Master of Arts (MA)
Catholic missionaries played an important role in the colonial scramble in Africa and the subsequent years. They served as educators and medical support for the state in many cases. The state relied on missionaries to staff schools, educate the population, and aid in the civilization of the Africans. In the Belgian Congo, Catholic missionaries - specifically the Society of Missionaries of Africa or White Fathers - played an especially important role as agents of evangelization and European civilization. The Belgian state relied heavily (and provided subsidies) on missionaries to educate the native people. Through education and medical help, missionaries fostered conversions and attempted to establish a native Church in Africa. Using mission diaries, personal correspondence, annual reports, and personal interviews (conducted in fall 2008), as well as secondary sources, I will attempt to construct a picture of the White Fathers and their experiences during the colonial period and subsequent decades, but with special focus on the years 1950-1955. I will examine the White Fathers as an institution and look at the relationships within the Society and those among the Society, the Belgian regime, and private companies. Through personal interviews with missionaries stationed in the Belgian Congo and Burundi during the 1950s, I will look at these individuals’ experiences and lives to better understand the Society as a whole and its role in imperial Africa. Though there are few secondary sources about the White Fathers in Africa, the primary sources I accessed in Rome and Brussels were very rich. While there are some drawbacks to using oral interviews as primary sources, I believe the interviews provided invaluable data about the daily lives of Catholic missionaries in the field in Congo.
Document Availability at the Time of Submission
Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.
Rountree, Kathryn, "Catholic missionaries in Africa: the White Fathers in the Belgian Congo 1950-1955" (2009). LSU Master's Theses. 3278.