Education, a priority for Jesuits in East Timor

Father General in Kasait, at the Society’s two educational institutions

When we asked the Regional Superior, Fr Erik John Gerilla, which apostolic commitments of his Region he would like to see highlighted on the website of the Society of Jesus, he immediately mentioned the two educational establishments in Kasait, a district of Liquiça, some thirty kilometres from the capital Dili. Father General visited those two schools, the Colégio de Santo Inácio de Loiola (CSIL) and the Instituto São João de Brito (ISJB), on Saturday 3 February. Fr Sosa took part in the graduation ceremony at the university-level institute specialising in the formation of teachers, and he conferred awards on deserving students at the high school.

Sidelizio Pereira and Calisto Colo, two Jesuits barely 40 years old, are respectively Rector of the ISJB and Director of the CSIL. We asked them why they thought that the Society of Jesus should place great importance on the educational apostolate in East Timor.

The problems are clear, according to Fr Sidelizio. “There are many challenges in the field of education in East Timor: lack of quality schools, lack of pedagogical materials and resources, lack of competent and qualified teachers. In some parts of East Timor, schoolchildren still sit on the floor to learn to read and write. The schools are not big enough, and in elementary schools up to the university level, you have classes of 50 to 70 students. We also have to recognise that, for the most part, school principals have no training in school management or leadership. Our two institutions are trying to improve this situation.”


Fr Sidelizio Pereira SJ.

Fr Calisto explained to us the mission of his institution: “After a long process of discernment, the Jesuits in the East Timor Region opened the Colégio de Santo Inácio de Loiola in 2013. It was the educational context of Timor-Leste that prompted the Society of Jesus to open a Timorese, Catholic and Jesuit secondary school. As stated in its mission statement, the college aims to ‘form young men and women of integrity, educated in faith and justice, committed to caring for the individual and open to all aspects of culture and tradition, to become men and women for and with others’.”

The objective of the ISJB, headed by Sidelizio Pereira, is more focused. It is a university-level Jesuit institute that offers training programmes for secondary school teachers. It seeks to prepare competent, highly qualified, and ethical professionals who can play a leading role in education in East Timor. Students are instructed in teaching techniques based on the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm. They are trained to become dedicated educators through extensive work experience in various secondary schools across the country.

The Rector added: “There are already 195 young people who have completed their training with us and are teaching in primary, secondary and even university institutions. They have integrated well into the country’s education network and are thus responding to the urgent needs of East Timor. As a Timorese institution, the ISJB works with the government to prepare qualified teachers, particularly for secondary schools, which are a priority in our cultural context.”

Although the students at the CSIL are mostly teenagers, and so younger than those at the Instituto São João de Brito, the focus is still on building a better future for Timorese society. Calisto Colo emphasises that young people are called upon to grow as individuals working at the heart of their society. At the school, they form a close community in which spiritual, cultural and personal aspirations come together, so that they can make choices based on the Ignatian values of Competence, Conscience, Compassion and Commitment. They are urged to live the Magis, to strive for what is best, and to be strong in their commitment to the society in which they are growing up. The emphasis is on character development.


Fr Calisto Colo SJ with Father General.

Father Calisto Colo spelled this out more concretely: “As Director, I constantly encourage the teachers, staff and students to take seriously the daily examination of conscience, the weekly Eucharistic celebrations, the monthly recollection and the annual retreats. These are moments of reflection that lead us to become aware of God’s presence in our daily experiences. I expect teachers and staff to promote a focus on the individual student (cura personalis), to identify the challenges and talents of each student. I encourage students to seek the Magis - to strive for excellence in their studies, in service to others and in commitment to achieving their dreams of being MEN and WOMEN for and with others.”

On a more personal note, as a Jesuit, Sidelizio Pereira told us, “I started the ISJB from scratch, on the veranda of a Jesuit candidacy house in 2016, not knowing where I would take the ISJB. I accepted the call when I was appointed to this mission. It was a mission entrusted to me by the Society of Jesus - and it was a mission from God. Despite all the uncertainties I faced at the beginning, I always felt that God never abandoned me. I slowly gathered the resources with the support of the Region, and the ISJB was able to pass all the requirements to get state recognition after 4 years in 2019. The ISJB was the first higher education institution in East Timor to achieve an A in its first public defence.

I am fully aware that I am not just a Rector, but a Jesuit-Priest-Rector. I am not only an administrator, but also a Jesuit pastor. In addition to the day-to-day running of the ISJB, I teach, celebrate Masses and organise recollections and retreats for students and teachers. Setting up the ISJB as a Jesuit priest has made a lot of sense to me, even though I’ve had to face many financial and leadership challenges.”

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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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