On 9 February, Bishop Anthony Pascal Rebello, SVD, Bishop of Francistown, and Br Teofil Czarniak, OFM, Minister Provincial of the Franciscan Province of the Immaculate Conception in Poland, signed an agreement for the Franciscan presence in Botswana, southern Africa. Witnesses to this act were Br Konrad Cholewa, OFM, Definitor General, Br Allan Brzyski, OFM, Visitator General and Br Cyriak Budzisz, OFM, in addition to the many faithful present.
Under this agreement, the friars will run the Pastoral Centre in Kanamo, on the outskirts of Mahalapye, in south-eastern Botswana.
Bishop Rebello expressed his joy at the Franciscan presence in his diocese: "I am very happy to have the Franciscans in the diocese, and it is good that Father Cyriak has been here for almost a year".
Br Massimo Fusarelli, Minister General on a visit to Colombia, expressed his satisfaction and support for this new initiative: "It is with great joy that I address you, Minister Provincial, and all the friars of the Province, who are starting a mission in the African state of Botswana. I greatly appreciate the missionary openness of the Province, which wanted to start a presence in an African territory where the Order is not yet present".
The Minister added: "As you know, mission today is seen as the common and fraternal journey with sister Churches to share the missio, Dei. It is not, therefore, primarily a matter of bringing something or being the first to do everything. On the contrary, the authentically Franciscan missionary attitude is that of one who goes as a pilgrim and stranger to a new land, which he recognises as sacred, to listen, to learn, to gradually insert himself and thus share in the mission of the Church that is already present there. Let us, therefore, go as brothers and minors, full of the desire to meet. To learn to appreciate a new culture and to live with the people and Christians in that context. This asks us to be very vigilant in preserving a Franciscan style in sobriety of life and structures, in listening and immersing ourselves in this reality".
Br Massimo also assured his closeness and the gratitude of the whole Order: "May the Lord bless this step so that you may feel the closeness and gratitude of the whole Order and me personally. May the blessing of Saint Francis accompany you at the beginning of this new page of Franciscan life and presence on the African continent, so rich in promise for the world's future".
The Franciscan presence in Botswana is the result of the decision of the Provincial Chapter of the Province of the Immaculate Conception in Poland, which in 2020 endorsed the idea of starting a new mission in Africa, in a context of need where the friars were not yet present, after 70 years of the mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Today the Franciscan friars are present in 120 countries worldwide, of which 30 are in Africa, including the newly established mission in Botswana.
In the video, Bishop Anthony Pascal Rebello interviewed by Br Teofil Czarniak, OFM