From the social indigenous apostolate to the intellectual apostolate
Luis Herrera SJ (PER)
In July 1988 I was ordained a priest in Andahuaylillas, one of the 7 rural indigenous (Quechua) parishes entrusted to the Society of Jesus in the province of Quispicanchi, Cusco. From that time until March 2016, I have been engaged in parochial work, in encouraging rural development and, to a certain extent, in intellectual exercises. I include in this period almost 7 years of master´s and doctoral studies as they were directly related to our mission in the Andean world. During these years I also carried out duties as coordinator of the social centres and as social delegate to the Province of Peru. At the time of writing this narrative, I am preparing my trip to Brazil where I will take a position as a professor of theology in the Jesuit Faculty of Theology and Philosophy (FAJE), one of the three theological centres in Latin America chosen by the Society for training. Life is ever changing.
My story in the social apostolate, however, doesn´t begin with my ordination and my first destination (almost the only one) as a Jesuit. It starts with my family and my Jesuit teachers in the San José College in Arequipa; my family, because they were effectively a "little domestic church" where the faith and generosity to the poor was passed on to me; my Jesuit teachers because, before the 4th decree of Congregation XXXII, they had incorporated institutionally the faith-justice option, to the scandal of the arequipeña upper class which started to take its children out of the traditional Jesuit school which they said had turned "communist". From 1973 to 1975 I went every weekend without fail to participate in social activities in marginalized urban areas as part of the school´s social outreach. I´ll never forget one famous trip of "insertion" in the mountains of Arequipa in 1974, when in a Mass I felt for the first time the call of the Lord to follow him as a priest in the Society of Jesus. Later, in my years at University (76-78), before entering the Society (1978), I continued to collaborate with a Jesuit parish in a working-class neighbourhood in Lima. I did my regency, a stage of training between philosophy and theology, in this very parish (1984). It was one of the happiest years of my life.
Now, nearing my 58th birthday, I begin a new pilgrimage along the path of the intellectual apostolate. Some Jesuit companions said to me that it is "a little late"; others, more kindly, encouraged me. As for me, what can I say? That I have given myself to God who has left the mark of an indigenous-peasant on my life, a mark of fire and of a soft breeze (1 Kings 19:2). Of fire, because the situation of poverty, of discrimination and of disregard which these indigenous villagers suffer has made me consider more than once how "Divinity is hidden" (SE 196) in this Andean world; and of soft breeze, because in the friendship, the closeness, the dialogue, in the insignificance of ordinary life and shared celebration, the Resurrection has exercised its role of Comforter (SE 224). Yes, I comforted people; and the people comforted me. Without this consolation coming from others, in my case the Quechua villagers, honestly, I don´t see any way of spreading a joyful ministry, whichever apostolate the Society assigns us.
And so, I go to Brazil, with God´s mark of an indigenous-peasant on my life, my spiritual capital shall we say, to be preserved, from the intellectual apostolate, in the basic options of the Society of Jesus.