The Roman Catholic Church in Botswana will hold a Silver Jubilee Celebration of the Episcopal Ordination of the Rt. Rev. Boniface Tshosa Setlalekgosi, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Gaborone, on Saturday the 5th of May, 2007 at Ditshupo Hall in Gaborone and all members of the public are expected to be seated by 0900 hrs.
The event will have a large international attendance church members from the region with several church governance authorities like His Excellency Archbishop James Patrick Green, the Apostolic Delegate and Nuncio to Southern Africa His Eminence Cardinal Wilfred Napier of Durban who is the Cardinal for Southern Africa. Several Bishops and dignitaries from around the sub-region will also be attending.
Former President Sir Ketumile Masire is expected among the dignitaries as well as Church Leaders of various denominations in Botswana. Also in attendance will be the Vatican Representative based in Pretoria, South Africa who will be attending in his diplomatic status as an envoy of the Pope.
A jubilee is a period of time proclaimed by the Roman Catholic Pope ordinarily every 25 years as a time of special solemnity. The forthcoming Silver Jubilee Celebration marks a historic milestone in Botswana since the Rt. Rev. Bishop Setlalekgosi succeeded the late Bishop Urban Murphy in 1981 who was at the time the first Bishop of Gaborone. It was at the funeral of the late Bishop Murphy that in his message of tribute as the Head of State then, the former President Sir Ketumile Masire made an impassioned plea to the Church for localization at a time when most eminent positions were held by the non-Batswana clergy and by coincidence the Vatican appointed Bishop Setlalekgosi though according to Church processes only, not necessarily because he was a citizen.
Bishop Setlalekgosi is credited with a significant growth in the membership of the Roman Catholic Church in Botswana including an efficient reorganization and unity of the Church Parishes throughout the country.
The Silver Jubilee Celebration will include a full Mass.
Prior to 1959 the Roman Catholic Church in Bechuanaland was divided among three different ecclesiastical authorities. The south was under the Diocese of Kimberley, north under the Diocese of Bulawayo and the west under the Vicariate Apostolic of Windhoek. A vicariate like Francistown is an autonomous area which has not yet reached a population of Catholics to be declared a full diocese with its own Bishop.
On the 27 April 1959 the Vatican decided that Bechuanaland Protectorate should now be declared a Prefecture Apostolic and thereby be independent from the three authorities outside Botswana. This was the beginning of the autonomy of the Church in the Protectorate.
┬áFather Urban John Charles Murphy who then the Priest in Charge of Our Lady of Desert Mission in Francistown was appointed the Prefect Apostolic and as such the administrator┬áof the Prefecture.
┬áIn 1966 when Botswana attained independence the Vatican also declared Botswana a full Diocese and Monsignor Murphy was appointed the first Bishop of Gaborone. Note that the Catholic Church unlike the Anglican Church appoints a Bishop for a city or town where his Episcopal throne is and therefore the headquarters of the Diocese. The Episcopal throne is the chair of the Bishop in the Cathedral which also bears his emblem. ┬á
Bishop Murphy died on 27 February 1981 in hospital in Johannesburg and the body was sent back to Gaborone on 5 March and he was laid to rest at the cathedral 0n Saturday 7 March.┬á
Immediately after his death, Monsignor Setlalekgosi was appointed by the other priests as Vicar-Capitular or an ad interim administrator under the rules of the church.┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á
Setlalekgosi was born in his home village of Serowe on 14 September 1927 but later grew up in Mmaphashalala.
His family later moved to the nearby village of Mookane where the family resides now.
┬áHe did his primary and secondary school at St. Joseph’s College, Khale where he became a Catholic.
On the 22 January 1957 he started his priesthood training at St Josephs Seminary at Chishawasha in the then Salisbury, Rhodesia.
After finishing his secondary education he started formal work in the Church where he was appointed a Catechist at Our Lady of the Desert in Francistown in December 1963 at the age of 26 under Father Urban Murphy who was the priest in charge.
A catechist assists the priests with several duties particularly teaching the converts in preparation for the various sacraments.
He was ordained a priest in Francistown on 21 July 1963 and stationed there again under Father Urban Murphy until he was much later transferred to the Cathedral in Gaborone as a Parish Priest and Cathedral Administrator still under Bishop Murphy.
┬áSetlalekgosi succeeded Bishop Murphy being appointed a Bishop on 30 November 1981 and received an Episcopal ordination on 6 March 1982 at the National Stadium.
┬áThe government has also awarded him a Presidential Order of Meritorious Service.
A representative of the laity of the Diocese Pastoral Council Mr. C.M. Lekaukau says “The Church has not only grown tremendously, both physically and in faith during his twenty five years, but he has been evangelizing his flock by visiting his parishes frequently and spending days in each parish visiting the faithful in the small Christian communities.”
Lekaukau says Bishop Setlalekgosi has also been very active in the social and economic development of the country.
He gave an example of the 1980 drought when the Bishop was involved in school feeding programmes.
He said now efforts are ongoing to assist communities affected by HIV/AIDS.
“All this is done through Tirisanyo Catholic Commission, a Caritas development organization in Botswana. He is indeed a good shepherded of his flock,” said Lekaukau.