CO- FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF CALVARY
– BISHOP BONIFACE TSHOSA SETLALEKGOSI (1982 – 2009)
Our Co-Founder and the 2nd Bishop of Botswana (Gaborone) His Lordship Rt. Rev. Bishop Emeritus Boniface T. Setlalekgosi.
While taking a walk with Fr. Boniface Setlalekgosi (Bishop Emeritus) in Francistown one evening, after super, as it was routine, Monsignor Murphy sought his views on the talk amongst the missionaries on the establishment of the local congregation of Sisters. Fr Boniface, being a local, supported the idea of a local congregation with certain conditions.
He recommended that Sisters should be allowed to choose their own habit (religious dress). Secondly, they must eat a balanced diet and Monsignor Murphy agreed. It was on the basis of his opinion that the local congregation was formed. After that the documents for the establishment of the new congregation were submitted to Rome.
His Lordship, Bishop Emeritus, Boniface Tshosa Setlalekgosi is the second bishop of the Diocese of Gaborone. Setlalekgosi – a – Powana was born in Serowe on the 14th of September 1927. He is the second child of Mr. and Mrs. Tshosa Setlalekgosi. The family moved to Mmaphashalala in the Central District. He was educated at the St. Joseph’s Institution for both the Primary and Secondary level of education. St. Joseph’s institution has evolved to be the modern St. Joseph’s College that we all know. This college is one of the two Catholic Secondary Schools in the country that are providing quality education to the nation.
While at the St. Joseph’s institution, he accepted the Christian faith taught by the Catholic missionaries and became a Catholic. Soon after completing his schooling, he took up the position of being a Catechist and worked for three years in Francistown. He was at the Our Lady of the Desert Catholic Church as the teacher of the faith to people and the first assistant to the missionary priests. It was challenging times where transportation was not easy and it took time to get from one village to another. Going to Maun took three days if lucky to get a ride on a public vehicle. His normal mode of transport was a bicycle.
Hearing the call of God while at prayer to serve the church as a priest, he made the bold decision to enter the seminary to the chagrin of the parents. With explanation and a little persuasion from the young man, the parents gave in to his request and released him to follow his vocation. In 1957 he went to Chishawasha in the then Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) to study for the priesthood. He spent seven years in formation. On the 22nd of July 1963 he was ordained a Catholic priest in Francistown. After ordination, Fr. Boniface returned to the seminary to do one more year of studies known as the Pastoral year as was the norm at the time. Upon his return in 1964, he was appointed as Assistant Parish Priest of the Our Lady of the Desert Parish in Francistown. Having worked for 8 years in Francistown, he was transferred to Gaborone and appointed to the Christ the King Cathedral as the Administrator. In 1974, he was appointed a Monsignor by Pope Paul VI. He worked closely with the late Bishop Urban Murphy, CP of blessed memory. At the death of the first bishop of Gaborone, Pope Saint. John Paul II appointed Fr. Boniface Setlalekgosi as the second bishop of Gaborone. He was ordained on the 6th of March 1982 in the National Stadium.
Bishop Boniface is the second Motswana to be ordained a Catholic priest after Fr. Motsumi, OMI. He was the first priest to be ordained in Botswana. He is second Bishop of Gaborone and the first Motswana to be appointed Bishop in the Catholic Church. Under his leadership the Catholic church grew in leaps and bounds in the country. From a few parishes along the railway line, we grew to all corners of the country. There is hardly a place where one would not find a Catholic Church or a Catholic. This is due to the missionary drive of our late Father and Patriarch. His love of pastoral work saw him in remote areas visiting the small pockets of Catholics scattered in the country. He was a shepherd par excellence. He knew and visited most of these villages.
Bishop Setlalekgosi welcomed Pope St. John Paul II to Botswana during the historic visit of a Catholic Pontiff in 1988. He has travelled wide and far in search of support for the young church in Botswana. He sourced the help of the older churches overseas for personnel (priests, Brothers and Sisters) to come and minister to the people. He sourced for financial aid to support the work of evangelization. In his ministry he has supported the social development of the country through his passion for the upliftment of the lives of the poor. He loved the underprivileged and focused part of his attention and energy on the Basarwa, starting pre-schools and cooperatives for them. This program continues even up to today. He initiated and started with the cooperation of the Ministry of Education the feeding scheme in primary schools during the great drought of the 1980’s. Bishop Setlalekgosi foresaw the growth and development of the two Catholic Secondary Schools in the country, St. Joseph and Mater Spei Colleges from small institutions to very large ones. It is fair to say that these two colleges are among the best if not the best in the country. He also encouraged the continuation of the 9 Catholic Primary schools nationwide.
Under his leadership and encouragement, the Church started Day Care Centres all over the country to offer to children whose parents are not able to send them to the private institutions that exist. As a young energetic and dynamic priest, he was involved in the starting of a Study Group in Francistown to promote education. When things were hard, and the group was almost disbanded, the then, Fr. Setlalekgosi stood up to support it. He sourced the necessary financial and material things needed for the group to continue. It was in recognition of his sacrifices and vision that the school was later named after him, the Setlalekgosi Secondary School. Not satisfied with what the church was doing in the education and formational field, he supported the establishment of the Pabalelong Hospice for the sick in Metsimotlabe. Currently, it is the only such institution in the country providing care. As a moral voice in the country, he spoke out clearly against the law that was being proposed to permit abortion in the 1990s. He stood for life and proposed the value of human life from birth to death as a value worthy of the nation. Bishop Boniface Setlalekgosi was a member of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference that comprises bishops from Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa. He held different portfolios in the conference. He was a much-appreciated person for his humility and wisdom.
Bishop Setlalekgosi served as the only Catholic Bishop in Botswana for 16 years until the Diocese of Gaborone was divided and the Diocese of Francistown was created in 1998. In 1974, the late President Sir Seretse Khama honoured Bishop Setlalekgosi with the Presidential Honour of Meritorious Service. His Excellency President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama also honoured the Bishop with an award in 2009. We remember him as a good and loving pastor who was always willing to lay down his life for the flock of God that was put under his care. He worked very hard to deepen the faith, building on the solid foundation that the missionaries had laid. He was a gentle man of integrity who got along with almost everybody. He kept the confidence of people. He was a trusted counsellor. We remember him as a humble, holy man of God who never tired of serving his people. Even after he retired from his post of bishop of Gaborone, he continued to do pastoral work as a priest until his death. We remember him as a gentle, humble, loving, committed, long serving and holy person that we have come to know. He was a revered person. He was a true true human being, a proud Motswana, a great Christian and a staunch Catholic.