Retracing the Salesian history in Bolivia, it should be remembered that on 8 October 1895, in Turin, thanks to the efforts of Fr Costamagna (the first Salesian to set foot on Bolivian soil), a contract was signed between the Government of Bolivia, then represented by Dr. Manuel de Argandoña, and Fr Michele Rua, as representative of the Salesian Congregation. The purpose of this contract was to found two schools of Arts and Crafts in Bolivia, which would be run by the Salesians. According to the chronicles of the time, 14 Salesians set sail on 1 February from Valparaiso (Chile), and after passing through Uyuni and Oruro they finally arrived in the city of La Paz on 17 February 1896.
During the homily, Fr Justiniano said: “God wanted, in his infinite goodness and in his great love, that as a Salesian and Christian Family we meet here in this place, a place where the mother of Jesus Christ is venerated: the Virgin of Copacabana. Today we are here to celebrate both the 206th anniversary of the birth of our father and founder, Don Bosco, and to celebrate with him the 125th anniversary of the arrival of the Salesians in our country.”
Fr Justiniano then recalled that although Don Bosco never went personally to Bolivia, he is known here thanks to the many Salesians who have passed through this Province. “So a big and profound thanks goes to so many Salesians who have already left for Heaven, who have left their ashes here, in this Bolivian land. Thanks to the first Salesian who set foot on these lands, Fr Costamagna, and to his companions, until the last one who left our Province, Fr Juan Pablo Zabala,” he added.
The Bolivia Provincial then invited everyone to live a joyful and happy life and to feel blessed. He reminded us that the Lord is with us, even though we are going through dark and difficult times due to the pandemic.
“Thank you God, because you have given us in Don Bosco a reason for living, a reason for giving our life to young people, especially the poorest,” concluded Fr Justiniano.