Yet, the tremendous work of the SMA Fathers nearly ended before it even began. Although the SMA Fathers are saturated in distinctly Irish roots, the missionary congregation traces its history to France. In 1856, Bishop Melchior de Marion Bresillac experienced a heartfelt missionary commitment to bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Africa. When the first missionary priests, including Bishop Bresillac, arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone (West Africa) in the spring of 1859, all of them were struck by yellow fever and died.
Although Pope Pius IX was deeply saddened by the news, he reaffirmed his resolve on the urgency of the African mission and reminded the SMAs that "a work thus begun shall never perish." So it was that despite its difficult beginnings, the Society of African Missionaries survived and prospered.
Cardinal Richard Cushing invited the SMA Fathers to the Archdiocese of Boston in 1946. The Center House in Dedham tasked itself with promoting awareness and seeking support for its work in the rapidly developing Church in Africa. That task continues with the blessing of Cardinal Seán O'Malley who has encouraged the new generation of the SMA Fathers assigned in the archdiocese to assist local pastors in inner city churches.
Today, the Society of African Missionaries numbers just under 1,000 priests and is blessed by a stream of promising new vocations for its future. For more information on the Society for African Missionaries, contact The SMA Fathers, 23 Bliss Avenue, Tenafly, N.J. 07670.
Frank Mazzaglia is associated with the Missionary Alliance, which is comprised of religious missionary congregations of priests, sisters, brothers, and lay people whose members toil in the vineyards for Christ all over the world.
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