A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE KASANE CATHOLIC MISSION
Before Kasane was even a town Catholic citizens of the area would travel to Livingstone in Zambia. They would cross the Zambezi river at Kazungula on the motorized ferry (it had 2 small 20 horse power motors on the back !!!)
Prior to the granting of the church plot in 1996 the small group of Roman Catholics living in Kasane would meet for Sunday service at each other’s houses and sometimes at the Chobe Safari Lodge. On occasions visiting priest’s would say mass for us either on their way through to Zambia or on their way back to Francistown. Fr. Victor Noronha will remember the names of all those priest’s and sister’s who came through Kasane in those early days keeping our faith alive.
1983 - Grant Hepburn was the first catholic baby baptized in Kasane on 20th August 1983. A French priest working in Angola (his brother was the doctor at the then small Kasane primary clinic) assisted by an Irish priest also working in Angola, performed the ceremony.
1984 -Kasane then became an outstation for Maun and the then Father Frank Nubuasah would make the arduous but beautiful journey through Savuti once a month to say Mass for us in one of our houses or wherever we were meeting that particular Sunday and many a time we would be on the banks of the Chobe River. Our congregation numbered about 5 or 6 in those days and often visitors to Kasane would join us. These were the first formal and regular visits by a priest.
1985 – 1989 – many priests and sisters passed through Kasane as travel between Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia became more frequent and easy. Sadly 1988 saw Bishop Frank ( the Father Frank) return to Ghana to head the seminary there. We then fell under Francistown.
1989 – we first applied for a church plot. The town planning was still in its very early stages and we had many many delays. Applications were misplaced by various departments and refused by others! However we continued to come together as a SCC.
1990 – 1996 - We had regular visits from Fr.Don Bowdren and Fr.Bernard Needham who were both stationed in Livingstone. They were very generous and they together with our Francistown and Maun priests, Fr. Frank, Fr. Victor, Fr. Thomas, Fr. James, Fr. Freddie, Fr. Christian, Fr. Peter, Fr. Raphael, Fr. Emilio, Fr. Arek, Fr. Yusef and Sisters Josephina, Maria, Bernadette, Lucy, Rosemary and many many more kept us focused on registering a plot. We continued to meet in the hall at the Chobe Community Junior Secondary School. Chatechism classes were held at the home of Mrs. Judy Hepburn (children) and Mr. Ken Appiah a teacher at the CCJSS conducted the adult classes and marriage counselling.
1996 – With the help of Mr. Tony Rees, Mr. Keith Spackman and Ms. Angelina Magaga, we made yet another application and this time we were successful and were issued with 3 SHHA plots in the Kapamadi ward of the village.
1997 – 1999 plans were approved in October 1997. We held a ‘plot blessing ceremony‘on the church plot on 13th September 1997. (Photo and copy of the signed copy of the ceremony attached) Fr. Arek led us in prayer and thanksgiving. Then with a great deal of hard work and frustration, work began. The shell of the main church and the priests cottage was completed. We had some very generous donations from Mr. & Mrs John McDougall in the USA and we continued work as and when we could afford to. Our fund raising was never ending.
2000 – 2002 – our work continued on the completion of the priests cottage and the roof of the church St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church started to take shape. We had donations of money, furniture, curtaining, plumbing pipes, corrugated iron, bricks and labour from so many generous people. The members of the parish cut almost half the grass that was needed to thatch the priest’s cottage. Fr. Romek Janowski came across to Kasane regularly from Livingstone to say mass for the community and guide us through some retreats.
2003 – Father Kenneth Mokgothu, our first priest was appointed to Kasane but did not move into the cottage immediately as it was still incomplete. Electricity and other amenities were eventually connected and Fr. Kenneth moved into the cottage in November 2003. Father Kenneth and Mrs. Hepburn took some of the OVC to Victoria Falls for the day. The community along with Habitat for Humanity built a house for one of the needy families in the parish. The parish garden was established by Mrs. Anastacia Mthopo and Mrs. Dorothy Johnson..
The first official parish council was chosen. Chairman – Mrs Judy Hepburn, Secretary - Ms. Patricia Boikanyo, Members – Mrs Anastacia Mtopa, Mr.Abel Mpondela, Mr.Segolame Judge. We were only a few but together with Father Kenneth Mokgothu we began our work as the first official Parish Council.
2004 – from the proposed names for the new parish the Bishop chose St. Francis of Assisi and preparations began for the dedication day service. The blessing was held on Saturday 22nd May, 2004. This was a very special day for all of us and Rt Rev. Bishop Frank Nubuasah and Rt Rev Bishop Boniface Sethalagosi and Fr.Kenneth led the ceremony. The church was full and the sound of the singing could be heard through the village and on the main road of Kasane. Father Kenneth along with the whole Kasane catholic community worked tirelessly preparing for all the priests, nuns and out of town visitors. That same year saw the a major fund raising drive to enable us to build then ablution block which would be used for the proposed Day Care Center, as well as the parish. A very successful sponsored walk was held and our First Lady, Mrs Barbara Mogae was our guest walker.An orphans fun and feeding and film programme was iniated. Because of the bat problem in the church building this was held at the Hepburn residence and run by Mrs. Hepburn and assisted by some of the parish ladies .It will continue this way until the bat problem is solved.
2005 – Father Kenneth continued his work as our first parish priest and established the parish program for the various SCC, a youth group, chatechism classes and a timetable for community involvement in the running of the church. He also established the first official Parish Pastoral Council. The ablution block was completed. The foundations were laid for the Day Care Center kitchen and stockroom. Father Kenneth was transferred to the Pre – major Seminary college at Mazowe in Zimbabwe. The community bade him a fond farewell and mass was celebrated amongst the animals and birds on the banks of the Chobe River at one of his favourite places at Ngoma. This was followed by a parish picnic lunch and lots of singing. The tiling of the inside floor of the church was continued as and when funds were available. Father Elmar joined the Kasane parish for a brief period and then moved to Maunathlala when he graduated .
2006 – Father Francis Komba came to Kasane to take up the position of parish priest. The jungle gym was finally erected for the children’s playground. The bat problem was addressed, the church painted and the cross erected on the church roof.
A new parish council was elected , Chairman – Mr.Sandy Alidi , Vice Chair – Mrs.Judy Hepburn
Secretary – Mr.Fexter Mogola, Assistant Secretary - Ms.Lorato Mopako, Treasurer – Mrs.Joyce Gumbo, Assistant Treasurer – Mrs.Patricia Gosibotsile, Members – Mr.Buthumuzi Mlhanga, Mr.Vitus Izuagba, Mrs.Judith Izuagba,Mr.Domonic Mazarura, Mrs.Susan Mazarura, Mrs.Monica Modise
Compiled by : Mrs.Judy Hepburn
14th March 2007