Salesian Community 2002

First Salesian Presence in the Solomon Islands

 1.      Short History (1995-2002)

¨      For the first five years the Salesians from the Japan Province had been present in a supportive role to the Honiara Archdiocese by running the Tetere Parish, 25 Kilometres east of Honiara, the Solomon Islands capital. The three confreres were: Frs. Pedro Balcazar,  Peter  Nishizawa and Bro. Tanaka.  This was a precious time, difficult at times, of immersion and study of the situation and culture.  After the departure of Fr Balcazar in August, the pastoral services in Tetere continued  through assistance to the  displaced victims of the Ethnic tension  and week end pastoral services with a view to  officially handing the parish back to the Archdiocese by the end of December 2000.  Subsequently, though, the parish has continued under Salesian direction.

¨      Since 2000 the Province has also been serving the three dioceses of the Solomon Islands in the area of Catholic communications through church news, radio programs, and Videos in the person of Fr. Ambrose Pereira from the Bombay province

¨      With the arrival of Fr. Luciano Capelli from the Manila province, the Salesian community was canonically erected  and established itself in the central part of the capital, Honiara, at Kola ridge. That residence has now become the “Don Bosco House of Prayer” and  is used for youth programs, retreats and other pastoral encounters. The running and management of the house is entrusted to the DMI (Daughters of Mary Immaculate) a Solomon Islands female congregation.

 2.      The present property

Don Bosco Technical Institute, School and Training Centre,

Henderson, Honiara, Solomon Islands

For further pics of DBTI click on the thumbnail

¨      Since October 1, 2000 The Salesian community has lived in a new 4.6 hectares site (subdivided into 24 lots). The land is located right in front of the Henderson Airport. Through the Bonn Salesian Mission Procure and the EU a Technical Institute (secondary technical school and Training Center for out-of-school youth) has now been partly completed.

¨      For one whole year the community  searched for a suitable piece of land and  prayed hard for it.     One of the lots which they sought but was not for sale, was ‘miraculously’ offered  by the owner, business man John Lee from Fiji on May 24 against his family’s opinion. There are many reasons to believe that our Lady Help of Christians had something to do with it. Mr. John Lee, a good catholic and a constructor himself, promised to “help” build her church. Thanks to the Japanese Provincial Office and the Mission Dicastero in Rome for the prompt release of the needed funds.

¨      The existing facilities included the present SDB Residence: a two storey Family style House with Kitchen, welcoming space, four rooms, chapel and community room. The owner of this well built residence was an Australian citizen who had to be evacuated with the whole family  for safety reasons. (Aedificabit sibi domum Maria)

¨      Next to the SDB present residence there is a new second house with two apartments with six rooms for future salesians, volunteers and guests. The house belonged to the Marist Sisters (SMSM) but was never completed and was even looted during the Ethnic tension.

¨      The property has a frontage of 240 meters on the main road and it corners to another road going to the sea, which is barely 1 Kilometre away.

¨      There are about 100 mature coconuts trees.

3.      The Ethnic Tension (2000)

¨      The month of May 2000 saw the height of two years long Ethnic tension between the two islands of Guadalcanal and Malaita which made thousand of people homeless and jobless and paralyzed and isolated  the nation politically and economically. The tension escalated till the June 5 take over of Government by the Malaita Eagle Force with the help of the Royal Solomon Island Police Force

¨      The nearby Fiji crisis helped to made the world aware of the ethnic problems in the south pacific. Because of this difficult moment, world attention was also focused on the Solomon Islands.

4.      Our Salesian  immediate response to these challenges

As we witnessed the devastating effects of the ethnic war and the pressure on the youth to join the militant forces,  we asked ourselves: What are we going to do these two years while we wait for the project to be approved and while we build the school? What would Don Bosco have done?

We were inspired to offer the searching youth the Don Bosco alternative challenge and commitment so as to propose to the church and the nation the “Salesian sign”

Fully convinced that “the best is the enemy of the good” we decided  to “rush” basic facilities for 50 youth (20 in September and  30 in the next batch in January or March, depending on the response and speed of the trainees)

 We set up a training course for these two years geared to Agro-Technology. The graduates are expected to be good farmers and to be able to do other jobs as well from welding to motor repair and maintenance.

 We now have a full time Lay collaborator and four part timers, taking care of 16 young men and 3 prisoners.

 5.      The first  impact

¨      The first seven-week module of the training program has been completed with the first examinations, the retreat and the Parents day.

¨      The regular lay collaborators formation meetings and the daily morning talk and prayers, the personal follow up of the students have produced a new reality in the Solomon Islands.

¨      In the first parents Meeting one instructor openly declared that there is a “different atmosphere” in the Center, which you do not see in any other School.

¨      The parents unanimously expressed great surprise of the change of attitudes of their sons and pledge more support (daily lunch so that the students will not steal coconuts to survive… more financial help etc.)

¨      The trainees have shown a generous availability and response to the Don Bosco’s spirit and have mixed in spite of the ethnic of religious affiliation difference

¨      Our problem now is what to answer to the many who inquire about how to enter the center. (This may be also due to the ‘over exposure’ Don Bosco had in the local media because of our ‘media man’)

¨      This start if perfectly in tune with the church recommendation to start “small”

¨      When we think that security is being handled by former prisoners who are shown trust once more (not without any minor loss of course), the picture is then complete.

 6.      Don Bosco Honiara, Bosconians

¨      The 19, school push outs youth, as they are called here,  proudly wear and display  their Don Bosco T-shirt  and call themselves BOSCONIANS

¨      They are part of the first Salesian Educational Pastoral Community  in the Solomon Islands.