Simeon Lourdel was a Catholic missionary pioneer in Uganda. Born in the Pas-de-Calais, France, he became a White Father, being ordained in 1877. He was chosen for the first caravan to East Africa led by Leon Livinhac and arrived in Buganda in February 1879. He soon became the mission’s principal spokesman, being a good linguist with a manifest faith and an enthusiasm which quickly drew many Baganda to him; he acquired the personal name of “Mapera” (Mon père), bby which he is still remembered. In the tense uncertain atmosphere of the Ganda court of King Mutesa and his son Mwanga, Lourdel’s quick spirit was frequently called into action as when, at a moment of crisis in 1881, he offered to walk through fire carrying the Gospels if a Muslim spokesman would do the same with the Koran. The offer was not taken up and an immediate threat to the Christian community was averted. Lourdel baptized at least 15 of the martyrs killed in King Mwanga’s persecution of 1885 and 1886, including Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe and Andrew Kaggwa (all have since been canonized). Expelled from Buganda in 1888 by the usurping Muslim king Kalema, he returned after the Christian victory in 1889 but died shortly afterwards. Buganda Catholicism considers him its true founding father.
A. Nicq, Vie du Révérend Père Siméon Lourdel (1895); J. F. Faupel, African Holocaust: The Story of the Uganda Martyrs (1962).
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.