The Sagrada Familia vocational schools have 20,000 students, 1,500 teachers, 26 training centres. These figures may be surprising, since outside Spain little is known about this Jesuit educational network. Father General Arturo Sosa had the opportunity to take a look at them during his recent visit to Andalusia. We asked the current director, Fr. Enrique Gómez-Puig Gómez, to tell us about this project.
The Escuelas Profesionales de la Sagrada Familia (SAFA) were born out of the intuition of Jesuit Rafael Villoslada and the spirit of collaboration between the Society of Jesus and laypeople to look after the educational and social needs in rural southern Spain struck by the civil war in the middle of last century.
The commitment to take care of every person equally, with special dedication to the most vulnerable ones, the longing to educate the young as a way to design an encouraging future, providing them with jobs, and the vision to prepare our teachers to care for the best possible training have been the foundations of the educational project, born over 75 years ago in Andalusia.
This spirit endures today in a wide network made up of 26 schools and a teacher-training college. Over 20,000 students from all educational stages, from pre-school to university and vocational training, learn and participate in the school life. Accompanied by nearly 1,500 teachers, their personal growth process is to develop a life purpose where they are free and committed to the challenges that arise in the world today.
The Universal Apostolic Preferences determine a horizon in which we can develop our educational task. Walking with the poor, the excluded and the outcasts is today a demand present in society.
The network of SAFA schools has grown, bringing together very diverse realities that enrich them globally. The teachers develop their everyday work in very different spheres: rural environments and neighborhoods set within difficult contexts, multicultural schools; also with very different students, paying attention to their intelligences, abilities and personal needs through an inclusive education where there is room for many ways of learning and teaching.
In our educational community, our schools aim to strengthen the commitment to justice that emerges out of faith and Christian humanism. We work in our classrooms to promote a culture of solidarity oriented to human and sustainable development, with projects of social entrepreneurship that respond to needs detected in the most immediate environment, fostering the capacity for judgement and creativity in our students.
We have incorporated caring for our Common Home in school life, with specific initiatives to improve our environment and invite us to reflect on ways of doing and being, incorporating the defense of Earth in the experience of our faith and mission.
Accompanying young people in the creation of a hope-filled future implies paying attention to comprehensive and innovative training that responds to their needs and skills. Our young people do it through experiences that allow them to become agents of social transformation by analyzing existing inequalities and compromising to eradicate situations of social injustice.
From its origins, SAFA Foundation has had a distinctly professional character with teaching and training students who want to learn and perform different trades and jobs. Today, it offers a wide variety of vocational training degrees linked to the economic development of the region. This dynamic and innovative vocational training with new modalities, such as dual vocational training with an apprenticeship and distance learning, is oriented to strategic economic domains.
All of these enrich us and allow us to learn day-to-day in the fascinating task of accompanying our students in the pursuit of their life purpose and encounter with God.