The Society of Missionaries of Africa was founded in 1868 by Cardinal Charles Lavigerie, Archbishop of Algiers and Carthage in North Africa, to evangelize the people of Africa. Cardinal Lavigerie adopted a white habit for the Society’s members, based on the traditional North African dress of a white gown (gandoura) and a white hooded cloak (burnous). A rosary is worn around the neck to show we are men of prayer. The white habit stood in contrast to the common black and brown habits of other Catholic religious orders; hence, the Missionaries of Africa came to be known as “the White Fathers.”
The Missionaries of Africa have been geographically, socially and culturally focused on Africa and its peoples. For several decades, the initial training of the first missionaries was done in Europe and North America. However, with the growing missionary movement within the African Church, most formation houses are now relocated to Africa to contextualize and foster an African-centric training.