In Brief

Annual Meeting of Bishops (Colombia)

The third edition of the annual meeting of bishops organized in Colombia by the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross was held at the Bonga conference center, located on the Caribbean coast, halfway between Barranquilla and Cartagena. Taking part were Omar de Jesús Mejía, Archbishop of Florencia; Pablo Emiro Salas, Archbishop of Barranquilla; Noel Londoño, Bishop of Jericó; Hency Martínez, Bishop of Dorada-Guaduas; Juan Fernando Franco, Bishop of Caldas; Miguel Fernando González, Bishop of El Espinal; Ariel Lascarro, Bishop of Magangué; and Ugo Puccini, Bishop Emeritus of Santa Marta. As on previous occasions, the Vicars of the Prelature in Colombia and Ecuador were also present.

In accordance with the topics foreseen, Juan Pablo Cannata, professor at Austral University (Argentina), was invited to speak on “How to communicate the faith today.” Through discussions and examples of practical cases, he offered participants guidelines for improving the Church’s communication in the contemporary world. He also reflected on the importance of the Church’s voice in the great contemporary debates: on human values, abortion, euthanasia, the family, etc. He closed his presentation by focusing on the Church’s role in communicating, in the midst of the media storm, on issues that affect, sometimes painfully, the institution itself: abuses, financial issues, accidents, etc.

As always, the three days of the meeting included ample time to rest, spend time together, and pray serenely.

As part of the meeting, the bishops had the opportunity to visit the FHES Foundation (Human Formation for Education and Service), an initiative organized by members of the Opus Dei prelature in Cartagena that offers academic training to needy young people in the outlying neighborhoods of the city.

Twenty members of the Colombian episcopate have now taken part in these meetings the past few years.

Eightieth Anniversary of Colegio Mayor Moncloa (Madrid, Spain)

Colegio Mayor Moncloa, in Madrid, celebrated its 80th anniversary on September 30 with a Mass of thanksgiving in a nearby parish celebrated by Fr. Ignacio Barrera, Regional Vicar of Opus Dei in Spain, and an academic ceremony in the Paul VI Foundation Center.

During the academic ceremony, which was presided over by Prof. Julio Banacloche Palao, Vice Rector for Academic Organization and Teaching Staff at the Complutense University of Madrid, historian José Luis González Gullón gave a talk entitled St. Josemaría’s Challenge to Intellectuals. The commemorative video Para servir, servir, made by former residents of Moncloa, was also shown.

Hundreds of alumni, families and friends attended both the thanksgiving Mass and the academic ceremony.

Universidad Panamericana (Mexico): Presentation of Book on Person-Centered Feminism.

On September 20, 2023, the Interdisciplinary Group of Feminist Studies (GIEF) at the Universidad Panamericana held a panel discussion during the presentation of the book Feminismo centrado en la persona. De la teoría a la realidad. 25 professors from the university and members of the GIEF have collaborated in this book which, as María José García Castillejos, director of the Preparatoria Femenil de la Panamericana, said at the end of the event, was born from the widely felt need to publish a text giving voice to the GIEF’s central concerns.

In addition to Dr. María José García, María Eugenia Cárdenas Cisneros, from Universidad Anáhuac; Virginia Aspe Armella, research professor at Panamericana; and José Alberto Ross Hernández, director of the Institute of Humanities, also took part in the event.

The GIEF, as Hernández pointed out, seeks a feminism in line with the ideas of the American philosopher Prudence Allen, for whom “feminism is the organized thought and actions aimed at removing the obstacles that prevent women, as women, from becoming what a human person really is and can become.”

Throughout the various interventions, topics such as motherhood, gender violence and imbalances between men and women in academia were addressed.

Fe Joven Congress at Tabancura School (Santiago, Chile)

On August 31, 2023, teachers and students from 62 Chilean schools took part in the first Fe Joven Congress, organized by the Tabancura School. The aim of the Congress, in the words of Santiago Baraona, director of Tabancura, was “for the participants to get to know each other, to network, to realize that they are not alone and thus return to their schools with more hope.”

Ronald Bown, organizer of the meeting and secretary general of Tabancura, emphasized in a previous interview that the congress also wanted to “share experiences on how we are transmitting our faith in schools, in religion classes, and how we are leading young people in the best possible way to face the mental health crisis that many of them are experiencing today.”

In the plenary session, psychologist Klaus Droste emphasized this harsh reality: “Life is not perfect, and one must accept that it includes evils and suffering. But we can contribute through our freedom to bringing about good and achieving a world that is ordered to friendship and not to loneliness.” Through our faith, we should strive to bring hope to many people today, he said.

The Congress included presentations by various groups of students on issues related to faith, and two workshops, one for students and the other for teachers, led by the Departments of Religious Education at the Universidad de los Andes and the Universidad Católica. The central theme of these workshops was “How can we make the person of Christ more prominent in our religion classes?”

Bridge Generation: Tackling the Second Half of Life (Colombia)

In Colombia, a number of women of the Prelature from the so-called “Bridge Generation” (ages 40 to 59) took part, between June and November 2023, in seminars helping women to face the personal challenges of this stage in life and to strengthen their mission in the task of connecting the generations preceding them from those coming after them.

The seminar was entitled “Strengthening awareness of positive aging and being sowers of quality of life.” There were five meetings: in Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Silvania and La Vega. One more will take place in January 2024. By bringing this generation of women together, the goal is to strengthen cohesion and enable them to share challenges, sufferings, joys and ways of acting and growing personally and as an age group. Thus they will be able to transmit more effectively the charism of Opus Dei and the care of the family of Opus Dei in the various cities and family environments.

The women were invited to reflect together on the characteristics of this generation of women and their role in society and in the Work. Topics such as their own lifestyle, life in the centers, family care and their own perception of old age were discussed in order to be able to contribute to the care of the elderly. The keynote lecture “Spheres of action for successful aging,” given by geriatrician Sandra Castelblanco, had a special impact and was followed by a lively discussion.

25 Years of Braval (Barcelona, Spain)

Since its origin, Braval has aimed at promoting social cohesion, fighting against marginalization and facilitating the incorporation of immigrants into society. Founded in 1998, during the past 25 years it has accompanied on their path of growth 1,600 young people from 8 to 18 years of age and from 30 countries, who speak 10 languages and practice 9 different religions. More than a thousand volunteers, including university students, professionals and retirees, have dedicated their time and efforts to assisting them. “We are celebrating 25 years,” said Josep Masabeu, Braval’s president, “of a project that is the result of the generosity of so many people who have been able to work as a team. Otherwise, none of this would have been possible.”

An event commemorating the organization’s first quarter century was held at the MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona), in the Raval neighborhood, the same neighborhood where Braval is located and whose mainly immigrant population is its main beneficiary. It consisted of a colloquium in which participants in the center’s activities, volunteers and family members took part. It was moderated by Jordi Juan, director of the newspaper La Vanguardia, who expressed his gratitude for the possibility that Braval offered him to provide his readers with positive news, which is not always easy to find.

Universidad Monteávila (Caracas, Venezuela): Presentation of the Center for the Advancement of Health Studies

The Center for the Advancement of Health Studies at the Universidad Monteávila has been formally presented to the public. With a focus on education and prevention, the main goal of the new study center will be to improve people’s health through teaching, research and outreach both within and outside the university. Hence, as the name itself indicates, it is a university institute of studies, not a health program.

Besides its director, dental surgeon Francesco Cammarano, others attending the launch of the study center were the rector of the university, Guillermo Fariñas Contreras; Alejandro Rísquez, pediatrician and epidemiologist; Santiago Bacci Isaza, internist; and Manuel Figuera Esparza, also an internist. Dr. Carlos Lanz moderated the event which also was an opportunity for holding a forum focused on the current health situation in Venezuela.

After the forum, Cammarano pointed out that the center’s working model incorporates six basic requirements of health advancement: active participation, a holistic approach, intersectoral action, an evidence-based approach, a preventive approach, and the strengthening of health systems and services.

At the end, Gerardo Fernández, president of the Scientific, Humanistic and Technological Development Council at the Universidad Monteávila, gave some closing remarks and thanked those taking part.

The Universidad Monteávila is an undertaking of the faithful, cooperators and friends of Opus Dei, which on October 2, 2023 celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary.

Educational Support Program in El Gancho (Zaragoza, Spain)

Fifteen years ago, the NGO Cooperación Internacional launched the Social Leadership Program in a challenging neighborhood of Zaragoza, El Gancho, where social vulnerability coexists with a marginal life and drugs. The core of the program, which benefits about a hundred boys and girls, are the volunteers, many of them residents at the Colegio Mayor Miraflores or friends of the residents.

The head of the program, Pedro Herraiz, says that the keys to getting the young people to take responsibility for their studies and aspire to a better future lie in what they call the 3 Cs:cuerpo (sports), cabeza (study) and corazón (volunteers). All the young people who enter the program commit themselves to these three objectives: to take part in a sports activity, with a boys’ and girls’ indoor soccer team); to attend weekly directed study sessions; and finally to carry out volunteer activities.

Thus, as Herraiz explains, the beneficiaries of the project themselves become volunteers and contribute, by their own example, to breaking down the “psychological barriers” of other young people, who also decide to take part in the project.. He also provides some convincing data: “Last year the average grade of all the young boys and girls in the program was 6.1 out of 10, which is not bad. And that of the those who come every day was 7.5. And all this despite the fact that they are living in a complicated environment, in vulnerable situations. These figures tell you a lot about the commitment of the young people, the impact of the project, the classroom environment and the work of the volunteers.”

An inspiring example is that of Mohamed, who entered the program when he was just thirteen years old and who, after obtaining his high school diploma, is now about to get a degree in Heating Installations. Also that of Hiba, who from the age of nine was already sure that the advice she was receiving from the volunteers would help her achieve her goal of reaching the university.

“Before making demands on them, we need to generate a sense of belonging,” Herraiz says. “We have some phrases written in the classroom that say: ‘You are unique and valuable to us; today, now you are creating your future; make it great.’” And in fact often it is in the Social Leadership Program that young people in the neighborhood have realized their own value for the first time in their lives.

Universidad de los Hemisferios (Quito, Ecuador): Social Development Programs

The Universidad de los Hemisferios, a corporate apostolate of the Prelature located in Quito, organizes various projects that promote social development, integrating its efforts for the local community within its normal teaching and research activities. In Ecuador, these are known as social outreach projects.

One of the initiatives carried out throughout 2023 is the Be Human project, in a school in a nearby town. The project’s goal is to train the school’s teaching staff in the communication skills needed to meet the challenging needs of the local community. Another is the Zero Cavities project, in which professors and students of dentistry visit several nearby towns (Cosanga, Otavalo, Guamote) to apply fluoride and teach children toothbrushing techniques, in order to prevent cavities. Finally, another project is Fretless UHE, in which music teachers and students offer classes in various musical instruments to needy young people and low-income adults.

Romana, n. 77, July-December 2023, p. 234-240.

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