The thought of having Maryknoll respond to mission needs in Africa began during the 1930s. Father John Considine, Maryknoll’s missiologist who was from New Bedford, Massachusetts, was given the assignment to find a suitable place for the first Maryknoll mission on the continent.
After visiting many parts of Africa, Father Considine felt that Maryknollers would do well in an area that, at the time, was under British oversight. He also felt that the best teachers for Maryknoll would be the Missionaries of Africa, then popularly known as the White Fathers.
Father Considine was confident that the White Fathers would be solid role models for his inexperienced Maryknollers. He also was impressed that their teachings were already popular within Maryknoll:
- Attempt to understand and always respect the cultures of the African people.
- Make yourselves what they are – speak their language, adopt their customs, live among them as a brother.
- Should they choose to become Christians, encourage retention of culture that does not conflict with their new faith.
- Change nothing that cannot be replaced with something of value.
Maryknoll’s entrance into Africa was delayed by World War II. But, soon after the war was over, the Society was invited to work in the northern section of Tanganyika on the shores of Lake Victoria. The first arrivals -- Father William Collins and Father Albert Good (both from Boston) along with Father Louis Bayless (San Jose, California) and Father Joseph Brannigan (New York City) -- had a mission vision that was simple and clear. They intended to preach the Good News of the Gospel by both word and action and establish the church where it did not yet exist.
The first Maryknoll missioners to Africa left New York aboard the Good Hope Castle, arriving about two months later in the little port of Musoma. Their plan, once Maryknoll had gained the knowledge and experience of Africa in about five or 10 years, was to hope that Rome would assign to Maryknoll part of the huge Vicariate of Mwanza.
But short of four years, the Missionaries of Africa departed and Maryknoll, during July 1950, was presented with the responsibility to build the church in the new Prefecture Apostolic of Musoma. Four years later, Rome asked Maryknoll to take responsibility for the adjoining districts of Maswa and Shinyanga.
Since those early days, many Maryknollers, including the Maryknoll Sisters and the Maryknoll Lay Missioners, have served in mission in Africa. By 1965, work had started in Kenya. The apostolate grew and, during 1978, what had become the Africa Region was reorganized into the two regions of Tanzania and Kenya. Today, Maryknollers are in mission in both countries along with Ethiopia, Namibia and Sudan.
As part of the Maryknoll Society’s centennial during 2011, a mission exposure experience for 10 U.S. diocesan directors to Kenya occurred this past February. For 12 days, the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, guided by National Director Monsignor John E. Kozar, led its Mission Visit to Kenya. Co-sponsored by Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers under the guidance of Father Robert Jalbert, M.M., the journey witnessed the hope-filled, life-giving service of the Catholic Church in that African country.
For additional details about Maryknoll’s pastoral visit to Kenya, visit http://maryknollsociety.org.
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