The missionaries of Africa have evangelized the world since 1868. On December 8th, the congregation launched celebrations to mark 150 years of existence in Tunisia. In Uganda, the celebrations were held in Lubaga Cathedral.
The Missionaries of Africa (White fathers) launched celebrations to mark 150 years since their founder Charles Cardinal Lavigerie founded the congregation in Algeria. Card. Lavigerie founded the congregation of White fathers in 1868 and Mother Salome co-founded the Missionary sisters of our Lady of Africa (White sisters) a year later in 1869.When Cardinal Lavigerie went to North Africa, he looked at it as a gateway to evangelise Africa. Ten years after the Missionaries of Africa had been formed, they made the first caravan to Uganda.
The year was 1878 in April when a caravan of ten missionaries left Algiers and headed down south to Equatorial Africa. After long months of travel, they finally arrived at the shores of Lake Victoria in Mwanza where they docked. Five of the missionaries were supposed to remain in Tanganyika (Tanzania) while five would travel to Uganda. In February 1879, Fr. Simeon Lourdel ( Fr. Mapeera) and Bro. Amans Delmas were sent to meet Kabaka Mutesa I who was the king of Buganda to request for permission and inform him about their plan to teach the catholic faith in Buganda Kingdom.
The Kabaka accepted their request and also gave them land at Nabulagala where they built their first house. Fr. Lourdel remained teaching while Bro. Amans went back to bring the remaining three who later joined Fr. Lourdel in June 1879. When the three arrived, the team had their first mass and immediately begun teaching religion in the Kingdom.
They came to evangelize Uganda and they have done it for the past 140 years since the arrival of the first missionaries Fr. Mapeera and Bro. Amans of the congregation of the Missionaries of Africa. Six sisters from the Missionary Sisters of Our lady of Africa (White Sisters) would arrive in the country twenty years later in 1899. They would get involved in health campaigns, which led to opening of Rubaga Hospital, Kisubi Hospital, Nkozi and Villa Maria Hospitals.
When the missionaries arrived in Uganda, they came to evangelize Africa and lived their charism of evangelizing Africa. They were restricted to Kampala area around Nsambya Parish. Later, they would expand and continue with evangelizing Central and Western Uganda; they also moved to North East in Karamoja and Soroti.
Celebrations to mark 150 years of the existence of the Missionaries of Africa commenced on December 8th 2018 and will close on December 8th 2019. Internationally, the celebrations were launched in Tunisia while the Ugandan Chapter of Missionaries of Africa launched the celebrations at Rubaga Cathedral. Fr. Nyombi Richard said the conclusion will be internationally celebrated at Namugongo Martyrs Shrine and the theme for the celebration is “With Christ ever faithful to Africa”.
Fr. Nyombi says towards the end of the celebration, the congregation prepares to make pilgrimages to places connected with the Missionaries of Africa including; Kigunga, the place where the two missionaries first landed on their arrival in Uganda, then Kisubi, Nabulagala their first home in Uganda and the Uganda Martyrs Shrine, because the Missionaries of Africa look at the Uganda Martyrs as their spiritual children. The missionaries of Africa have been involved in Parish work, promotion of justice and peace, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. They have also been involved in formation of local clergy, Seminary Foundation of Local congregation like St. Charles Lwanga Brothers of Kiterrede, Banabikira Sisters of Bwanda, Byanyatereza in Fort Portal and Gogonya sisters.
There are 24 Ugandan Missionaries working in other countries. The congregation has 1210 priests and the brothers work and serve in different parts of the world as missionaries. The White Fathers as they are commonly known have also been involved in formation of technical schools which was part of their commitment. The Missionaries also joined in the fight against slave trade by redeeming the captured people. They had an order from Cardinal Lavigerie to rescue slaves especially children.
Cardinal Lavigerie was among the people fighting against slave trade and he carried out an anti-slavery campaign in Europe until 1892 when he died.
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