On March 1, the District of Chile celebrates its 70th Anniversary, the longest-running mission still overseen by the United States Province.Three Holy Cross Religious arrived in Santiago, Chile, on March 1, 1943, at the invitation of the Archbishop to administer Saint George’s College. Fathers Havey, Send and Dougherty believed they were going to do university work. Little did they know that “college” in this context meant a school of first through 12th graders.
U.S. Provincial Superior Rev. Thomas J. O’Hara, C.S.C., noted this momentous occasion, “In honor of the men who preceded us in this mission, and gratitude for those that today carry that mission forward, let us celebrate together the common mission we all share in Holy Cross and give thanks for the invitation we first received there and for the fidelity to that commitment for 70 years!”
Saint George’s College serves more than 2,500 students. Its history is rich and is closely tied with the history of Chile, including the 1970s when the school was taken over by the military government and Holy Cross was ousted. The Congregation returned to the school in 1986. Strong faith formation and service have been a hallmark of Saint George’s. Over the decades, the college has formed many influential leaders in Chilean society. Also Holy Cross’ first Chilean vocation, Fr. Jorge Canepa, was a 1946 graduate of the school.
The other school administered by the District is Colegio Nuestra Senora de Andacollo, located in the older sector of Central Santiago. The Congregation took responsibility for the school in the 1970s, after its expulsion from Saint George’s. The student body, which is just over 1,000, is made up primarily of children from working-class families. With improvements to the physical plant and the strong Holy Cross commitment, the school has been able to reach new heights academically.
From the beginning, the mission of Holy Cross in Chile also included parish ministry and social service. Within three years of arriving, the Congregation had begun both its ministry at San Roque, a parish in the sector of Penalolen in Santiago, as well as its outreach to abandoned children in Santiago and later in Talagante.
Today, the District administers two parishes in addition to San Roque: Nuestra Senora de Andacollo, in the same area as the school; and Nuestra Senora de la Merced, in Calle Larga, in the Diocese of San Felipe. The parishes are known for their youth ministry and social justice work. Then through Fundamor and Fundacion Moreau, the District continues its work with abandoned children. Currently there are approximately 50 children in residence, ages 4 to 18. There is also a new prevention program ministering to 100 children that has been recognized as the first of its kind in Chile.
In all its apostolates, a key priority of the District is working closely with its lay colleagues and providing formation for them, including a day retreat on Holy Cross Spirituality, which in years past has seen more than 200 in attendance. They are an integral part of the Holy Cross family and mission in Chile.
As Chile has changed since the arrival of Holy Cross, so too has the Congregation in its response to the needs of the people to continue bringing light, truth and hope to the Church and the people of Chile.