EUROPE/FRANCE - December 8, 1856: under the protection of the Virgin Mary, the work of the African Missions was born

Wednesday, 7 December 2022


Lyon (Agenzia Fides) - On the occasion of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and the feast of the shrine of Our Lady of Fourvière in Lyon, the foundation of the Society of African Missions is also celebrated. We are at the end of the year 1856, a year that we can call the founding year of the SMA because of the choices, activities, documents, events and testimonies that accompanied the founder, Bishop Melchior de Marion de Bresillac. On this occasion, he goes up to the sanctuary of Fourvière, in Lyon, with his first companions to lay at the feet of the Virgin the nascent missionary Institute, which he calls "The Society of African Missions". After a stay in Rome, through contacts with the Congregation of Propaganda Fide, reports, trips and preaching, he was suggested that he form a society of missionaries. So he made the decision to plan a community with a purpose, a style, a particular charism. From the commitment to missionary animation in the dioceses of France, to the choice of a place and a house to welcome the first aspirants. That day, with his first six companions, in the morning, the missionary goes up to the sanctuary to consecrate himself to the Virgin Mary. This important act takes place in a simple but faith-filled way. The Founder himself speaks of it in a letter of December 13 of that year to the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda Fide, Alessandro Barnabò: "I think it useful to let you know that on the day of the Immaculate Conception seven of us went to offer our work to the Blessed Virgin at the foot of her venerated image on the hill of Fourvière. There, we renewed our resolution to devote ourselves to the work of the African Missions and we want, if the Sacred Congregation allows it, to date the existence of our Society from December 8, 1856".
The details of this event, which seems to have taken place in simplicity and discretion, are not known. On December 9, the Gazzette de Lyon writes: "In the midst of the compact crowd of clergy and faithful who yesterday filled the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fourvière, members of the African Missions were noticed". (Agenzia Fides, 7/12/2022)