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The beginnings of evangelization in Côte d'Ivoire were promising. In 4 years, 7 missions and 7 schools were created.
In 1898, the OLA Sisters arrived. The mission of the Ivory Coast is thus definitely founded.
But the beginnings of this evangelization were also laborious.
Missionaries were quickly confronted with disease and death.


 Fr. Lorenzo Rapetti, SMA:

“The mission in Côte d'Ivoire has a special proximity to the experience of the missionary life of Brésillac. He paid a heavy price at the start. He paid with his life. Thus, the Ivorian mission with the yellow fever epidemics really manifested a form of proximity to this reality of a grain of wheat which falls into the ground and which dies and which bears a lot of fruit.”

The successive large epidemics of yellow fever which raged in Bassam between 1899 and 1903 made the living conditions of the populations difficult. The young French colony of Côte d’ivoire, which had established its headquarters in the town of Bassam, was forced to relocate its capital to Bingerville. The epidemic crisis swept away around 25% of the European population present. 12 SMA missionaries out of a total of 19 died, as well as 5 OLA Sisters.

Fr. Dario DOZIO, SMA:

“Father Matthieu Ray, first apostolic prefect, was the 1st to die of yellow fever. It's 1899. He's been here for 3 years. He was in Memni to bless the new buildings of the Fathers when he was told, we must not go back to Bassam because there is yellow fever. They even put a sanitary cordon so that missionaries and people would not enter or leave. However, Father Matthieu Ray said, I want to stay close to my parishioners. So, against government orders, he returned to Bassam and after 5 days he died. He gave his life to stay close to his parishioners in Grand Bassam. He was 51 years old. "

Fr. Dario DOZIO, SMA:

“Father Georges Meyer. He was 23 when he arrived in Ivory Coast in 1900. He was full of enthusiasm. In October, he wrote to his parents, “It's very pretty here. It's a little hot, but it's very beautiful. I have a lot of work to do with children, with young people. For Christmas, dear parents, I am going to write you a very beautiful letter that you will receive, and then you will have news of my life”. And the news of his death arrives before that letter he promised to send them. He was 23.

Father Mauricio Gros Jacques is the first Italian to go to Côte d'Ivoire as an SMA missionary, in 1902. He was 34 years old. He once had a bit of a fever when he was in Ghana, once called the Gold Coast. And when he was in Bassam, his parish priest told him, it is a difficult situation, there are illnesses, you have to leave, you who are young. He didn’t want to leave. He and his parish priest quarreled because they both wanted to stay here. And it is him, the youngster who wins, because he says, I'm vaccinated. I already had a fever. 5 days later, he also died. The same goes for Father Jean Joseph Perreau, 24 years old.”

“The beginnings of our mission were not easy (…) I give the example of Bassam, the sisters arrived in 1898, we must close this mission and burn it because of yellow fever, a sister dies, Sister Damien. We reopen Bassam, in 1903, and it was the same phenomenon. "

Fr. Dario DOZIO, SMA:

“When Pope Pius X heard about a whole series of young missionaries who die one after another from yellow fever, he said: "Sunt Martyres” - they are martyrs. "

Fr. Pascal AKAFFOU GRAH, Archdiocese of Abidjan:

"Sunt Martyres”. That hit me. Indeed, they are martyrs, witnesses. "

Fr. Dario DOZIO, SMA:

“Really we can say a lot of things about these missionaries. They lived in a different time from ours. It was the time of colonization. But they paid with their lives. They paid with their blood. "

The two founders of the Ivory Coast mission continue to watch over their mission. Between the tomb of Father Hamard in Moossou and that of Father Bonhomme in Sinématiali, many missions flourished which today make the greatness of the Church of Côte d’ivoire.