Class at FSSP apostolate before the new school was built
Students in a classroom in the new school
Dearest Friends and Benefactors,
After three long months of silence, we once again make use of technology in order to present to you the accomplishments that have been realized during these last few months of work. We do this in order that you may participate in our joys and plans for the future – the daily hardships we bring to the feet of the altar, where the face of the grand mystery of Divine Mercy is revealed and made tangible: "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead ..." (Ephesians 2, 4-s).
To show the existence and the unceasing action of the Mercy of God in our daily lives is not an easy task for today’s man. The widespread of violence in the world, the frantic rhythm of our daily lives, the social, political, and economic interests that direct the course of our society, moral relativism, the impact of mass media on our perception of reality, and so many other circumstances, to such a point direct our existence, that we are impeded from experiencing the infinite gift of the love of God , and from directing our gaze toward the essential: "We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time..." (Rom. 8, 22), said Saint Paul.
Furthermore, the situation of the contemporary world, thanks to the great advances in science and technology, presents to us long-awaited changes for a better future for humanity. However, it also brings a multiplicity of unforeseen threats, which far exceed those presently known. "Man is becoming aware that it is his responsibility to guide the forces which he has unleashed and which can enslave him or minister to him." (Const. Past. Gaudium et Spes. 9)
The opening of the Jubilee of the Year of Mercy declared by Pope Frances on December 8, 2015, brings an awakening of our conscience, and consequently, leads us to examine our conduct as Christians – to consider how we make evident the infinite love of God before our contemporaries; this love which must be conveyed, principally, in concrete actions animated by an ardent charity: "We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world" (Matthew 5, 13-16).
"The one who tries to affect ignorance of the love prepares to affect ignorance of the man," said Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. There will always be suffering which will require consolation and support. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations that require being essentially helpful to show love for our fellow man.
The continued development of our Colombian apostolate is the fruit of the unceasing effort demanded by Christian charity, and is the attempt to answer faithfully the call of Mercy. This has always been the guiding principle of our apostolic labor: "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds…" (James 2, 18).
On February 2nd of the year 2010, under the patronage of Santo Domingo Savio, we opened the doors of our new school. Two small classrooms of no more than 40 square meters housed the first nineteen students.
Three years later we had quadrupled in size, going from 19 to 81 students. This rapid growth demanded the amplification and adaptation of the classroom spaces. So, we got to work and asked the children to draw what they imagined to be their "ideal school." The resultant drawings, full of color and fantasy, were handed over to the architect in charge of the project so that the ideas might be incorporated into the final design.
Matching the children’s expectations was no easy task. Nevertheless, after various months of work, we were able to capture their ideas on paper in the first sketch: a school building of 400 square meters in size.
The consequent task of fundraising entailed more than a year of unremitting work (events, auctions, meetings, etc.) Thanks be to God, we finally achieved the amount necessary to begin the project.
However, Providence had a little surprise in store for us. As we were about to draw up the final plan, the projected area quadruplicated, as if by magic. A new project of 1600 square meters presented itself.
The surprise under discussion wasn’t the change of plans and design, but rather the total cost of the work, whose sum increased proportionally to the footage of the installations The unexpectedness of the situation put a temporary halt to the project. The imminent opening of the new school year would bring an increase in the number of children, and the expansion of the physical space to house them was legally required by the Secretary of Education. We were faced with a lack of resources, and of time—what was to be done? "Trust in Mary and you will see what miracles are," said Saint John Bosco. Without hesitation, without counting costs, we set out into the dark unknown, signed the contract, and began the work of construction.
With the arrival of the machinery and the first blows of the shovel, hope rekindled in the hearts of the children. Each day they prayed three Hail Mary’s, by this entrusting the continued development of the project to the Blessed Virgin.
All seemed to be going well. The foundation work was achieved in record time, and the foundation stone itself was blessed by the Rev. John Berg, Superior General of the Fraternity of Saint Peter, on May 11th, 2013.
Students in the new chapel
In July of the same year, we began assembling the structural portion of the new buildings. This second stage of the project was very costly in terms of both economics and of time. Due to the exhaustion of resources, we were forced to suspend construction indefinitely.
Work toward the proposed goal was unavoidably postponed. Yet much work still remained to be done—the raising of walls, the installation of roofs, floors, metal overlays, plumbing, electricity, etc. Having arrived at this point, with no more resources and no more patience left to draw upon, the only possible solution that remained was a miracle. Nonetheless, the determination of our children did not lessen, not even in the slightest. Every day they would inspect the construction site in the hope of finding some new progress, and every day they would pray the three Hail Mary’s. Their trust and perseverance touched the heart of God.
Several months later in 2014, we once again resumed construction thanks to the Ramirez Moreno Foundation, the Bolivar Foundation, Cermigrés Company, and some other generous hearts, who all donated funds.
Taken up once again, the construction works were rapidly carried out, and on January 26th of 2015 we were able to inaugurate our new building which accommodated 122 elementary students.
"Thank you Father, the school is very pretty," expressed one of the students during the school inauguration, and with a triumphant gesture added, "the three Hail Mary’s worked." This was the conclusion of these two years of hard work, worries, and sleepless nights.
Those students with whom we began the educational project in 2010 concluded their elementary education and, with that, their time at the school, since we had not taken into account the legal certifications required in order that they might continue studying at the high school level.
The ending of the school year coincided with the beginning of the period of pre-adolescence for the students in this class. To let them go at such a moment would be like an artist abandoning a work entrusted to him, leaving the features unfinished.
Just to think of this troubled our hearts. So, in April of 2014 we began the procedures necessary to obtain, through the appropriate governing agency, the license required to continue with the formative process of our students.
Two major areas of work opened up at the same time -The construction of the school, taken up once again in those days, and the administrative procedures inherent to the
attainment of the license. Each one depended on the other, like a tree which must have sap in order to continue in maturation and growth.
Student Body at new school
The symbiosis established between the two projects foretold a happy ending. All our cares, all our efforts, were in the hands of God: "Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain" (Psalms 126, 1-2). In the faithful, serene abandonment of our endeavors to God’s hands, our works are made solid, capable of producing lasting fruit.
The fruit did not wait long in coming. On November 7th of 2014, the Secretary of Education of Cundinamarca granted us the requested license, ensuring that our students would continue their high school education at our school with the beginning of the academic year in January of 2015.
The new building, as yet unfinished, took on new meaning and urgency, and was revitalized. All our hopes had been fulfilled in good time. To ask more would have bordered on audacity.
However, God smiled upon us yet again, and brought our steps to the Grotto of Massabielle. Our students had the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.
This trip of thanksgiving gave evidence to the maternal care of Mary for our work; this work, which cannot be measured in square meters nor in high academic results, but which consists rather in the transmission of those values and principles that, animated by charity, allow man to transcend humanity. We began the year 2015 with the inauguration of the new school building and the reception of the new students.
The expansion and optimization of scholastic spaces have led to a corresponding increase in the number of students. We have gone from 92 to 121 children ranging in age from 3 to 13 years.
The conclusion of construction works allowed us to look beyond to new horizons. Our oldest students began their first year of high school, passing the baton on to the second elementary class, which continued to maintain high standings in statewide exam results for 2015. The classification obtained placed us amongst those educational institutions ranked at a level superior to that of the national average in those areas which were evaluated—Spanish, Mathematics, and Citizenship Competencies.
Having clearly lived up to the academic expectations of their predecessors, the new graduates decided to follow the footsteps of their older classmates in a more literal sense as well, and began to organize a school trip in thanksgiving to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico.
Meanwhile 8,000 miles away in Wigratzbad, Germany, the final preparations were being made for the ordination of Father Elvis Ruiz Silva, as a priest in the Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP). Father Elvis Ruiz Silva was born in Bogota, Colombia. He began the discernment of his vocation in the year 2007 in Anolaima, Colombia, and entered the FSSP Seminary in
The ordination ceremony was celebrated on June 27th, 2015, by S.E. Monsignor Nicolas Breuwet, Titular Bishop of Tarbes –Lourdes. Father Silva Ruiz is the first Colombian priest in the Fraternity.
After seven years of academic and spiritual formation, the Apostolate of Anolaima, which witnessed the birth and maturation of Fr. Ruiz Silva’s vocation, received him as priest and chaplain of the school.
Thanks to the continuous hard work and labor of our current and former priests (Father Louis Baudon and Father Michael Passo) in the development of our apostolate, Father Carlos, priest at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, in La Florida (Anolaima), invited the Fraternity to celebrate the traditional liturgy of the Roman Rite at the local parish. This good news intensified our rhythm of work: visits to the sick, catechism, spiritual direction, celebration of the sacraments (confession, baptism, matrimony, extreme unction), religious education, social functions, etc. As a result of this increase of our duties, come October we will have the invaluable support of Father Petit, who is of French origin.
Father Petit will assist in the continued development of our pastoral and educational works.
Our volunteer program continues to be effective. Thanks to their generosity, the work of the school is made lighter, and both our children and the volunteers have the opportunity to encounter different cultures, different manners of conceiving reality, and different languages.
The cultural interchange is very enriching on both sides, establishing ties capable of transcending diversities.
Fruit of this program, and of the generous hearts of two young brother volunteers, Jean Baptiste and Joseph Darantiere, was the formation of two theatre companies, Les Petit’s Marrants and Le Partid’en Rire, respectively. Each company has been developing and putting on a series of plays throughout different parts of France, donating a portion of the profits to the development of our work (www.lepartidenrire.com/www.potimarrants.fr).
Another advantage of the volunteer program was that four of our professors were able to spend a month and a half in Nantes, France, with the purpose of perfecting their command of the French language and amplifying their understanding of the French culture. Assisting at the educational centers of Cours Charlier and Sainte Catherine de Sienne, both situated in the same city, permitted our professors to exchange experiences, acquire new teaching tools and methods, and grow their spiritual and professional experiences.
Those persons interested in sharing six months of their time and abilities as a volunteer may direct their request for further information to the email address found on our webpage: www.ccsdsanolaima.com
Although it is important to nourish the soul and spirit, one must not neglect the food for the body. In the coming days we will be installing an industrial kitchen, thanks to which we will be able to provide a balanced meal to our children on a daily basis.
Furthermore, the kitchen will also be made use of for the benefit of a good number of elderly persons in impoverished circumstances. In this manner, we shall serve approximately 300 people.
This new program was made possible through an agreement signed with the Food Bank of the Archdiocese of Bogota, a non-profit entity which meets the nutritional needs of 252,000 persons on a monthly basis (www.bancodealimentos.org.co)
From May 28th up to the present time a group of parents and a few other individuals from the school have been participating in a series of Business Management seminars. These seminars take place every Saturday, and are directed by the Universidad de La Salle, one of the most prestigious universities in the country.
This course seeks to provide an educational formation for new entrepreneurs with the start-up of small to medium-sized businesses, and focuses on cooperation, problem solving, and troubleshooting of the common issues that may initially arise.
In addition to this process, the university has also helped drive the creation of a cooperative group that is connected with the continued development and sustainment of our school. This new project, built upon the areas of agro-tourism and production, will help to provide for future academic and work opportunities for our students.
The development of a fundamental work can be equated to the development and growth of a person; a person’s potential and necessities are revealed with the passage of time, as one continues to mature. It is for this reason that, from the present moment, we continue mapping out both medium and long-term plans for the coming years.
One of these projects that is imperative is the opening of a boarding school for girls living in the country. Why a boarding school specifically
for country girls?
The area in which we work is as extensive as it is diverse. There exist places which are quite remote and difficult to access due to the poor state of the roads and the absence of means of communications. Many of these lack the most basic of services, such as water or electricity.
The children and young persons who live in these areas must walk several hours in order to attend school, a situation which often leads to the abandonment of education at an early age (between 10-12 years), and consequently, the degradation of their physical and moral integrity—of their dignity as a person.
In order to safeguard the integrity of the little ones, it has become necessary to create a space that ensures the continuity of their education, and of their human, moral, and intellectual formation; means that are necessary for the regeneration and the development of our societies.
Besides securing the continuation of the educational process of those children in a state of vulnerability, we also see as equally indispensable the continued academic advancement at a technical-technological level, of our older students. This is imperative given that education at a university has become impossible. Local statistics are alarming: only 3 or 4% of young people are able to access university level studies.
With the purpose of meeting the expectations for the future of so many young people, we have established an alliance with the Educational Foundation FUNDEC (www.fundec.edu.co), which will implement various academic programs in exchange for the use of rental spaces.
FSSP on a sick call in the village
This project is scheduled to launch in February of 2017, and an approximate number of 300 students will participate. The development of any project involves the securement of those tools necessary for it’s realization. The question of transportation—especially of those students living in remote areas—presents itself as a priority.
The acquisition of two school buses would allow us to reach far-off areas, ensuring the continued education of a great number of students, and help to make their dreams for the future a reality in the present.
Throughout these pages we have shared a bit about our everyday life, we have shared some of our worries, and we have spoken about the great majority of the goals that have been achieved. Every day we continue to place the cares, the hardships, the difficulties, at the feet of the Altar—where the face of the grand Mystery of Divine Mercy is revealed and made tangible.
Many thanks for your prayers and generosity.
Frs. Angel Alfaro Rivero and Elvis Ruiz Silva.
Follow us on:
Facebook: Colegio Campestre Santo Domingo Savio
Web site: www.ccsdsanolaima.com / www.fsspcolombia.com
(Una Voce Georgia wishes to thank Maggie Lee for translating this article into English. Miss Lee is from Florida and is currently a volunteer at the FSSP school in Anoliama Colombia.)