Responding to the God Who Speaks!

André Schaminée, of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa, shares how the God who Speaks throughout the Bible called him to be a missionary. He inspires us with his joys and challenges, travels and experiences, from a life in the missionary field.

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In all times, good or bad, God continues to speak to us and to challenge us! Which of his words have been for me a source of courage and joy, and still now stimulate and inspire me in my missionary journey as a member of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa to which I belong? I can think of so many! But, I include here just a few.

The basis of my missionary life: in John 3:16 we read, “God so loved the world that he gave us his one and only Son”. Jesus reminds us, “you did not choose me, I chose you” (John 15:16). For what, did he choose me? The answer is in Acts 1:8: to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

I became a member of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa more than 50 years ago and have been working in a number of countries, about 24 years in Ghana at different intervals, 6 years in Great Britain, 7½ years in India and, again at different periods, for 12 years in Rome. I look back to my past with a very grateful heart.

The Society of the Missionaries of Africa (Brothers and Priests) and the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa were both founded by Cardinal Charles Lavigerie, who at that time was Archbishop of Algiers. He did so, because he looked beyond the borders of his diocese and wanted to begin missionary activity in sub-Saharan Africa, most of which was at that time being colonized by the European powers. For that, he needed helpers, and so he invited people from different countries to join him in this “project”. Many responded enthusiastically and entered the Lavigerie Family, to work in Africa, not just for a few years, but for life! Only those needed for essential tasks in their home countries would spend a few years “at home”, but most of them are very happy, when this home-service is done, and they are allowed to return to “their” Africa!

Since these early days, there have been many changes: African countries gained their independence, and have taken charge of their own development and destiny. But, since the days of colonization, an ever greater number of African people have dreamt of settling and earning plenty of money in the USA or Europe. Not only the more qualified, but, especially in modern times, many migrants have desperately tried, and are still doing so today, to reach what they erroneously consider the “Promised Land”, often ending in tragedy and great loss of life.

As a result of these changes, “Africa” was no longer to be found exclusively in the continent that bears that name, and therefore also the Society no longer spoke of simply “Africa the continent”, as the purpose of its Mission, but widened the scope to “Africa and the African World”. For that reason, in 1993, the Society agreed to take on a Parish in Marseilles (France), known for its very multicultural and multi-religious character. It proved to be an excellent and beneficial experience. Not surprising therefore, that the General Chapter of 2016 confirmed this trend, stating that we are “sent out to the African world and wherever our charism is needed for a prophetic mission of encounter and of witness to the love of God”.

And indeed, in the past few years, we have sent a mixed community, consisting of both African and European confreres, to a few more parishes, which offer plenty of possibilities for interreligious dialogue with Muslims and other Christian Churches, and for taking care of migrants. As a result, there are now M.Afr. communities, in charge of parishes, not only in Marseilles, but also since 2016 in Toulouse (France), since 2017 in Karlsruhe (Germany), since 2018 in Brooklyn (USA) and also Liverpool (UK). Our confreres in Roquetas de Mar (Spain) also do a lot of apostolate among the migrants there. Hopefully, more such projects will follow in the future! In all these cases, we were explicitly requested by the local Bishop to accept this Mission.

Our Society, founded in Algeria, where practically the whole population was and still is Muslim, has always considered reaching out to Muslims a priority mission. That is why, wherever we are, interreligious dialogue continues to be very high on our priority list. Also high on our Agenda is working for Justice and Peace (hence our pastoral care for Migrants and combating human trafficking) and promoting Integrity of Creation. Our greatest wish is that all members of these Parishes embrace our dreams, join hands with us and with each other and also become missionaries!

By accepting such apostolate, we hope to show to the people of Europe, USA and elsewhere, young and old, that we are still around and, faithful to the inspiration of the Founder, continue our Mission, entrusted to us by the Church. And obviously also hoping that our special witness may attract others to join us in this apostolate, both in Africa and “wherever our charism is needed”.

André Schaminée, M.Afr.
Tamale, N/R, Ghana