140 years of bravery and hope

A special message from the president, Gilberto J. Marxuach Torrós, on the occasion of the 140th anniversary of the Sagrado Corazón educational project.

Sagrado Corazón Building (Photo: Sagrado Archives)

Gilberto J. Marxuach Torrós

The educational mission of the Society of the Sacred Heart came to Puerto Rico 140 years ago. On the morning of April 10, 1880, sisters Micaela Fesser, Armeline Morin and Victoria Gingras disembarked in the port of San Juan to open the first school. Today, this mission lives on at Sagrado Corazón University and the Colegio del Sagrado Corazón in Ponce.

The history of the mission is the history of Puerto Rico. During its first 20 years, the Island was an overseas territory of Spain. Confronted with the Spanish American War and the invasion of the United States Army, the sisters reaffirmed their mission and decided to continue despite having been expelled from their school in Miramar. Eventually, they came to this beautiful hill in Santurce, which we have been in since the first stone of the Portico was laid in 1906.

Since then, the mission of the Sacred Heart has experienced world wars, economic depressions, earthquakes, hurricanes, and political and social upheavals. In the face of every adversity, the community committed to this mission has chosen hope. Perhaps the most eloquent testimony to this preferential option for hope is the foundation of the university college, the university’s direct predecessor.

In 1935, Puerto Rico was experiencing the devastation of two powerful hurricanes, San Felipe and San Ciprián, and the desolation caused by the Great Depression that began in 1929. It was one of the darkest moments in our history. Probably against all advice of prudence and caution, the sisters chose to found a new university college. They were convinced that the mission called them to educate people that were prepared to build a better future than they were living.

They were brave and bet on the future of Puerto Rico. Thanks to this bold decision, Sagrado Corazón University exists today. More than 25,000 students have passed through our classrooms, graduated, and contributed with their lives to building a more authentically Christian Puerto Rican society.

Today, we are going through another challenging moment in our history. In this decade, we have experienced an economic depression, the bankruptcy of our government, Hurricane Maria, and the earthquakes in the southwest. Two weeks ago, we found ourselves confined in our homes due to the threat of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of our brothers and sisters are battling this virus. Others have already fallen.

We celebrate 140 years of the mission of the Sacred Heart on April 10, 2020, which is Good Friday. In our Christian tradition, that day we remember the crucifixion and death of our Lord. It is a day of suffering, loneliness, loss, pain, failure, and death. But in our tradition, that day does not have the last word. Hope does not die on the cross. On Good Friday, we start the path that crosses the long Saturday night. On Sunday, we discover the empty tomb. Our Lord rose again. Life, hope, solidarity, and love succeed. His Sacred Heart lives.

Our 140 years bear witness to thousands of lives dedicated to manifesting the love of the Sacred Heart through the education of Puerto Rican youth. Sisters, teachers, professors, students, employees, trustees, and collaborators have made their mark. To them, we have an unpayable debt of gratitude. They have been artisans of hope.

Their craft is what we celebrate and need today. As in 1935, the mission calls us to respond bravely. The coronavirus will not have the last word. We choose hope, to dedicate ourselves to building a more caring, fair, and Christian community. This construction needs men and women with their own criteria, ethical responsibility, and an entrepreneurial vocation. It need men and women from Sagrado.

Let us celebrate our mission by reaffirming our commitment to it. Sacred Heart, I trust in you.

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