Dear friends and benefactors,
The richness of the recently celebrated Paschal mystery was obscured because of the pandemic we now suffer. The present uncertain times bring relevancy to our daily lives, for the only certainty is eternity. The words of the psalmist, said at the Introit of the Holy Mass of Resurrection – “I have risen, and I am with you always” (Psalm. 138 v. 18b) – not only bring comfort to the soul but serve to reorient us to what is essential. The words of the psalm bring serenity and hope in these times of great fear and uncertainty.
We cannot avoid the present with its social-economic difficulties, cultural labor, etc., that we encounter. The present crises illustrate the weakness and inefficiency of our “modern society” to provide an adequate societal response. It is historically evident that a restoration of those principles and values essential to secure the establishment of order and social justice is needed.
Pedro Poveda, a Spanish priest and martyr of the Spanish Civil War, and Andre Chalier, one of the great French educators of the past century, manifested in their lives, writings and works the importance of a Christian education in order to confront the difficult situation of social reconstruction that our elders faced in post war times.
Once the crisis subsides, the succeeding generation will face the new daunting process of social restoration within the context of which some refer to as “The new normal”.
To us, the adults, corresponds the moral obligation to provide the necessary means to put in motion a Christian education – that is the mission of our enterprise.
In this order of ideas, the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter once again opened the doors of their educational center this last February with the firm purpose to continue their pastoral work by means of education. We now confront an alarming situation that has been thrust upon us, but has served to renew the flame of hope in the heart of our students and in the womb of our families and society.
A new school year begins
Last January 15 we re-engaged our activities at the school. It was comforting to confirm the familial environment that exists within our members as they received our new teachers and volunteers with great joy.
After the opening Mass we began to organize our school environment, adjust methodologies, review content, register students, renew endowments, etc. We were adequately prepared to receive 232 students who were ready to enter our diverse curriculum which included business initiatives, art workshops, biotechnology, electrical shops, sports, mass communications, our school farm, the TIC’s and the boy scouts. All of this is to be undertaken within a proper educational model based on a Unitarian concept of learning that is fundamental to the achievement of truth that is integral to human development in the light of the Salesian maxim: “To form good Christians and honest citizens”.
Vocational training is introduced
This present school year we opened our vocational training section. No doubt for us it was a great challenge because we bring to fruition the educational process for our children which have been put into our confidence. In a little more than 18 months, our youth will complete their high school and will be ready to initiate into higher learning or enter into the work force. The reality in Colombia demonstrates the difficulties our Colombian youth experience upon entering the university. Only 43.5% can accomplish this. In Anolaima and the surrounding area the average is 3.4%.
Our optional grade “Project Life” that was implemented a year ago makes perfect sense. The youth that participated in the project had the opportunity to mature morally, academically, and were exposed to other experiences by means of our cultural exchange program which strengthened the fundamental areas of knowledge.
Students were provided with an understanding of the realities of university life as well as the work force. They were able to initiate a vocational discernment process and obtain a technical degree. In this manner, vocational training was initiated in the education year. The students were orientated in the essentials, giving us confidence that that training was completed well.
“It is not enough to love the young; They must know that they are loved” (Don Bosco)
The governmental mandates taken because of the progression of Covid 19 took us by surprise. Sunday March 14th the President announced the temporary closing of schools until further notice. The vacation period was moved forward to provide a reasonable amount of time in which to develop plans and directives, as well as virtual learning strategies, that would assure the development of the school calendar year. As you can imagine, the difficulties brought forth by this abrupt change are many and required the restructuring of the entire academic year. Implementation of virtual learning was necessary, and many challenges were met due to the limitations inherent in a rural setting in which we operate.
Many of our children live apart from their parents and lack adequate supervision; many lack the material resources necessary for the completion of scholastic endeavors. A large percentage do not have access to the internet, while others lack technical resources such as cell phones and computers. Many live in remote areas that make access to services difficult and have minimal material revenue.
Educational demands have increased exponentially. In any case, we give thanks to God because our children and youth, in spite of their difficulties, have risen above their circumstances and have diligently completed their academic tasks. They have demonstrated a noble heart with simple gestures of appreciation towards their educators by means of messages. For example: “Dear teacher, I pray for you”, “I want to return to school, I miss it” and “Thank you! I got the job!”
The children also participated in the creation and production of a video for their teachers in honor of National Teachers Day on May 4th.
Don Bosco was right when he said, “For you I am willing to give up my life”.
St. Maria Goretti House
With Gods help, we were able to complete the carpentry work on the house destined for the formation of children and farm worker youth. Unfortunately, the eruption of the pandemic has forced a halt on the process of obtaining governmental and administrative licenses for its opening. In the meantime, the physical plant is utilized to house our professors and volunteer personnel.
House of vocational discernment – Casa San Martín de Porres
The number of young people that knock upon the door of our house of discernment moved by God’s calling has increased significantly. In the coming month of October, one of our youth that has completed a year of discernment at our house will be entering our seminary in Wigratzbad. We now have three candidates to the priesthood sent from Colombia. There could certainly be more, but the limited housing and lack of funding permits us to receive only two youth per year at this time.
In this sense, it becomes imperative to construct a house adequate for this end. Once this impasse created by Covid-19 passes, we will present architectural plans as well as fund raising initiatives for the construction of the project. Confiding in God we will reach the material resource need that will permit the workers to begin building.
From our young volunteer . . .
In simple words, a phrase I learned in my life has served to direct many of the decisions I have taken in the last few years. Especially, when I left to an unknown country like Colombia to work as a volunteer.
Before a I departed, there were certainly moments of doubt and fear and indecision. Colombia is known as a dangerous place because of its problems with narco-trafficking and violence. Yet, I knew deep inside that I had to respond with a “YES” to the mission the Lord was calling me to: to help all those children in need. “Truly I tell you that, when you do it for the least of my brothers, you do it for me”. Today I give thanks to God for the decision I made, and for the life experience, especially in that moment when the young with difficulty realize what is the true calling in their lives.
My experience as a volunteer at the College of Santo Domingo Savio, which is administered by the Fraternity of Saint Peter, is difficult to describe. Father Angel Alfaro and Father Elvis Ruiz accomplish a difficult yet remarkable job of providing a Christian education to 200 children and their families. I was welcomed at the school by the staff, the children, and their families. I realized that the goal of the school went far beyond schooling and textbooks. The definitive goal of the education offered is to assist in the formation of a new generation steeped in values and Christian principles.
The time I spent as a volunteer was a self-enriching time. I will never forget the smiles on the children’s faces and the desire to learn exhibited by the children of rural families. The thought of my return to France broke my heart. This is why I decided to continue to help from a distance as I sponsored a student, thereby assuring his education and the possibility of keeping alive the hope of a better future for the student, the family, and Colombian society.
The Priests of the Fraternity perform a great service in Colombia but are in need of assistance in order to continue. The work of education and formation conducted by the Fraternity in Colombia is guided by the hand of the Almighty. Let us all contribute with what we can no matter how great or how small.
If you are young or you feel strong enough to dedicate some time out of your life, do it without fear. If this is not possible you can still help in a different yet effective manner through prayer, financial assistance, or by sponsoring a child.
“Lord, protect this beautiful nation, your priests, the children, and the Colombian families. Give us the strength necessary, so that we may always be disposed to serve”.
Lucie Fayet, France
Our letter has always presented the most amiable part of our work, however the difficulties, especially economic, never cease to enter our path. Last year we closed with two significant debts, which jeopardized our mission. Thanks to the generosity of many of you, we were able to close one of them, and subsequently, we were able to open our doors this year. Nevertheless, we still have a debt pending in the sum of 13,000 euros (approximately $15,000) and the cost of the fixed monthly expenses inherent of our school and our house of vocational discernment.
This is why we place all these hardships in the hands of God, who has always come to our aid in times of difficulties, as we proceed with our apostolic mission. Thank you with all my heart, to you my friends and benefactors. Because of your prayer, sacrifice, and generosity you make possible the Christian education of 232 campesino´s children and the vocational formation of many young Latin-Americans. This is how we keep the flame of hope alive in the womb of society and in the heart of the Church.
If you wish to collaborate with the educational process of our children and youth or with the vocational formation of our seminarian candidates, you may contact us via:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Paypal: email@example.com
Telephone-Whatsapp: (+57) 320 3856 64 61
Thank you very much and God bless you.
Fr. Angel Alfaro Rivero, FSSP