For just one girl…

  • Drawing of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat by Carla Riffinelli
    Drawing of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat by Carla Riffinelli

Carmela Velarde, a teacher at the Sacred Heart School – Chalet in Lima, Peru, recounts a situation where two teachers' determination and sensitivity brought a girl back to school.

It is mid-April 2022, and we have no news of Lucero. It is her last year in primary school at Sacred Heart School - Chalet. Her worried teacher informs us that it has been two weeks since the beginning of the school year and she has not attended classes. She has sent emails and chat messages and there is no response. Her calls go unanswered. No one gives us a reason. The only solution is to go and look for her, the rules do not require it, but the heart demands it. With the address in hand and permission granted, we go in pairs, as the Gospel says. We arrive at her house. We ring the doorbell several times and there is no answer. We knock on the door in a measured and gentle manner; no one answers. We insist, knocking more and more loudly (I think of the widow in the parable asking for justice from the unjust judge) and we take turns to knock, first my partner and then me. From the second floor someone watches us suspiciously: “Who are you looking for, oh yes, they live there, but at the back, keep knocking...”

Just when we are about to give up, they open the door. It is the grandfather who used to pick her up every day after school. The parents are not there, they have gone to work, we talk to him (they have told him that the virtual classes are continuing), at 85 years old, he makes a commitment as a grandfather: Lucero will go to school early, accompanied by her parents, otherwise, he will take her himself. The next day, the girl arrives happily at the Chalet; the parents, frightened and ashamed. The apologies, excuses and reasons are left aside; we only ask them to be responsible (now is when we apply the rule), and they quickly sign the act of commitment. I am sure that in every Sacred Heart Educational Institution there have been many cases like Lucero's. The response to Sophie's legacy is becoming increasingly extensive and inclusive: "For just one girl, for just one boy, for just one adolescent, for just one young girl, for just one young man..."

May we always be faithful to the mission of educating from the heart.

Carmela Velarde
Teacher of the Sacred Heart School Chalet - Lima