The history of the SMA

The SMA was founded by Bishop Melchior de Marion Brésillac on 8 December 1856.

On 4 November 1858 the first SMA missionaries embarked in Marseille for Gorée and later Freetown in the Vicariate of Sierra Leone, West Africa the territory entrusted to the SMA. They were Louis Reymond, Jean-Baptiste Bresson and Brother Eugene.

On 14 May, the Founder himself arrived accompanied by Louis Riocreux and Brother Gratien. On arrival they found Freetown in the midst of a raging Yellow Fever epidemic.

June:On 2 June Fr Riocreux died aged 27. On 5 June Fr Bresson died aged 47. On 13 June Br Gratien died aged 29. On 25 June Bishop de Bressilac himself died aged 46. On 28 June Fr Reymond died aged 36. The ill Br Eugene was taken back to France by ship.

In spite of the devastating news Father Augustine Planque who succeeded de Bresillac as co-Founder and First Superior General decided to continue the mission to Africa. During his years as Superior General (1859-1907).

Mission territories were opened in Benin (1861), Nigeria (1863), Algeria (1865), Ghana (1879), Egypt (1874), South Africa (1874), Liberia (1906), Ivory Coast (1895).

He founded the Missionary Sisters of our Lady of Apostles, OLA, in 1876.

Fr Francois Devoucoux came to Ireland to established the SMA and begin recruiting students.

Fr Joseph Zimmermann succeeded him as Superior of the SMA development in Ireland.

The Irish Province was founded in 1912.

Between 1918 and 1992 the Society had also spread to Togo, Niger, DR Congo, Zambia, Central African Republic, Tanzania, South Africa, Morocco, Kenya and Angola.

Other SMA Provinces were gradually created: Holland (1923), two in France: Lyons and Est (1927), USA (1941), Great Britain (1968), Italy (1982), and the Districts of Canada (1968) and Spain (1992).

The SMA set up new foundations to ensure that the missionary work of the SMA to Africa and African peoples will continue. Students from African countries, India, the Philippines and Poland were recruited and trained. At the 2019 General Assembly these new foundations or units were further consolidated as new Provinces as well as Districts and Delegations (link) SMAs now live or work in 17 African countries.

The SMA has sought to remain faithful to the spirit of its Founder, constantly adapting itself to new situations, and “always ready to respond to the needs of the times”. At the same time it remains a community of Christ’s disciples bonded together by our common response to the command He has given us: Go therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – (Mt. 28:19)