Becoming a Missionary of Africa
Deciding what we want in life and what perhaps God wants for us, is not always easy. Choosing alone is much harder. In each country where there are Missionaries of Africa (MAfr), a Vocation Director is appointed. Their job is to field questions from anyone interested in knowing more about missionary life. Writing to them commits us to nothing. Talking with them often helps to clarify things. Each country where we are is different but the outline of vocation discernment is broadly the same.
You ask about the Missionaries of Africa. They tell you about the life and about the qualifications necessary – health, education, faith, age etc. If both of you are happy with this then a next step would be a visit in person to look at things more closely. Contacts would be maintained for a year or so to see how things develop, with no commitment either side. Visits might include staying with a community for a few days to get a feel of the life. With agreement from both sides, you would spend a longer time (some months) in a working MAfr community with some sort of social involvement and community life including prayer, meals and recreation in common.
After this there would be a time of study of Philosophy (3 or 4 years). These studies would include more than just Philosophy and would involve living in a MAfr community and going each day to University, as well as doing Pastoral Work. During this time a Spiritual Director would be appointed to help you deepen your prayer life and discern whether the missionary life is for you. Philosophy studies completed, you would go to the Novitiate (Spiritual Year). This is international and takes place in one of 3 centres in Africa. Two are English-speaking, one is French-speaking. Here you would be helped to make a deeper and more informed choice, listening to God in prayer, through your experiences and with your Spiritual Director.
If you wish, and if you are accepted, you then continue to a two year period working in a MAfr community in a parish (usually in Africa but it could also be in an African context elsewhere). Here you live completely as a member of the community. After this comes the final period of study (4 years) in Africa or in Jerusalem. This involves all the obligatory studies asked for by the Church for priestly ordination, or further professional studies for Brother candidates. In the final year of these studies you would be invited to take the Missionary Oath – dedicating your life to serving the people of Africa as a Missionary for life. The journey is long because no-one wants to rush into something they may regret. Sometimes people think, “But what if I pull out after several years preparation? Have I not wasted those years?” No. All these years are enriching in personal experience, academic education and occasions for self-knowledge.
At each stage in the formation, there is a full consultation to see if you are happy to continue and if the Missionaries of Africa are happy that you do so. But the Oath is not an end in itself. It is the beginning of a life in God at the service of the people of Africa.
At present there are 145 young men studying Theology in 5 Centres of Formation in Congo, Ivory Coast, Kenya, South Africa and Jerusalem. There are 92 young men in parishes doing their practical 2 years in parishes, mainly in Africa. There 34 young men in the 3 Novitiates in Burkina Faso, Tanzania and Zambia. There are about 300 young men studying Philosophy in the 11 Centres of Formation in Africa, Philippines,India, Mexico and Poland.