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African priest elected head of Society of Missionaries for Africa

June 02, 2010

In a decision that manifests the success of missionary efforts in Africa over the past century, the Society of Missionaries for Africa have for the first time chosen an African as their superior general. Father Richard Baawobr, 50, was born in Ghana and ordained to the priesthood in 1987. The Society of Missionaries for Africa, also known as the White Fathers because of their habit, was founded in 1868 by Cardinal Charles Lavigerie of Algiers.

The Church in Africa has experienced extraordinary growth over the last century. In 1900, there were 2 million Catholics in Africa; today, there are over 158 million. While 14% of Catholics worldwide live there, nearly half of the world’s Catholic elementary school students are African. 43% of the world’s adult baptisms-- over a million a year-- take place in Africa. There are more Catholic hospitals in Africa than there are in North and Central America combined. Between 1978 and 2007, the number of African seminarians more than quadrupled from 5,636 to 24,034, and Africa is now the world’s second most vocation-rich continent, bested only by Asia.


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