Don Bosco Lilongwe, Malawi (ZMB), 1 March 2021 -- The 3 month Extraordinary Visitation of ZMB Viceprovince of Mary Help of Christians (Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia; canonical erection in 1998) began in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, on 19 February 2021 with the arrival of the Visitor, Fr. Václav Klement from Rome. The aim of each Extraordinary Visitation is to foster deeper communion with the Rector Major and the whole Society, animating the confreres with the Valdocco message of GC28 and contribute to the provincial journey of discernment with the past 6 year evaluation.
The Superior of the Vice-province, Fr Chris Rychcik with his Youth Ministry Delegate, Fr Chris Kunda and Lilongwe Rector, Fr Michael Mbadama, welcomed the visitor at the airport. The first community visit, to Don Bosco Lilongwe, started immediately afterwards. After 26 years of Salesian presence in this landlocked African country we now have two canonical communities, Lilongwe and Nkhotakhota (230 km from the capital on the Malawi lakeside). There are 11 Salesians in Malawi (only 3 of them Africans) – including from Poland, Vietnam and South Korea) and 15 prenovices (coming from all 4 countries belonging to the ZMB viceprovince).
The harvest in Malawi is plentiful, a small number of Salesians in two communities attends to two large parishes with 26,000 Catholics organized into 93 small Christian communities and six schools with a total youth population of almost 14,000 students. Both communities in Malawi closely accompany the young people incliuding through the SYM and Youth Centres, involving young people of different religious background. The Salesian Family is still germinating, with one Salesian Cooperator Centre, DB Past Pupils and ADMA respectively.
The mostly rural structure of Malawi with its as yet undeveloped educational system makes the Charism of Don Bosco very relevant. The young Catholic community this year celebrating just its 120th birthday (1901-2021) is very vibrant and local vocations to priesthood and religious life are numerous.
During the visitation there was the blessing of the Don Bosco High School boarding house in Nkhotakhota (capacity, 150 boys) built with the generous help of the Rector Major, and the Visitor was able to see probably one of the largest Salesian parish schools in Africa, Tsabango Primary and John Lee Memorial Primary school in Lilongwe with more than 11,000 students (grade 1-8).
The Extraordinary visitation began exactly 5 years after the previous one, by Fr Americo Chaquisse in 2016. God willing, from Malawi the Visitor will continue towards Zambia, Namibia and Malawi with all the necessary precautions of pandemic times. The schools in Malawi were just reopened after another 5-week period of closure.
The ZMB Viceprovince has 14 Salesian communities all up (two of them not yet canonical) in 4 countries, with 3 houses of formation (pre-novitiate, novitiate and postnovitiate) with some 116 Salesians (average age of 42) including 13 Salesian Brothers, one Salesian Bishop and 10 novices. Most of the works are parishes, with growing number of schools with boarding houses and first works for the youth in need and youth at risk. Every year also a good number of missionary volunteers from other other continents are involved in the ZMB Salesian mission.