He studied at the minor seminary in Pabré and major seminary in Koumi, where he was ordained to the priesthood on May 2, 1942. Zoungrana, one of his country's first three priests, then did pastoral work in his native Ouagadougou until joining the Society of Missionaries of Africa on September 24, 1948, later taking his final vows in 1952 at Rome. From 1948 to 1953, he furthered his studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University, from where he obtained his doctorate in canon law; and the Catholic Institute of Paris. Zoungrana taught canon law at the seminary of Koumi, whilst again carrying out his pastoral ministry in Ouagadougou, from 1954 to 1959. He then served as Director of the Social Information Center until 1960.
Going back to Upper Volta, he went first to teach canon law at Koumi and then coordinated the church’s social action in Bobo-Diouiasso. He received the news that he had been made Archbishop, while he was baptising the child of President Yameogo in 1960 (the child was called Charlemagne). Five years later he was admitted to the Sacred College of Cardinals, and he has become a figure whose advice is closely listened to in Rome.
Zoungrana has become, in the past few years, a dominating figure in the West African conference of bishops who, on occasion, have had to steer a delicate political course, as in the affair of the imprisonment of the Archbishop of Conakry in 1970, or on the matter of the expulsion of West Africans from Zaire, who became involved in the church-state conflict there.
In Upper Volta the Cardinal has steered clear of political involvement, although his disapproval of Yameogo’s marital complications meant that the Ouagadougou Catholic establishment was hostile, and signally ignored an appeal for assistance from Yameogo, at the time of the military take-over. In a sermon some months later called “The Christian in Political Life”, the Cardinal made strong comments on past leaders who had been partial and corrupt. In 1968-9 the Cardinal fought a rearguard action against a move to introduce an element of state control into the church schools. He lost, but the Catholics still have a strong influence in education.
He became known especially for his support to the Africanization of Catholic liturgy.
He participated in the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965.
One of Africa’s most noted Roman Catholic churchmen, he was the second African to be appointed a cardinal, and the first West African (the first was Cardinal Rugambwa of Tanzania). His elevation was partly an acknowledgment of the strong implantation of the Roman Catholic church in Upper Volta, an achievement of the enterprising order of the White Fathers, who educated him.