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Society of African Missions


Melchior de Marion Bresillac was born on 2nd December 1813 in Castelnaudary, France. His father was an engineer on the "Canal du Midi". Melchior was ordained a priest in 1838 for the diocese of Carcassone. From 1838 until 1841 he was a curate in the parish of Castelnaudary. He felt called to the foreign missions. He entered the Paris Foreign Missions Seminary in June 1841. During an academic year he prepared himself for mission and got to know his Institute and its members. In 1842 he was appointed to India, to the Vicarite of Pondicherry, where he disembarked on 24th July of the same year.After some months learning Tamil and the local culture, he was appointed to the mission at Salem. In January 1844, he participated in the first Synod of Pondicherry: his strong position in favour of a local clergy led the Vicar Apostolic to name him Superior of the Seminary-College.In May 1845, the pro-Vicariat Apostolic of Coimbatore was created and was confided to Melchior de Marion Bresillac, who was named titular Bishop of Pruse. On 4th October 1846, he was ordained Bishop in Karumathampatty. He visited the mission stations of his pro-Vicariate and noticed how impossible it was for his priests to arrive at a common position concerning the local customs which the Christians could accept or reject. On several occasions he submitted these difficulties to Rome...which preferred to wait before taking a definite stance on the issue. In 1850, Bishop de Marion Bresillac tendered his resignation to the Holy See and insisted on going to Rome in order to present the problems he was encountering in his diocese. It was only in January 1853 that he was authorized to leave India for Rome. He stayed in Rome until August 1854. Here he wrote an important report for Propaganda Fide on the state of the missions in India. He returned to France insisting again on his resignation which was accepted by Pope Pius XI on 18th March 1855. He withdrew to the Capuchins in Versailles. He was then 43 years old. He asked the Holy See to send him as a missionary to Africa. His meeting with one Mr. Regis, Director of an Import-Export Company in Marseille, led him to opt for Dahomey (now the Republic of Benin). In January 1856, the athorities at Propaganda Fide in Rome encourage him to found a Society of Missionaries so as to ensure the continuity of his project.For the next three years Bishop the Bresillac criss-crossed France looking for the personnel and money necessary to support his project. On 8th December 1856, along with six companions, he dedicated the new Society of African Missions (in Latin: Societas Missionum ad Afros - SMA) to Our Lady of Fourviere in Lyon. In 1858, the Holy See named him Vicar Apostolic of Sierra Leone with its headquarters in Freetown. Here he disembarked on 14th May 1859. By the 25th of June (just 41 days later), Bishop de Marion Bresillac, together with 4 of his missionary companions were dead from yellow fever.

Despite the Freetown tragedy, the SMA would continue in Lyon, thanks to the courage and the tenacity of Father Augustin Planque, who was one of the first candidats to have joined Bishop de Bresillac. He became the first Superior General of the SMA, a post he held until his death in 1907.Fr. Planque's work was to establish a foothold along the coastline of West Africa, where the missionaries began to found new missions prior to moving inland.

First Provincial Assembly of British ProvinceDECEMBER 1968

Top Row: Rev. Frs J. McCreanor, J. Murtagh, K. Redfern, J. Conboy, J. Foley, M. Walsh and W. Breslin;Middle: Bro. K. Nadin, Rev. Frs D. O'Driscoll, J. Guinan, M. Gallagher, Bro. T. Coughlan, Rev. Fr J. Tobin, Bro. C. Kelly;Bottom: Rev. Frs T. Cussen, Alf O'Shea, L. Wilcock, V. Rev. Fr M. J. Walsh, A. Reddington, P. Kelly and J. McAndrew.

SMA General Superiors: 1859 - 1907 Rev. Agustin Planque1907 - 1914 Bp Paul Pellet 1914 - 1919 Abp Auguste Duret1919 - 1933 Rev. Jean Marie Chabert1937 - 1947 Rev. Maurice Slattery1947 - 1958 Rev. Stephen Harrington1958 - 1973 Rev. Henri Mondé1973 - 1983 Rev. Joseph Hardy1983 - 1995 Rev. Patrick Harrington1995 - 2001 Rev. Daniel Cardot2001 - 2011 Rev. Kieran O'Reilly2011 - 2013 Rev. Jean Marie Guillaume2013 - Rev. Fachtna O'Driscoll

SMA Missionaries in Nigeria in the late 1970's


Society of African Missions