Our Missionary Vocation
The Church … receives the mission of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is, on earth, the seed and beginning of that Kingdom.II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium (November 1964), 5.
Our Society was founded in 1868 by Cardinal Lavigerie, Archbishop of Algiers. It is a Missionary Institute of priests and Brothers living in community. Its aim is to proclaim the Gospel to the peoples of the African world. Because of its origins the Society has always had a particular interest in Muslims. It has chosen as its name “the Society of Missionaries of Africa”.
The Society of Missionaries of Africa is a Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right which comes under the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. It possesses public juridical personality in ecclesiastical law.
In certain countries, because of the traditional habit of its members, the Society is better known as the “White Fathers”.
It is among the peoples of the African world that we continue today to live out our vocation and our apostolic project: to be witnesses of the Kingdom and to share with those willing to receive it, the grace of the Good News. All our commitments in all their diversity are directed towards this end.
The proclamation of the Gospel and the service of others require that we feel a solidarity with the people among whom we live. This may open the way to dialogue with other religions and other cultures in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
The incarnation of Christ is the model of our mission. It expresses God’s own respect for people and His concern for their freedom and for their development as individuals and as communities. Hence in our mission we are mindful of the cultural riches of people and we try to penetrate those cultures with the light of the Gospel.
Sharing the sufferings of others and making their aspirations our own demands of us a particular care for the poor, a commitment to justice and peace, a concern that people’s lives be fuller and richer, more truly human. In this way will the dignity of each and everyone as children of God be more truly acknowledged.
By granting our Society official recognition, and by urging us to be faithful to the Charism of our Founder, the Church calls us to share in a special way in her responsibility for the evangelization of peoples.
We receive our mission from the Pope, head of the Episcopal College and Pastor of the Universal Church. We are both signs and agents of communion between Churches. We live out this mission by becoming part of the Churches that welcome us while maintaining a link with our home Churches.
We face a variety of religious situations which are continually changing. Fidelity to our initial inspiration and the obligations arising from the commitments already undertaken in the past guide our choices in the apostolate:
In places where the church’s presence is still minimal we have to begin or continue the dialogue of Salvation which leads each individual to search his heart more thoroughly with a view to answering God’s call in Jesus Christ. When it is possible, the proclaiming of the Good News will aim at founding Christian communities.
Where the Church is already present and asks for our services we co-operate with it, acknowledging its authority and responsibility. It is with our own distinctive character that we accept to serve in the local Churches and to work with them, with the constant aim of preparing for the future by building living, self-reliant communities that are really concerned for unity among Christians and the proclamation of the Gospel. It is in this way that we are part of the Local Church to which we are sent.
How far and in what way we share in this work is determined by agreements which take into account the missionary options of the Society and the good of the local Church.
We are also present as missionaries in our Churches of origin and there too we fulfil the common apostolic project of the Society. We help them to become more open to Churches in the rest of the world, to become more aware of the riches and the needs of other peoples and to face up to their missionary responsibilities.
Though we belong to many different communities, we together form one large family. Each of us contributes to the common task by fulfilling the function assigned to him. Those who suffer from inactivity because of age or illness genuinely contribute to the missionary effort by the offering of their prayer and lives in union with Christ.