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Alexander Le Roy
1854 to 1938
Catholic
Kenya

Alexander Le Roy was a Holy Ghost Fathers (CSSp) missionary, linguist, and ethnographer in Africa. He was born at La Gralemois, France in 1854 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1876. He went initially to Pondicherry, India. In 1881 he arrived in Africa, and for 15 years he traveled untiringly in Somalia, Mozambique, Kenya, and Tanganyika (Tanzania), before being appointed to Gabon, West Africa, as vicar apostolic (1892). A born student of people and of languages, he committed to intensive research of belief and values, explicitly as part of his theological and missionary methodology. Apparently self-taught, Le Roy wrote widely in ethnography, ethnology, and linguistics. He freed slaves as a preamble to evangelization and made contact with Pygmy people as well as the Chaggas and Masais. But his more lasting legacy was that he established a network of local catechists and a seminary for training indigenous priests.

In 1896 he was elected superior general of the Holy Ghost Fathers, which he reorganized and regionalized. In 1921 he founded the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Ghost. He was committed to disseminating an integrated, cross-disciplinary approach to mission and wrote numerous articles and several widely read books. His Religion of the Primitives (1922) remains available as a good example of the anthropology of its time. Resigning in ill health in 1926, he died in Paris.

Anthony J. Gittins, CSSp


Bibliography:

Alexander Le Roy, Mes Souvenirs (no date), A travers le Zanguèbar (1884) (vol. 5 of Les Missions Catholiques françaises au XIX siècle, J. Piolet, ed.), Religion of the Primitives (1922), and Au Kilema-Ndjaro (4th ed., 1928). There are virtually no resources in English, except a short assessment by G. Collins in The Interracial Review, July 1938, pp. 102-104. References can be found in H. Koren, The Spiritans (1958) and Spiritan East Africa Memorial (1993). In French are E. Baur and A. Le Roy, Voyage dans l'Oudoé, l'Ouzigoua, et l'Ousogara (4th ed., 1899); Henri Goré, Mgr. Alexander Le Roy (1952).


This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.