A family for others

In 2012, the United Nations proclaimed 1 June as ‘Global Day of Parents’ to honour parents around the world. The Society of Jesus joins in this celebration and today offers the testimony of a married couple guided by Ignatian spirituality as they raise their children.

By Cesar and Jo Villanueva - Filipinos serving in East Timor

“May Our Love for Each Other Lead to A Greater Love of Others.”
These were the words written on the cover page of our wedding invitations in 1982.

Jo was then finishing her Jesuit Volunteer Philippines (JVP) year in Maramag, Bukidnon, in the island of Mindanao and I was also on my last year as a JVP at Ateneo de Naga College (AdeN) in Naga City, Bicol region, when we decided to get married.

After our JVP, we continued to work together in AdeN for five more years and had three children. Then we moved to Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, to be with my parents who were living alone in their old age. We were blessed to have two more children – all five were fortunate to have enjoyed the unconditional love of their grandparents. Our set-up also allowed me and Jo to engage in our volunteer works that took us away from home most of the time.

The Jesuits and the Brothers of the Christian Schools (De la Salle Brothers) supported us in the education of our children. As graduates of Ateneo and La Salle schools, our children became Christians with grounded faith and sincere compassion for others.

In 2022, we accepted the invitation of then JCAP (Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific) President, Fr Tony Moreno, SJ, to spend our retirement as Jesuit Volunteers Asia in East Timor, a Region under the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific. The Jesuits of Timor Leste have been very hospitable and welcoming to what we had to offer to their different social apostolates.

Concretely, Jo gives trainings on Conflict and Peace to faculty, staff and students, as well as to various religious congregations here in Timor Leste. She firmly believe that Understanding the Person, Building Peace and Handling Conflicts lead us all back to our Creator. She feels blessed to share in this mission.


My main responsibility is to find creative ways to raise resources locally and internationally for the different priorities of the East Timor Jesuit Region. I had dedicated the past twenty months to further enhance the operations of the Development Office and responded to all other requests within my capabilities. I am retired but not tired... so I continue to offer my services because for me this is learning to serve and serving to learn. It also makes me feel centered and at peace.

Today, we are a couple and a family living out Fr Pedro Arrupe’s desire: to be Men and Women for Others.

With far distance from each other, we dedicate our volunteer works as a Ministry of Presence to those who are challenged and, (borrowing from the motto of the La Salle Brothers in the Philippines) exert all efforts to teach minds, touch hearts, transform lives and, create better futures.

May our family remain steadfast in our love for each other so we can have a greater love of others.

Jo and Cesar added a short note highlighting the current involvements of their children. Meghann Aurea (41) is a consultant in peacebuilding and conflict transformation. Alongside her work, volunteering gives meaning to her life and makes her happy. Aureo Francis (38) works with adults with learning difficulties in England. He has gone from being a volunteer to a full-time employee and feels very close to the people he works with. Jn. Oliver (34) works in visual communications for the Metro Manila. He is happy as an independent producer, as he can choose the causes and projects with which he identifies. Kalaylah Maria (25) is a dancer, singer and actress involved in professional theatre productions. For her, art should be shared and reach out to everyone.

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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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