Working as a network yields miracles

Alfredo Infante, SJ - Province of Venezuela
[From “Jesuits 2022 - The Society of Jesus in the world”]

The work of the San Alberto Hurtado parish, Caracas, to tackle poverty and violence.

Ever since we began to meet up to support each other and discern together, our understanding of who we are and what we are doing has changed. It is like being able to see again. Having faith in Jesus and spiritual accompaniment have helped us keep going with our educational mission in the middle of the violence.” Marta Piñango, headmistress of the Luis María Olaso Fe y Alegría School.

St. Ignatius invites us to imagine how the three persons of the Trinity contemplate the face of the Earth in all its complexity and diversity. From this loving contemplation flow the dialogue and internal deliberation of the divine community. This discernment leads to a definite, salvific decision: “Let us redeem the human race.” Then, they decide to dialogue with Mary, the sign of human believers, so the Son may become incarnate, thereby showing us from inside our human nature and the depths of our wounded history, the fraternal path of the sons and daughters of God. That is why experiencing the Spiritual Exercises takes us into the life and mission of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so that by contemplating him, we may know him. By knowing him, we may love him. And by loving him, we may follow him, and by following him, we may be conformed to him, in the hope of becoming transfigured and “making all things anew in Christ.”


This is the spiritual approach that underpins the experience we are describing here in the parish of San Alberto Hurtado (SAH) in Los Altos de La Vega, a large suburb on the south-western outskirts of the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. This brief introduction to the parish particularly concerns the SAH Educational Network.

To set the scene for us, María Zenaida Rosario, the headmistress of Canaima School, explains how this initiative emerged in the midst of violence:

“It was like being in a war zone. A criminal gang roamed the streets toting long-range weapons. It was an armed occupation. That year – the end of 2013 and first semester of 2014 – everything changed for us in the neighbourhood. In response, the security forces came in with 500 troops, long-range weapons and war vehicles. Amid the cross-fire, it felt like the days were never ending.

Some families left the community. Others took their sons and daughters out of the area, being afraid that the gangs would recruit children, or even worse, that their children might be killed by the State and labelled hoodlums. The teachers were afraid. So the Jesuit Fathers began to accompany us very closely. We started to meet up in different schools to discern how we could continue our educational mission amidst the violence. That’s how the SAH Education Network emerged: it’s a mutual support network where we discern how to keep going with our educational mission and commit to life in the midst of so much hardship and violence. Although the violence continues, since then, via joint discernment and the support of our parish priest, we’ve come together as a group to discern our mission. And, after so many years, we’ve discovered that working together in a network makes miracles happen.”


The first challenge we had to discern for our mission was how to turn our schools into safe spaces, free of violence. One image that helped us and is still helpful is the story of the film Life is Beautiful: a father condemned to death in a concentration camp manages to take care of his son’s life, protecting him from hardship and violence. That gave us a great deal of insight and challenged us. We began to meet up every week to analyze the context of the violence, discerning the strategies required for us to continue with our mission, since we firmly believe that we cannot become paralyzed by these scenes of terror and death. On the contrary, it is very important to build trust and provide green spaces where our boys, girls and teenagers have the chance to discover that life is beautiful.

The efforts we are making have been blessed by partnerships with other apostolic works of the Society of Jesus including the JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service), Andrés Bello Catholic University, the Gumilla Centre (CIAS), Fe y Alegría, and the youth movement Huellas (Footprints). We have also enjoyed the support of social organisations committed to our dreams. Thanks to this joint endeavor, we have begun to tackle not only armed violence but many other types of violence. These include hunger, which we tackle through soup kitchens and donated food parcels, and healthcare, for which we provide medical day centres and extra supplies of medicine. Meanwhile, for leisure activities, the SAH Integral Pastoral Centre is somewhere children and teenagers can access sports and culture, including music, theatre, dance, painting and so on.

Venezuela has become a valley of tears, yet an energy for life that simply can’t be held back has been released in San Alberto Hurtado parish. As a sign of the presence of God, it is calling us to “make all things new in Christ.”

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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