The bishops of the country, the representatives of the Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa, and the president of the Pontifical Missionary Works, who came from Rome for the occasion, gathered together in Libreville to celebrate the jubilee year marking 175 years of the evangelization of Gabon which ended on September 29, 2019.
“Celebrating the 175 years of Holy Ghost Fathers missionaries coming to this land is important not only to the Church in Gabon but also to the sister Churches. Indeed, from Gabon, the Fathers of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit—better known as Spiritans—have gone to spread the Gospel in neighboring lands such as those of the current Congo Brazzaville, where they arrived 30 years later,” Bishop Francisco Escalante Molina, Apostolic Nuncio to Gabon and Congo Brazzaville, told Fides.
The first Catholic missionaries who arrived in Gabon in 1844 were all French. When they left Bordeaux on September 13, 1843, they were ten: Bessieux, Regnier, Maurice, Audebert, Roussel, Bouchet, Paul Laval, and three young men, André, Jean, and Grégoire. On their arrival in Gabon on September 28, 1844, they were only two: Jean Remi Bessieux and the young Gregory Sey.
The ordeal of a long journey had decimated the troop: before reaching the coast of Gabon the missionaries had stopped at Gorée in Senegal, Cape Palms in Liberia, Grand Bassam and Assinie, and Côte d'Ivoire.
Soon, the Spiritans settled, built churches, catechized the natives and took care to convert the local rulers first. Starting in 1844 the sovereigns Denis and Quaben, who had very good relations with Bishop Bessieux, asked for baptism.
Then, a sign of a flourishing Christianity, seminaries were built and that soon opened, to welcome the first Gabonese vocations.
Long before the founding of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, Bishop Marcel Lefebvre, then a Spiritan missionary, was sent to Gabon to train the future indigenous clergy in the 1930s. Among his pupils, three became bishops.
Half a century later, in 1986, Catholic Tradition established itself in Libreville with the founding of the Saint-Pie X Mission, which continues to spread the faith as it comes from the Apostles.