Family Life, “bonding together” Behind Rapid Spread of Christianity in Africa: U.S. Bishop

Bishop John Patrick Dolan of the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix in the United States. Credit: ACI Africa

The spread of Christianity in Africa has been fast owing to its people’s inherent structures of community life as well as the “bonding together” of community members, an American Catholic Bishop has said.

Bishop John Patrick Dolan of the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix in the United States weighed in on the ease of the spread of Christianity among Africans, noting that faith “naturally happens” where there are existing structures of communion.

Faith begins where there are strong families and communities bonding together and they are not living behind their phones. In such a setting, faith naturally happens and grows. I think in the United States we have lost a lot of that,” Bishop Dolan told ACI Africa in an interview.

The Catholic Bishop who serves on the subcommittee for Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa, an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said that in the U.S., “people have become very individualistic.”

“In some ways, we have lost our faith,” he further said, adding, “The numbers show it… It gives me hope when I see Africa and parts of Central America or Latin America and South Korea where people are naturally gathered responding to faith together as a community. It gives me a challenge to go back to the United States and build that community first of all, because I don't know if faith can be built one person at a time. It has to be built in a communal sense.”


Fritz Zuger, a Consultant for the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa, who was with Bishop Dolan for a 12-day tour of projects that USCCB members are supporting through partnerships with Conferences of Catholic Bishops at national, regional, and continental levels attributed the rapid spread of Christianity in Africa to a natural religiosity among the people of God on the continent. 

“They knew communion even before Christianity came and they have maintained this relationship,” Fritz said in reference to Africans in an interview with ACI Africa on August 20 in Nairobi.

African people, the Arizona-based member of the Focolare Movement said, are very close to nature, where they also get their livelihood.

“Christianity is spreading very fast in Africa because the people are drawn to it by their inherent religiosity. They already have structures that make them open to God,” Fritz said towards the end of their three African-nation visit that started in Ethiopia, on to Uganda, and then Kenya. 

He added that the Church in Africa is not young in terms of when Christianity came, and explained, “Here in Africa, the Church is young because the people are young. The average age in the three countries we visited is extremely low. It is like 25. The Church is full of young people. It is rare to see grandmothers. This is the best resource a Church could have.”

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The Swiss-born Consultant for USCCB’s Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa and Bishop Dolan had been assessing projects that the members of the USCCB are supporting through partnerships with various Conferences of Catholic Bishops in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, three member countries of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA). 

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.