African Christians and African Saints Disconnect Needs Curbing, African Missionary Says

Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs of Uganda
Credit: Public Domain

As the Catholic Church celebrated the feast of All Saints of Africa on November 6 amid an increase in the number of sainthood causes from the world’s second most populous continent, an African missionary priest is of the view that African-born Saints need to be given a more prominent role in the Church to make them “better known” and loved among Africans to counter the seeming disconnect between African Christians and African Saints.

“Today in Africa, it is necessary that in our programs of evangelization in general, and catechesis in particular, the African saints occupy a fundamental place, so that they are better known to the Africans themselves, to continually inspire their actions,” Fr. Donald Zagore, SMA has said in a reflection sent to ACI Africa.

“A pastoral that builds on the legacy of African saints would be beneficial to the continent,” he adds.

The Daily Missal describes the feast of All Saints of Africa marked on November 6 as a feast of men and women “who, down through the ages, have followed the Lord with courage, love and dedication.”

“Many of these saints are unknown to us, while others are remembered in various countries on account of their exemplary life of discipleship. Their example and teaching remind us of our call to holiness, while their intercession makes it possible for us to achieve it, thanks to God’s grace,” the Daily Missal documents and concludes referencing November 6, “The feast we celebrate today is a foretaste of the joy we shall experience one day in heaven.”

Arguing that African-born canonized Saints signify that “Africa is really present in heaven,” the Society of African Missions cleric has decried the disconnect that exists between African Christians and African Saints as heroes and heroines of Christian faith.

“These African saints are a tangible expression of the spiritual vitality of the African continent, but remain very often unknown and thus cut off from the concrete life of the African populations,” Ivorian Fr. Zagore has decried.

He adds, “One has the feeling of having a heaven cut and completely disconnected from the earth.”

Amid several challenges facing the continent, the Ivorian priest based in Togo is convinced that Christians on the continent can learn a lot from their own Saints.

Fr. Zagore has said in reference to African-born Saints, “Their model of virtue, exemplarity, integrity and faith remains a fundamental legacy to forge the conscience and action of our African Christians in all areas of life, especially in African socio-political contexts strongly marked by violence, hatred, division and corruption.”

“If it is true that the spiritual world influences that of the living, our (African) Saints must have an impact on the lives of our people,” Fr. Zagore reflects.

“The saints can and must play an important role in the renewal of the African continent,” the Ivorian Missionary priest has concluded.

According to statistics, there are more than 60 saints of African descent, some of the most prominent ones being St. Augustine of Hippo in Egypt and his mother St. Monica, St. Josephine Bakhita from Darfur, Sudan, the Ugandan Martyrs and St. Felicitas and Perpetua of Carthage, Tunisia, among others.

Ongoing sainthood causes include that of Servant of God Maurice Michael Cardinal Otunga from Kenya, Vivian Uchechu Ogu and Blessed Cyprian Iwene Tansi  from Nigeria, Blessed Isidore Bakanja from DR Congo, and Blessed Benedict Daswa from South Africa.

ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]