Botswana – The first group of Salesians arrive in the country

by Fr. Sebastian Fernando

The Salesian Congregation is to be found in yet another country! On the afternoon of 26 November 2023, the Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, the first three Salesians arrived in Francistown,the second largest city of Botswana: Fr Vincent Tembo, Fr Irvin Lumano and Bro. Sylvester Makumba, who were warmly welcomed by the bishop of Francistown, Bishop Antony Rebello, SVD. Last July, the Rector Major with the consent of his Council, accepted the request of the bishop to establish a Salesian presence in his diocese.

There are two dioceses in the country, Francistown and Gaborone, the capital, which form part of the Southern Africa Episcopal Conference. Initially the local tribes in Bostwana put up resistance to Catholic missionaries,at the request of the Protestant missionaries who had arrived there first. In 1889 the territory was entrusted to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and the German Oblates opened a presence in the country’s south, close to the capital, in 1923. In 1930 the Marian Hill missionaries opened a presence in the north – the region where the Salesians have arrived today. And in 1959 the entire country became a Prefecture Apostolic entrusted to the Passionists. The missionaries stood out for setting up schools and clinics.

The population of Botswana today is 2,693,546 with around 11.6% of the total living in the capital. In terms of belief, 70% of the population of Botswana is Christian, but only about 5% are Catholic.

The task of launching the first presence in Bostwana was entrusted to the Mary Help of Christians Vice-Province of Zambia-Malawi-Zimbabwe-Namibia (ZMB). The new Superior of ZMB, Fr Michael Mbandama, accepted the task entrusted to him by the Rector Major with enthusiasm and energy. In dialogue with the General Councillor for the Missions, Fr Alfred Maravilla, Fr Mbandama immediately started the necessary preparations and processes. In fact, barely five months after the official acceptance by the Rector Major, the three pioneers had already arrived in Botswana.

“As the Vice-Province Council we are planning a good meeting with the local Ordinary and the next Provincial Council meeting in Botswana on 8 December 2023. This will be the official date of the beginning of our presence in Botswana” Fr Mbandama explained, before concluding.”We are happy that now all the countries in southern Africa have a Salesian presence” he added.

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The society of St. Francis de Sales or Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB), is a religious Congregation founded by St. John Bosco in 1859 in Turin, Italy for the purpose of helping, educating and training poor boys. To date, services of the Salesians have spread to 131 countries in the world. In Sri Lanka, the very first Don Bosco Centre was established in 1956 at Negombo. The Salesians of Don Bosco have, to date established 18 centres in different parts of the country. 


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