ACN Feature Story – Senegal

Memories and the vision of three bishops

By Robert Lalonde for ACN Canada

Translated by Traductions Julie Bourbeau, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin

Published on the web March 12, 2020


During a visit to Senegal, Robert Lalonde, a regular contributor to Aid to the Church in Need, spoke with three bishops who succeeded each other in the Diocese of Kaolack from 1974 to 2020. Rich with 46 years of episcopacy in this diocese, Bishop Martin Boucar Tine, current pastor of the diocese, Bishop Benjamin Ndiaye, current Archbishop of Dakar and pastor of Kaolack from 2001 to 2015, and Bishop Théodore Adrien Sarr, retired cardinal and pastor of the same diocese from 1974 to 2001, shared their experiences with regard to this diocese, but also their vision of the Senegalese Church. 


Bishop Théodore Adrien Sarr

“When all is said and done, it’s God’s call.”  

Established in 1965, the Diocese of Kaolack is located in central-western Senegal. Its two million inhabitants include 17,000 Catholics and 200 catechumens. The number of faithful has been growing steadily since 1860, the year the first missionaries arrived.

In 1974, Bishop Sarr took over, continuing the missionary work already accomplished. His episcopate is dedicated to the deepening of the faith and the development of social works, for a diocesan Church “at the service of every man and of the whole man,” he said.  In 2001, his successor, Bishop Ndiaye, consolidated all that concerns the field of faith through, among other things, the strengthening of the pastoral care of proximity with the establishment of new religious communities and the organization of a Eucharistic and Marian Congress.


“I have become all things to all people” 1 Corinthians 9:22

These first years of work established a diocesan pastoral care in 18 parishes spread over four deaneries1 It should be noted that certain structures support the work of evangelization of the parishes, ensuring the humanitarian and spiritual objectives pursued by the Senegalese Church.


First of all, in terms of humanitarianism, the Direction des Œuvres is the hub of the lay apostolate. It periodically hosts several organizations, including the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, the Young Catholic Workers, the Young Catholic Students, the Rural Adult Catholic Movement and a few others.

It also coordinates the Kingdom of Childhood, born of a pastoral initiative by Bishop Ndiaye. This diocesan centre aims to offer children, many of whom come from the streets, a healthy environment in which they can blossom and develop, while respecting their abilities. Social ministry is also animated by the Association des Postes de Santé Catholiques, (Association of Catholic Healthcare positions) a centre for disabled children run by the Sisters of the Communauté de la Providence de Lisieux, the Association for the Promotion of Women and the Direction de l’Enseignement Catholique (Direction of Catholic Education). The Church has always paid particular attention to this association, convinced that education is the basis for the socialization of man.


Next comes the diocesan “spiritual pole” called “Keur Mariama”. This is made up of several structures which are constantly growing in size. Through these, we see four Church realities that give life to Keur Mariama, according to the charism of each one and within the framework of a collaboration dictated by the needs of the various pastoral missions. Thus we find the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart at the Shrine, the diocesan priests in training for the priesthood at St. Paul’s Propaedeutic Seminary, the Carmelite Brothers in spiritual formation and pastoral animation, to conclude with the Carmelite missionary Teresian nuns for the dispensary and the promotion of women.


The Shrine of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is a place of pilgrimage and renewal with Mary, each year welcoming the children’s pilgrimage for the Epiphany and the diocesan Marian pilgrimage in May. Last January, they hosted the first edition of the pilgrimage of catechists from Senegal: about 4,500 catechists responded to the call!


The commitment shown by the establishment of these structures, ensuring that their objectives are also humanitarian and the closeness of the laity to the various institutions of the Church, demonstrate the importance the clergy gives to projects affecting not only Catholics but civil society as well.


In this regard, the three bishops recall in unison that when the time comes to justify the  the engagement of the Church in projects affecting not only Catholics but also civil society, the three bishops recall in unison the words of Christ when He judges men by their love for the unfortunate: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in; I needed clothes and you clothed me; I was sick and you looked after me; I was in prison and you came to visit me! ”  Matthew 25:35-36


Bishop Benjamin Ndiaye

Isn’t my relationship with my neighbour where I should verify the incarnation and rootedness of charity? Smiling, Bishop Ndiaye said that he sometimes tells the Christians around him that “charity is the passport to heaven.” However, since faith without deeds is dead faith, it is often through the challenges to be met that the intensity of this faith can be measured. But what are these challenges?


Challenges to be met

“As demographic progression is rather significant and is reflected in the physiognomy of our community, the first challenge to be taken up,” says Bishop Ndiaye, “is that of building places of worship and even creating new parishes. Unfortunately, on our own, we are unable to meet this challenge.”


The second is that of young people who lack prospects for the future: “Even if some of them have received training, they don’t necessarily manage to find work,” explains the Archbishop of Dakar. “The Senegalese Christian is a man of duty, but he doesn’t fight in the arena to take his place. Sometimes I wonder if he is not preaching a false sense of humility. Jesus asks us to have ambition. Didn’t he give us talents to display? I question the strategy that should be employed to unblock this situation. There is certainly a catechesis to be transmitted on commitment in order to take better care of one’s life.”

The Archbishop expressed his gratitude to the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) by recalling some of the projects for which the diocese has received support: the training of priests, a vehicle for a parish and, more recently, Mass intentions that allow for the priests who are in the bush to be taken care of.


Msgr Martin Boucar Tine

“But you know, in spite of all our expectations and with my experience in the diocese of Kaolack which was built with few means, there are people who have helped me throughout my episcopate. This has the advantage of showing that, in the end, it is God who decides to do it anyway, and in His own way.”


For his part, the current bishop, Bishop Tine, after first expressing his gratitude to the benefactors of ACN for the booklets on the Rosary obtained at the end of the year, then concluded in these terms: “Now 55 years old, the diocese has reached a certain maturity and with the help of the pillars that surround me, we will continue our mission as servants in the following of Christ.”


  1. A deanery is an administrative district that includes several parishes.