The Jesuit community in Scampia
Fabrizio Valletti SJ (ITA)
"Progetto Scampia" was launched in the year 2001, in response to the requests of the Superiors of the Society, who greatly wanted an apostolic presence of the Jesuits in this district located in the North of Naples, renowned for its very high crime rate. At the beginning, this project mainly involved the scholastics of the Theologate in Naples, afterwards, other Jesuit fathers serving the parish churches of the neighbourhood also offered their support. The Jesuit community in Scampia was set up in 1990, when the church of Santa Maria della Speranza (our Lady of Hope) was designated as parish church and entrusted to the pastoral care of the Jesuits.
The distinguishing characteristics of this commuter town, made up of high-rise residential blocks, represented a serious object of pastoral, social and cultural interest for the Jesuits. The previous General Congregations had been urging for renewed efforts in favour of the disadvantaged and the marginalised.
The residence of the Jesuit fathers in Scampia was located in a block of apartments, in close contact with ordinary people, with whom they shared everyday problems and hopes. Getting to serve people directly meant giving value to their compassionate and popular character, by attempting to deepen the Word of God and to encourage a profound comprehension of the religious sacraments, not only in their ritual and formal aspect, but also in relation to the principal moments of family life.
They have educated young children towards a mature and conscious faith through catechetical narrative and later, through the activities organized by the scout movement of the parish church.
In response to the lack of professional preparation, the Jesuits in Scampia have organized professional workshops together with local craftsmen and business companies in order to help young people attain or enhance technical skills to match the labour market needs. Of course, over the years there have been some difficult moments when all seemed to be unsuccessful, sometimes because of the lack of collaborators with expertise. For this reason, specific training programmes have been developed, in order to facilitate opportunities and employment growth.
During the following years the Jesuits inaugurated Centro Hurtado, a cultural centre that promotes education and offers young people a message of hope for their future and also relief for all the difficulties they have faced.
In the framework of this project, a successful achievement has been the foundation of the social cooperative company "La Roccia" (The Rock) that hosts tailoring, bookbinding and book restoration classes that offer concrete job opportunities.
In 2005, the municipality of Naples entrusted one of its buildings to the Jesuits in Scampia, who used it to set up a library and cultural centre for children. This centre, although run by the Jesuits and inspired by the Gospel and the figure of Saint Albert Hurtado, has always maintained a secular nature in order to welcome anyone who wants to benefit from this social service of cultural promotion.
The centre also produces several films and runs photography classes; it organizes cultural and nature tours, organizes evening classes to support children with difficulties at school, or those who do not receive adequate motivation from their families.
The "School of Music" is among the most significant and commendable initiatives of this centre. It avails itself of the "playing (musical instruments) together" method, with the aim of building passion for arts and encouraging joyful socialising and cultural growth.
Over the years, Centro Hurtado has extended its outreach and also involves other schools of the region and collaborates with other lay or religious organizations, in order to prevent early school leaving.
In the neighbouring Secondigliano Prison, the inmates can attend gardening classes. This is a small sign of hope for the prisoners because such initiatives demonstrate that appropriate supports are in the interests of both prisoners and the community as a whole. The Church actively participates by offering them the opportunity to improve their skills so that they have better opportunity to undertake further education or employment once they re-enter their family and community lives.
The effects of prison emergency are most felt in the neighbourhood of Scampia because of the presence of the Camorra, which has a strong control over the region. One possible way of fighting its supremacy is by offering support to those who benefit from supervision measures as an alternative to detention, in order to help them get over their relationship of dependency with this criminal organization.
Working in the community of Scampia represents a big opportunity for the Jesuits to combine both pastoral and spiritual care with an effective cultural and social action.