Marcel Lefebvre: missionary of Africa

Source: District of the USA

We offer below a gallery of images of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's time as a missionary in Africa from 1932 until 1959 as a member of the Holy Ghost Fathers—later in 1962, he would be elected their Superior General.

When first appointed in 1948 by Pope Pius XII as his Apostolic Delegate of Dakar (French-speaking Africa), Archbishop Lefebvre oversaw the Catholic Church in 18 African countries. By 1959, his territory of apostolic work had expanded to 12 archdioceses, 36 dioceses, and 13 Italian Apostolic Prefectures consisting of these modern-day countries:

  • Morocco (southern desert region)
  • Algeria (Saharan desert region)
  • Mauritania
  • Mali
  • Central African Republic
  • Senegal
  • Guinea
  • The Gambia
  • Cote d'Ivorie
  • Benin
  • Togo
  • Niger
  • Chad
  • Cameroon
  • Gabon
  • Congo
  • Madagascar
  • Le Reunion

It was in that year (1959), that Pope John XXIII requested Archbishop Lefebvre to choose a new Apostolic Delegate from amongst the native hierarchy. His Excellency had foreseen such an eventuality and consequently labored from an early stage to ensure the formation of a strong native clergy in the various African countries.

You can find out more about Archbishop Lefebvre's missionary activities via these excellent resources:

A testimony to the Catholic Faith's effect in Africa

During the sermon for his 50th Priestly Jubilee Mass, Archbishop Lefebvre spoke of how he witnessed the spread of the Catholic Faith in Africa:

Certainly I knew, by the studies which we had done, what this great mystery of our Faith was, but I had not yet understood its entire value, efficacy and depth. Thus I lived day by day, year by year, in Africa and particularly at Gabon, where I spent 13 years of my missionary life, first at the seminary and then in the bush among the Africans, with the natives. There I saw—yes, I saw—what the grace of the Holy Mass could do.

I saw it in the holy souls of some of our catechists. I saw it in those pagan souls transformed by assistance at Holy Mass, and by the Holy Eucharist. These souls understood the mystery of the Sacrifice of the Cross and united themselves to Our Lord Jesus Christ in the sufferings of His Cross, offering their sacrifices and their sufferings with Our Lord Jesus Christ and living as Christians.

...These [were] men produced by the grace of the Mass. They assisted at the Mass daily, communicating with great fervor and they have become models and the light to those about them. This is just to list a few without counting the many Christians transformed by this grace.

I was able to see these pagan villages become Christian—being transformed not only, I would say, spiritually and supernaturally, but also being transformed physically, socially, economically and politically; because these people, pagans which they were, became cognizant of the necessity of fulfilling their duties, in spite of the trials, in spite of the sacrifices; of maintaining their commitments, and particularly their commitment in marriage.

Then the village began to be transformed, little by little, under the influence of grace, under the influence of the grace of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and soon all the villages were wanting to have one of the fathers visit them. Oh, the visit of a missionary! They waited impatiently to assist at the Holy Mass, in order to be able to confess their sins and then to receive Holy Communion.

Some of these souls also consecrated themselves to God: nuns, priests, brothers giving themselves to God, consecrating themselves to God. There you have the fruit of the Holy Mass.

How did the Mass direct all these souls towards holiness? The Pontiff explicitly says: 'It is necessary that we study somewhat the profound motive of this transformation: sacrifice.'"

(Excerpted from Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre by Michael Davies)

Archbishop Lefebvre: Apostolic Delegate