In 1877, just over twenty years after the foundation of the Society, the SMA Co-founder – Fr Augustin Planque – was in Rome listening to Archbishop Jacobini, Secretary to Propaganda Fide (today’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples) who said to him: “Why won’t you go to Egypt?” And he insisted to Fr Planque: “Go to Egypt.”
Fr Planque objected to sending SMA membersbecause the Franciscans were already present there in large numbers. And Archbishop Jacobini retorted: “they’re not enough.” The Vatican wanted several groups present in Egypt because it is “essentially an international country”. As a result the SMA assigned two priests to launch our presence there, Fathers Duret and Le Gallen, who arrived at the end of 1877. In mid-December they were in Zagazig where the French Consul, Mr d’Aubonne, allowed them to stay.
After that the Society founded many parishes and schools in the Nile Delta area, near to Cairo. These included Tanta (1878), Zifta (1886), Mahalla El-Kobra (1890), Choubra (1894, where we still minister), Zeitoun (1895) and Héliopolis (1913, where Fr Faroud Ibrahim SMA is ministering for several years).
Today the Roman Catholic population of Egypt is about 30,000 in a population of 70+ million.
There are four SMA priests in the country: Fr Farid Ibrahim is the only Egyptian-born member of the Society and is the Superior of the SMA team. He ministers in Héliopolis. The other three SMAs are based in St Marc’s, Choubra (in Cairo): Fr Robbin Kamemba (from Kenya), Fr Casimir Kieszek (from Poland, a member of the Strasbourg District) and Jean Paul Silué (from the Central African Republic).
They are engaged in various pastoral ministries. As well as the normal sacramental parish duties (Baptisms, Confessions, celebrating Mass) they are Chaplains to different institutes – Old Folks homes, Centre for children and adults with Special Needs, Prison visitation (particularly to prisoners from south of the Sahara)…