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Sierra Leone

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Comprises the English colony of that name and the surrounding territory from French Guinea on the north and east to Liberia on the south. The capital, Freetown (population, 90,000) is in lat. 8°30' N. and long. 13°14' W. of Greenwich. Its area is 30,000 square miles; population, 3,000,000. Its climate is most deadly and has merited for the colony the name "White man's grave". Yellow fever is endemic. Malaria and hemoglobinuria are prevalent.

After the American Revolution the English Government purchased from native chiefs a tract of land some twenty miles square, and established a colony for negroes discharged from the army and navy, and for liberated or runaway slaves who had sought refuge in England. In 1787 about 400 negroes settled there and founded Freetown. In 1808 it became a crown colony, and is so still. It has a completely-developed system of government.

Protestantism had exclusive control in the colony until Catholicism appeared in 1864. Amongst many sects Wesleyans predominate, though Anglicans are numerous. All are strongly organized. In the surrounding territory the aborigines are pagans. Mohammedanism is spreading and becoming a dangerous enemy to Catholicism.

The history of West-African Catholic missions begins in 1843 with the foundation of the Vicariate Apostolic of the Two Guineas by Bishop Barron of Philadelphia with the Holy Ghost Fathers. This vicariate, which after Bishop Barron's departure in 1845 was completely entrusted to these fathers, was divided in 1858, and a special vicariate comprising Sierra Leone, Liberia, and French Guinea was confided to Bishop Bresillac, founder of the African Fathers of Lyons. He with his companions died two months after reaching Freetown, and the vicariate was given back to the Holy Ghost Fathers. At the earnest request of the Propaganda Fathers Blanchet and Koeberle, C.S.Sp., began work in 1864. The French Guinea mission was begun in 1876 from Freetown, and fostered until its erection into a prefecture in 1897. The Liberian mission was undertaken by Fathers Lorber and Bourzeix, C.S.Sp., in 1884, but because of opposition they withdrew in 1888 and confined their efforts to Sierra Leone. Liberia was erected into a prefecture in 1903 and given to the Fathers of Mary. The present Vicariate of Sierra Leone was administered by the Holy Ghost Congregation since 1864, Fathers Blanchet and Brown having the title of pro-vicar Apostolic. After Father Brown's death in 1903, Rt. Rev. John A. O'Gorman of the American province of the congregation was named vicar Apostolic, and consecrated at Philadelphia. Despite the difficulty of climate and religious opposition the vicariate has prospered. At Father Brown's death there were five missions; since Bishop O'Gorman's consecration six new ones have been added, making eleven in all. There are twenty-eight missionaries, six from the American province. Connected with each mission is a school, and with it a workshop, farm, or plantation. Thus with religious and secular instruction the boys receive a practical training. A high school for boys was built at Freetown in 1911.

There are four schools, one high school, and one orphanage for girls, in care of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny. The Venerable Mother Javouhey, their foundress, labored here herself in 1822. Since 1866 her daughters have been in continuous charge. With religious and secular education they teach cooking, sewing, and laundering.


MOCKLER FERRYMAN, British West Africa, its Rise and Progress (London, 1900); STANLEY AND OTHERS, Africa, Its Partition and Its Future (New York, 1898); BLANCHET, Histoire de la mission de Sierra Leone, 1864-1892 (op. inedit.); Bulletin officiel of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost (Paris, 1863-1911); CROOKS, A Short History of Sierra Leone (Dublin 1900).

About this page

APA citation. Byrne, J. (1912). Sierra Leone. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Byrne, Joseph. "Sierra Leone." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph E. O'Connor.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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