Drop in Vocations to Religious Life among Women Threatening Growth of Catholic Church in Congo-Brazzaville

Orphan house Saint Marie Veronique of Makoua. Credit: Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International

The Catholic Church in the Central African nation of Congo-Brazzaville is facing many challenges, key among them a drop in the number of women choosing Religious Life. 

According to the Catholic Pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, “There are few vocations for religious life among women.”

However, according to ACN's project manager for the French-speaking countries of Central Africa, Maxime François-Marsal, Congo-Brazzaville has a team of formators who are dedicated to forming the country’s future Priests and women and men Religious.

“During our visit to the seminary in Brazzaville, where we celebrated Mass, I was impressed by the attitude of the formators, who are very dedicated to preparing good priests,” Maxime, who recently toured various places in Congo-Brazzaville says in the Monday, April 15 report.

“We were also very warmly welcomed by the boys, girls and religious sisters at the orphanage of Saint Marie Veronique, in Owando, who greeted us with songs and seemed overjoyed at our visit,” he recounts.


Catholics make up around 47 percent of Congo-Brazzaville’s population of around six million people, and Protestants around 48 percent. Around 1.5 percent of the population are Muslims, and a small group are followers of traditional African religions.

Also known as the Republic of the Congo, the central African country borders Angola, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), among others.

According to ACN, Congo-Brazzaville is hardly ever in the news and is often confused with the neighboring DRC, which is much larger and is more widely discussed and spoken about in the media. 

Apart from the few vocations to Religious Life, Catholicism in Congo-Brazzaville also faces the challenge of the rise of Protestant sects, a situation which, according to Maxime, “is worrying.”

Additionally, poverty fills people with despair, the ACN Official says, and explains that in Congo-Brazzaville, the fight for survival is extremely tough. 

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He is quoted as saying in the April 15 report, “Despite everything, I believe that the Church in Congo-Brazzaville is full of wonderful people and exceptional priests. They need us to give them hope, and to help them and their communities to prosper.”

According to Maxime, the Church in Congo-Brazzaville acts with a certain amount of freedom, “but that has not always been the case.’

“The country was a French colony and gained independence in 1960. After that, in 1970, there was a period of socialism, with terrible consequences for the Church,” he says. 

Maxime continues, “One day, with no prior warning, the socialist government nationalized all Catholic schools and imposed restrictions on religious activities, as well as on Church participation in public affairs.”

Today, the Church in Congo-Brazzaville has regained some of this lost ground, but there is still very much to do, Maxime says, and adds, “In other countries such as Cameroon, for instance, around 50 percent of the schools are Church run, whereas in the Congo, only around 10 percent of the schools are run by the Church.”


ACN has carried out many projects in Congo-Brazzaville in areas such as formation of Seminarians, purchasing vehicles, educational projects, as wells Rectories. 

“We have many of these projects in Congo-Brazzaville, because there is a great need for vehicles, since the distances are enormous, and the roads are in a pitiful state, as well as often being flooded,” Maxime says.

The ACN official expresses optimism that with all these difficulties and challenges that the Church faces in Congo-Brazzaville, there is reason for hope.

“It is true that the people are very poor, and they feel powerless and desperate, but their faith is strong,” he says, and adds, “Despite all the difficulties, they work tirelessly and in extreme conditions, persevering in their mission.”

He further says, “Recently new bishops were nominated, and they have very positive and refreshing attitudes.”

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