By Devin Watkins
The Society of African Missions is a missionary order of priests who serve Catholics in Africa, often in rural areas, as well as communities of African origin in other parts of the world.
Pope Francis met Friday with participants in the Society’s ongoing General Assembly.
On May 11th, the Assembly elected Fr. Antonio Porcellato as the new Superior General. He takes over from Fr. Fachtna O’Driscoll, who has completed his 6-year mandate.
In an address, Pope Francis thanked the missionaries for their “great work of evangelization” in places where the Christian community is still fragile and for their special attention to migrants.
“These new pastoral horizons are a sign of the vitality of the Holy Spirit at work in you,” the Pope said.
He praised their “courageous missionary zeal”, which he said is modeled on their Founders: Servant of God Melchior de Marion Brésillac and Fr. Augustin Planque.
Pope Francis also joined the missionaries in prayer for Italian Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli, SMA, who was kidnapped from his parish in Niger, on September 17, 2018. “I would like… to assure you of the concern and attention of the Holy See regarding this worrying situation,” he said.
Serving the vulnerable
The Society of African Missions has spent the year preparing for its General Assembly by highlighting the wider SMA apostolic community of lay associates and missionary sisters.
Pope Francis called the group “a joyful family, which is growing thanks to numerous vocations in Africa and in Asia.”
“I encourage you to persevere in your efforts,” he said, “to serve children, vulnerable people, and victims of war, illness, and human trafficking. The choice in favor of the last – those whom society discards and casts aside – is a sign that concretely manifests the presence and concern of the merciful Christ.”
New paths, old roots
Pope Francis invited the missionaries to care for the poor, through “a culture of dialogue and of encounter”, and urged them to dare to open new paths which demonstrate the newness of God.
“Faithful to your roots,” he said, “you are called as a family to witness to the Risen Christ through the love that unites you to one another and through the radiant joy of authentic community life.”