Bessone, Lawrence and Umberto
Lawrence Bessone was born on August 3, 1904 into a devout Catholic family in the small town of Vigone in the province of Turin, Italy. After his training in the Consolata Seminary in Turin, he was ordained a priest in 1926. He worked in Kenya and in Ethiopia, where his work was appreciated by Emperor Haile Selassie. In 1942 he returned to Italy, but in 1947 was again in Kenya. From there he was called to be the general administrator of the Consolata Institute in Turin from 1948 to 1954. In 1954 he was appointed by the Holy See as the first bishop of Meru, soon after the former prefecture apostolic of Meru had been made a diocese. He is the bishop who began permanent missionary work in Isiolo District and in North Eastern Province. He proposed to the Holy See the appointment of an auxiliary bishop of Meru, Bishop Silas Njiru, who became the ordinary of the diocese after Bessone’s death on April 7, 1976. He died at Nkubu, Meru, and was buried in the Meru cathedral, which he had built in 1961.
One of Lawrence’s brothers, Umberto, was also a Consolata priest and worked in Kenya for about thirty years, where he was also the rector of St. Paul’s Major Seminary, Nyeri. From 1959 to 1969 Umberto was vice-superior of the Consolata Missionary Institute. After that service he returned to Kenya, where he died in 1974 at Nkubu. He was buried at Mujwa, Meru.
This article, received in 2005, was reprinted with permission from* Christianity among the Nomads: The Catholic Church in Northern Kenya*, by Paul Tablino, © copyright 2004 by St. Paul Communications / Daughters of St. Paul, Nairobi, Kenya.