Foi et Joie (Fe y Alegría) works to ensure access to a quality education for all. As any Ignatian school can tell you, a quality education involves the whole person, and results in “women and men for others.” The way that one Foi et Joie school in Haiti chose to celebrate this Christmas is a great example of what that Jesuit motto means.

The St. Ignace de Loyola school is located in Bedoue, a rural village outside of Ouanaminthe, in the northeast of Haiti. There are 545 students, ranging from pre-school through high school, as well as a special integration class for kids who start school at a later age. It is run by sisters of the Compagnie de Marie Notre Dame, one of the eight Catholic religious congregations that collaborate in the Foi et Joie Haïti network.

This year, the school got into the Christmas spirit by throwing a party at the local prison. The students had saved up during Advent to buy gifts for the inmates. They offered them at the school’s manger scene, knowing that Christ is really present in the people who suffer around us (Matthew 25, 31-46).

Students, teachers, and the school leadership team then delivered the care packages to the inmates, along with a festive Christmas meal to share with them. The Foi et Joie group had prepared dances and fun skits for the entertainment. Sister Rocío Hernández, who directs the school’s pastoral ministry program, said: “The inmates were so happy that they got up and started dancing for us, too, as a way to say thanks.”

Also at the party was the bishop of Fort Liberté, Quesnel Alphonse. Besides leading a Christmas liturgy, in which he emphasized God’s unconditional love, the bishop made a simple gesture that touched many hearts. Considering that this time of year can be especially hard for people who are in prison, he asked some of the Foi et Joie students to go with him to each cell block, where they offered a special prayer of encouragement for those who would be spending the holiday season inside.

Sister Rocío is sure that the students will never forget this experience. Indeed, it symbolizes a key dimension of what a Foi et Joie education is all about. We are not only forming young people’s minds, but also their hearts.

(Photos courtesy of @foietjoiebedoue on Facebook.)