A Man And His Calling
By Mike and Sally Myers
(Partially based on material compiled by Marilyn Thielking)
Next time you are driving to Jocotepec, just before El Chante, and notice a sign on the right indicating “Jaltepec Centro de Educativo”, think with amazement that this school for girls can trace its roots to a young priest from Spain, who was canonized, as a Saint of the Catholic Church, in 2002. This residential school trains young women for hotel, restaurant, hospitality, entrepreneurial, and administrative occupations.
It all started in 1968 when four industrialists from Guadalajara donated the land and buildings with the idea to train the students in all phases of the hotel and hospitality industry. It includes a retreat used by corporate and religious groups which provides the girls with practical training in domestic housekeeping services, laundry, and preparing and serving three meals a day to the retreat guests.
So where does the Spanish priest fit into this picture? Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer was born in 1902, in Spain. As a teenager, he had a calling and deep conviction that God wanted something special from him. He entered the priesthood and, in 1928, with great clarity, the answer came to him. He was to tell men and women of every country, of every condition, race and language that all people can aspire to heroic sanctity, to love and serve God without changing their state of lifestyle, family, relationships, or give up their occupations.
Today, there are more than 90,000 members and cooperators worldwide, Christian and non-Christian, representing more than 80 nationalities. The name of the institution is “The Work of God”, or “Opus Dei” in Latin. The benefactors of Jaltepec requested that Opus Dei provide both the Administrative staff and also the Instructors for the school, which they do today. Along with the Jesuits, Opus Dei is known for their educational abilities and facilities globally. The school was honored with a visit in June of 1970 by Josemaria.
The school has enabled hundreds of girls, most of them indigent, from all over Mexico to become independent and freethinking, allowing them to make mature choices in such matters as marriage and motherhood. The curriculum and training includes psychology, English, management, culinary arts, housekeeping, nutrition, computer use, and business. The development of their individuality and spiritually is of vital importance. The students are free to follow their own personal and religious beliefs. The goal of the school is to instill each student with a sense of purpose, self worth, pride, dignity, and personal empowerment. Because most of the students are from very underprivileged families, upon graduation, they have the tools to provide a much better life for their family for generations to come.
On October 6, 2002, in St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II, in front of more than half a million people, canonized Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer. He was declared a saint. Today, right here at lakeside, on the hill near Jocotepec, stands Jaltepec Centro de Educativo, a living and ever evolving monument to his ideals.