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Société des Auxiliaires des Missions (SAM) China Photograph Collection

The Society of the Auxiliaries of Missions (Société des Auxiliaires des Missions, or SAM) was founded in 1926 as a response to the demands from recently ordained Chinese Roman Catholic bishops for foreign priests willing to serve in their dioceses.

Father Frédéric-Vincent Lebbe 雷鳴遠, a Vincentian missionary who had long been a proponent of a church led by native Chinese bishops, became the inspiration for Father André Boland of Verviers in Belgium to take the lead in starting SAM, not as a religious order or congregation, but rather as a society of secular priests. Once sent to serve a native bishop, the Samist was entirely under the Chinese bishop’s jurisdiction as a new member of the diocesan clergy. The first Samist, Father Raymond de Jaegher, left for China in 1927 to serve Bishop Sun Dezhen 孫德禎 in the Vicariate Apostolic of Anguo.

The SAM China Mission Digital Photograph Collection is composed of six main categories of images:

  • A set of twenty-five photo albums belonging to Samists who worked in China between 1926 and 1952.
  • Loose photographs retrieved from the personal files of individual Samists.
  • Photographs of Chinese students in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s.
  • A selection of photographs and calligraphy of Father Vincent Lebbe.
  • Chinese Christian art and religious images.
  • Miscellaneous uncategorized photographs and images held in the SAM Collection in Belgium.

For the most part, the photographs and images found in the archives of Catholic orders and congregations that came to China from Europe and the Americas emphasize missionary accomplishments in ecclesiastical territories entrusted to non-Chinese bishops. By contrast, the SAM pictures provide an eyewitness and grassroots visual account of the beginning and growth of the first Chinese–led local churches. They are, for that reason, very important for a more complete understanding of the Church in China during the first part of the twentieth century as well as its survival after the Communist takeover.

All the photographs and images included in this project were obtained from the main archive kept at the Centre SAM in Brussels. The six-member team was led by Dr. Jean-Paul Wiest who mapped out the project and wrote the entries for each digital photograph. Dr. Anthony Clark and Dr. Amanda Clark of Whitworth were in charge of the digitization, and Kathy Watts completed the upload of the final product onto Whitworth University Library’s Digital Commons webpage. Dr. Nailene Wiest served as an advisor to the project. Mr. Tibo Colman, Ms. Sara Sprouse, students at Whitworth, assisted in the digitization process, the organization and correction of the digitized photographs, and the designing of the webpage.

SAM holds the proprietary right of the content of the project. All inquiries regarding the digitized photographs should be sent to Dr. Jean-Paul Wiest as director of the project and to Dr. Amanda Clark who supervises the webpage and the content therein.

Dr. Jean-Paul Wiest, March 1, 2017


Browse the Société des Auxiliaires des Missions (SAM) China Photograph Collection Collections:

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