière.

Chaque année, à cette occasion, la commission pour le dialogue œcuménique propose une conférence sur l’actualité œcuménique des derniers mois, une façon d’inviter les fidèles à prier en ayant connaissance du chemin parcouru et à parcourir pour vivre l’Unité. C’est le président de cette commission épiscopale, le père Frans Bouwen qui se charge de donner les dernières nouvelles de ces chemins de rencontre entre les différentes Eglises. Le Missionnaire d’Afrique, membre de la Commission mixte du dialogue théologique entre l’Eglise catholique et l’Eglise orthodoxe a une très grande connaissance des Eglises orientales. Cependant, le Père Frans en début de conférence n’a pas manqué de préciser que sa présentation était, par la force des choses, portée par un regard subjectif, celui d’un théologien catholique installé à Jérusalem.

Lisez l’article complet de Cécile Klos sur le site du Patriarcat Latin de Jérusalem.

140 years of presence in Jerusalem

This is an article from the site of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem, dated December 11. The original post is here. The text was translated quickly with online help. In case of doubt, please refer to the original French.

On December 8, 2018, the Missionaries of Africa invited, as they do every year, the faithful and friends to come and celebrate with them the feast of the Immaculate Conception. This year, in addition to the Marian celebration, there was also the launching of the festivities for the jubilee of the 150th anniversary of the congregation and the 140th anniversary of its presence in the Holy Land.

The Mass of December 8 is traditionally celebrated with fervour among the Missionaries of Africa – also known as the White Fathers – because the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is the patron saint’s feast of this Society of priests and also the women’s congregation, the Sisters of Our Lady of Africa. This is also the date of the annual consular mass [1] and on this occasion the Deputy Consul General, Mr. Rémy Bouallègue, joined the ceremony.

But this year, the mass of December 8 was also celebrated in union with the mass for the beatification of the 19 martyrs who died for their faith in Algeria, including four White Fathers murdered on December 27, 1994 in Tizi Ouzou. Finally, this Mass on December 8 celebrated two important jubilees: the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Society of the White Fathers and the 140th anniversary of the presence of the Missionaries in the Holy Land.

Fraternity beyond cultural differences

It is the date of the opening of the first novitiate, October 18, 1868, which was chosen as the date of foundation of the Society of the White Fathers. For the founder, Bishop Lavigerie, the Missionaries of Africa must be “all things to all people” and adapt to the way of life of those to whom they are sent to spread the Gospel. For this reason they ask them to wear the local habit, to eat the same food as the inhabitants and to speak the language that allows them to open themselves to the culture of the country. Founded in North Africa, the society has developed in a large part of Africa. Today, there are still 1200 White Fathers, most of whom are in Black Africa. At the service of parishes and dioceses, they are as close as possible to the needs of the population and actively participate in interreligious dialogue. Also present in Europe, they bring their missionary experience to the dioceses of rich countries, to help welcome migrants and broaden the Church’s vision of the world.

Missionaries of Africa in the Middle East?

To find a congregation that has been mainly oriented towards Africa in the heart of Jerusalem for 140 years may seem questioning at first sight, but it would then be to not know the history of the founder. Charles Lavigerie before being the Archbishop of Algiers and the founder of the Society of the White Fathers was the first ecclesiastical director of the Work of the Schools of the Orient (now the Work of the Orient) and it is in this context that he had known, like a revelation, the Eastern Churches. This memory will come back in a flash when France, which became the owner of the church of Sainte-Anne, sought a religious community to keep it. Arriving in 1878, the White Fathers set up a seminary there in 1882 to train the Greek Melkite Catholic clergy. This seminary operated for 85 years, until the June 1967 war forced its transfer to Lebanon. Since then the White Fathers have continued, in various ways, to work for the Churches of the East, their unity and mission, and the service of the Church of Jerusalem in the fields of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and action for justice and peace. Thanks to the biblical training sessions, organized in Sainte-Anne since 1976, the Church of Africa is now coming to Jerusalem to pray and recharge their batteries.

Cécile Klos

[1] Each year, the Consul General of France officially visits each of the national domains belonging to France and certain religious communities of French origin, by taking part in the celebration of a mass.

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150 years… of which 140 in Jerusalem

On the 8th of December, at 10h, we celebrated the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in the basilica of St-Anne in Jerusalem. Many invitations were sent out. It is a ‘Consular Mass’ at which the General Consul of France participates, with members of the Consulate. But as the Consul was absent, he was represented by Mr. Remy Bouallegue, his ‘Adjoint’. Though it was raining, a good crowd came for the celebration: lay-people, Sisters, staff and students of the Salesian Institute and many more and about 20 priests concelebrating. Josef Buholzer, the superior of the community, was the main-celebrant, assisted by Mgr Michael Fitzgerald and Benoît Bernard, the newly arrived Rector of the Basilica. Bosco Ufoyuru, our newly ordained deacon, proclaimed the gospel. Continue reading “150 years… of which 140 in Jerusalem”

Jerusalem the eldest

Basilique Ste Anne Jerusalem

Today, we celebrated the 140th anniversary, to the day, of the arrival of the first White Fathers in Jerusalem on October 1, 1878. They left Algiers on September 14 and landed at the port of Jaffa. As a result, we are probably among the oldest – if not the oldest – communities still in existence, without interruption, for so long. We hope to associate these 140 years with our celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Society of Missionaries of Africa.


Fraternal greetings to all,
Frans Bouwen
Ste Ann’s

Feast of the Nativity of Mary in Jerusalem

“On September 8, the church celebrates the birth of the Virgin Mary. The Franciscans, together with the local church, went on pilgrimage to the place where according to tradition, the Madonna was born.”

That place is… St. Anne’s and the community of the Missionaries of Africa.  One Man in White is the General Consul (of France)… and the other one is a WF, Frans, making some publicity for our 140th Jubilee (W.F. at St Anne’s) and for our 150th Jubilee (Lavigerie family). Enjoy the video.

If it does not play well, follow the original link.

Golden Jubilee of the M.Afr. in Ethiopia

On 14th January 2018 it was a remarkable and unforgettable day in the life of the Missionaries of Africa in Ethiopia. It was on this day that they celebrated the 50th anniversary of their presence in Ethiopia. The celebrations started with Holy Mass which was presided over by Abune Tesfasellassie Medhin, the Eparch of Adigrat, surrounded by the Missionaries of Africa and many priests and religious working in the Eparchy of Adigrat.

The Missionaries of Africa came to Adigrat in 1967 in response to the Bishop of Adigrat Diocese, Abune Hailemariam Kahsay’s invitation to assist in the formation of the local clergy. Since then a good number of Missionaries of Africa have been teaching at the major seminary of Adigrat in both philosophy and theology departments.

With time, the Missionaries of Africa extended their apostolate to various fields including; interreligious dialogue and ecumenism, Education(St Mary’s College in Wukro), Justice and Peace and Integrity of creation, street children and orphans, youth ministry, girls/women promotion, vocation promotion and university chaplaincy.

The Missionaries of Africa who have served in Ethiopia.

The Missionaries of Africa who have served in Ethiopia so far include :Max Gmur, Gildas Nicolas, Kevin O’mahoney, José Bandres, Gerry Stones, Dietmat Lenfers, Friedrich Stenger, Angel Olaran, Stolarski Krzystof, Ian Buckmaster, Eddie Ndahinda, Gaetano Cazzola, Jean Pierre Roth, Gerry Murphy, Aloysius Beebwa, Everisto Mwelwa, Sabu Puthenpurackal, Bonaventure Mashata, Cor de Visser, John Amona, Belete Fanta, Gazena Haile, Stephane Zoungrana, Bonaventure Bwanakweli, Yosef Giday, Paul Reilly, Apollinaire Chishugi and Clayb Caputolan.

As we celebrate 50 years of our presence in Ethiopia, we are happy to announce that we have 6 ethiopian confreres : Yosef Giday working in Kombolcha, Belete Fanta working in Adigrat, Gazena Haile working in Ghana, Simeon Kalore working in Malawi, Addise Markos working in Nigeria and Deacon Mekonen Girmay in Nairobi. We also have 8 Ethiopian students in different houses of formation (Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Ethiopia).

The message from the Bishop of Adigrat : Abune Tesfaselassie Medhin

In his speech the Bishop of Adigrat sincerely thanked the Missionaries of Africa for their various contributions in the life of the Eparchy for the past 50 years of their presence. He emphasised on their hard work and dedication in the formation and teaching at the Major Major Seminary. He also praised the courage and resilience of the first missionaries especially when the conditions were tough in the country. He also praised other apostolic activities initiated by the Missionaries of Africa in St Mary’s Wukro, Bruh Tesfa Youth Development Centerin Adigrat, Kidist Mariam, St Paul’s Formation House and Kombolcha.

Bishop of Adigrat Diocese, Abune Tesfaselassie Medhin

The Bishop went on to remind the Missionaries of Africa that for the future it will be important to stick to their charism and identity so as to make a unique impact in the Eparchy especially by adapting their charism and apostolic engagements to the current realities and challenges of today’s society. In a special way, the bishop insisted on the formation of young people and families. These two areas seem to be very important for our evangelization today in Ethiopia and in Africa as a whole.

The Message from EPO Delegate Superior

In his message, EPO Delegate Superior (Father Bonaventure Bwanakweri) mentioned that the celebration of the 50 years is a time to look at our past with gratitude and thank God for the many blessings showered upon us and the Eparchy of Adigrat. It is also time to live the present with great passion in our various apostolates and also to plan for the future with more determination, enthusiasm and hope. He thanked the Eparchy for its support, care and collaboration. He thanked all the priests and religious working in Adigrat for their proximity and pastoral generosity. He also thanked all the faithful of the Eparchy. He also extended a word of gratitude to the Ethiopian Orthodox church and to the Muslims with whom we always work for peaceful cohabitation.

Fr Bonaventure BWANAKWERI, M.Afr.

Jubilee in Ethiopia

Dear Confreres and Friends,
Greetings from Ethiopia !

As the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) in Ethiopia prepare to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of their presence in this beautiful country (1967-2017), We ask you to accompany us with your prayers during this jubilee year ( 2017-2018). We will keep you informed on the dates of our celebration. Continue reading “Jubilee in Ethiopia”