The following interview has been translated from Spanish, edited and condensed for clarity.
What is your current mission in the field of communications for the Society of Jesus?
Currently, my mission in the Society of Jesus is divided into three roles: the first is as Delegate of Communications for the Conference of Provincials in Latin America, or CPAL for short. Secondly, I am the general director of Radio Santa María -- a jesuit work of the Antilles Province in Dominican Republic (which consists of two radio stations and one national “education-at-a-distance” program), and thirdly to coordinate the electronic communication of the Antilles Province (i.e. the webpage, social networks, and the province monthly newsletter called “Info-Redina”).
How were you given these varied assignments? Let’s begin with Radio Santa María?
Well, the first period of apostolic importance during our Jesuit formation is called Regency. Communications wasn’t even on the radar for me. In July of 1992, during my yearly 8-day silent retreat, the Provincial at the time [Fr. Benito Blanco, SJ] had sent me my missioning letter to work in Radio Santa María. I really wasn’t happy about that placement, because at the time I really didn’t identify with the pastoral mission of the communications apostolate. I remember I reacted pretty dramatically, and took it to my Spiritual Director [Fr. Benjamin Gonzalez-Buelta, SJ]. It was he who convinced me to go when he said: “You really are a communicator and can do that job well.” With his encouragement, I accepted the mission of working at Radio Santa Maria from 1992-1994. It was then during regency that I felt confirmation that media communications was in fact my calling.
How do you find God in this complex field of communications?
From the perspective of the CPAL, one always has the possibility of contemplating the distinct realities of the persons living in Latin America -- a method proposed by the Spiritual Exercises. This is something that helps me remember for whom the mission of the Society of Jesus is for. And it is precisely in this universal gaze that I discover my relationship with God -- contemplating this global and concrete reality of God’s people. Ignatius of Loyola thought of the Society of Jesus to be in the places of the globe where there is greatest need. It is precisely here where one can see the Trinitarian contemplation of the Spiritual Exercises of a multitude of persons in a myriad of human conditions through our news, reports, videos, or direct encounters. You can right a whole book on that [laughing].
How do you deal with the amount of suffering you see on a daily basis in Latin America?
There are two dimensions at play here for me. Our own Ignatian spirituality leads us to two types of movements -- one is to recognize our own personal sin and another to discover all the structures and pitfalls of social sin. Therefore, to want to change the world supposes being able to move between both dimensions. One on side you have the reality that you want to change, affecting concrete people -- and you have a daily experience of impotence before many of the realities that Latin America faces.
Can you give me a concrete example?
In Dominican Republic we have 4 million people that never completed their basic schooling. As the director of a radio station that has a program for adult ‘education-at-a-distance,’ that is one proposed solution to fight poverty through education. Just in this last year, we reached 14,253 persons in all of the country (youth from 16 to 25 years of age, the majority of which are women.) Faced with 4 million persons, the 14,000 I reached appear as nothing. The experience passes many times through a feeling of impotence, but it also passes through the joy of knowing that many people have not given up and continue to creatively make new projects. But just as you see this one small project, there are ten to fifteen different projects in Latin America by the Society of Jesus that are trying to accomplish similar objectives.
I sense a tone of hope in the midst of the overwhelming challenges in your voice.
It is truly incredible to be able to see that we continue the struggle [“la lucha”] to try and change things. You witness that in Central America they kill an indigenous leader because she's defending water and the rivers and one knows it’s a crime of the State and you can’t do much about it. Or you witness the reality of Venezuela, where people tell you the most important word now is “hunger” [“hambre”] and one asks: ‘what can I really do?’ I think it consoles me to realize that at least as a universal body we’re attempting to do something, and that the little we do individually can have a bigger impact collectively.