Sent by God the Father, we, "The Missionaries of Africa", want to reveal his love, deeply-rooted in Christ, in small international and intercultural communities, to the heart of the local Churches as brothers or priests in dialogue with other cultures, and especially with the Africans, other religions and particularly Islam for the promotion of all humanity, we commit ourselves for and with the poor, as initiators and agents of unity and reconciliation. Commitment for Justice, Peace and the integrity of Creation. We want to be bearers of hope on the pathway to freedom.
At the beginning of the Society’s history, the Founder, Cardinal Lavigerie, chose Jesuit priests to be the first novice masters. This was not because the Cardinal himself followed the spirituality of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, but because he saw Jesuits as practical missionaries who were able to unite prayer and action. Jerome Nadal, who was an early companion of Ignatius, coined the phrase “contemplative in action” to describe the saint’s own personal, spiritual life. This summed up the Cardinal’s ideal. He did not want the novice masters to turn White Fathers into Jesuits, but to respect the Society’s apostolic charism and its commitment to community life. The most successful of his Jesuit novice masters was François Terrasse S.J. who taught Lavigerie’s successor as head of the Society, Léon Livinhac, how to contemplate.
Ignatian Spirituality, properly called, centres on St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises. These were the stages of a long retreat, devised by Ignatius, in which the retreatant was confronted in his life by the mystery and call of Jesus Christ. Livinhac, during his long incumbency as Superior General, introduced the Society to the Long Retreat of Saint Ignatius. He sometimes referred to it as a “second novitiate”. In the early years it was difficult to bring missionaries to Algiers for regular retreats of this kind, and Rome, at that time, frowned on the removal of missionaries from their mission stations for lengthy periods.
The Long Retreat of 30 Days, however, became common and was extremely popular. Missionaries of Africa were expected to make it after several years of missionary life. As a result, it became usual to describe the Society as having an “Ignatian Spirituality”. However, the rediscovery of Ignatian sources and the increasingly broad interpretation given to the Spiritual Exercises after Vatican II, led the 1967 General Chapter to be more cautious and to assert that the Society “draws inspiration” from “Ignatian Spirituality”. The Long Retreat, remains a requirement of preparation for the Missionary Oath and a recommendation for those who have completed some years of missionary life.
Aylward Shorter M.Afr