Wednesday, 18 June 2003

Ouagadougou (Fides Service) – In 2000 the Catholic Church in Burkina Faso celebrated the centenary of evangelisation in the region. The first mission here was opened by the White Fathers, today known as Missionaries of Africa, at Koupela in 1900 and immediately after this the Fathers founded the mission of Ouagadougou. In each mission a school was opened for Christian and Muslims children.
The missionaries started initiatives of civil engineering to improve the country’s economy. In 1915 the Superior of Ouagadougou mission, Mgr Thevenod, directed the works for the building of a dam at Pabre. This made it possible to plant fruit trees, potatoes and wheat. At Ouagadougou mission the first school for catechists was opened to involve the local people in the work of evangelisation.
The missionaries immediately started to provide health care. One of the most active was Dr Father Goarnssion who opened a Nurses' Training Centre and worked miracles curing eye diseases caused by malnutrition.
In 1912 the first convent of nuns was opened in Burkina Faso, the White Sisters, Sisters of Our Lady of Africa. Since then the Sisters have been involved in promotion of women, and health care organising seminars at the mission stations. The Sisters also opened schools, crafts workshops, and formation centres to prepare young girls for marriage.
The first religious vocations, which marked the birth of the first Africa women’s congregations in Burkina Faso, came from a group of girls who attended sewing courses given by the White Sisters.
At present there are about 400 local priests and vocations, male and female increase constantly. In 1977 the Church-Family project was launched. This was to help Catholics live as communities, in solidarity which is characteristic of African families.
It is a question of modelling the Christian community on the reality of the extended African family, in which strong bonds of affection and solidarity are forged with family members near and far.
For years the Church in Burkina Faso has collaborated with Sister Churches in Ivory Coast, Niger and Mali, sending priests to work among those communities. The desire for missionary collaboration led the local Bishops to send fidei donum priest to Europe, in particular to France and Italy. LM (Fides Service 18/6/2003 EM lines 33 Words: 406)