We celebrate our 150th Anniversary!


A short history.

The Society of the Missionaries of Africa (M.Afr) was founded in Algeria, in 1868 by Cardinal Charles Lavigerie, Archbishop of Algiers; he would later be-come Cardinal Lavigerie (July 1882). From the beginning, this new missionary society took the Arab dress: the “gandoura”, with, as a religious sign, a rosary worn like a necklace. This earned them the name “White Fathers”. One year later, in 1869, Cardinal Lavigerie also founded the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa (MSOLA). Today, there are 1,232 Missionaries of Africa, from 37 Nationalities, working in 42 Countries, 22 of which are in Africa. They live in 217 communities; with a further 486 candidates at various stages of formation.

150-anniversary-m-afr-logo-saSouth Africa.

At the request of the Malawi Catholic Bishops’ Conference, in 1969 the Missionaries of Africa finally came down to South Africa in order to minister to the 70,000 Malawian migrants working in the lucrative mines around Johannesburg, Rustenburg and Witbank. The Malawian Catholic Mine Chaplaincy soon became the Catholic Mine Chaplaincy as the first missionary communities answered the call of all migrant mine workers, drawn from the neighbouring countries, to have a Catholic presence in their mine. Twenty years later the mine chaplaincy was integrated into each Diocese, through parish structures.

Our commitments over the years.

As the Missionaries of Africa became more known; new requests for communities were sent to the General House in Rome. The response was positive, and in rather quick succession, missionary communities were founded in Bethlehem Diocese: Phuthaditjhaba/Qwaqwa and eventually Bohlokong; in Pretoria Archdiocese in the KwaNdebele region: Tweefontein, Siyabuswa and Diepsloot; in Witbank Diocese: Kamhlushwa, Malelane and eventually KwaGuqa; in Johannesburg Archdiocese: Soweto (Zola, Zondi, Emdeni and Protea North), Orange Farm, and later, Lenasia.

From 1998 to 2004, three of our Missionaries ran the Lumko Institute in Benoni. The most recent insertion is a formation house in Durban Archdiocese: Merri-vale has more than 30 theology students from various African countries who study theology at Cedara St. Joseph Institute. Furthermore, we have two parishes near Pietermaritsburg: Henley and KwaMpumuza. Our students enjoy going there for their weekend apostolate.

A community in Edenglen, Johannesburg, acts as a hub for administration and vocation animation, while welcoming many visitors. At the same time, the priests of this community offer much appreciated services to local parishes, groups, schools and religious communities of that area and beyond.

And the mission goes on…

In their almost 50 years in South Africa (2019), the Missionaries of Africa living in communities, have tried to respond to requests for primary evangelisation, and moving on when the local Church has been established. Due to dwindling numbers and the maturity of the local Church in South Africa, today communities are found in the formation house in Merrivale, Henley,  KwaMpumuza, Bethlehem, Lenasia and Edenglen; 17 confreres in all.

The contribution has been modest but sincere; a missionary effort to building a vibrant local Church. The presence of a Formation House bodes well for the future and will ensure a Missionaries of Africa presence in South Africa for the foreseeable future.

We sincerely hope and pray that this Jubilee celebration will finally arouse in some young men the desire of a true vocation as Missionaries of Africa. What a wonderful gift from the South African Church this would be to us! Please, pray for us!

With God’s blessings.

Missionaries of Africa, P.O. Box 10057, Edenglen 1613, South Africa. Tel: 011 452 5283.

The Xaveri movement in South Africa.


george-okwii-2016_jpegRecently, George Okwii, M.Afr, replaced Michel Meunier as Chaplain of the Xaveri movement based in Pretoria Archdiocese though Michel remains a member of the Board. This movement was founded in 1952 by late Father Georges Defour (+2012) in Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There has always been a close link between the Xaveri and the Missionaries of Africa. In South Africa, Martin Mande, age 34, originally from Bukavu, initiated the movement in 2007 which has developed since then to reach Swaziland at Hlatikulu Christ the King Parish, Manzini Diocese. George Okwii, who knew the movement in Uganda, was also instrumental in setting up a branch in Henley-KwaMphumuza, Pietermaritzburg. Ministering now from Johannesburg, his chaplaincy with the Xaveri takes mostly place at the Cathedral of Pretoria. Hopefully, it will also spread over to Johannesburg.

xaveri-kwazulu-natal-team-3At the moment, the Xaveri movement is concentrating its activities around a choir, charitable works such as visiting the sick, social activities, bible studies and prayers. A special attention is also given in bringing together migrants or refugees with South-Africans. See below, the testimony of Mme Dudu, Matron of the movement in KwaZulu Natal. She is a lecturer at Durban University of Technology.

A special celebration took place at Sunday Mass on the 25th September at the Cathedral of Pretoria with the blessing of medals given to some members who made their promise to serve Christ and one another.

SHORT PRESENTATION OF THE XAVERI MOVEMENT:

Defxaveri-logoinition: The organisation is governed by its Constitution as an independent, non-political, non-Governmental, non-profit and educational organisation for boys, girls and adults open to all without distinction of origin, race or creed, in accordance with the purpose of bringing together young people in a congenial and happy atmosphere which is inspired by the spirit of healthy African Traditions.

Aim: The aim of the organization is to contribute to the development of young people in achieving their full potentials as individuals, as responsible citizens and as members of society, to build up true human beings whose interior life is stimulated by the spirituality of non-violence and inspire to lead an active apostolate in their own environment.

xaveri-definitionPrinciples: Love of God. Love of each other. Love of self.

Method: The Xaveri Method is a system of progressive self-education through the membership of small groups involving, under adult guidance, progressive discovery and acceptance of responsibility and training towards self-government directed towards the development of character, and the acquisition of competence, self-reliance, dependability and capacities both to co-operate and to lead.

Progressive and stimulating programmes of varied activities based on the interests of the participants, including games, useful skills, and services to the community and outdoors activities in contact with nature.

Objectives: To help young people make positive choices to live their life to the full. To educate young people regarding good citizenship. To encourage and assist youth to develop their talents fully. To help youth to grow in awareness of correct spiritual, moral and cultural values so that they may incorporate these values in their lives.

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georges-defour-you-tubeSee on You Tube a video in French about Father Georges Defour.

Joy-filled Gospel Renewal Session June and July 2016


Alex MandaBy Alex Manda, M.Afr

Greetings from Korhogo in Ivory Coast. I was in Tanzania in June and July to take part in the first session of the new program called ICOF (Inter-Congregational Ongoing Formation) initiated by four congregations; Missionaries of Africa (M.Afr), Congregation of the Holy Spirit (C.S.Sp.), Society of African Missions (SMA) and Missionaries Sisters of Our Lady of Africa (MSOLA). We were thirteen participants from six different congregations and from nine different countries.

The session took place in the Spiritan Hotel called Stella Maris in Bagamoyo situated  75Km from Dar-es-salaam. Bagamoyo is the ground where the first missionaries landed from Zanzibar. Thus it was a nice place for renewal and reflection on our vocation. This two-month renewal program is entitled “Joy – Filled Gospel Service.”

Stella Maris in BagamoyoDifferent modules were given aiming at a holistic formation as an individual, consecrated person and pastoral agent. It covered the four aspects of our lives; human, spiritual, pastoral and intellectual. Openness among the participants facilitated group sharing, meditation, spiritual direction and time of integration aiming at discovery our life-giving spirit under the motto: rooted in Christ we rediscover ourselves for the joyful witness of the Gospel.

The session helped me to remember the call of Christ in today’s situations and to try to respond to the voice of the Lord joyfully. My vocation is no longer a “work” but a “service” with the Lord. Many modules helped us to increase our awareness related to our strengths and weakness. So often, we try to avoid talking about our weaknesses. We put them in the breath case though they influence our everyday lives. Opening that breath case helps to understand its elements in order to transform them into life-giving contents. Weaknesses are not sins but part of us and can bring growth since “there is a crack in everything”. We need those cracks so as to bring light in our inner closed house. This awareness increases self-responsibilities in acquiring good and healthy relationships.

The session empowered me also as pastoral agent working in a globalised world. It empowered me with new skills in leadership and better management in pastoral counselling. The proclamation of the Gospel has to take into consideration today’s world challenges such as ecology, economy, finances, justice and peace. The session updated me in some important current theologies and documents of the Church. It has been a very enriching experience. It has also increased my self-awareness and improved my relationship with Jesus Christ together with my brothers and sisters. This session has given me hope for a better and joyful ministry. It came to be a graceful opportunity for taking care of myself. Indeed, how can I care for others if I don’t care for myself? Adding to it, as Pope Francis says, an evangeliser has to be aware that he always needs to be evangelised and to be converted.

Rooted, we bloom!I felt that something has improved in my life because of this session. Whatever we do or say in our ministries, let us be Christ centred in giving joy to the world while, at the same time, witnessing the Gospel. Thus, in our mission, let us have courage to stop a bit, taking a break, leaving our great apostolates for a while so as to listen to our inner-self.  I am grateful to my province PAO for giving me that chance of being among the first beneficiaries of that beautiful experience. Rooted, we bloom!   ICOF ARTICLE

ICOF logoICOF Program – Joy-Filled Gospel Service

Alfred  Weyirane Awogya, M.Afr, was also a participant at the session. He is sending his own experience an a few pictures:

During the two months’ renewal journey, we had lots of facilitated sharing in small teams acquiring new skills and getting updates and refreshers on various subjects such as: emotional intelligence and resilience, dangers of various addictions, challenges of faith in contemporary Africa, financial administration and management, gender issues, pastoral counselling skills, justice and peace and Christian responsibility, scripture and mission, graceful transitions in life, interreligious dialogue, leadership and management, trauma awareness, bereavement, stress management and inner child work. The focus was not on academic excellence by any means but geared towards helping us to get in touch with our inner self more deeply together with the world surrounding us. ThRodrigo Mejía copiee aim was also to rediscover the fire of our faith and vocation and to continue to bear joyful witness of the Gospel in our missionary assignments. We were also blessed with a serene moment of eight days retreat preached by Bishop Emeritus of Soddo (Ethiopia), Rodrigo Mejía, SJ, on Evangelii Gaudium: the Joy of the Gospel.

In all I would say the program was very relaxing. Besides the inputs and group work, we also had ample time to explore the beautiful coastland of Bagamoyo, and for many participants, learn how to swim. Enjoying sea food and coconut was all part of the renewal! We also had a day of picnic/visit to the historic sites of Bagamoyo, a town founded at the end of the 18th century. It was the original capital of German East Africa and was one of the most important trading ports along the East African coast.

The closing Mass/celebration was very colourful. We were blessed to have a representative from the Tanzanian Episcopal Conference and other priests and sisters. We also had two special guests from Rome, Fr Francis Rozario, a member of the General Council of the SMA who is at the same time the Secretary of the ICOF steering committee in Rome and Fr Joseph Shio, CSSP, also a member of the Spiritan General Council. Fr Rozario presided over the liturgy while Fr Shio preached urging us to celebrate the renewal we ourselves have undergone with our brothers and sisters. In his own words, to “change their water into wine” and not the vice versa, meaning to be instruments and signs of joy and happiness in the lives of the people we minister to. Fr Rozario reiterated the vision and dream for founding ICOF. He presented each participant with a certificate of attendance and congratulated us for being the pioneers to put into flesh the dream of the joint General Councils. He expressed their intention to continue this program annually. You will not regret enrolling for the next Joy-Filled Gospel Service!

Alfred_AwogyaDuring the same closing Eucharistic celebration, representing the whole group, I presented a palm seedling, a symbol of our journey of renewal and explained its significance. After Mass, all the participants, the animators and invited quests had the joyful pleasure to plant the palm seedling in the beautiful lawn grounds of Stella Maris Hotel where we stayed during the program. I am happy and grateful to have had the privilege to go through this journey of renewal.  Indeed, the seed has been sown and it has sprouted; we pray that we may continue to blossom where we are planted in joyful witness to the Good News of Christ.

By Alfred Awogya, M.Afr, Namushakende in Zambia.

The Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) in South Africa 1970-2015


Coffe Table logo

However, soon the need for chaplains to serve other miners extends the work of the Chaplaincy and becomes known as the Catholic Mine Chaplaincy. The bulk of the work takes place in four Dioceses (Archdiocese of Johannesburg and the Dioceses of Rustenburg, Witbank and Dundee). Over the following twenty years, the responsibility to serve the mines becomes more and more entrusted to the local Church; gradually, the handover to local parishes is done between 1992 and 1994. 

At the same time, as the M.Afr become more known in South Africa, we see new requests for more Missionaries to come. In rather quick succession, communities are established in Phuthaditjhaba, and later on in Bohlokong, both in Bethlehem Diocese; Tweefontein and Siyabuswa in Kwandebele, and Diepsloot, all in Pretoria Archdiocese; Kamhlushwa and Malelane in Lebombo, and later on, in Kwaguqa, all in Witbank Diocese. 

In 2008, the M.Afr start a Formation Centre in Merrivale, near Cedara St. Joseph’s Theological Institute, in Durban Archdiocese. Our most recent insertion in this archdiocese is Henley parish, close to Merrivale. This gives a chance to our candidates in formation to get some practical pastoral experience.

Presence in Johannesburg Archdiocese

In 1987, the M.Afr take three parishes in Soweto: Zola, Zondi and Emdeni. In 1992, they start a new Parish in Protea North. These four parishes are handed over to the local clergy in 1996.

On 1st January 1994, the M.Afr open the Orange Farm Pastoral Region, which is to become a real hive of active development projects. Eight churches are served systematically in this area, until its handover in April 2012. From 1998 to 2004, three M.Afr served in Lumko Institute.

In 2003, the M.Afr, who specialize in dialogue with non-Christian religions, take over the parish of Lenasia where we find a dense population of Muslims and Hindus. 

A Community House in Edenglen, Johannesburg, opened in 1998, assumes the administration of the South African Sector. Many confreres from different countries pass through this guest house. The resident priests of this community offer much appreciated service to local parishes and religious communities in that area. They also have helped celebrating Mass at Radio Veritas every week since 2008. 

The Mission Continues

The Missionary of Africa presence in South Africa over the years has tried to respond to the requests of the local Church, and in particular, to requests of building a vibrant local Church, especially where the Church was not established. This has happened in the areas mentioned above, territories now served by local priests. Dwindling vocations, old age and a loss of two confreres at the hands of assassins, coupled with a policy of eventually handing over to the local Church, has resulted in a reduction of parish commitments to Malelane, Lenasia and Henley.

As needs are deemed to be greater in other parts of Africa, for the time being there is no plan to extend our presence in South Africa – unless we get more vocations, thus increasing our personnel -, but rather to consolidate our actual commitments. The M.Afr have tried to be true to their vocation: establishing a vibrant missionary Church, handing over and moving on!

Note: this short article was written in view of a ‘Coffee-Table Book’ published by the Archdiocese of Johannesburg. Each community/parish/Institute was invited to write one page size in that book.