This year 2020 was already special for our Province because we celebrate the 150 years of Piarist presence in the Argentine Republic. We set out to do so under the slogan “happy audacity and persevering patience” with a rich program of varied initiatives that has been soon disrupted. The memory of Calasanz and our intrepid founders impels us to face in a special way the unexpected circumstances in which we are involved around the world and the particular way in which they affect us Argentines.
The spread of Covid-19 is, in comparative terms with other countries, very scarce in ours. In fact, there are no infected people among the people we know, although we are present in various sites and the largest cities. Perhaps it is because the restrictive measures were imposed very quickly here. This means that at this time the greatest concern is the same isolation and its serious consequences in all areas of life.
It has been a particular complication for us that classes were suspended within two weeks of starting them and it is already clear that most of the school year will not take place normally. It is estimated that the return to the classroom will only be in September, in a partial and staggered manner, with the school year ending in December. There are already educational establishments for the little ones that have begun to close, and the crisis will affect us all sooner rather than later. We believe that this will bring with it serious losses and profound transformations within all privately run education. It is essential for us to consider in a new way the sustainability of our institutions.
The Government has established a series of measures that focus state prominence over social initiative, which is in many ways impossible to act by the regulations emanating from the authorities. The issuance of currency has been increased to finance these public actions, but this obviously depreciates it by leaps and bounds. Argentina’s peso is increasingly devalued, and inflation rises, in a default situation for the country’s external creditors.
The life of our religious communities is solid and fruitful. Circumstances have led to increased time and training, domestic and recreational activities shared in community. The Sacred Liturgy is celebrated with great love, especially with the knowledge of those who cannot access to do so and so many who suffer in various ways the consequences of all that we live. It seeks to sustain and encourage, from the communities, the Piarist apostolic life of our houses and works with a wide variety of initiatives, some extremely rich and creative. People linked to us feel close and present. The initial formation in all its stages is very well maintained and is one of the areas of greatest strength and dynamism for our Province at the moment. We have had to postpone, with great regret, a solemn profession and diaconal ordination and priestly ordination.
To complete the picture, we can add that:
- Together with the rest of the educators and managers of our schools, we seek to continue the educational service of our schools by virtual means, rehearsing and learning new ways of doing Pious Schools.
- We maintain daily the dining service for the children of the Calasanz Home of Buenos Aires and the School San Francisco de Assisi in Quimilí.
- We transmit liturgical celebrations and other actions from our two parishes in Córdoba and Buenos Aires.
- We started a new Mentor School group of animators training, adapting it to the remote format.
- We have very active the Iter Calasanz in each place, with a deep interaction between houses that has been expressed in virtual provincial meetings of each stage and a great mutual collaboration between the mentors-animators of the Province.
- We continue the formation of the new Group of School of Educators that was able to start in person in February and the Mentor team in charge of the Virtus Project.
- We chair the Crisis Committee of FAERA (Federation of Religious Educational Associations) and we try to be well informed of official regulations and guidelines, which change day by day and even hour by hour.
- We seek to adapt economically and legally to the critical situation that threatens us to ensure the integral sustainability of our presence.
- We have virtual meetings of the different councils and provincial teams to be able to accompany and guide us with common criteria in these circumstances.
- The Fraternity also meets, usually online, to share life and faith and seeks ways to express its apostolic service.
- We all continue to think of new and better ways to live today the Piarist mission in the unexpected circumstances we face.
When we started the celebrations of our Piarist sesquicentennial in Argentina, we did not imagine that we would be so challenged to live all that implies the “happy audacity and persevering patience” of Joseph Calasanz. May he help us to be diligent heirs and fitting bearers of his blessing for children and young people who ask for bread also today and have no one to give it to them.
Fr. Marcelo Benítez Sch. P.