History of F.I. in Africa
Benin – Allada
House of Welcoming, Spirited, Postulancy, Radio Apostolate, Sanctuary
In the summer of 1991, Fr. Antonio Maria Santoro paid a visit to the “La Croix” hospital of the Camillian Fathers of Zinvié. Struck by the human needs of the population and pastoral urgencies, he returned to Italy and asked and obtained from his superiors permission to start a missionary experience in a more stable manner. On December 13, 1991, Fr. Santoro flew to Benin and inaugurated the mission with Friar Giovanni M. Arena. The then archbishop of Cotonou, Msgr. Isidore de Souza, formalized their presence with a canonical welcoming letter and, knowing the charism of the Institute, entrusted to them the creation and management of Catholic radio and a diocesan Marian shrine. After about two years of hospitality with the Camillians, the two friars settled on the hill of Allada about 50 km north of Cotonou. In 1995, other friars arrived, including the first priest, Fr. Alfonso M. Bruno, and also the first vocations. In 1997 came the nuns who occupied the original dwelling of the friars who had meanwhile moved into the radio building. In 1998, Radio Immaculée Conception was officially inaugurated. The station currently covers the national territory in FM, several continents via satellite, and also via the internet worldwide.
In 2004, the new friary dedicated to “St. Pio of Pietrelcina” was opened, and on April 15, 2007, after six years of work, the Marian Diocesan Sanctuary “Notre Dame de la Divine Misérieorde” was consecrated. The sanctuary was wanted by the late Msgr. Isidore de Souza, designed by Fr. Luigi M. Martinez FI, and financed 50% by the FI Institute and 45% by a wealthy Beninese man in memory of his deceased wife. The works were coordinated and carried out by the FI friars. In the Sanctuary, a beautiful wooden statue 2.40 m tall of the Mother of Divine Mercy – carved by hand in Val Gardena by Alexander Kostner – is venerated, as well as paintings on the lives of St. Francis and St. Maximilian. On February 13, 2011, the Archbishop Msgr. Antoine Ganyé officially entrusted the pastoral care of the Sanctuary to the Franciscans of the Immaculate.
The Cenacle MIM “S. Pio of Pietrelcina”, consisting of about 50 consecrated members and one hundred other members, meets every 2nd Sunday of the month.
Benin – Bembèrèkè
The presence of the FI friars was requested by the Bishop of N’Dali, Bishop Martin Adjou Moumouni, after the installation in 2003 of a transceiver of the Radio Immaculée Conception in Bembèrèkè, 500 km away in the north of Benin, near the Marian shrine “Notre-Dame de la Paix”. The official entry of the friars to this new location, in the presence of numerous faithful and religious, took place on March 25, 2006, with a solemn Holy Mass in the sanctuary and the blessing of the house – a house consisting of two rooms used for catechism and adapted for internal use of the friars.
The history of the Sanctuary dates back to October 1948, when two missionaries of the Society of African Missions founded the Parish of “Our Lady of the Road” in Bembèrèkè, land of first evangelization between the two villages of Bembereke and Gando. They founded the parish to serve the two communities, with a church and an elementary school in French. After a fire in the village which damaged the church and parish house in 1950, and after the depopulation of western Gando, the missionaries in the late sixties decided to transfer the parish church to the center of Bembereke, while the first became dedicated in the early eighties to “Our Lady of Peace”. This first parish was chosen as a pilgrimage destination for the annual gathering of all Christians of North Benin, which is held on Jan. 21-22. At the end of 1999, there was the erection of the new diocese of N’Dali, and the church became a diocesan Marian sanctuary, and for the Jubilee Year of 2000, there were restoration works. On March 25, 2006, it was entrusted to the FI community, being our novitiate house from August 2, 2008 till 2017.
Cameroon – Douala
On September 11, 2008, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, at the invitation of Cardinal Christian Turni, opened a mission in Cameroon, in the city of Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon, an industrial city of great potential in natural and human resources, even though poorly managed. At one time, Cameroon was an English (western part) and French (eastern part) colony. The official languages are French and English, while there are about 350 dialects.
The “Pentecôte de New-Town Aéroport” parish has been entrusted to the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, located in a poor suburban area, near the international airport of Douala (about 10 minutes away), where about 9,000 people live. It consists of five districts called: New-Town aéroport, Bonaloka, Bonadiwoto, Somahop and Motto Cross (this has a chapel dedicated to the Holy Virgin, “Holy Mary Chapel”). The parish is bilingual (French, English).
Nigeria – Ijebu Igbo
Sanctuary, Parish, aspirate.
The presence of the friars in Nigeria was initiated in 1996 at the request of the Bishop of Ijebu-Ode. Mons. Albert AyindeFasina. On November 6, 1997, the first two missionary friars arrived: Fr. Alfonso Maria Salazar and Friar John Joseph Maria Borja, accompanied by our Vicar General, Fr. Gabriele M. Pellettieri.
The friars were entrusted with the parish of ljebu-lgbo with various chapels, and at the same time they began to welcome vocations. Care of the lepers was added to the parish work, along with assistance to the villages, in their material and spiritual needs, and the organization of the MIM and of the apostolate “A Day with Mary”.
On December 25, 2000, the “Marian Adoration Shrine of the Holy Rosary” was consecrated. It’s a shrine based on the message of Fatima, a message that calls for prayer and worship. The shrine, proposed by the local Bishop, was initiated and completed by our Institute.
In August 2003, work began on the construction of the City of the Immaculate in Sagamu (80 km from Ijebu-Igbo) and on July 16, 2004, three friars moved to the site to order to supervise over the work …
Nigeria – Sagamu
Sanctuary (Shrine), center of Apostolate, novitiate, postulancy
On a vast land given by the Bishop of Ijebu-Ode. Mons. Albert AyindeFasi, at the beginning of the third millennium, the Franciscans of the Immaculate propose to plant the first City of the Immaculate in Nigeria as a spiritual center for the whole nation.
The first community of friars settled on July 16, 2004.
On February 11, 2008, after two and a half years of work, the Sanctuary of “Mary Coredemptrix” was consecrated, and the House of Charity of St. Pio was blessed for the assistance of poor girls. The house is run by the FI Sisters, and since 2010, it has been a novitiate house for them.