Blessed Benedict Daswa was born in 1946 in South Africa where his family belonged to the Lembo tribe, which followed many Jewish rituals and laws. He worked from the time he was young, especially in the fields as a shepherd. He was given the name of “Samuel” by his parents when he started to attend school and assumed the name “Benedict” upon his conversion to Catholicism. He loved school and after finishing high school, his father died so he worked to provide for his family. He made sure that all of his brothers and sisters were able to go to school. Benedict was introduced to Catholicism by a friend who worked with him. He went to Church every Sunday to learn the catechism before his conversion and when he was 17 years old he was baptized and came into the Church. He chose the name Benedict as his Christian name because of St Benedict’s motto “Pray and work.” He went to college to become a teacher and worked in schools as well as teaching catechism, especially to young people. Benedict was a highly respected individual in his local community and became known for his honesty, truthfulness and integrity, even known to fetch students who decided to skip school. He later helped to build the first church in his area and later became the principal of the school. In 1974, he married Eveline and together they had a beautiful family with 8 children. He personally built his brick house for his family. He knew how to enjoy life and also established a local soccer league and played whenever he could. In 1989, his village suffered strong storms and lightning strikes. The local tribe elders believed that these storms and lightening occurred because of magic and demanded the people in the village pay a tax to hire someone to find the witch behind the storms. Benedict refused to pay the taxes which supported witch hunts and were against his Catholic faith. He tried to explain to the tribe that these storms were natural, but they would not listen. A few months later, he set out on a trip to bring a sick child to a nearby doctor. A local mob attacked and murdered him for refusing to fund their witch craft superstitions. He was only 43 years old, and he was viewed as a martyr. Benedict was declared Blessed by Pope Francis in 2015. Approximately 35, 000 people attended the beatification in Africa, including his mother and children. He is fondly remembered as a family man and martyr.
“Benedict was a zealous Catechist, all-round educator who gave heroic witness to the gospel, even to the shedding of blood.” – Pope Francis