This new year 2020 begins with the joy of commemorating the 70 years of Piarist presence in Managua, Nicaragua, the oldest in the demarcation, after Cuba and León, which just last year celebrated the same festival. This commemoration takes us to the first years of Piarist history in Central America, and allows us to contemplate the missionary dimension of the Piarist charism, called to consolidate and grow in the midst of difficulties. That generation of Piarist brothers, who came out of their lands to take Calasanz to the various corners of the world, managed to face many vicissitudes in order to make possible the education and evangelization of the poorest of our continent.

We recall the beginnings, in which thanks to the vision and audacity of Fr. Joaquín Ferragud, we arrived in Managua, who after a year of presence in León saw it convenient to found in the capital in the absence of religious congregations that could offer education and evangelization to the poorest. Only the De la Salle Brothers, until now, had managed to locate themselves in this city, and it was imperative to be located in the place where the majority of Nicaragua’s population lived in situations of extreme and harsh poverty.

But this start was not easy. The location of the first school was made “renting the school of Lourdes to the Capuchin Fathers; it was an old single-store house, 2,400 square meters, which had been functioning as a “Mexican National School”[1]. But it was important to start, even if it was in a ramshackle old building. The presence is born with more brothers who join the task, and already in 1952 brother came Fr. Bruno Martínez, who will find in these lands “the best way to serve God” until his death.

This first school is expanding, not without the difficulties offered by such a small space for the great mission that is being promoted, and many economic precariousness that affected the development and growth of the school. Every step was done with great effort and tenacity, like all beginnings… how great the gallantry of those men, who left the comforts of their land and set out, out to sea, to build the dream of Calasanz, even in the greatest precariousness of life!

God’s work is consolidating, we said, but not without difficulty. More and more children come to our classrooms, and everything indicates that the work must grow, not knowing how. Alongside precariousness, tragedy strikes the city of Managua on December 23, 1972, and causes all the work to collapse in the eyes of all. In the midst of the rubble Father Bruno Martínez, first Local Superior and co-founder gives his spirit, with the smell of holiness,.

In the midst of the vicissitudes, only the conviction remains that Calasanz’ work must continue. And so, the Piarists Fathers, together with the lay collaborators, make it possible that little by little that first school can be moved to the lands that already in its beginnings, at kilometer 11 1/2 of the South Road, had been acquired by Fr. Joaquín. Unexpectedly, those lands that were on the outskirts would be the space where the school consolidated and remained to the present day.

The 80’s are times of turmoil and conflict, amid the armed struggle that takes on the cause of the poor and will bring times of desolation and death. Once again, the mission must be transformed, children and young people in exile, imprisoned and killed, demand new challenges and new approaches to life and mission. In all this time, the conviction remains that the Pious Schools continue to respond to the needs of an impoverished and beaten people, so that the Piarists Fathers decide to continue, amid precariousness, scarcity and violence.

While this happens, the Piarists Fathers were no stranger to the needs of the local Church, so we will see them on several occasions assuming some parishes, including Santa Clara, San Rafael del Sur, San Antonio, San José and San Sebastián. Most important is the work in the Parish “Our Lady of America”, assumed in 1974, with two chapels, one with the same name and the second under the title of our holy founder, which still stands today as a witness to the pastoral work done by our brothers and Calasanctian Sisters.

Beyond historical data, it is important to underline what this event says our present and future. We understand that looking at history is finding meaning today, driving tomorrow, assuming successes, and learning from mistakes. I believe that the celebration of this seventieth anniversary reveals some fundamental aspects that I highlight below.

  1. The missionary dimension of the Pious Schools: the Pious Schools are, in germ, missionary. This dimension, so highlighted in the last Conference of the Latin American Episcopate (Aparecida, 2009) is constitutive of our Order, and transversal in its insertion in Central America and the Caribbean. The Latin American Pious Schools are, in essence, missionary, and must be understood as a platform for evangelization of peoples far from the faith, absent from all hope and meaning of life, or marked by a strong religious syncretism that blurs the elements central to the Gospel.
  2. Building the Pious Schools: not in vain, Fr. General reminded us during his last visit to the Province. The mission of the Piarists is not only to educate and evangelize, but to build the Order; consolidate the existing and expand, with boldness and intelligence, our presence. So did our brothers, who from the beginning saw the need to go further, even in need, so that Calasanz’ work could take root.
  3. Evangelical Prophecy: In the midst of the most adverse circumstances, our brethren knew how to raise the prophetic voice that heralds the possibility of a new world that is built from the values of the Gospel. From the silence of the classroom and the school, in support of the local Church, in the midst of the slums, they knew how to reveal by word and deed that this world is not definitive, and that the righteousness of God, peace and mercy will reach all peoples.
  4. The necessary audacity of young religious: all religious, but mainly the youngest, are called to live boldly our Piarist vocation. Boldness implies passion for mission, an authentic experience of consecration, a cultivation of community life, a willingness for work, dedication to children and young people, missionary impetus, prominence in the great challenges of the Pious Schools and the Latin American Church. Called, therefore, to overcome the clericalism and accommodated forms that seek to settle in the Consecrated Life and the Latin American Priesthood, which obscures our being and action, and which Pope Francis himself denounces: “When prophecy is lacking, clericalism takes its place, the rigid scheme of legality that closes the door in the face of man…”[2]
  5. The participation of the laity: already in its beginnings, and during the most critical periods, the Piarists Fathers of Managua were able to incorporate as members of the mission men and women who wished to live the Gospel in the style of Calasanz. Together with them, we were able to carry out the task of founding and rebuilding the school, of expanding and consolidating our mission. It is therefore constitutive since the origins the participation of numerous laity, some with Card of Brotherhood, and others who from anonymity made possible our school of Managua.
  6. Insertion into the local Church: the Piarist presence of Nicaragua, and specifically Managua, has been inserted into the local Church, responding to its needs without sacrificing its own identity and mission. It is therefore a challenge to incorporate the Church from who we are, in accordance with her needs, in line with diocesan projects and provincial and order lines.
  7. Growing up in the midst of precariousness: The Pious Schools are called to consolidate and grow, amid assumed and valued poverty. Our brethren set out, without assurances, in an unknown world in which they saw only the need to offer the gospel. How much audacity there is in those brothers who dream of going further, despite the circumstances, and make it possible!

Today, the Pious Schools of Nicaragua are called to return to the values of their history, to recognize their present and to launch into the future. And with it, the whole Province enters into communion to read in this history, our own history; facts that determine a way of being and shaping the charism in our peoples. In communion with the whole Province and the Order, we ask the Lord to give us faith, hope and love, virtues from which we can continue to make possible the charism of Calasanz, on the shores and with the freshness of Lake Xolotlan, flavored with nacatamal and gallo pinto, with the hidden strength of the Momotombo, and with the impetus of its men and women who assume “the reform of society” as their sense of life.

“In the midst of the abyss of doubt

full of darkness, vain shadow

there’s a star that reflexes springs

sublime, yes, but quieter, muter.

 

She, with her divine brightness, squeals,

encourages and guides human consciousness,

when the genius of evil with insane fury

fierce beats it, with a rude hand.

 

That star sprouted from the pure germ

of human creation? Did it come down from the sky

to illuminate the dark future?

 

To serve the one who cries with comfort?

I don’t know, but that’s what our soul inflames

you know, you know, faith is called”[3]

 

 

[1] GÓMEZ, J (1990). Managua (NI) Colegio Calasanz de San Sebastián, in Diccionario Enciclopédico Escolapio (DENES) I, Madrid: Publicaciones ICCE.

[2] POPE FRANCIS, Homily of December 16, 2013. At https://es.aleteia.org/2014/02/21/lo-que-opina-el-papa-francisco-sobre-el-clericalismo/ (resource online)

[3] RUBÉN DARÍO (1879). La fe.

 

 

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