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Reflecting on the Establishment of the Foundation of Colombia

September 29, 2016

Exactly 55 years ago, today, three Viatorian missionaries arrived in Bogotá, Colombia, assigned to expand the Viatorian charism into Latin America.

Fr. Adalbert Mayr, left, Fr. James Crilly, center, and Fr. Thomas Wise leave St. Viator Church in Chicago following a send-off blessing

Fr. Adalbert Mayr, left, Fr. James Crilly, center, and Fr. Thomas Wise leave St. Viator Church in Chicago following a send-off blessing

Observing the anniversary is newsworthy, since this bold step taken by three teachers — who knew no Spanish — led to a thriving school  of 1,000 students, Colegio San Viator, three parishes and now is poised to open a second school in Colombia.

According to historical documents, Colombia was chosen over El Salvador and Guatemala, in part because it offered the chance to open a secondary school and in time, provide vocations.

Fr. James Crilly, CSV, was selected to be superior of the new mission. At the time, he was teaching at Spalding Institute in Peoria, as were his two confreres, Fr. Adalbert Mayr and Fr. Thomas Wise, CSV.

Fr. James Crilly, with a student at Colegio San Viator in Bogotá, circa 1967

Fr. James Crilly, with a student at Colegio San Viator in Bogotá, circa 1967

“I was excited at the opportunity,” says Fr. Crilly, now retired and living at the Viatorian Province Center.

He still remembers his former student, who was the first vocation to come from the school, Fr. Pedro Herrera, CSV. He returned to teach at the colegio and later served in leadership of the foundation. He now serves as pastor of Parroquia San Juan María Vianney in Bogotá.

“I always believed the school and foundation

Fr. James Crilly, CSV

Fr. James Crilly, CSV

would last this long,” Fr. Crilly adds. “We established a quality school, with an excellent faculty who set the bar high.”

His superior at the time, Fr. Patrick Toomey, CSV, who managed the office of Viatorian missions, agreed.

Fr. Patrick Toomey, CSV

Fr. Patrick Toomey, CSV

“We reached this decision with prayer and prudent study,” Fr. Toomey said of the decision to branch out into Colombia. “Church authorities in Rome, Boston, Washington, Colombia and (Quebec) have blessed our efforts.

Cum Christo,” he added. “We cannot fail!”