Loyola Centers in Cuba

By: Julio Pernús

Centros Loyola en Cuba

What is a Loyola Center?
Since ancient times, the main instances of thought and values that intervened in the formation of the person as a social being used to be the Church and the family. In these times, it is impossible to ignore the importance of school education in the development of human thought. Therefore, any social initiative that tries to forge a world of service from the faith, where social justice, reconciliation and dialogue prevail, must be inserted within the teaching ecosystem of the country it inhabits.
The Loyola Centers are, conceptually, an initiative of the Society of Jesus “at the service of society and the ecclesial community, and arise in response to the challenges that Cuban society and the Church pose to the Jesuits”.1 But in practice these spaces achieve results that go far beyond what was dreamed by their forgings, when it seemed a utopia to make tangible , Church-run educational projects.
The work of the Loyola Centers is in line with the teachings of Fr. Arturo Sosa, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, who invited the whole family who share Ignatian spirituality to row out to sea. The interesting thing, when we look at the performance of these projects, is to see them in the form of processes, because this will give us parameters of greater regularity when assessing the final performance. Pedagogy is evolving into new challenges as it tries to adapt to the challenges posed by knowledge societies. That is why the theory that a student can no longer be seen as a mere recipient is reinforced, but as one who is called to become an active protagonist of his own story; perhaps, therein lies one of the main keys of teaching that loyola Centers pose as part of their objectives in this convulsive Cuban 20th century.

An educational network at the service
Cuban society
“Don’t tear a piece of the future to repair the holes of the now-old present and preserve the comfort of known space and traditional ways of doing things.”2 For loyola Centers it is important to break island culture and try to build bridges that manage to create lasting paths over time. The Company’s idea is to be able to articulate a network of centers where the mission, objectives and ways of proceeding are elaborated together, knowing the wealth that the other can bring to my work. At the same time, promoting the autonomy of each centre, since, despite being part of the same national environment, the contexts in which they perform their service have particularities, which set the differential pattern when thinking about an educational action plan. All this from the premise of forging a Cuban citizen capable of transforming his immediate reality – his neighborhood – into a much wider space of coexistence and social friendship.
The Network of Loyola Centers – Centro Habana, Juanelo, Cienfuegos, Camaguey and Santiago de Cuba – has a central coordinator; this work is carried out by Father Jorge Cela, Jesuit, who has been the architect of this initiative since its first steps. The idea is to channel, through teamwork, effective forms of exchange and collaboration between the different centers. The Loyola Center of Centro Habana also has contact with other institutions related to its work, such as educational centers of the Catholic Church and state institutions in the neighborhood of Los Sitios, which feel the need to be able to carry out together actions aimed at achieving a better “Casa Cuba”.3
As a conceptualization, we can say that one of the fundamental purposes of the network is to have a direct impact on the periphery of society, on those who systematically suffer the vulnerability of seeing the needed tools to transform their reality. One of the great dreams of the Loyola Centers in Cuba is to accompany the processes that make possible the dialogue between the different subcultures that interact on our island, from the spirituality proper to the Catholic faith and with the distinction of the ever-op Ignatian discernment.

From a complementary education
to a popular education
Today the Catholic Church in Cuba has important challenges ahead and it is appropriate to rethly the conceptualization of our work as an educational actor within society. The idea is to get out of the official aphorism that tries to label ecclesial pedagogy only as complementary education, and at this stage of my article I agree with the opinion of Fr. Cela, because the way in which the term is handled from officiality seems to “refer to a secondary process, expendable, to an unneeded tip within the educational process of the Island”.4 Reality shows different nuances and sleep is to be able to transcend the established borders.”4 Reality shows different nuances and sleep is to be able to transcend the established borders.”4 Reality shows different nuances and sleep is being able to transcend the established borders.”4 Reality shows different nuances and sleep is being able to transcend the established borders.”4 Reality shows different nuances and sleep is being able to transcend the established borders.”4 Reality shows different nuances and sleep is being able to transcend the established borders.”4 Reality shows different nuances and sleep is being able to transcend the established borders.”4 Reality shows different nuances and sleep is being able to transcend the established borders.”4 Reality shows different nuances and sleep is being able to transcend the established borders.”4 Reality shows different nuances and sleep is being able to transcend the established borders.”4 Reality shows different nuances and sleep is being able to transcend the established borders.”4 Reality shows different nuances and sleep is being able to , to occupy the role we are able to obtain thanks to our daily and systematic work.
Even from small steps, it is important to discern that we are not a complementary entelequie with expendable and unsealed work. The Loyola Centers are aware that their service has managed to challenge the lives of the people who attend their spaces and has allowed them to build a citizen culture from greater freedom. This is in line with the defended by several currents of Latin American pedagogical thinking, known as Popular Education, which drink much of the texts of the Brazilian pedagoguum Paulo Freire.
This process manages to break the bonds of socialization as a system of knowledge that imbues human beings in a single way of understanding their reality. Popular Education emerges as an alternative that prepares people to be able to confront the hegemonic system of teaching.
Its thrusters conceive of education as a liberating process, in which not only a series of information or knowledge – bank education – is transmitted, but also the practices, values and attitudes that will allow the subject to join community life as an active and transformative entity. It is an education designed to produce a change of the cultural paradigm, which prevents a different reasoning than that organized by hegemonic producers of knowledge. Although the idea seems a little futuristic, it is in line with the ecclesial desire to be able to contribute as a living actor within the work of the Ministry of Education.

Interview with Orgiel Sanzo Martín, deputy director
teacher at the Loyola Center
from Centro Habana
What is the main objective of the Loyola Center of Centro Habana?
“The main objective of our center is human dignity; we work on promoting value training that contributes to forging a social friendship, as Pope Francis invited us to build during his visit to Cuba. What we offer is a complementary education that allows the person to enrich themselves and grow in experience; but that complementary education is also merged with a popular education. That is, with the pedagogical current of popular education that arises in Latin America in the second half of the twentieth century, mainly with the hand of Paulo Freire in Brazil. We are talking about an educational proposal in which the person is not a passive institution in education, but becomes someone active with prominence within his own training.
“A person who manages to get into that dynamic has many more tools to break all those oppression mechanisms that keep him marginalized or exploited. We aim for beneficiaries through our action to begin to give meaning and meaning to what they live, and from there they will be able to act more effectively, in order to achieve the objectives that have been set as the goal of their life project.”

How do you work to achieve these goals?
“The first thing we do is put the person at the center of our work and we rely on their ability to transform reality. From there, we have set out to develop three major services such as Centro Loyola de Centro Habana. The first is cultural service, where we provide people who link to our space a training from the arts. This is based on the thought that through art the person can expand his human sensibility. Art involves a relationship with the other and we try to do that by incentivized them to learn a cultural manifestation, such as music, theatre, dance or drawing, but we also take advantage of the space for a formation in values.
“To give you an example: we had boys rehearsing different musical instruments, and they realized that the different instruments could play in uniesono, then they started rehearsing together, hence the band emerged. But, the band was creating a family atmosphere that cemented an environment of friendship. Today we can say that the band, the main cause of boys and their parents, has been the means to forge an entire community where young and adult regularity interact. I believe that, with this example, I have just illustrated to you how we make possible our project of gestation of a formation in values.
“Among the information spaces that we have in the center, I want to highlight the library and the video library. In them users can obtain information about various content, including materials linked to the courses offered. I would also like to mention educational services, where a number of programs are materialized that are of remarkable importance for the human construction of our beneficiaries; for example: Uphill, Languages, Living, Computer Science; we are talking about several projects offered in pursuit of the harmonious growth of our beneficiary audience.

Centros Loyola en Cuba
Loyola Centers in Cuba

”At Cuesta Arriba, we offer children school reviews. Our initiative seeks to provide useful tools to improve their teaching yields and, at the same time, we cultivate them in daily coexistence, that is, they are trained as citizens. In the case of languages, we also propose human growth dynamics through interaction in classes. Convivir is a project that works on Saturdays and has a lot of impact on the human formation of children and adolescents who participate in it.
“Even computer courses are welcome, because they provide novel tools to many people. To give an example, we are teaching older adults above all how to make better use of mobile telephony; and they thank you very much as they learn to use applications like IMO to communicate with their relatives residing outside the country. We take special care of the elderly, and in each of our services are included proposals that help them to be active bodies of their own reality since human promotion.
“The third service we propose is social issues. They are mainly focused on research and training of the entire Cuban social fabric. Here we must highlight the preparation provided by the Center to the accountors, starting from the new dynamic that has emerged since its articulation as new players in the economy of our society. From the Loyola Center our big question is how to propose to Cuban society a social and solidarity economy that is aimed at building a better Cuba from a subject capable of taking economic initiatives.
“Another important element to which we pay close attention is to the field of women, because we know the challenges faced by them. Here we try to provide a growth space for those single mothers who have worked hard to bring their family afloat. Our idea is to provide them through the Reborn groups with emotional but above all spiritual support. We also have the Loyola Forums, where we discuss interesting topics about Cuban reality. From these three great services I have just described to you, we think of being a space that navigates from complementary education to popular education.”
Has the work of the Loyola Center in Centro Habana had an impact on its immediate surroundings?
“Our Center is located in Centro Habana and the services we offer are inextricably linked to the needs of the community. We have developed research projects to know the reality of the neighborhood of Los Sitios, together with which we are and, from there, we design our services. If we go to each of the programs, you can see that most of those who access our projects are people from the community, although we are not closed to anyone. But, we do believe that our work is being felt in the neighborhood, and our great challenge is to see the reality of the neighborhood transform from our service.”

How do you view the Loyola Center of Centro Habana in five years?
“Look, that question is very difficult, since Cuban reality is changing and one is not absolutely certain what is going to happen. But I do believe that we too will be subject to the laws and norms that are being developed in that social pact which is the new Constitution, where we expect to see measures that enhance the work of centers like ours in the ward and education. I see it, above all, serving Havana society and especially the people of Centro Habana. We would like to achieve a true environment of formation, where people can dialogue and find all those who wish to contribute to the improvement of our island. We would like to put a grain of sand into the formation of a Cuba that needs a lot of spiritual growth.”

1 See manual How to proceed from Centro Loyola, Havana, Centro Habana, June 2018, p. 1.
2 P. Arturo Sosa SJ: New wine, old odres. Past, present and future, in: https://jesuitas.lat/es/noticias/, published on September 13, 2018.
3 Term used by Monsignor Carlos Manuel de Céspedes to define our Island.
4 Note taken by the author of a written text delivered by Fr. Jorge Cela SJ, to the project coordinators of the Loyola Center of Centro Habana.

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