“From the cave to the Home”

Juan Berli, SJ - Province of Argentina-Uruguay
[From “Jesuits 2023 - The Society of Jesus in the world”]

Testimonies from “Our Lady of Luján”, La Familia Grande Hogar de Cristo (The Large Family of the Home of Christ).

“Our ‘slums’ are beyond the reach of the law. The police never come here unless they are linked to the local drug dealers. Sadly, taking or dealing drugs here is all too easy. People fight to sell drugs to you in the back alleys. One night I found myself in a prison cell, begging a God I did not know to change my life, if He really existed. I was homeless because I was an addict. Early the very same morning, I bumped into a contemporary from my schooldays. Moved by the terrible state I was in, he took me home, let me shower and gave me some clothes and food. And the next day, he brought me to the Hogar de Cristo.” Lucas Sánchez

The challenge Providence set before us as we discussed in our provincial meeting how to help and rescue young people made homeless by drug addiction was, and remains today, to love as Jesus loves, while conscious of the risks of building his kingdom in our religious and parish communities in the Hogar de Cristo. Today, we are celebrating the transformational power that comes from daring to be bold.


“It’s about reaching the frontiers of the kind of family wounds that destroy unity and which, given the amount of addictions involved, are rather shameful to speak of. It’s about going into the existential peripheries at the margin of God’s mercy.” Fr. Rafael Velasco

La Familia Grande Hogar de Cristo (The Large Family of the Home of Christ) was started 10 years ago by priests inspired and supported by Pope Francis in the archdiocese of Buenos Aires. Starting from a place of faith that builds community, they began to open up their parishes to marginalised people, whose dignity has been gravely injured. The parishes act as “field hospitals,” offering them a second chance to become part of a family.

Father Alberto Hurtado’s work led to the choice of name for this ministry. Cardinal Bergoglio’s catchphrases dictated the operational strategy: “Accept life as it comes and our brothers and sisters just as they are,” unconditionally and without prejudice. “Re-build family ties by trusting in the affection at home.” And “Choose to be a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”


“We, the women of the parish reflect on the Gospel with the young people every morning. We advise them on managing their money and make it easier for them to reconnect with their families. And when necessary, we tell them off with a mother’s love.” Yanina Fernández

“The look of the parish and the neighbourhood has really changed. The young person who might once have been hanging round on a street corner, smoking drugs or drinking alcohol is now serving the community, helping out with community jobs in the parish. He or she does the cooking in the community centre or helps out with the cleaning or gardening, and joins in during parish celebrations. That young person is now welcoming people who turn up to ask what activities we offer or who ask us about starting rehabilitation.” Fr. Fabio, SJ

“The Ignatian charism sustains recovery through the Spiritual Exercises. Young people are constantly expressing their gratitude to us, and contributing through their gifts and abilities, while at the same time, they draw the best out of us. It moves them to receive support from people who believe in them and instills them with fresh hope. The presence of Christ gradually opens up new paths that lead towards things we had never even imagined. He “got in there first” before us, while he cries out in the wounded who have fallen by the wayside. The key is still to ‘divest oneself of self-love, self-will, and self-interests’ [Sp. Ex. 189].” Fr. Juan, SJ


“To help out in the Hogar de Cristo means receiving and giving so much love. It means learning every day to love yourself better, to care for others and for yourself, to value others but also your own life. God’s love is present in a community that welcomes, integrates and values others. In this humble home, Jesus cries out to every young person from the tabernacle. He is the source, inviting them to reflect on the word, relay their woes to Him and celebrate their personal resurrections. This is the God I experience. He takes care of tomorrow and every daily concern. It is He who embraces wounded hearts to heal them.” Rosaleen Blanco

“I ended up living just by the stream in front of the slums in a cave which I dug out with my own hands. About once a month, I’d end up taking a shower in a friend’s house, if they let me. I saw many younger friends fall into prostitution because of addiction. Yet even though they were destitute, they’d visit me in the cave to bring me a bit of food, and we’d take drugs together. Early one morning, I woke up hearing a screeching noise in my head and saw a huge rat chewing my trainers. That was the moment when I asked God to give me a chance to start over again and leave drugs behind. Today, I realise that He was the one who sent a neighbour to me whose son had died from drug abuse. After bringing me tea and fried sweet bread, she accompanied me to the Hogar de Cristo.” Gabi Duarte

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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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