Colegio Santa Francisca Romana
In 1961, in Rochester, Minnesota, Cardinal Luis Concha Cárdoba and Mother Callista, Mother General of the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Lourdes, expressed their desire to have the Sisters work in Colombian education. This was in direct response to a call from the Holy Father Pope John XXIII for Congregations to move resources to help developing countries. The ideal plan of the Cardinal was to start a school for middle class women to be secretaries and clerks in business offices. The school would offer a high academic level and moral and spiritual formation guided by Franciscan principles.
In September, 1962, five Sisters arrived in Colombia, namely, Sisters Maeve Cashman, Consuelo Chavez, Robaire Joswick, Baylon (Edith) Zamboni and Mary Beth Modde. In February, 1963, the doors were opened for the first students at Colegio Santa Francisca Romana, (CSFR). Two years later, the school population grew to three hundred fifty students.
Currently, there are approximately one thousand students enrolled in preschool, primary and high school. This school’s success is widely known throughout Colombia, and is regarded as the top school in the country for women! Many courses are taught in English, so the students are bi-lingual. All graduates qualify to go on to college. This school, frequently ranked in the top ten, is now under consideration for a spot in the top five in Bogotá!
School of Nursing, University of Javeriana
Knowing of their background in nursing, the Rector of the University of Javeriana requested assistance from the Sisters of Saint Francis, Rochester, Minnesota. In 1964, Sister Jean Schulte (then known as Sister Lea) arrived from the United States to help develop a four-year university nursing program to enhance the three-year diploma program which already existed. Sister Jean, along with the nursing faculty, concentrated on improving the curriculum, on teacher preparation, and on the organization and function of the faculty committees.
The plan was to encourage nursing education and practice through scholarship and graduate level study. Teacher preparation was seen as paramount with the ultimate goal of relinquishing the leadership roles to the Colombians once they return with adequate nursing and administrative preparation and education. In addition to the obvious goals of education, Sister Jean and the staff succeeded in writing grants to: improve faculty salaries, increase the volume size of the nursing library, more fully equip the teaching facility, provide consulting services, and in-service education. The Sisters’ involvement in this program was completed in August 1968, but the program continues to this day.
In 1982, the drop-in clinic, located on Colegio Santa Francisca Romana property, was founded by several alumnae, who were students of medicine. It serves the poor of the barrio. The Dispensary is fully licensed and approved by the Secretary of Health, and serves the students and families of Colegio Anexo San Francisco de Asis, along with any other persons who come to the clinic for medical and dental care. Most of the patients come from the barrios that are located in the northeastern part of the city of Bogotá.
The Dispensary provides basic dental and medical care, first-aid assistance, and works extensively, both on site and in the barrio, in the area of prevention. Three young professionals are employed by the Dispensary for one year terms, completing their ‘rural year’ as required by the Ministry of Health, in order to receive their professional titles.
Currently, the Dispensary attends an average of 400 patients in dentistry each month, and another 230 patients in medicine. Prenatal care and control is a common service provided by the Dispensary to pregnant mothers, along with vaccination campaigns, and screening for detection and control of tuberculosis. There is a growth and development program for children, measuring height and weight, supervising nutritional programs, observing development of gross/fine motor skills, social development, and language development. The ‘new smile’ program was developed, whereby elderly patients who have no teeth are able to receive a complete set of dentures, plus a complete medical exam and any necessary treatment, in order to restore a quality of life to each of them – gratis! Public heath care in the barrio includes home visits provided by the dentists and doctor on a weekly basis to patients who are not able to come to the Dispensary.
A significant financial support to the Dispensary is provided by the volunteers themselves, who organize a variety of activities throughout the year to raise the necessary funds for the Dispensary to continue to function.
Colegio Anexo San Francisco de Asís (CASFA)
CASFA is a Spanish language, co-educational school, from pre-kindergartan through senior high, that serves children and youth from the low-income barrios in the northeastern neighborhoods of the city of Bogotá. The curriculum offers a technical preparation as well as strong business formation. This orientation seeks to form persons with a high development of their potential, focused in the leadership of their own lives, as well as the lives of their families and communities. Senior high students participate in an apprenticeship program in a variety of businesses that are partners with the Colegio in this educational process.
CASFA began in 1985. At that time of Colombia’s population of 33 million, 10 million were illiterate. The government was not able to respond to the educational needs of the people. Ss. Patricia Leon, and Tierney Trueman, along with teacher Gonzalo Diaz, decided to begin CASFA, offering education to children who were of school age, but who had no opportunity to study because of the lack of sufficient number of schools and financial resources. Senior high students participate in an apprenticeship program in a variety of businesses that are partners with CASFA in this educational process. One important aspect of CASFA is the effort to make the family, the school and the community into one single work team, in order to achieve integrity in the formation of the students. Additional programs offered by CASFA include psychological services, which are provided to CASFA students and parents through certified psychologists.
Sister Valerie Usher, director of the mission in Bogotá, returns to Assisi Heights during school breaks in Bogotá. The Sisters of Saint Francis ministry in Bogotá began nearly over 50 years ago, and is still successful today.