In 1980, initiatives were in full swing in view of the celebration of the VIII centenary of the birth of St. Francis (1981/1982). Among them, a special mention is merited by the historical Congress in Rome in 1980 as a recovery of the missionary memory and by the establishment of a Mission Council on 31st January 1981 as an “organ of international competence”. A few days later, Friars representing the 15 Franciscan Entities in 7 different African countries met for the first time in Salisbury (Zimbabwe), from the 3rd to 12th February. They asked for help and gave suggestions for the establishment of the Order in Africa.
In the following months, Br. Anselmo Moons, Definitor General, and Br. Mel Brady, Secretary General for Missions, visited Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast for the purpose of “assessing the possibilities for expansion of the Franciscan presence in Africa” in the perspective of presenting a special project for Africa to the General Definitory and then to the entire Order . Br. Anselmo Moons presented the “Africa Project” to the General Definitory on the 25th June 1981.
The first Africa Project
Given the novelty of the proposal, it is interesting to read the integral text of the “project”.
General objective: A new presence of our Order in Central Africa.
The centre of gravity of the Church is constantly moving towards the countries of the third world. Africa also promises to become an important part of the Church. In the countries of Central Africa we are only present in Zaire.
We believe that our Order can contribute to the local African Church by offering it the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi.
We also hold that the African Church could enrich the Order with new interpretations of the fundamental elements of the Franciscan ideal: fraternity, poverty, peace, hospitality, joy, prayer, liturgy, simplicity, family spirit, etc.
The VIII centenary of the birth of St. Francis furnishes us with the opportunity to stimulate the Order with a project which seems too difficult to realise according to the norms of prudence, a project which involves the entire Order and gives it a new sense of vitality.