Heart of the Peoples
28 Jan 2008
It is not easy being an active Christian among the diverse political, economic, and religious backgrounds found at the National University of Córdoba. At this University, the 100,000 students are largely indifferent to religious teachings in general and view Christianity, at best, as a superfluous tradition. … Students, however, aren’t the problem … they’re the harvest!
Founded in 1573, the beautiful city of Córdoba, 400 miles northwest of Buenos Aires, is the home of this University, the first established in Argentina and the second in South America. It is considered one of the most prestigious academic institutions on the South American Continent.
The Jesuits under the leadership of Bishop Trejo y Sanabria founded the Colegio Máximo in 1613 as a missionary training school. An embroidered example of the original university seal hangs in the Salón de grados, displaying the Latin motto, “Take my name to the heart of the peoples”. This motto still forms part of the official seal though most students don't know it. … Today, the university population is largely unreached and untouched by the gospel, even though there are more churches, many dating from colonial times, per square mile in this city than anywhere in Argentina.
Some of the early work of the Jesuits was with the indigenous peoples of this area. Through this effort, the Jesuits discipled these Native Americans, taught them trades, and encouraged them to develop settled agrarian communities. The Jesuits along with the Dominicans, and Fransicans, and other Catholic orders participated with the Spanish settlers and their descendants in building this important settlement on the trade route between the Viceroyalty of Lima and the colonies of the Río de la Plata.
Next to the original center of the university sits the oldest church in Argentina built by the Jesuits it is in the shape of a Latin cross. The nave, built as an inverted keel, the pulpit and the altarpiece carved in wood and gilded, make this church unique in Córdoba. The small Domestic Chapel represents the balance between exquisite aesthetics and precise engineering typical of the Jesuit buildings. In December of 2000, the UNESCO designated the ancient buildings part of the cultural heritage of all mankind.
Before the Jesuits worked with the university students, they first established a secondary school that still functions as the university-run high school of Montserrat. These buildings are also part of the international cultural heritage designation and feature a central patio with a fountain typical of much Spanish colonial architecture.
St.Teresa’s Church and Convent was founded in 1628 and is typical of the many convents and monasteries in Córdoba. These churches, convents, monasteries gave rise to the phrase, "Córdoba de las campanas," "Córdoba of the bells," because of the many bells heard ringing across the city.
The grandeur of the Jesuit buildings and lands demonstrates their economic and political influence in Spain and its colonies in America. Fearing their growing influence in his empire, Charles III decreed in 1767 that all Jesuits be expelled from Spain and America.
Other religious orders, already in Córdoba before the expulsion of the Jesuits, continued the strong Catholic presence in the city and the entire country. The Jesuits returned to Córdoba in 1814 and continue to lead out in secondary and university education. Catholicism is the official religion of Argentina, and the Catholic Church traditionally exerts a strong influence in political, military, and economic interests.
Behind the Córdoba cathedral a statue and plaza commemorate the founder of Córdoba, Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera, who established the city in 1573. The original colonizers brought with them their families as well as teachers, clearly intending to establish themselves and to provide for the education of their descendants. This consistent focus on education has led Argentines to name the city, "La Docta," the Learned.
The statue of Dalmacio Vélez Sarsfield overlooks a busy hub where commerce and politics meet. Patio Olmos, a major downtown shopping mall and the headquarters of the Radical political party both overlook the same hectic intersection as the statue of Vélez Sarsfield, the author of Argentina's civil law code.
General Manuel Belgrano is the revolutionary war general who created the Argentine flag. The statue of Belgrano stands on a hill to the southwest of the city and marks the edge of the large municipal park called Parque Sarmiento that stretches over to the main university campus. Behind the park are many apartments in the neighborhood of Nueva Córdoba where most of the university students live.
The statue of General José María Paz honors this officer in the Argentine Civil War who defeated Facundo Quiroga in 1830, but was later imprisoned by the dictator Juan Manuel Rosas. This cordobés was the leader of the Unitarian party that opposed Rosas' Federal Party.
The Urban Man is a famous recent sculpture that shows all of mankind's creative inventions springing from his head. After the economic crisis at the end of 2001, an anonymous cordobés, or several cordobeses, painted eyes on the statue with tears falling. This was an honest reflection of the citizens' pain. … The eyes and the tears have faded from the statue but not from the hearts of the people.
In all the vicissitudes of Argentine history, the university has continued its educational mission, training men and women who have governed and worked for their country. The influence of the university stretched through all of Latin America in 1918 when the student movement for the democratization of the teaching called the University Reform Movement influenced universities in other countries.
In spite of the rich history of the University of Córdoba, the original motto of the university still needs to be lived out, beginning in Córdoba. For most students Christianity is … at best … seen as a superfluous tradition that does not touch the hearts of these people. Christian students at the university reach out to their classmates and extend an invitation to you to join them in taking His name to the heart of these people.
Students come from very diverse economic backgrounds thanks to the free public education that has guaranteed ample access to this national university. Many come from outside the area to Córdoba, the second largest city in the country and also the commercial, agricultural, and industrial hub for central Argentina. Most of the city’s 1.3 million Spanish-speaking people are of Italian decent.
The University has students and faculty throughout the city. The administrative offices and some of the schools of the University are located on the main campus … including the Schools of Nursing, Social Work and Journalism, the College of Medicine, the College of Dentistry, and the College of Economic Sciences, to name a few. … In different sections of the downtown, the College of Law, the College of Architecture, and the College of Languages among others, blend into the busy city center.
The meeting of the senate of the College of Languages, composed as it is of faculty, secretaries, students and graduates, provides an example of the democratization of education initiated with the Reform of 1918.
The School of Nursing provides an excellent opportunity to touch the lives of others as students work in the hospitals learning the practical aspects of caring for patients. The Children’s Hospital has many patients who need not only medical care but also a kind word and a smile. Their age doesn’t matter … from a very young child to a pre-teen … these children respond to someone who shows gentleness. Parents watch carefully as teachers instruct these student nurses in the interaction needed with each patient.
Many areas of volunteer activities are open to students of the University through their departments.
At a neighborhood center, one-on-one tutoring is done through the School of Social Work. Eliana, a law student, is tutoring 10-year-old Yanina in math. In another area, students are interacting with children through play. Their mothers are inside the church building participating in a nutrition program given by a social worker.
Living and attending school in Córdoba can be a good experience. As in any large city, there seems to be nothing lacking in ways to occupy free time. Restaurants with a wide variety of delicious foods at reasonable prices are easily located. The city’s parks provide a place for building friendships. There is an abundance of stores in which to shop for food as well as clothing and other goods. The malls provide a place to window shop and spend a free afternoon.
For those who want to get out of the city, a good highway leads into the Sierras de Córdoba. Lovely San Roque lake area can be reached after traveling only about 45 minutes from Córdoba. Here a dam on the Rio Suquía has created a beautiful area for a day picnic or an overnight visit. The small towns surrounding the lake have places to stay while enjoying the water skiing, swimming, and other activities of this recreation spot.
The economic and political crisis that Argentina is experiencing has left many people …especially young people …looking for answers that only God can provide. The large number of students from outside of Córdoba who come to study at the University provides a population in transition that is open to change. This student population is relatively stable for extended periods during the year because few live close enough … or have funds … to travel home very often. Students are concentrated in three neighborhoods. Nueva Córdoba is made up of high-rise apartment buildings and attracts most of the upper-class students. The Hipódromo and Alberdi neighborhoods have a variety of apartment buildings, boarding houses, and homes that may rent a room to students. These factors provide special opportunities for sharing the Good News of the Gospel.
A new group of missionaries in training is taking advantage of these opportunities to reach their fellow university students. These young adults are committed to reaching students where they are … in the classroom … in the park … or in their apartments. Using a cell-group strategy, these students meet on a weekly basis for fellowship … to share a time of prayer for each other … and to learn from God’s word. This provides a natural avenue for students to come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. As they are discipled, they are encouraged to reproduce that which they have experienced, reaching out to others.
The students who initiated this movement are, by and large, believers who moved to Córdoba to attend the university. They came expecting to further their secular careers, but also desiring to serve God. In serving, many have found that God has not only called them to serve here in Argentina, but is calling them to pursue cross-cultural missions. Some sense God calling them to some of the most difficult peoples to minister to, those located in countries where traditional missionaries, especially those from the United States, can’t go.
The University of Córdoba has become, once again, a missionary training school. The students ministering here need your help. They need you to pray. … They need you to come and work alongside them and become a missionary in training too.
In April 2002, Baylor University signed an official exchange program with the University of Córdoba.
An opportunity is now open for you to live in Córdoba studying Spanish in order to complete your degree requirements …earning full credit … while at the same time, participating in what God is doing among the students in Córdoba. Options include short term language study, for a few weeks, as well as semester long programs with Spanish language study as well as possible credit in other programs, depending upon the level of Spanish of the student. No matter the length of the stay, you can participate in ministry with your Argentine peers.
Experience the life and culture in Córdoba, Argentina. … Attend the National University of Córdoba. … Will you come? … Serve the Lord and study in South America!
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