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White Fathers

The common name for the “Society of Missionaries of Africa,” taken from their white cassocks and mantles. The society was founded in 1868 by Charles Cardinal Lavigerie (1825-92), archbishop of Algiers, to evangelize Africa. The Fathers are secular priests, together with lay brothers, who live in community, not taking the vows of regular religious communities, but bound by oath to lifelong work in African missions and to obedience to their superiors. They began their missions in Algeria and Tunisia. Early attempts to penetrate the Sahara were unsuccessful, so the missionaries withdrew from the desert to work in oases on the northern fringe, and to demonstrate the Gospel in loving action rather than by preaching. Later they entered Buganda, where they were very successful, subsequently going to Tanganyika, Nyasa, and Congo. They were also much concerned with the abolition of slavery, the improvement of agriculture, and the scientific exploration of Africa.