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This Advent, Ignatian writers from across the Jesuit Conference are sharing 25 days of reflections on Ignatian heroes. You can receive these reflections directly in your inbox by signing up here.

Day 11: Alberto Hurtado

By Brenna Davis

Whenever I think of St. Alberto Hurtado, SJ, an old green pickup truck is the image that comes to mind. A Chilean priest in the 1940s, Padre Hurtado drove around the city of Santiago looking for anyone who needed shelter. He would bring them to Hogar de Cristo (Home of Christ), the organization he founded with the help of women, to provide refuge to the economically poor.

Hurtado grew up in poverty, moving from place to place, and as a person who knew what it meant to not have a home, his commitment to people experiencing poverty became central to his ministry. He is quoted saying, “Christ roams through our streets in the person of so many of the suffering poor…Christ is without a home!” He took the call to provide a home for Christ seriously and devoted his life to it.

Alberto Hurtado came into my life at a time when I was questioning my faith. As a theology major, I began doubting God, particularly as I saw immense suffering in the world. It was in that headspace that I enrolled at Universidad Alberto Hurtado (UAH) in Chile during my junior year. Although I still didn’t know the story of the university’s namesake, his spirit was apparent in the commitment to justice I witnessed on campus. UAH is the only Jesuit university in Chile and provides ample scholarship opportunities to students from a myriad of backgrounds, which brings students from diverse communities together and provides a richness of thought and experience.

Although I was no longer regularly attending Mass, my friend Rebecca convinced me to join the UAH campus ministry, and that’s how I truly came to know Padre Hurtado. The retreats and experiences were centered on justice and filled with the spirit of Hurtado’s commitment to respond to Christ in the people around us.

Pati and Javier, friends from campus ministry, specifically introduced me to Hogar de Cristo. We visited one of the homes for women with developmental disabilities weekly. We would chat, play games and simply build relationships. While I was nervous at first because I was not fluent in Spanish, the community of women quickly welcomed me in.

Although I still had doubts regarding faith, the legacy of Padre Hurtado kept me tied into Catholic social teaching and gave me a heartfelt experience of Trinitarian love at a time when I desperately needed it. This movement to the heart deepened and transformed my relationship with God and the people around me and ultimately made me feel like I had a place in the Catholic Church, which is why I am still here, working for a more just world through the church, today.

Reflection: How can your Advent journey be one that is in solidarity with those struggling with poverty and homelessness? How can you stand with this Christ who is roaming the streets?

Brenna Davis is the director for integral ecology at the Ignatian Solidarity Network. Originally from Tennessee, Brenna graduated from Boston College in 2010 with a B.A. in theology and Spanish. After graduation, she moved to Cleveland as a Jesuit Volunteer and served at the West Side Catholic Center, a multiservice center for people experiencing homelessness. She is a certified spiritual director, Cuyahoga County Master Recycler and is a member of NCR’s EarthBeat Advisory Panel.



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