On the farm in Anolaima, the FSSP has a school (named St Dominic Savio) for the children from Anolaima and La Florida. The school year in South America runs from early February to late November each year. This past year the school had classes for pre-K thru 4th grade. There were nearly 50 children in attendance for 2013. For the 2014 school year they will add a 5th grade and expect to have about 100 students. They will add a grade every year, until they have the final year of 11th grade. In 2013 the FSSP school was listed on the top 100 schools list for the entire country of Colombia. This is an amazing accomplishment for the FSSP.
Father Alfaro is busy at present devoting his time to the construction of a new school building on the farm. It is a two-story modern building that will be large enough to house the whole school from pre-K thru the 11th grade. It is on track to open in time for the 2014 school year. The construction of a modern building in the Andes Mountains in a third world nation is extremely difficult. The school children have thus far been attending classes in various structures scattered throughout the farm that mostly resemble open air bamboo huts. Father Michael Passo, who is an American from Nebraska, was just assigned to the apostolate as its third priest. This is Father Passo’s first assignment, having been ordained in the spring of 2013. Father Passo has had the difficult job of settling in as a new priest, learning a foreign language, and adapting to a new culture. Father Passo teaches English and Religion to the students (and the lay teachers) in addition to serving as chaplain to the school, saying Mass and hearing confessions.
In 2011 Father Berg, Superior General of the FSSP, dedicated the new chapel that was built on the farm. All the building materials were local: wood, rocks, and bamboo. The mensa of the altar was quarried from a local mine. The pedestals that support the altar are from the 16th century ruins of the first Dominican convent in Anolaima. The pulpit was salvaged from the trash pile of the local village parish church. It is Spanish colonial and was made around 1700.
Father Baudon de Mony is the Superior of the Apostolate, and his duties include the operations of both the school and the farm. At first glance it may seem odd that the FSSP operates a farm, but, it is integral to the operation of the Apostolate. The farm (or finca) has a dual role. First it produces coffee, fruit, and various kinds of animals. It even has fish ponds for raising Tilapia. These crops provide a source of income to pay for the operation of the Apostolate. The people of the area are poor farmers and they simply do not have any money to support the FSSP.
The second role of the farm is to provide an outdoor laboratory for the students. They are taught to raise crops and animals. They get to see all aspects of operating a successful farm. This is so important because the area’s economy is made up entirely of agriculture. The children will be able to have an education and remain in their village and be able to support themselves. Without this proper education, the children of the village have habitually left their homes and migrated to the 8 million person capital of Bogota looking for work. Without skills they often end up living immoral lives on the streets.
Traditional Catholicism is not widely known in South America as it is here in the United Sates. The grandparents have a strong Faith, practice their religion, and go to Mass. Their children may have a strong Faith, practice their religion to a degree, but they do not go to Mass. The grandchildren have no Faith at all, do not practice their religion, and do not go to Mass. It is the grandchildren’s generation that is the target of the Apostolate. As these children grow up and have families, they will have a vibrant traditional Faith, and will be able to pass it on to their children. The seeds of the future are being sown in Colombia.
To make a tax deductible contribution to support the work of the FSSP in South America, or to sponsor a child’s education at $45.00 per month please visit the FSSP mission web page: http://www.fssp.org/en/missions.htm
(Honorable John D. Rasnick is a probate judge and president of Una Voce for the State of Georgia)