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Michael Foley (FormV)
Taken from The Pelican, Summer 1960 lent by Eugene MacBride
This year Father Cantwell, our French professor, decided to take a group of boys to stay for the Easter holidays at Bonnelles, the White Fathers junior seminary in France. The visit was partly intended to enable examination candidates to put an extra polish on their French before the ordeal of the G.C.E. in June, and fourteen boys were glad to avail themselves of this attractive way of spending the Easter break.
On Easter Sunday morning we dragged ourselves out of bed at six o'clock; we were tired, certainly, in body, but happy in spirit, and we sang our way to the station at Portsmouth. The journey was pleasant, and we arrived at our destination at eight o'clock that evening, and were kindly received by the Superior, Father Cazin. The French boys were not due back until the Tuesday, so we spent a quiet day on Monday inspecting the College and grounds. On Tuesday we paid our first visit to Paris, which is about thirty miles from Bonnelles. Fourteen foreign youths queued up at the village bus stop after breakfast, but unfortunately we were not expected: the bus was full, and none of us was able to get on. The next bus was not due for another hour, and the prospect of an hour's vigil at the bus stop was not very attractive. Someone suggested hitch-hiking, and as Father Cantwell agreed we set off along the road in two's and three's. Our experience that morning was to set the pattern for the rest, of the fortnight, for henceforward whenever we went to Paris we adopted this cheap method of begging lifts. We made an exception when Father came with us, because then he paid the fares! Besides being an economy, this way of travel also provided us with an opportunity of practising our French. Unfortunately the number of co-operative drivers on the road was rather limited, and not infrequently groups of boys had to walk for two or three hours. Once in Paris, we visited the usual tourist attractions: Notre Dame, the Sacre Coeur, Are de Triomphe, the Champs Elysees and the Louvre.
The French boys had all arrived by Tuesday night, and on Wednesday they started their studies. They were divided into"les grands" and"les petits"."Les grands" were, the boys of the Sixth Form and of the first year of philosophy, and they never mixed with the younger boys. We had our meals with these older boys, and there were two of us on the tables of six. The French boys were always helpful and were careful to speak slowly, and before we left we could nearly all understand at least something of what was said to us. It was only during meal-times that we had this opportunity of mixing with the French boys, as they were busy with their studies during the rest of the day.
A pleasant feature of our stay in France was the night we spent in Paris. We were divided into three groups of five, and each group spent one night at one of the White Fathers' houses in the city. In the late evening one or two of the Fathers took us round the sights, and we were able to sample at least one aspect of the night life of Paris. After this night in Paris, we went off the following morning to Versailles, and were amazed at the magnificence of the interior of the Palace there. Some of us, too, cycled. the thirty miles to Chartres, although others preferred to hitch-hike again.
The night before we left to return home, all the boys, French and British, were given wine, perhaps to warm us up for the sing-song which followed, and in which we acquitted ourselves, we hope, without disgrace. On Saturday morning, 30th April, we again rose at 6 a.m., and set off on the long journey back. We had had a wonderful holiday, but were not altogether sorry to see the Priory once again and to resume our life with the White Fathers in Britain.
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NEWS FROM OLD BOYS
Taken from The Pelican, Summer 1960 lent by Eugene MacBride
Among former Priorians who will be taking the oath to the Society this year are Eugene McBride at Totteridge, and Michael Fitzgerald and Gerard Wynne at Carthage.
Still at various stages of the scholasticate are J. Lynch and A. Visocchi at Carthage, P. Harrity, S. Browne, F. Fahy, B. Shannon at Totteridge, and James O'Toole in Canada. George Smith is still a novice, and Brother Albert Gardner finishes his scholasticate as a Brother at Marienthal this year.
The following are studying philosophy at Blacklion: H. Concagh, A. McCaffrey, P. Ashby, J. Foley, G. Hoxley, D. Airley, C. Bingham, P. Creaney, N. Kendellen, M. Mearns, P. Shanahan, D. O'Hagan, P. Tait and J. McDermott. Michael Kelly is in the Brothers' Novitiate at Dorking, and Kevin Hines is studying for the priesthood in the diocese of Middlesbrough at Wexford in Ireland.
Priorians of days gone by will be interested to hear that Mr Anthony Innocent, who was here before the war, has finished 12 years of service in the Education Corps, and has been accepted as a student at Strawberry Hill Training College for the next session. He is married and has three children, and the whole family delighted us with a visit in May.
Some news of more recent students:
Terence Pettit has gained a Major County Award to an Art School.
Edward Bleasdale is training to be a teacher at Strawberry Hill.
Nicholas Muller intends to join the Army.
Desmond Smith is training to be a surveyor.
Francis Murphy is at the Brothers' Novitiate of the Montfort Fathers quite near us, and he paid us a visit during the second term.
Andrew Cowe intends to join the Navy.
Brendan Carvill is at school in Buxton, Philip Holcroft is at Preston Catholic College, and Christopher John is at school in Wales.
Finbarre Fitzpatrick hopes to enter the Civil Service
Michael Goodstadt has been offered a place at Manchester University, and Patrick Gibbons hopes to enter Glasgow University next year.
We had a visit from Gerard Short at Faster. He is working with the I.C.I., and seems very prosperous.
Anthony Quinn is in a shipping office in the City, and came to see us at Whitsuntide.
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at St Columba's 1959-60
George Dunnion, John Leonard, Joseph Bolger, Michael Butterworth, Christopher Carabine, Robert Dempsey, Paul Fletcher, Kevin Griffin, Brian Kearns, Peter Jennings, Francis McCarthy, Eric McHale, Daniel Mulloy, Anthony Quinn, Adrian Moran, John Scully, John Sidgreaves, David Walker
Bernard Parry, John McLaverty, Joseph McIntyre, Martyn Buckley, Andrew Cathie, Peter Deane, Peter Fenlon, Thomas Gaughan, John Madden, John McKay, John Mattock, Francis O'Neil, David Ritson, Peter Roberts, Christopher Wallbank
Sean Hughes, Terence May, Peter,Callaghan, Eric Bateman, Christopher Wharton, Clive Cairns, Joseph Feeley, Paul Fraser, Geoffrey Harper, Richard Kinlen, Raymond Lockey, Hugh Malloy, Anthony McCann, Michael McGuinness, Bernard Reilly, Peter Rourke, Ian Scott, Robert Shaw
James Murray, Anthony Ryan, Francis Donovan, Kevin Gregson, Neil Delaney, Ernest Dickinson, Richard Shann, Owen Gormley, Gerard Gordon, Thomas Horn, Peter Johnson, Paul Maggiore, Philip Mason, John Murray, Michael Vaughan
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Note: This single snapshot of the early sixties is included purely for interest and does not signal the onset of lengthy articles from of all previous editions of this publication! However, many of the names that appear below may be familiar to you and it might be interesting to look back at some comings-and-goings during this period in which so many changes were taking place.
Father Thomas Tye and Father Harold Beckwith kept their priestly Silver Jubilee together at Broome Hall, Dorking, on June 29th, the feast of SS. Peter and Paul. The Very Rev. Father Richard Walsh, Assistant to Father General in Rome, and Father John Robinson, now engaged in secretarial work there, kept theirs at the Generalate.
Whilst congratulating the jubilarians, we also remember another of their ordination, Father John Moran, who died in the missionfield in 1959, Fort Jameson, and Fr. Gerard Scriven (1949), whose Wopsy Books still bring joy to countless readers, old and young.
Father Beckwith's health continues to improve and he was quite equal to the extra fatigue of the jubilee celebrations. He is still resting at the Novitiate.
Ordinations of African students who have been doing part of their studies in seminaries here are now becoming an annual event. This year again an African was among the priests ordained by Cardinal Godfrey. He is Father Pio Tibanyendera. We arranged a reception for him at the Provincial House after his ordination and for his first Solemn High Mass at Queensway, where he was assisted by four other African priests. He has now returned to his diocese of Mbarara, Uganda, where many years ago he began his seminary studies in our mission.
Back to Mbarara also went Brother Corbishley, who travelled there straight on from Rome after his thirty-day retreat. The prayers of his many friends, especially in Preston, will go with him on his second period of work in Africa. With Brother Corbishley at the thirty-day retreat were Brother Nicodemus McErlean, whose jubilee of Profession we reported recently, and Brother Toland, on leave for the first time from his mission in Karema, Tanganyika.
Father Peter Nixon, who came on leave before his time because of ill-health, has now returned to his mission at Lilongwe, Nyasaland. A few days before he left, Father John Bradley arrived home from Mbeya, Tanganyika. The Brothers in the"working team' have been in Dublin again, coping with the further stage of the improvements plan for Cypress Grove, Templeogue. But they are having to work without the expert management of Brother John Ryan, who is still resting under doctor's orders after his sudden illness at Dorking. His condition caused us anxiety for a few days but, thank God, he had stopped work in time and so avoided what the doctor has told us would have been a serious collapse.
From our Fathers studying in Rome comes frequent news of the many activities there. Our Generalate is hardly ever without important visitors, mostly of course, people connected in one way or another with Africa. These days it often counts amongst its guests Cardinals and Bishops in Rome for preparatory work for the forthcoming Council. Amongst other guests recently, was the President of the Republic of Upper Volta (West Africa), Mr. Maurice Yameogo. He was in Rome for an official visit to the Holy See. Our Superior General gave a reception in his honour to which many members of U.N. and the Diplomatic Corps were invited. Mr. Yameogo is one of the outstanding Catholic personages in Africa today.
(The Society of Missionaries of Africa)
By Donald Attwater
This chronicle appeared in a special edition of "The White Fathers" magazine probably published in 1952, the latest date that is mentioned in the text. It is therefore about 50 years old and although it is interesting to read at various levels, it should primarily be seen as an historical document. Quite naturally, it reflects the language and attitudes of its time and readers should not be offended if they come across statements and opinions which would be frowned upon today. Many of us will have read such material when we were young and would have been inspired by such accounts of heroic lives to join the White Fathers. Some of us are just as inspired by the story as we read it today and can relate it to the way in which the Society has adapted and developed.
Dr Mike Cooper kindly loaned a previous publication by Donald Attwater entitled "The White Fathers In Africa" (1937)and wants to find the best home for it. Any suggestions?
Note 3: This is a long document and probably easier to read when printed. Why not get your browser to download it to your hard disk for this purpose? (Illustrations have not been included)
THE WHITE FATHERS
(The Society of Missionaries of Africa)
By Donald Attwater
0n Trinity Sunday, June 16th, 1878, a remarkable and epoch-making expedition set out from Zanzibar on the east coast of Africa: ten White Fathers, nine priests and a brother, under the leadership of Father Leo Livinhac, were going to plant the Catholic faith in the heart of Central Africa. A journey that can now be done in a few days was to take them over twelve months, for it was through nearly a thousand miles of tropical lands that a few years earlier before Livingstone and Stanley and Burton and Speke and Grant, no European foot had trodden.
(It is worth remembering that it was two Englishmen, two Scots and a Welshman who opened the way for these missionaries).
Animals were no help on such an undertaking: everything had to be carried by African porters, food, shelter, medical stores and so forth, with an armed escort of askaris, 400 souls in all. At the last moment the Superior of the White Fathers at Algiers, alarmed by reports he had heard in Europe, wrote to Father Livinhac ordering him not to attempt to enter Uganda: the letter never arrived, and for Uganda the missionaries set out.
As it penetrated further into what was then rightly called the Dark Continent the difficulties of the caravan became overwhelming. There was the damp heat, insufficient food, strikes and desertions of carriers, continual trouble between them and the askaris, thieves and fire, endless dues to be paid to chiefs, and finally fever."All this does not take away our good spirits," wrote Father Pascal, but a few days after he was dead from fever, the first Catholic missionary to give his life in Central Africa. By the time Tabora was reached, after three and a half months, four of the priests were in delirium; but after six weeks' rest and reorganization of the caravan they all pressed on, and on June 25th and July 3oth, 1879, the first mission posts in Central Africa were established, in Uganda and Tanganyika respectively. In the same year the first- reinforcements arrived; they had been twelve when they set out; five had died on the journey and one, had been murdered.
This little band of White Fathers, the first Catholic missionaries there, had for their" parish" the whole of Central Africa, one fifth of the whole continent. They were the pioneers of the whole of the huge missionary effort of the Catholic Church in that vast area.
Progress in Uganda was slow at first but 1886 saw a hideous and glorious event that was the seed of a plentiful harvest. It began with the killing of a convert, named Joseph Mukasa, because he protested to King Mwanga against his debauchery and his massacre of the Protestant Bishop James Hannington and his caravan. Six months later sixteen of the king's Catholic attendants, boys and young men were burned alive at Namugongol because they were Christians and had refused to serve the wickedness of Mwanga's personal habits. The immediate effect of their heroic death was a notable increase of converts to Christ, and in the ensuing persecution Protestants as well as Catholics gave their lives rather than deny His name. The sixteen Catholics above referred to, together with Joseph Mukasa and five other victims, were beatified as the Martyrs of Uganda by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.
Within a year of these martyrdoms the number of baptized in Uganda had risen from barely 200 to over 500 and of catechumens from 800 to 3,000, but the country continued to be very troubled, by King Mwanga, by Arab slavers, and by European intrigue; it was not till the British protectorate was established in 1893-94 that peace came to it. And it was amid such difficufties as these that all the missions of the White Fathers were established.
But who are these White Fathers, the apostles of Central Africa, whose missions are now found from Kabylia to the Gold Coast and from Uganda to Rhodesia ? To answer that question it is necessary to go back to October 1st, 1825, when there was born into a middle class family at Huire, near Bayonne in France, a boy who was to be one of the greatesr missionary geniuses the Church of Christ has ever known.
His name was Charles Martial Allemand Lavigerie, and by the time he was fifteen he had made up his mind what he wanted to do in the world: he would be a priest and devote his life to a country parish in his native land. What actually. happened was that twenty six years later Lavigerie landed at Algiers as its archbishop: that was his official positionbut in his own mind he was the" parish priest" of half a continent, the continent of Africa."Algiers," he wrote,"is only the threshold of a vast continent, with more than two hundred million inhabitants . . . Their.conversion must be the ultimate aim of all our efforts."
The steps in this development of Lavigerie's vocation cannot be set out here; but from 1866 he laboured for Africa at Algiers (for a time he was archbishop of Carthage as well) for twenty-five years, and his outstanding achievements, closely connected with one another, were his work against the slave trade and his foundation of the White Fathers. Great Britain is properly proud of the part she played against formal slavery in the nineteenth century, and the names of Clarkson, Wilberforce, and Livingstone are justly held in honour, but we are less mindful of the help we received from an archbishop in Africa. Lavigerie's first pastoral letter was concerned with the suppression of slavery, and he founded refuges for child slaves in Tanganyika, Nyanza. Tabora, Zanzibar, Carthage, and Malta. He contributed part of the text to Pope Leo XIII's encyclical letter on behalf of the slaves in 1888, and in that and the following years he went from country to country appealing to the nations of Europe to put an end to the traffic in human beings and its hideous cruelties; at the international conference at Brussels in 1890 his practical suggestions towards abolishing the trade were adopted almost as a whole. Cardinal Lavigerie (as he was by then) addressed a large meeting of the Anti-Slavery Society in London, and paid a visit of respect to the grave in Westminster Abbey of the great Protestant missionary and enemy of slavery, David Livingstone.
Gentlemen," he declared afterwards," you have inherited his glory and you must carry out his wishes." If the immediate results were not commensurate with the prayer, enthusiasm, and work of Lavigerie and many others at this time, national jealousies and rivalries were largely to blame.
In the very first year of Lavigeric's episcopate in Africa, Algeria was devastated by a succession of disasters: cholera, locusts, drought, floods. Tens of thousands of people died, tens of thousands were made homeless; the country was swarming with starving and orphaned children, and practically nothing was being done for them. After a heart-rending talk with a wandering boy picked up in the streets, the archbishop determined to take the responsibility for them, and the risk, upon himself. With no initial capital except what he could raise by cutting down his own expenses he started a home for boys and another for girls, putting them in charge of nuns, and soon there were two thousand children under his care. Other people came forward to help; yet others looked on, criticizing adversely and prophesying disaster; and the Mohammedans went on saying that"All Christians will certainly go to Hellexcept their archbishop at Algiers."
Lavigerie soon saw that these orphanages, and good works of a similar kind, were the most suitable form of missionary work among Mohammedans, who were, and mostly still are, impervious to any direct preaching of the Christian gospel; but all the time he had his eye on inner Africa as well. However, the clergy of the Algerian province had been trained only as pastors for French colonists, not as foreign missionaries (they had not even learned Arabic, much less African dialects), so the first thing the archbishop had to do was to find and train his own men. In 1868 seven serninarists offered themselves, a novitiate was opened, and on February 2nd, 1869, the Society of Missionaries of Africa (not then so called) came into being. It was a first principle with Mgr. Lavigerie that his missionaries must speak, live, eat, dress, and think in the terms of those to whom they were sent, and accordingly he dressed his novices in the white tunic (gandura) and mantle (burnus) and red cap of the north African Arabs, with a rosary round their neck. Hence their common name" White Fathers," the White Fathers of Africa. In 1872 the new missionaries took over the Sahara mission and three years later three priests, Fathers Paulmler, Bouchand, and Menoret, set out for the Sudan, across the desert via Timbuktu; on Maundy Thursday, 1876, news reached Algiers that they had been murdered by Tuaregs. In 1881 three more, making the same attempt, met a like fate.
It was the"foundation sacrifice" of the society. Meanwhile Europe had been excited by the explorations of Livingstone and the rest, Lavigerie had drawn the attention of the Holy See to the need for evangelization in these newly opened lands, and in 1878 Pope Leo XIII made him apostolic delegate for Central Africa. Within four months of this appointment the First Caravan of the White Fathers was sent out, as related above.
Cardinal Lavigerie, beset by many difficulties and trials, continued to work for Africa for another fourteen years. When he died peacefully on the night of November 25-26th, 1892, praise of him was heard throughout the civilized world. He was above all a great African, who" loved Africa and loved everything about her," and he bequeathed to her a society of missionaries vowed to the service of God in that land alone. To that society of White Fathers he bequeathed his own enthusiasm, example, and instructions, of which the outstanding thing is that their missionary work should be grounded in a religious community life on the mission, as a"framework" and safeguard of that personal spiritual life that must be the background of all their work:"He that abideth in Me and I in Him, the same beareth much fruit." And, while the field of its apostolate was to be confined to Africa, the society itself was to be composed of men not of one but of any and all nationalities, a catholic, not a national society. Cardinal Lavigerie lived to see his missionaries solidly established in the heart of Africa; he has been the means of bringing Christ to millions of heathen.
The work of the White Fathers among the Mohammedans of North Africa has always been the one least fruitful in external results. It was Cardinal Lavigerie's policy that Mohammedans having a twelve-hundred years old prejudice against and even hatred of Christianity, they should be approached only indirectly through good works and the example of Christians: it was twenty years before he would even allow one to be baptized. The orphanages that he founded have now developed into three Christian Arab villages, two in Algeria and one in Tunisia, and there are mission stations among the Kabyle people; here and in the huge Saharan vicariate of Ghardaia the missionaries carry on in the spirit of their founder's original instructions breaking down prejudice. But it is slow work for, except the Kabyles and a few others, the very mixed inhabitants have" hearts as dry as the sands of the desert and As black as its stones." However, the White Fathers have shown that Mohammedans can be converted to Christianity, which some disheartened missionaries have even been disposed to deny.
*The Sahara mission had a famous helper in the person of the hermit, ex-soldier and explorer, Father Charles, Vicomte de Foucauld, who was murdered 'by raiders at Tamanrasset in 1917.
must not be supposed that Mohammedans are confined to North Africa. Islam is
very influential in the North West African missions of the White Fathers, and
in those of the centre it is continually spreading. It is one of the chief obstacles
to missionary work, for formal acceptance of Islam is a very simple matter and
the observance of its outward rites not burdensome; it further appeals to the
native African because it does not ask him to give up his almost universal polygamythe
other great plague for the Christian missionary. The result is that, even away
from the north and east coast where the Arabs congregate, the White Fathers
have to wage the warfare of the Cross against Islam only less than against heathenry
The most prosperous of the White Fathers' missions are the three in Uganda (as we have seen, one of the first two districts to be evangelized, watered with the blood of martyrs) and the heighbouring territories of Ruanda and Urundi in the Congo. Indeed, the Congo is one of the outstanding missionary territories of the world, having more than half of all the White Fathers' African Christians (some 1,435,123), nearly half of their African clergy, over a third of their African nuns, and nearly half the catechists; more than half a million people are under instruction. Uganda has had the glory of being the first mission in Africa to provide a Vicairilate entirely staffed by African priests, and with an African Bishop at its head. Masaka Vicariate, in Uganda Protectorate, was erected in 1939 and confided to the care of Bishop Joseph Kiwanuka, a native of Uganda who, is also a White Father. In this part of Africa therefore, the White Fathers have completed their task and confided what is almost a Catholic country to the care of its own native priests. It must not be supposed, here or elsewhere, that every neophyte is exemplary: there are backsliders, and old customs (e.g. blood feuds) have a strong hold; but the proportion of those who faithfully persevere is marvellous-and this is true of all the White Fathers' missions.
The Uganda, Ruwenzori, and Masaka Vicariates are specially strong in institutions: senior and junior seminaries, mother-house and novitiate of the Bannabikira (native African nuns), trainingschools for men and women teachers, training-workshops, other colleges and schools, and hospitals, general and for lepers. And for the educational establishments the missionaries have compiled and printed textbooks (to say nothing of gospel and prayer-books), in the four principal dialects. In 1914 a Baganda minister of justice, Stanislaus Mugwanya, publicly consecrated his country to Our Lady of Africa at her shrine at Algiers.
The White Fathers' missions were established before any European Government in Uganda, Tanganyika, and the Congo. Besides the sheer physical difficulties, the missionaries had to contend with the active opposition of fetishist sorcerers and agents of Mohammedan penetration; there were local wars, and slavetraders and Negro chiefs sometimes tried to put down the Christian teachers by force of arms; later there was the obstruction of" free-thinking" (and freer living) Europeans to be coped with and international political troubles; then there was the insidious effect of the introduction of foreign manners and customs and standards and interests, all the problems and complications that commercial expansion brings with it, the emergence of the corrupt" town nigger," unjust exploitation and"labour" troublesand these things continue and in some respects get worse: in our own day they have produced in the Congo and northern Rhodesia the pan-African communistic" Watch-Tower" movement (imported from the United States!).
*In Africa as everywhere else, facts show that capitalist-industrial commercialism inevitably provides the best breeding-ground for communist propaganda.
But the White Fathers persevered and persevere, and not without success. The older mission areas of the Upper Congo and Kivu vicariates, for example, are almost solidly Christian, and at any given moment 100,000 Africans are receiving regular or intermittent religious and moral instruction. In several territories organized Catholic Action has been going on for years, notably the Belgian Congo, Tanganyika, and Nyasa; in the last named Vicariate, in the form of voluntary catechetical and other work, it antedates the prescriptions of Pope Pius X1 on the subject. The Tanganyika missions (and others) were inevitably badly set back by the war Of 1914-18, but the people were not slow to notice that the Church, which was there before any Europeans had settled, survived the rise and fall of three different governments, that their world changed violently but the gospel of Christ changed not at all; the result is that the missions made a good recovery, especially the vicariate of Tanganyika itself, where Mgr. Joseph Birraux, who was Vicar Apostolic from 1920 till 1936, did a great work and was very much respected by the British administration.
In 1946 the vast Vicariate of Tanganyika was divided, the northern part becoming the Kigoma Vicariate and the southern part taking its name from Karema. The latter Vicariate has for its first Vicar Apostolic an EnglishmanBishop James Holmes Siedle, who therefore has the distinction of being the first British White Father to become a Vicar Apostolic. A native of Tanganyika, Right Reverend Laurean Rugambwa, has the distinction of being the second native African Bishop. He is head of the Vicariate of Lower Kagera, which was sectioned off from the Vicariate of Bukoba in 1952.
The missions of West Africa have been slower to develop: in earlier times they were gravely hindered by the French Government, Islam is exceedingly strong, and the native population terribly apathetic. But since 1931 there has been in the Vicariates of Tamale and Bobo Diulasso a mass movement of conversion in the Dagari tribe that is one of the most remarkable things in the history of the White Fathers.
Especially in Central Africa, the missions of the White Fathers are very notable for their social work. Cattle-breeding is improved, trades are taught by the lay-brothers, friendly and charitable societies, savings banks, weekly markets, and plantations inaugurated. The White Sisters and other nuns, besides teaching and nursing, help the African women in the domestic arts, especially t h e physical care of children. The middle-class English person has little idea of the physical sufferings of such people as the Africans; the leper hospital at Mua in Nyasaland, established in collabora t i o n with the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association and staffed by White Sisters, is outstanding among several such institutions and the number of sick people tended in the White Fathers' missions' during the year 1950-51 reached the bewildering total of 9,737,014.
The mission stations astonish Europeans who for the first time come upon one in the wilds: the residence and schools, sometimes a convent, the clean and tidy village, workshops, gardens, plantationsand in the midst a church, large and well built, which explains and gives an ultimate meaning to the whole. These stationsthere are 470 of them all toldare oases of the good life, spiritual and temporal, in a waste of superstitious fear, insufficiency, and diseaseand the Africans recognize them as such.
In 1952, seventy-four years after the First Caravan, the White Fathers have charge of thirty-nine mission territories, of which twenty-eight are Vicariates disposed thus: in Uganda, Uganda, Ruwenzori, Masaka; in Tanganyika, Kigoma, Karema, Maswa, Bukoba, Lower Kagera, Mbeya, Mwanza, Tabora; in the Congo, Lake Albert, Nyundo, Kabgayi, Kasongo, Costermansville, Kitega, Ngozi, Baudouinville; in Nyasaland, Likuni; in Northern Rhodesia, Abercorn, Bangweolo; in French West Africa, Bamako, Bobo-Diulasso, Ouagadougou, Nouna; in the British Gold Coast, the diocese of Tamale; in the Sahara, Ghardaia.
There are also the Prefectures of Sikasso, Ouahigouya, Kayes, Gao and Nzerekore (French West Africa), Oyo (Nigeria), Fort Jameson (Northern Rhodesia), North Nyasa (Nyasaland), and the mission territories of Kabylia, French North Africa and Beira (Portuguese East Africa).
* 18 of these territories (15 Vicariates and 3 Prefectures), are in British Africa.
* A Prefecture is the first, a Vicariate the second, stage of development of a missionary territory. A Vicar Apostolic is always a titular bishop. The White Fathers also direct St. Anne's,seminary at Jerusalem, which trains clergy of the Byzantine rite for the Catholic Melkites of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. This special work was undertaken by Cardinal Lavigerie in 1882.
In terms of figures these territories represent 1,704 active missionary priests and 445 African priests (and three African Bishops), who together minister to 2,765,810 baptized faithful. With the help of 1,141 African nuns and 12,588 lay catechists they are responsible for teaching 773,111 children in school and 827,776 catechumens. In addition to ordinary baptisms of adults and children, some 56,000 heathen in danger of death are baptized at their own request. There are also 203 Lay-Brothers of the White Fathers, 1,223 White Sisters and other European nuns, and 262 African Brothers.
Reference has been made to what I have called"the social works" of the White Fathers. These are helps to that good life which is due to human beings as such and it is a primary duty of Christians to provide for them, they are the" corporal works of mercy." In the mission field they also serve to aid the missionary in getting into touch with the peoplethe first and one of the biggest of his problems. (In Nyasaland, for example, where there are now 77,625 Catholics, it was six years before there was a single convert.) Cardinal Lavigerie was very strong on the duty of his missionaries to care for the sick, and, as we have seen, the White Fathers practically had their origin in the institution of two orphanages; they still look after large numbers of children who have lost their parents or been abandoned by them, and when the missionaries tell the Africans that Jesus Christ said:" Suffer little children to come unto me. . . . And whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only . . .", the moral is sufficiently plain.
The provision of schools naturally has a very special place in earning the good will of the African, in improving his conditions of life, and as a support and help for the missionaries' formally religious work. The function of the schoolsprimary, secondary, technical, training-colleges, and even special boarding schools for the children of chiefsis not merely informative: it is properly educative, to strengthen and train souls to meet the temptations and problems and successes of life, especially now that that life is being increasingly changed and conditioned by foreign influences. A number of White Fathers come every year to the house of studies in London to take a course for colonial teachers at the University of London's Institute of Education, while others follow courses at St. Andrews' University (Fife) and Claughton Hall (Lancs.).
Cardinal Lavigerie was adamant that Africans should not be turned into pseudo-Europeans:"African children should be brought up as Africans," he declared. This principle still animates the methods of the White Fathers, in schools and seminaries and elsewhere.
Of the White Sisters as teachers and nurses, mention has been made; for technical training in agriculture and trades, and for the multitudinous, works of building, etc., at the mission stations, the missionaries rely in the first place on their own lay-brothers, who are an integral and most important part of the society and whose work is most worthy of admiration. Churches and convents altars and desks, bridges and mouse-traps, cornfields and orchardsall are the work of the lay-brothers and of Africans under their direction.
An outstanding feature of the White Fathers' missionary method is the catechumenate, an institution of the early Church revived by Cardinal Lavigerie with the approval of the Holy See. This means that an adult African has to undergo two years as a postulant, learning the fundamental principles of natural religion, and two years as a catechumen learning the essentials of Christianity: only then is he allowed to be baptized. For the last three months (or more,) before baptism the catechumens reside at a mission station, where they are directly under the supervision of the missionaries and receive as well instruction in reading, writing, handicrafts, and so on. It is certain that this discipline of the catechumenate with its four years of instruction is responsible more than any other human factor for the satisfactoriness of the White Fathers' converts, and it has since been adopted by other missionary societies.
From the earliest times the Church has always quite naturally ordained bishops and priests from among the people of any country in which she plants the faith; but from the time of the colonizations by Europeans in the sixteenth century this was often neglected in favour of a European clergy, and lately the Holy See has had frequently to remind missionaries of their primary duty to raise up a native priesthood more whole-heartedly than the White Fathers. The first two Baganda priests were ordained in 1913; to-day, less than forty years later there are 445 African priests in their missions, and three African Bishops. More than fifty mission stations, with their posts and dependencies, are in the sole charge of African clergy. There are twenty-eight seminaries in the White Fathers' missions, and in these 2,261 young Africans are being prepared for the priesthood.
Note:"I would rather see you ordain one indigenous priest than baptize fifty thousand heathen;" said Pope Innocent XI to a missionary to China about 1680.
The personal training of these priests is adapted to their special needs; their studies are those of European seminarists, and they become as good priests in about the same time. And it must not be supposed that this African clergy is merely auxiliary, as it were of secondary rank. The Church of Christ recognizes no racial distinctions of that kind, and the African priests are regarded in every respect on a level with the White Fathers who, by the grace of God, have been enabled to bring them into being. They are welcomed with the greatest enthusiasm by their own people, whom they can teach better than any European clergy can do; and in the time to come, when the White Fathers have withdrawn to other fields, or disaster has dried up the sources of European missionary supply, they will provide the ordinary ecclesiastical superiors for their own country, and the African Church will be African as the Irish Church is Irish. Only then, indeed, will the Church be securely rooted in that land.
It is a curious fact that it is far more difficult for an African to become a good" brother," especially one engaged in manual work, than it is for him to becomd a priest, and the White Fathers' efforts to establish congregations of such, bound by religious vows, have not met with unqualified success (Ruanda has done best in this respect). But with African nuns it has been quite different. Archbishop Henry Streicher, K.B.E., while Vicar Apostolic of Uganda, sponsored the first careful steps in this direction, and in 1919 the first nuns native of Africa, eleven Baganda women, made their simple vows. They had been trained under the White Sisters, and since then they have become an independent diocesan congregation, with their own mother general and a rule approved by the Holy See. They are called the Daughters of Mary (in Luganda, Bamtabikira), and there are over 800 of them, of whom half are in the Uganda Vicariates. The principal work of these sisters is the religious instruction of young children, but they take part in all the activities of the White Sisters and some of them have already gained teachers' certificates with distinction from government education departments.
Who, asked Mgr. Streicher rhetorically, baptizes thousands of dying catechumens and pagans every year? Who gathers in thousands of grown-ups and children, weaning them from paganism and beginning their instruction ? Who visits and prays with thousands of sick and fetches the priest with the last sacraments ? Who conducts the daily service of prayer, and does this, that and the other? It is, said the bishop, our catechists. A catechist is a layman whose primary job is, as the name implies, to give religious teaching, and without the help of many such the missionaries would be so busy ministering to the faithful that they would have no time to carry the gospel further. They are usually married men, of from twenty-five to fifty years old, and the training they receive depends on the work they are to do and other circumstances: most of them are either teaching in mission schools or dispersed for general religious work among the lesser villages. There are over 12,000 of these catechists, and their job is a full time one which they discharge with great devotion, seriousness, and volubility; with their qualifications many of them could earn more as clerks in government but
they loyally stick to their job at the small salary which is all that can be attached to it. By means of these catechists and Bannabikira and with the help of the White Sisters the clergy are left more free for their missionary journeys and are able to look after very large areas (mission stations of two or three priests average sixty to seventy miles from one another, and each has up to a hundred villages in its care). It is clear then that their methods are thoroughly imbued with Lavigerie's principle that"Africa will be converted by the Africans" and the inner spirit of the White Fathers' work is equally inspired by the instructions of their founder:"Never take sides with any political party whatsoever . . . . Extend your charity equally to all men . . . . Never allow your cause or your name to be associated with w o r I d I y interests . . . . Love the poor pagans; be kind to them; heal their hurts . . . . Love one another; let your hearts and minds be as one."
Such a spirit, coupled with a rigorous training, the whole submitted to God and his Christ, could alone have effected what the White Fathers have already done in darkest Africa.
From its beginning the Society of Missionaries of Africa was intended to be international, catholic as well as Catholic, and to-day there are fifteen nationalities represented among its members, recruited from nearly all the great nations of Europe and beyond. It is not a religious institute in the technical sense, but a society of secular priests who accept certain restrictions on their use of private personal property and take an oath to devote themselves until death to the African missions. In practice their life is emphatically that of religious, since the principle of the missionaries living a communal life is a fundamental one: that common life, self-sanctification as part of a community, communal religious exercises, mutual support, is the root from which their missionary work grows, the very heart of the society, its characteristic notespritual life ensured by communal living amid all the distractions and dangers of missionary life.
The mother house of the White Fathers is in Rome, where resides the Superior General, who with his council of four is elected, or re-elected, every ten years by a general chapter of the society.
All aspirants for the White Fathers, whether to be priests or brothers, must eventually pass through the novitiate, but before that, those whose general education is not finished are sent to a missionary college until they have reached matriculation standard. If they are from Great Britain they go to The Priory at Bishop's Waltham in Hampshire, or to St. Columba's College, Newtown St. Boswells, Roxburghshire, where the life is much the same as at any good boys' boarding-school but all directed to the ultimate aim of the salvation of the Africans, ad salvandos Afros. They then go to another college of the society for their philosophy, the British college being at Broome Hall, Coldharbour, Dorking, and then comes the year's novitiate. This is a time of spiritual formation, and little study, except of the Bible and useful languages, is done. After their novitiate those who have not yet done theological studies take a four-years' course at the society's theological college (" scholasticate"), those from Great Britain at Monteviot House, Jedburgh, in Scotland. During this period they normally receive holy orders and take the missionary oath which binds them to the Society and the Society to them. The complete course (after the completion of a secondary education) of philosophical and theological studies, together with the year's novitiate, covers a period of seven years.
For those who wish to be lay-brothers a secondary education or, even more, skill in a tradecarpentry, building, engineeringis an advantage but not necessary. After a postulancy of six months and two years of probation (including a year's novitiate) candidates are admitted to take oaths of obedience and celibacy annually for three consecutive years and then for a period of three years; after that the oaths may be renewed for life. The lay-brothers"postulate" for Great Britain is at Monteviot House, Jedburgh. Before proceeding to the missions the Brothers spend two years at a special Training Centre where they follow courses in the various trades and crafts they will be required to practise and teach in Africa. Lay-brothers are equally missionaries with the priests and all live entirely in common on the missions.
There are five houses of the Society in the United States, and a very flourishing province in Canada which was able to send more than 130 missionaries to Africa during the war years. The White Fathers have been established in England since 1912 and the house of studies in London referred to above was opened in 1928. The Priory at Bishop's Waltham was first opened as a missionary college in 1918. Since then increasing numbers of English, Scottish, and Irish boys have proceeded year by year to the various training centres of the Society. In 1945 the houses in Great Britain were erected into a canonical province. There are at present 128 White Fathers, including 17 lay-brothers, from Great Britain and Ireland.
Reference has already been made more than once to the principle of communal life among the White Father missionaries. The rule in practice is that not less than three of them shall form a mission station, and so they are never deprived of the support of community life. No missionary goes"on circuit" for more than 15 days each month and it is a strict regulation that the community of each station must be at home together for a total of six months in every year. Their prescribed spiritual exercises (but not the recitation of the Divine Office) are made in common. This community life rooted in common prayer is a strong attraction for many to the White Fathers' Society, and has been insisted on over and over again by Cardinal Lavigerie and the Superiors General."Its fundamental aim," declared the founder,"is the sanctification of its members, the more so because the holiness of the apostle is the condition of the fruitfulness of his work."
Note: The first English White Father of all was Father Arthur Prentice, ordained in 1903, who is still active, the father, as it were, of the branch of the Society now so well established in Great Britain.
The life of a White Fatherof any missionaryis a hard one. At home at his station he is at prayer and work every day from five in the morning till nine or ten at night, teaching, catechizing, hearing confessions, occupied with study and administrative work. He is not just a priest, like any other but with a coloured flock.
For example, he has strange languages and dialects to make himself ever more proficient in; he has the history, the ethnology, the customs, the religion, the psychology of his people to become thoroughly conversant with. He is living in much the same way as they do, coping with a tropical climate: he must know something about medicine, both for himself and for others. Then there are the tours to outlying posts, made on horseback, on push-bike, on motor-cycle, on foot, according to the means available and the nature of the country; he will have to receive reports from catechists, give decisions and orders, pray with and anoint the sick, hear many confessions, and the faithful will flock to Mass and communion: with all this he must call on every family, Christian or heathen, in each village, beginning with the head man. Certainly it is an interesting, even an exciting life, but missionary work is not simply a" spiritual adventure"it is a deliberate and painstaking doing of the will of God:" Teach ye all nations." First, last and all the time the White Father's task is, not to produce impressive statistics, but to bring about the interior conversion of the heathen to Christ, to bring to the individual African soul knowledge of those things which" eye hath notseen nor ear heard."
Pope Pius XI said to a bishop from Africa"The sun shines successively on different parts of the earth, and at present the sun of grace is shining on Africa. At every hour the times of Providence are striking, and we have to be on the alert so that we set forth neither too soon nor too late, but sharp on the stroke. And I, the Pope, tell you that Africa's hour has struck."
The foreign missions have to be firmly grounded, with so far as possible their own hierarchies of priests and bishops, and the Society of Missionaries of Africa, among many others, has been working hard to achieve that end in certain parts of that huge continent for nigh on seventy years. The task is still immense, and so far as the missions of the White Fathers are concerned we in Great Britain have a quite special responsibility. By far the greater part of their total inhabited area, the whole of fifteen vicariates and three prefectures, is under the control in one way or another of the British government, and nearly a half of all their missionaries are in that area: it is therefore particularly appropriate and desirable that many more British White Fathers should share in the work of evangelization there. And it is precisely British territories in Africa that provide some of the most promising mission fields. It is impossible to over-emphasize the crying need for missionaries in Tamale, for example; at the height of the Dagari movement Father Remy McCoy had to write:" We are only two Fathers for four whole tribes who are eager to become Christians. It is forty missionaries that we need in this Dagari mission alone, without speaking of the rest of these densely populated northern territories of the Gold Coast."
Cardinal Lavigerie impressed on his sons time and time again that they had to rise above the law of nature to the law of Christ" and embrace all nations with the same love"; and it is happily true that the British government (unlike some others) in general raises no objection to non-British missionaries in its territories: but the fact remains that we have a special responsibility towards the missions in our own colonies and dependenciesand not for that reason alone, but also because of the blessings which the Church in these islands has received during the past one hundred years. We may well hope and believe that the number of English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish White Fathers will continue to increase and that they will receive from their fellow countrymen the spiritual and material support that their work so eminently deserves, so that the Province of the White Fathers' Society in Great Britain may be enabled to live up to the epromise that it already so clearly shows."Africa's hour has struck !"