Nigerian Missionary Priest in Benin Praises Catechists for Role in Africa’s Evangelization

Fr. Basil Soyoye. Credit: Agenzia Fides

Catechists have played a vital role in the evangelization and growth of the Catholic Church in Africa, a member of the Society for African Missions (SMA) in Benin has said.

Fr. Basil Soyoye who launched a project titled “Memory of Catholic Africa” in Benin last year has been quoted as saying that when different anniversaries of the evangelization of Africa are celebrated, the missionary work continues.

“We must not forget that the first missionaries did not speak our national languages and that it was the Catechists who acted as mediators between them and the local population,” Fr. Soyoye told the information service of Propaganda Fide, Agenzia Fides in a Tuesday, January 25 report.

Fr. Soyoye who once served as a missionary in Egypt for about seven years after his Priestly ordination in 1997 added, “We will never stop praising the work of Catechists in Africa.”

The Nigerian native said that evangelization work in West Africa succeeded because Catechists were present to help missionaries, especially as mediators.


“If evangelization has been successful in West Africa, it is because there were dedicated Catechists there,” Fr. Soyoye says in the January 25 report.

Recalling the opposition that a section of Catechists went through in the hands of indigenous people, Fr. Soyoye says, “They were not always accepted by the followers of indigenous religions. Some of them lost their lives because of this opposition.”

Other countries that the SMA member has served as a missionary include Egypt, Benin, and then Lyon in France where he founded the “Meeting point of African cultures” with other confreres, as well as directing the SMA African Museum.

Agenzia Fides reports that it was in Lyon that Fr. Soyoye realized that in Africa the task of collecting and preserving the memories of the life of the African church is not taken seriously enough as the missionaries did during the colonial era.

Making reference to archives in Europe in which Church history is documented, the Catholic Priest says, “Without this instrument, African scholars can hardly do well-documented historical and theological work.”

More in Africa

He says that he has come across the work of some African researchers, which was not appealing because they could not access the archives for more information to include in their final work.

“I have attended conferences and colloquia and seen the poverty of some work by African researchers who did not have access to archives,” the 58-year-old Catholic missionary says in the January 25 report.

He further says that he was compelled by the work of the researchers to launch the project that provides an archive mainly in digital form focusing on the post-colonial period.

Fr. Soyoye says that the archive project, which he started in 2021 on his return to Benin stores church materials, which he says include collecting, through video-interviews, stories of the African faith, written or oral information on monuments, religious institutes, and significant events of the Catholic Church in Africa.”

Fr. Soyoye has already started working on collecting testimonies of the life of Catholic Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, Catechists, lay people, who have seen the African Church flourish in these 40-50 years and whose generation is now beginning to disappear.


According to the January 25 report, the Nigerian Catholic Priest is to be supported by a team of journalists, historians and sociologists in this task.

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.