Fr Ignacio Blasco SJ – ‘Naxjo’ as he prefers to be known, will visit St Mary’s Catholic College, Hull on 8th November where he will speak to students about his work.
The football loving and enigmatic but extremely modest Jesuit from Valencia, Spain lives with and serves the people of the parish of Santa Maria Chiquimula in western Guatemala. The parish has a significant number of indigenous Mayan people living in its boundaries.
Guatemala’s recent history is one of a brutal conflict that tore the country apart. Many families – notably indigenous Mayans – suffered in the fighting. Members of the clergy were often forced to leave their congregation during the worst of the fighting in the early 80s for fear of their lives as the Catholic Church was seen as a force for revolution.
Santa Maria Chiquimula is part of Guatemala’s ‘dry corridor’ – an area that experiences annual drought and food shortages. Year on year, the people living in this area struggle to ensure they have enough healthy food to eat. Father Ignacio is firmly immersed in Mayan culture and sees part of our spirituality as rethinking our relationship with the environment and the earth.
Father Ignacio’s Parish of Santa Maria Chiquimula is one of CAFOD’s partners in the country. They have been working on environmental projects to fight deforestation and to encourage young people to understand the importance of their land. They have also helped to promote healthy food campaigns, mobile clinics for mothers and babies as well as food gardens for families to grow nutritious vegetables to eat.
Father Ignacio’s work with the Parish of Santa Maria Chiquimula has had a profound effect on the future of some of the poorest and most marginalised people in Guatemala – the indigenous Mayan communities. Leading his colleagues, the parish has helped to improve the health of children in the area dramatically. In 2010, 196 very young children came to the Parish’s health centre with acute malnourishment. By the end of the year, there were just 127 who were suffering acute malnutrition – thus saving 69 lives of some of the most vulnerable people that year.
With regard to the environment and climate change, the organisation has instilled the need to protect trees in young people. Crucially, children in the area now understand that planting a tree is not just a decorative effect – the children will tell you, ‘Plant a tree, plant water’: a highly important idea for a community that lies in the dry corridor.
Already incredibly warm and friendly, you’ll make a lasting friend of Father Ignacio if you share his love for Barcelona Football Club as well as the stunning landscape of this poor, but beautiful mountainous region of Guatemala.