Our Story

Be apostles, be nothing but apostles
— (Cardinal Charles Lavigerie)

Who we are

The Missionaries of Africa (also known as “The White Fathers”), are an international Missionary Society of priests and brothers, founded in 1868, by Cardinal Charles Lavigerie, Archbishop of Algiers and Carthage in North Africa. The name “White Fathers” comes from their white habit. This was based on the traditional North African dress of a white gown (gandoura) and a white hooded cloak (burnous). A rosary is worn around the neck to show we are men of prayer.


At present there are over 1190 Missionaries of Africa – fully professed priests and brothers.

Almost half (540) are living and working in Europe. Many of these are retired because of age or ill health.

In the Americas there are 130. Many are elderly or infirm., although some are still engaged in ministry.                         

34 confreres working in North Africa.

In West Africa there are 92.

In East Africa there are 93.

In Central Africa 90, and in Southern Africa there are 98 confreres.

Ethiopia and the Near East has 30 confreres and the new Asian Province has 13 confreres for the moment.

Finally there are 34 confreres in the Generalate in Rome, and some other confreres doing further studies.

For the moment there are over 500 students at various stages of preparation in the houses of study (mainly in Africa). Most of these are Africans, although there are some from the Americas, and Asia. European vocations come mainly from Poland at present.

Arrival in Great Britain

The Missionaries of Africa first arrived in Great Britain in 1912 and their first foundation was in the Diocese of Portsmouth at The Priory, Bishops Waltham, Hampshire. The house was transformed into a Junior Seminary. During the course of the following years, further houses were opened in both England and Scotland to cater for growing needs.

Our present work in UK

Individual members are involved in various Society activities. Care of sick and elderly missionaries is a major concern. At weekends, missionaries visit assigned parishes preaching about our work and collecting funds.

Others have a specific work such as editing our magazine Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers), and other Media work, or in necessary administration. Ministry in neighbouring parishes is undertaken whenever possible as a way of helping the local Church. Justice and Peace issues are also to the forefront in our work, as is the promotion of Vocations to the missionary life. Finally, we have taken responsibility for a city centre parish in Liverpool. There is a small congregation and the confreres will be responsible for outreach to migrants and local Muslims.