7 milestones in the life of Anglican Archbishop French Chang-Him of Seychelles, celebrating 60 years of service in 2023

In March this year, the Anglican Diocese of Seychelles celebrated its Golden Jubilee. The diocese was established on March 25, 1973. Prior to that, since the introduction of missionaries of the church in Seychelles in 1813, Seychelles - 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean - belonged to the Diocese of Mauritius.

In a series of Buzz topics, the SNA will bring you interesting facts about the Anglican Diocese of Seychelles.

Our first in this series features are 7 milestones in the life of Anglican Archbishop Emeritus French Chang Him, who was born on May 10, 1938, to a father of Chinese origin -- Francis Chang Him – and a Seychellois mother – Amelia Zoe.

Now at the age of 85, Archbishop Chang Him is still active with his pastoral duties and currently serves at the St John Chapel of Glacis in the north of the main island of Mahe.

1.Ordination into priesthood

French Chang-Him was ordained to the priesthood in June 1963. This was after his theological studies at Lichfield Theological College in the United Kingdom. Over the years, he pursued other studies which included Post Ordination Studies at the St Augustine’s College in Canterbury, England, and at the Trinity College at the Toronto University of Canada.

Father French-Chang Him (personal archive) All Rights Reserved

2. 2023 – 60 years of service in the Anglican Diocese of Seychelles

This year marks the 60th anniversary since French Chang-Him gave his life to the service of the Anglican Church and community of Seychelles and the Indian Ocean. Over the years, he served in parishes all over the main islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue as well as for the Anglican community on Cousine and for the leper settlement on Curieuse Island.

Archbishop French Chang-Him addressing families and friends gathered to honour the late Davidson Chang-Him on June 5, 2013. (Le Seychellois/Facebook) Photo License: CC-BY

3. Survivor in a sinking ship incident

August 12, 1975, is a day that marked French Chang-Him. This was the sinking of the Ero, a wooden passenger schooner that capsized and sank, with 22 passengers, between Mahe and Praslin. Chang-Him was one of the passengers and, at the time, the young priest was left stranded at sea, threatened by sharks but recounted how he was protected by the dolphins, until he was rescued.

Painting of the Ero ship sinking - (Seychelles Weekly) Photo License: CC-BY

4. First Seychellois Anglican Bishop and Archbishop of the Anglican Province and Diocese

French Chang-Him served as the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Seychelles from 1979 until his retirement in 2004. He was consecrated by Bishop George Briggs, his predecessor, and Bishop Trevor Huddlestone, a leading anti-apartheid campaigner from South Africa, assisted by three other bishops from Madagascar.

The consecration ceremony in 1979 (personal archive). All Rights Reserved

In 1984, he appointed as of Archbishop of the Indian Ocean Province. Archbishop Chang Him was conferred the title of Archbishop Emeritus by the Indian Ocean Province of the Anglican Church in 2014.

Archbishop French Chang-Him, the first Seychellois archbishop (Anglican Diocese of Seychelles) Photo License: CC-BY

5. OBE from her Queen Elizabeth II

In December 2014, Archbishop Chang-Him was designated an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II. This was for his services to reconciliation, human rights, charity, and democratic values, and also for his invaluable service to British nationals in Seychelles, past and present.

Archbishop French Chang-Him (right) receiving the insignia of the OBE from British High Commissioner Lindsay Skoll as his daughter Frances and grand-daughter Shannon look. December 2014. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

6.French Chang Him Road

One year after taking office as the new head of state, President Wavel Ramkalawan announced that 15 streets in the island nation's capital city of Victoria with names related to the island nation's June 5, 1977 coup d'état would be renamed.

Thus, Liberation Road – leading from Mont Fleuri to Bel Eau and Bel Air was renamed to become the French Chang Him Road.

Liberation Road was renamed French Chang-Him Road (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

7.Archbishop French – marking the history of an island nation

Archbishop French, born from humble beginnings, has left his mark on the history of Seychelles. The octogenarian is the first Seychellois Anglican priest, celebrating 60 years of service on June 9, 2023. He became the first Bishop, Archbishop, and Archbishop Emeritus of the Indian Ocean Province of the Anglican Church.

The award of the OBE to Archbishop French was the first award of an order of chivalry in the British and Commonwealth honours systems given to a Seychellois citizen in 35 years.

Archbishop Chang-Him was the first Seychellois in almost 35 years to be designated an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II (Seychelles News Agency).

Source: Seychelles News Agency