Jesuit Parishes, Communities and Schools react to Fr. Nicolás' invitation.

Due to the chaotic summer of 2015, the then Father General, Adolfo Nicolás, wrote to the Society on the refugee issue, as did the Portuguese Provincial, strongly inviting our communities and institutions to help according to their capabilities.  Different communities answered this call. 

Jesuit Parish receives a Syrian family

On September 23rd, the Jesuit Parish of Nossa Senhora do Amparo (in Portimão, southern Portugal) welcomed a family of Syrian refugees. This Muslim family (father, mother and two small children) left Aleppo, Syria, last year, traveling initially through Turkey, and then crossing the Mediterranean Sea, to get to Greece. Even if they had to pay a significant amount of money, the crossing was done in a dangerously small boat, crowded with people. At that time, the mother was pregnant, expecting their second child (who is 6 months old now). In Greece, after waiting with other refugees for seven months, and having indicated no preferences in terms of destination country, they were finally taken to Portugal by airplane. At the airport, in Lisbon, someone from the Parish was then there to meet them, and to bring them by car to Portimão.

Following the news of the drama involving so many innocent civilians, suffering as a result of the brutal civil war in Syria, and having also listened to the appeal of Pope Francis last year (Angelus, Saint Peter's Square, 6 September 2015), the Amparo Parish in Portimão had enrolled in a network of Portuguese organizations (the Refugee Support Platform – “PAR”), indicating their availability to receive a family of refugees for one year or two: getting an apartment ready for them, and assisting them in their integration process in Portugal.

The decision to receive a refugee family in the Amparo Parish was taken with many parishioners not only approving the idea, but also expressing their willingness to collaborate in the integration process. The Parish has actually a decades long tradition of solidarity with others, with its Social Center providing clothes, and serving about seventy meals every day to people in need in the city.

Even though refugee camps in Greece and Italy have been hosting way too many people in precarious conditions (not to mention those in Turkey, in Lebanon, or in Jordan), the Parish had nevertheless to wait for nearly one year, with the apartment ready and empty, until the bureaucracy (or the political will of European governments) has finally made possible for this family to travel. The same situation was unfortunately repeated in several other institutions enrolled in the PAR platform: with no apparent reason, many refugee families had to wait for months, in overcrowded camps, until they were finally able to get the green light, and to be resettled in places that, for a long time, were prepared and waiting for them.

Pedro Arrupe Community – Braga 

In September 2015 Pedro Arrupe Community decided to welcome a refugee’s family.  

Pedro Arrupe Community is the house of the Portuguese Jesuits studying Philosophy. It is in Braga, a city in the north of the country, with a strong Jesuitic implantation. Surely inspired by the patron of the house on the 25th anniversary of his death, after the discernment, the Superior, Fr. Miguel Almeida, decided to register our community in a platform for refugee support. We had an empty apartment, which had been used when the house was full of scholastics, and that was the place we had available. 

It was also decided to involve lay people to coordinate this process. A group redecorated the house, another organized the provision of clothes, others researched leisure activities, a few prepared Portuguese classes and others helped in job finding. There were about 30 people involved, from which three were coordinating (2 lay people and 1 scholastic) those different teams. Some CLC groups decided to give a monthly donation for 2 years, because it is quite possible not to receive the money from the European funds in the first months (and, by receiving the family, the host family is supposed to supply the refugees with an allowance).

After almost one year, Pedro Arrupe Community was finally told that it could receive a Syrian family. These lines are being written some days before their arrival, but we sincerely expect that the wealthy collaboration between Jesuits and the Ignatian community of Braga will be fruitful for the integration of this couple, their already born son, the baby in the wife’s womb and for the husband’s sister. 

Portuguese Jesuit Schools also involved 

Colégio das Caldinhas – Santo Tirso 

The Refugee humanitarian crisis was and continues to be heard and felt by Colégio das Caldinhas. Inspired by the involvement and support by Pope Francis and then by Fr John Dardis (President of the European Provincials Conference of the Society of Jesus) and Fr José Frazão (Provincial of the Portuguese Province), the Colégio das Caldinhas Group of Refugees Support was created, joining INA's Social Welfare office, as well as the OFICINA's student support office. This group, after signing the Refugee Support Platform, met with the Santo Tirso City Council and other local institutions, signing a joint protocol to promote, on the one hand, the reception of refugees who could arrive, and on the other, making people aware of this such strong issue today.


With the group already formed, the Colégio das Caldinhas has made efforts in raising awareness and fundraising by the Educational Community. For example, students in the 9th grade were involved in Education for Development with the "Choose to Shelter" project, where, through creative ideas, as well as raising awareness for the issue, collected money for the furnishing of the house that the City Council has made available to host a family. In the meantime, and for a few months, in collaboration with the Red Cross, we are welcoming at meals, B. and K., two Eritrean refugees. Both have caused the natural curiosity of the students, showing that the situation is not something abstract, but concrete, with real people. After the previous year, the sensitivity to the issue has grown and we remain available to receive and welcome a family, helping its members to have a better life.

Colégio São João de Brito – Lisbon 

Since November last year we have received refugee students in our school.

With the refugee crisis in Syria, our school didn’t want to miss out on the welcoming of refugees in Portugal. Answering a request from Fr. Provincial, we accepted 7 students who came through JRS-Portugal. Before their arrival the whole community was made aware of the situation regarding refugees. This began with an explanation that no one chooses to be a refugee. Several lessons for 3-18 years olds were given, and all the students were prepared to receive the new friends.

During 2 months, the students (4 from Syria and 3 from Eritrea) were learning Portuguese language. After that period, they went to their respective classes and together with the other students, started learning all the subjects, with extra support given by some teachers. The successful integration of the new students was due to the involvement of all the community: teachers, students, parent’s association, former students, friends of the school, who all wanted to do their best on the process.

Regardless of the challenges, through receiving students from different religious and cultural backgrounds, we discovered that with communication, transparency and love, it is possible to integrate.

Our school is much richer now with more diversity, and more sensitive to the needs of the others.