He was sent to Gabon, in French Equatorial Africa, and reported to the Apostolic Vicar Bishop Louis Tardy. Soon he was forming the indigenous future clergy (1932-1938).
At the end of his novitiate, the young Fr. Marcel Lefebvre was appointed professor and then rector of the seminary in Libreville, Gabon.
From the start he proved to be:
very flexible and pleasant, smiling, firm in his principles, very popular with his pupils, and appreciated by the priests. From the beginning of his missionary life, he showed an inclination and a particular talent for training priests.”
Few realize that three of his students later became bishops. In the opinion of Fr. Berger, the assistant rector, Marcel Lefebvre was “firm, moderate, considerate in his judgments and decisions, and remarkable at organizing and arranging practical matters”.
Next he was appointed superior of a mission (1938-1945); he made the rounds in the bush, put an end to interminable discussions, built and organized.
He methodically knew what his priorities must be:
First catechists, exemplary Christians who can make Christians; then Catholic schools, to form future heads of families, to awaken priestly vocations and finally to make a Christian culture.”
There was an ongoing battle with witch doctors. The efforts of Protestant ministers were generally surpassed by the Catholic missionaries. Until the sorrowful war years, the Church in Africa was booming. But in 1945, Fr. Lefebvre had to leave Africa.