The Centenary of the Society was commemorated in London on Sunday,
6th October (1968) , and took the form of a Pontifical High Mass
of Thanksgiving in Westminster Cathedral. His Eminence Cardinal
John Heenan was the principal celebrant. His co-celebrants were
Father Duffy, our Provincial, 10 African priests from Uganda,
Tanzania, Kenya and the Congo, The Superior General of the Mill
Hill Missionaries, the Provincial of the Divine Word Fathers, and
representatives of the Verona Fathers, the Consolata Fathers, and
the Society of African Missions, the co-founder members of the Missionary
Institute, London. His Lordship Haile Mariam Cahsay, the
Ethiopian Eparch of Adigrat, our latest assignment in Africa, was
a magnificent figure in the stalls.
The choir and servers were drawn from St.
Edward's College and Broome Hall.
The White Sisters were present in strength
as they were also celebrating their centenary, and they brought
with them a good number of African Sisters and about 100 people
from the North of England.
The Diplomatic Corps was represented by the High Commissioners of
Zambia and Malawi, the Deputy High Commissioner of Ghana, and representatives
from the Congo, Uganda and Tanzania. Representatives of the Church
Missionary Society, the Baptist Missionary Society and the Methodist
Missionary Society were also present, along with Sisters from the
Congregations working in our missions.
The Cathedral was crowded for the occasion and there was a large
number of Africans present.
His Eminence the Cardinal gave the address which we reproduce
The Cardinal's Address
" The White Fathers are colour blind. They have no interest
in the colour of a man's skin. They are interested rather in a person.
I mention this because I want you to know that it is not by chance
that during this Mass of concelebration the chief places will be
occupied by African priests. This is at the direction of Father
Provincial. These priests will be in their honoured position not
because of the colour of their skin but because they are Africans,
and I will return to this thought about being Africans in a few
First of all I want to draw your attention to a truly remarkable
fact. We are gathered here today to celebrate the centenary of the
foundation of the White Fathers. A centenarya tremendous event
in the story of any family or nation or institute. This is the remarkable
fact : these centenary celebrations, jointly held by the White Fathers
and the White Sisters, are not going to take place at all.
You are witnessing the one and only recognition of this centenary.
In my long life I have never known any institution, civic, social
or religious, which did not make a tremendous celebration for its
Why have the White Fathers and the White
Sisters refused to do more than this? For one reason only.
They were determined not to spend one penny which in their view
belongs to Africa. They would not squander even the fare to bring
distinguished cardinals and bishops from Africa to take part in
these celebrations. No, they said, our Order is African, and we
shall do nothing to take away from the resources of our Order in
This I regard as an act of great self-denial. God bless them for
it. And incidentally it will give those of us who support the White
Fathers and the White Sisters the greatest possible encouragement
because we know that they will use their resources well for the
reasons why their Order was founded.
Now let me come back to this thought of Africa. They are called
White Fathers and White Sisters because of the colour of their habits.
That is the only thing white about them. Everything else is African.
The Order was founded in Africa for Africa and these priests,
brothers and nuns will always be determined not to found a Church
in Africa but to found an African Church. There is a world of difference.
It is because of this thorough determination to build an African
Church that the White Fathers and the White Sisters are so popular
among African people. That is the reason why so many flock to join
their roll, so many who have learnt to know and love the White Fathers
and Sisters. One third of all priests in Africa have been educated
by the White Fathers and the young men and women-priests and nuns
from Africa who are come to London to study to prepare themselves
to serve the Church in Africa, are all witnesses to the great work
of the White Fathers in Africa.
I am not going to give you the history of the White Fathersthere
is no time this morningbut I want you to know that although
the greater part of their energy has gone into the work of education,
the work of the nuns into the education of girls, training in mothercraft,
preparing young people for their work in life, nevertheless this
work has not been carried out without personal sacrifice.
There has been a number of the White Fathers who have given their
lives for their faith and for their work in Africa. They have their
role of martyrs and that makes this celebration of their centenary
that much the more glorious.
That is all I want to say this morning. I want to congratulate the
Fathers and the Sisters on the achievement of a hundred years. I
want to congratulate them, but still more I want to congratulate
Africa on having produced this Order and on having received such
striking benefits from the work of the Fathers, the Brothers and
the Sisters. For everyone in Africa knows that these priests and
nuns do not go with outstretched hands looking for gifts. Their
hands are outstretched in order to work and to help their brethren
I pray this morning that Christ will continue to bless and guide
them in their work for Africa, and that Mary, the Mother and Queen
of Africa, will always be by their side, a loving and grateful Mother
to her children.