In the early 1900’s the Catholic population of sub-Saharan Africa was less than 2 million. Today it is estimated that Africa is home to 200 million Catholics. That is, by any estimation, a staggering growth rate.
However, by 2050, based on projections from the World Christian Database, Africa should have over 450 million Catholics, becoming by far the world’s largest Catholic continent!
In 1975 when I began work in East Africa, my Bishop was a Dutch Mill Hill Missionary and the diocese was staffed by missionaries with only a handful of African priests. Within two years an African was appointed Bishop and the area of that single diocese is now covered by nine dioceses and all are staffed by local priests and bishops.
Following the 2nd Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI made the training of African priests a priority and today vocations are plentiful. There is major seminary in Nigeria which began life in 1952 with 12 students, today it has over 1,000 and is only one of 8 Nigerian major seminaries.
Today, African leaders hold important posts in the Church, men such as Cardinals Francis Arinze and John Onaiyekan of Nigeria, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo of the Democratic Republic of Congo (who’s also a member of Pope Francis’s council of cardinal advisers) Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana (who heads the Vatican’s ministry for Promoting Integral Human Development and heads a great deal of Pope Francis’s peace-and-justice initiatives) and Cardinals Robert Sarah and Wilfrid Napier.
Almost all dioceses in this country have African priests to help staff parishes. In our own diocese, four parishes are served by priests from Africa.
The traditional Missionary societies now overwhelmingly rely on candidates recruited from Africa and Asia while Africa has founded at least two Missionary societies of its own.
But success must not deceive us. Africa still needs missionaries to share the love, the mercy and knowledge of Jesus Christ, as also it still relies on our prayerful and financial Support.
Today we welcome to Our Lady of the Valley parish Fr Waslaw Krzempek of the Society of African Missions who will preach the annual mission appeal.