A Message to Philippine District-in-formation for SMA 161st Founding Anniversary
I salute all SMA members and friends of SMA in Philippines.
8th December each year marks a very special day in the Society of African Missions. I quote from a letter from the Founder of the SMA, Bishop Melchior de Marion Bresillac, to Cardinal Barnabò, dated December 13, 1856:
“I think it is worth letting you know that, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, seven of us went to the Hill of Fourvière to offer our society to the Blessed Virgin at the foot of her venerated image. There we renewed the resolution of devoting ourselves fully to the work of the African Missions, and we wish, if the Sacred Congregation agrees, to establish December 8, 1856, as the foundation date of our Society”.
Bresillac was not to know that within three years of this solemn resolution, he and the majority of his six comrades were to die at Freetown, Sierra Leone, on the west coast of Africa. How did the Society survive such a crisis? Undoubtedly, the Blessed Virgin protected the fledgling Society offered to her care.
One hundred and sixty one years later, the SMA is flourishing in the various continents. While the continent of Europe where the Society was founded is bringing fewer candidates to the missionary priesthood, those countries where the Society was established in the last thirty-five years are showing great signs of promise. We have over 350 permanent members coming from these new Units. We have a further 300 members in training to become missionary priests.
The Philippine District-in-formation plays a critical role in the overall mission of the SMA.
A remarkable feature that has characterised our Society in recent years is the involvement of lay people in our mission outreach. This is undoubtedly a blessing from the Holy Spirit. Philippines is blessed with a strong core group of highly dedicated laity associated to our mission who, along with the priest members, keep the call to mission – especially to Africa and peoples of African origin – alive among the local Church. Without this group of dedicated laity, it is hard to imagine how the SMA could continue to exist in Philippines.
My message to all of you today, priests members and lay collaborators, is to continue and redouble your efforts to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ known to the most abandoned peoples of our world. The need for missionaries is as great as it ever was. As St Paul reminds us:
“For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus, who sacrificed himself as a ransom for them all. He is the evidence of this, sent at the appointed time, and I have been named a herald and apostle of it and – I am telling the truth and no lie – a teacher of the faith and the truth to the pagans.” (1 Tim 2: 5-7)
SMA inherits this apostolic mandate. May we all be courageous and faith-filled in answering the call.
Fachtna O’Driscoll SMA