Pentecost: Spiritan Superior General Says “it’s harvest time”, Recalls “wonderful witnesses of our missionary history”

Participants in the Spiritan Chapter at Stella Maris Hotel, Bagamoyo in Tanzania's Morogoro Diocese 3-24 October 2021. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The mission of the Spiritan missionaries, who left their respective countries, pioneering the proclamation of the Gospel to the people of God in other territories of the world, including Africa and Asia “has borne fruit”, the Superior General of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans/Holy Ghost Fathers) has said. 

In his Pentecost 2024 Message that ACI Africa obtained, Fr. Alain Mayama terms the current era “harvest time”, shares the latest statistics of the Spiritans across the globe, and emphasizes the need for his confreres to “commemorate and celebrate” their predecessors in Christ’s mission, whom he describes as “wonderful witnesses”.

“It’s harvest time” 

Fr. Mayama acknowledges with appreciation the pioneer Spiritans in various mission territories across the globe, saying, “Today, what they planted has sprouted and grown, bearing abundant fruit.”

“This is the Congregation’s present time, the time of harvest,” he emphasizes, and explains, “The service of the Lord and of the peoples of various continents, lovingly evangelized by the Spiritan elders, has borne fruit. It’s harvest time.”


Fr. Alain Mayama, Superior General of the Spiritans. Credit:@csspnigeria

The first African Spiritan Superior General identifies young Spiritans originating from the Global South as “the harvest” of the mission of the pioneer Spiritan missionaries.

He says, “The young Spiritan missionaries of the southern circumscriptions are the harvest of the missionary enterprise of the elders. They are to be welcomed with the joy of the Gospel.”

“The Congregation looks to these young missionaries to inject a new missionary dynamism,” the native of the Central African nation of Congo-Brazzaville further says, adding that the young Spiritans from the Global South have the responsibility “to continue the missionary work of the elders in creative fidelity to the intuitions of our founders.”

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Claude François Poullart des Places, a native of France who gave up the practice of law to study for the Priesthood founded a community for youthful men with the wish to become Priests in 1703. He dedicated the community to the Holy Spirit, calling it the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. 

Some 150 years later, François Marie Paul Libermann, a converted Jew, established another religious family also in France, bearing the name, the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, thus the official name, the “Congregation of the Holy Spirit under the protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary”.

Through the years, the Congregation has had 25 Superiors General, including Fr. Mayama, the only African native on the list.

Fr. Mayama, flanked by members his Council. From left to right: Fr. Marc Botzung (France), Fr. Jean-Marc Sierro (Switzerland), Fr. Philip Massawe (Tanzania), Fr. Jude Nnorom (Nigeria), Fr. Alain Mayama (Congo Brazzaville), Fr. Jeff Duaime (USA), Fr. Albert Ndongo Assamba (Cameroon), Fr. Kieran Alaribe (secretary general, Nigeria), and Fr. Tony Neves (Portugal). Credit: Fr. Dominic Gathurithu, CSSp.


On 8 March 2023, a delegation of Spiritans had an audience with Pope Francis to mark the 175th anniversary of the re-founding of their Congregation that is present in some 60 countries across five continents.

In his Pentecost 2024 Message, Fr. Mayama explains that the taking up of the responsibility of the evangelization mission by young Spiritans from the Global South is occasioned by the fact that “today’s reality is one of declining membership in the northern circumscriptions and corresponding expansion and growth in those of the South.”

Spiritans in Numbers

Fr. Mayama shares statistics of the members of the 321-year-old Missionary Congregation as at 30 April 2024, which he says illustrates the “significant demographic shift” from the Northern hemisphere that their 1998 General Chapter in Maynooth, Ireland, “had already recognized”.

Participants in the Spiritan Chapter at Stella Maris Hotel, Bagamoyo inTanzania's Morogoro Diocese 3-24 October 2021. Credit: Courtesy Photo

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Present in all continents, there are 2,714 Spiritans across the globe. These include 532 Spiritans, who are continuing with their initial formation; they are from 62 circumscriptions, according to the Superior General.

For every 10 Spiritans, seven “come from 25 circumscriptions in Africa”; they comprise 1,906 members (70.23%), Fr. Mayama says.

Europe that has 12 circumscriptions, has 536 Spiritans, representing 19.75% of the Spiritans across the globe. 

Natives of North America are 71 Spiritans, just one member less than those from Indian Ocean. Spiritans from the Caribbean, Asia and South American territories number 54, 39, and 35 respectively.

For every 10 Spiritans in initial formation program, nine are from Africa, the Superior General says in his Pentecost 2024 Message, in which he states, “Perhaps more striking is the fact that of the 532 professed scholastics, 480 come from Africa (90.23%); 1 from Europe (0.19%), 10 from the Indian Ocean (1.88%); 1 from North America (0.38%); 9 from South America (1.69%); 8 from the Caribbean (1.50%); 22 from Asia (4.14%)” and none from Oceania. 

He notes that “while ‘mission lands’ no longer know borders, northern circumscriptions have in turn become mission lands.”

“A new phase in the Spiritan mission has begun. Approximately 235 confreres, working in the Northern Hemisphere, come from Africa, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean and South America,” Fr. Mayama says, and adds, “We welcome this novelty, which is a gift from God, with faith and hope.”

The Rome-based Superior General describes the new phase of the mission of the Spiritans as “a real congregational aggiornamento”, which he says calls “for renewal”.

“It calls for a change of mentality in the way we are as a Congregation,” he further says, adding, “The Lord, who called us to follow Him and consecrate us in the Spiritan family, invites us today to listen to the voice of His Spirit and to walk in the direction He points us, as He continues to do new things in the Congregation.”

“Wonderful witnesses of our missionary history”

In his Pentecost 2024 Message, Fr. Mayama recalls his recent pastoral visit to some missions, where the Spiritans pioneered the evangelization ministry, some of them “in India, Vietnam, Tanzania (Zanzibar) and Uganda”.

“In each of these places, I was able to appreciate the sacrifices made by our confreres, and see for myself the wonderful influence their memory continues to have on the populations of these local churches. Their witness to life, as well as their missionary zeal, have left an indelible mark on these lands,” he says.

The Spiritan Superior General draws inspiration from his sharing with the Secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelization, the Nigerian-born Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu on Psalm 126, particularly verse 6: “He went off, went off weeping, carrying the seed. He comes back, comes back singing, bringing in his sheaves.”

Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, appointed Secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelization. Credit: CNA Deutsch/EWTN

“I like to read these words in memory of the Spiritan missionaries who brought the Gospel to the distant lands of the world, where the younger generations of missionaries and the new circumscriptions now come from,” Fr. Mayama says.

He poses in reference to pioneer Spiritan missionaries in various territories of the globe, “Who knows how many tears were shed when they left?”

He recalls the sacrifices of the Spiritan pioneer missionaries, saying, “They were very young; they left the comfort and warmth of their families, their peers, better living conditions. They left knowing that dangerous diseases existed and that some of their predecessors had already succumbed to them.”

“Indeed, many of them sacrificed their lives before reaching the age of forty. Yes, they went weeping, carrying the seed of the Gospel and the Spiritan charism. Their sufferings became a source of blessing for other missions, both in the northern hemisphere and on other continents,” Fr. Mayama says.

He goes on to cite his late Dutch-born confrere, Fr. Henry J. Koren’s  recognition of “the price” pioneer Spiritan missionaries in Africa paid in his book, “The Spiritans: A History of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost”. Fr. Koren wrote, “In terms of human life, the price these missionaries paid was frightfully high ... The African landscape is dotted with more than a thousand graves in which Spiritans await the final resurrection among the peoples they have Christianized.”

According to Fr. Mayama, these Spiritan missionaries “did not allow themselves to be frightened by the difficulties inherent in their apostolate, aware that the mission of evangelization is a work of pain and cross.”

“All these confreres were men of God, each embodying in his own way the words of our co-founder, Father Libermann: fervor, charity, sacrifice,” he says, and adds, “They were all driven by an uncompromising fidelity to the demands of our missionary religious life, in self-denial and austerity.”

“It seems to me very important, in the context of the present phase of our Spiritan mission animation plan, that we commemorate and celebrate the wonderful witnesses of our missionary history,” the Spiritan Superior General says in his Pentecost 2024 Message.

He adds, “These confreres, heroes of our Congregation, brought the Gospel to the lands of the particular Churches of Africa and elsewhere, from where the new generation of Spiritan missionaries comes to us today.”

Superior General of the Spiritans, Fr. Alain Mayama (left) and the Provincial Superior of Kenya and South Sudan, Fr. Frederick Elima Wafula (Right). Credit: ACI Africa

“We discover the strength of the Spirit of Christ and of our founders in the experience of these missionaries who have made our history up to the present day. It is an opportunity for us to draw inspiration from the courageous witness and dedication of those who have gone before us, as we continue to respond to the evangelizing needs of the contemporary world,” Fr. Mayama emphasizes.

“The entire Congregation is grateful for the life and work of these senior confreres, who have worked to proclaim the Gospel in the former mission territories and to transmit the Spiritan charism to the younger confreres in the new circumscriptions,” he continues.

The Spiritan Superior General implores, “May the Holy Spirit, on this feast of Pentecost, instill in us the courage to imitate the selfless sacrifice of our predecessors, so that we may be effective witnesses to the Spiritan charism and the Congregation’s missionary tradition, past and present.”

Spiritans in Kenya and South Sudan

Meanwhile, the Provincial Superior of Spiritans in Kenya and South Sudan has described Pentecost as a “momentous occasion” during which “the Church and the Spiritans worldwide emphatically declare that our lives must be under the dominion of the Holy Spirit.”

“It is the (Holy) Spirit that rejuvenates, bears witness, and fosters unyielding growth,” Fr. Frederick Elima Wafula says in his Pentecost 2024 Message to his confreres in Kenya and South Sudan.

Spiritans during the Chapter of the Province of Kenya and South Sudan at St. Magdalene Retreat House, Resurrection Garden, Archdiocese of Nairobi in November 2023

Drawing inspiration from the Apostles, who, after receiving the Holy Spirit, were “filled with an unquenchable zeal to overcome timidity, despair, and negativity,” Fr. Wafula urges his confreres, “men of the Holy Spirit, the Spiritans, (to) continue to be renewed, consistently turning darkness into light, death into life, and lies and falsehoods into irrefutable truth.”

“I earnestly beseech that our adversities are transformed into triumphs, our misunderstandings into profound understanding, and that the spirit transmutes victims of hate and calamity into indomitable victors,” the Nairobi-based Spiritan Provincial Superior says.

Superior General of the Spiritans, Fr. Alain Mayama (left) and the Provincial Superior of Kenya and South Sudan, Fr. Frederick Elima Wafula (Right). Credit: ACI Africa

On this day of Pentecost, he continues, “we are fortified in our duty to be unwavering witnesses of Christ, testifying to both the sufferings and the glory of Christ.”

“This duty of witnessing is confronted by the challenges of modernity entangled in social media influence, artificial science, and technology. Our approach to confront and overcome these challenges, and to bear fruits of the Holy Spirit, hinges upon our fidelity to the Gospel teachings and our Rule of Life as Spiritans,” Fr. Wafula says in his Pentecost 2024 Message.

Spiritans during the Chapter of the Province of Kenya and South Sudan at St. Magdalene Retreat House, Resurrection Garden, Archdiocese of Nairobi in November 2023. Credit: ACI Africa

He further says, “Despite the relentless efforts of various forces, groups, and individuals to stifle the expansion of the church, the congregation, or the province, they have been unsuccessful due to the unyielding Spirit of God within us.”

“As we celebrate this Pentecost, may the forces of malevolence never triumph in our pursuits as a Congregation, as a Province, and as Spiritans,” the Kenyan-born Spiritan Provincial Superior in Kenya and South Sudan says.

He implores, “May the Pentecost Spirit continue to elevate and fortify the endeavors of our Province and the Congregation. May we flourish in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, yielding enduring fruits for all eternity, Amen.”

ACI Africa’s Editor-in-Chief, Fr. Don Bosco Onyalla, is a member of the Spiritans.

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