The previous school year saw classes held in open air thatched roof “classrooms” spread out all along the “finca” of the FSSP. The property now contains, in addition to the new school, a chapel, offices, barns, fish ponds, fruit trees, and coffee bushes. The FSSP is proud owner of several milk cows, rabbits, chickens, goats, and hogs. The students actually work on the farm to learn agriculture. The produce of the farm is sold to help pay for some of the expenses of the apostolate.
The Saint Dominic Savio School currently has kindergarten through 6th grade comprised of 146 students. Next year the school will add 7th grade, and will add a grade each year until they have the 11th grade (final year of high school in Colombia). Next year the school expects to have 170 students. There are currently 15 teachers and 7 other employees (including the priests). Tuition is $40.00 per month, however only 40% can afford to pay that amount. Many students have to walk up to 2 hours through the mountains to reach the school and a typical family lives on $200-$300 per month.
Classes run from 7:30 am to 3:15 pm. In addition to regular subjects the school teaches, music, dance, art, sewing, and agriculture. The highlight of every day is the school football game at the lunch break.
Father Angel Alfaro, a Spanish priest, started the apostolate in 2005, and now is assisted by newly ordained Father Elvis Ruis-Silva. Padre Ruis-Silva is from Bogota and has been visiting with the FSSP since he was a young boy. He has been assigned to the apostolate for a little over a month having just been ordained in Europe. His assignment is as the chaplain to the school. Father Alfaro is teaching the 5th grade due to the lack of a teacher.
The new school is not completed. It has 3 floors but the top floor is not finished and can’t be used. There is no electricity in the school and about half the windows don’t have glass installed. The children are cold due to this. The FSSP needs $1500 in order to complete the window installation. Another project that Father Alfaro wants to complete for the next school year is to build a dining hall.
The children now have to bring their lunch to school. It usually consists of a bowl of rice, fried plantains, and a boiled potato or yucca. Due to the poverty of the country Father wants to have a dining hall that would provide the children a hot nutritious meal each day. This project will require $25,000 to build.
A future project is to turn the old office building into a home for girls. They would be able to stay there Monday through Friday to attend school and return home for the weekends. Unfortunately, life is even more difficult for girls. It is exhausting to walk such long distances to attend school and then return home late in the day. They also are exposed to a high level of immorality and abuse and the home will preserve their dignity as a woman because they will be the future heart of the society.
The priests teach catechism, say Mass and provide sacraments for the students, faculty, and families of the school. They have Sunday mass in the chapel and confessions several times a week. The rectory is located about 30 minutes up the mountains from the school in a village named “La Florida”. There the priests say private Masses and recite the office. They have a pickup truck and a motorcycle for transportation (that is, when they run).
You would need to be available from January 15, 2016 to June 15, 2016, or from June 1, 2016 to December 1, 2016. You would need to provide your own transportation to Bogota. The FSSP would provide you room and board. You should have about $300 for personal expenses for the 6 month stay.
While you don’t need to speak Spanish you should have a little basic Spanish to build upon. This will be a challenging assignment and living conditions, and life in general, is difficult at best in South America. Father prefers the volunteers to be around 23 years old or older due to the grueling lifestyle. The second way to help is to donate money to the apostolate. If you want to send a donation, then mail a check to:
Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter
North American District Headquarters
119 Griffin Road
Elmhurst Township, PA 18444
If you’d like to donate by credit card go to: http://www.fssp.org/en/missions.htm It is important that you mark on any donation that you want the money to go to the Colombian Mission.
(J.D. Rasnick is a judge and president of Una Voce for the State of Georgia)