The Society of African Missions [SMA]
Jubilee 1856 – 2006
In 2006 the Society of African Missions (SMA) reached an historic milestone in its existence as a Missionary Society.
Founded on 8 December 1856 in Lyons in France, the SMA had a unique opportunity to both look back with gratitude for the 150 years of solidarity with Africa and to look forward with renewed hope and dedication to continue its work of mission.
Looking back on the life of the Founder, Bishop de Marion Brésillac (1813-1859), one could easily conclude that the Society’s coming into existence was a chance or accidental happening. At first a diocesan priest in France, the Founder had very early in his priesthood volunteered to work as a missionary in the East and was assigned to India. This he did for 12 years. After 4 years in India he was appointed Pro-Vicar and then Vicar Apostolic of Coimbatore (its first bishop). Had he not run into a variety of difficulties there, it is conceivable that he would not have resigned as he did in 1854, and in all likelihood would have spent all his active days there. That events transpired as they did was instrumental in his founding a new Society, with the approval of Rome, for the evangelisation of Africa. Thus 2006 gave all in the SMA, and all connected with it, the opportunity to give thanks to God:
- For what has been achieved in Africa, under His grace, in the course of 150 years;
- For the dedication of generations of SMA’s and loyal bands of lay co-workers in partnership;
- For where the Society is today with an ageing membership in the older Provinces but with emerging new Units in Africa itself, in Asia and in Poland.
Indeed the focus of our celebration was very much towards the future. Undoubtedly it was a moment of opportunity and grace from God for all connected with the SMA – members and lay supporters – to renew our commitment to nurture the growth of the reign of God, especially in Africa.
It was also an occasion for more people not only to learn of the SMA and its work, but also to become active participants as an expression of their baptismal call. Our Jubilee celebrations were an opportunity to give thanks for God’s blessing and guidance during the last 150 years and to move forward in confident hope knowing that “I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Mt 28:20).