Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/White Fathers
(MISSIONARIES OF OUR LADY OF AFRICA OF ALGERIA).
This society, known under the name of "Pères Blancs" or "White Fathers", was founded in 1868 by the first Archbishop of Algiers, later Cardinal Lavigerie. The famine of 1867 left a large number of Arab orphans, and the education and Christian instruction of these children was the occasion of the founding of the society; but from its inception the founder had in mind the conversion of the Arabs and negroes of Central Africa. Missionary posts were established in Kabylic and in the Sahara. In 1876 and in 1881 two caravans from South Algeria and R'dames, intending to open missions in Soudan, were massacred by their guides. In 1878 ten missionaries left Algiers to establish posts at Lakes Victoria Nyanza and Tanganyika. These now form the present Vicariates Apostolic of Northern Nyanza, Southern Nyanza, Unyanyembe, Tanganyika, Nyassa, and Upper Congo. In 1894 the mission of French Soudan was founded. The missions of the Sahara are grouped in a prefecture Apostolic. In 1880, at the request of the Holy See, the White Fathers established at Jerusalem a Greek Melchite seminary for the formation of clergy of this rite. The society is composed of missionary priests and coadjutor brothers. The members are bound by an oath engaging them to labour for the conversion of Africa according to the constitutions of their society. The missionaries are not, strictly speaking, a religious order, and may retain their own property; but they may expend it in the society only at the direction of the superiors. One of the chief points in the rule is in regard to community life in the missions, each house being obliged to contain not less than three members. At the head of the society is a superior-general, elected every six years by the chapter. He resides at Maison-Carree, near Algiers. Those desiring to become priests are admitted to the novitiate after their philosophical studies, and one year of general theology. The three last years are spent at the scholasticate of Carthage in Tunis. The society admits persons of all nationalities. Recruiting houses are found in Quebec (Canada), Belgium, Holland, Germany, and France, in which are received those not yet ready for the novitiate. The costume of the missionaries resembles the white robes of the Algerian Arabs and consists of a cassock or gandoura, and a mantle or burnous. A rosary and cross are worn around the neck in imitation of the mesbaha of the marabouts. The society depends directly on the Congregation of Propaganda. The White Fathers succeeded in establishing small missions among the Berbers of Jurjura (Algeria), there being at present nine hundred and sixty-two Christians; but the regions bordering on the great lakes and Soudan show the best results. The number of neophytes in all the vicariates (June, 1909) was 135,000; the number preparing for baptism 151,480. A test of four years is imposed on those desiring to be baptized. To religious instruction the missionaries add lessons in reading and writing, and teach also, in special classes, the tongue of the European nation governing the country. The brothers form the young blacks for trades and agriculture. The number of boys in the schools (June, 1909) was 22,281. In July, 1910, the society numbered; 600 priests, 250 brothers; 70 novices, with 80 pupils in the theological classes. In the houses of postulants for the novitiate were 72 pupils.
HEIMBUCHER, Die orden u. Kongregationem der kathol. Kirche, III (Paderborn, 1908), 504-10; Missiones catholicae (Rome, 1907); Lives of Cardinal Lavigerie by BAUNARD (Paris, 1886), KLEIN (Paris, 1897), and CLARKE (London, 1890); GRUSSENMAYR, Documents biogr. (Paris, 1888).