¡Saludos desde Bogotá, Colombia!
Greetings from Bogota, Colombia!
I arrived in Bogota, Colombia on June 3 and was warmly greeted at the airport by two Dominican students who insisted that I try “Colombian hamburgers.” I was skeptical at first, but did find the food at “El Corral” quite good. I would categorize this Colombian chain as a higher end fast-food restaurant, similar to a Fuddruckers or a Culvers (minus the custard).
The front of the convent and chapel. (Courtesy of conventosantodomingo.com.co)
I was then brought to St. Dominic's Priory in northern Bogota (El Convento de Santo Domingo), which is home to the Studium of St. Albert the Great (el Estudiantado de Santo Alberto Magno). This complex was built in 1953, following the government seizure of the previous priory on the main plaza in Bogota (El Plaza Bolivar) in 1939. The previous priory was built in 1550 and was wrecked by numerous earthquakes over the years. Following the government seizure in 1939, the original convent and chapel were dismantled/destroyed. Today the Colombian Office of Communications sits upon this site.
A picture of the previous convent before its destruction. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)
The current convent was the site of the 1965 and 2007 General Chapters of the Dominican Order.
Father Domingo statue/fountain in the courtyard of Santo Domingo
The Estudiantado serves as the center for education for the provinces of Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Chile. Currently, there are about 60 students here.
Bogota is the fifth largest city in the western hemisphere, behind São Paulo, Brazil; Mexico City, Mexico; Lima, Peru and New York City. There are about 8 million people in the city proper and around 12 million in the metropolitan area. This makes it one of the 25 largest urban regions in the world. At 8600 ft, it is the third highest capital city in altitude in the western hemisphere, behind Quito, Ecuador and La Paz, Bolivia, and tied with Thimphu, Bhutan as the third highest in the world.
So what am I doing at Convento de Santo Domingo and in Colombia?
I have come to Bogota, Colombia for a combined social justice summer and language summer. I am taking a Spanish course this summer for 3.5 hours a day at "La Universidad Santo Tomas," a university run by the Colombian Dominicans, which was founded in 1580 (it is the fifth oldest university in the Western Hemisphere). There are only three of us in this class. The two other students in the course are Timothy Danaher, OP and Gregory Marie Pine, OP of the Province of St. Joseph on the East Coast, who are staying at the Convent of San José adjacent to the University. The course is tailored to help us learn Spanish that would useful in the course of ministry. This includes things like learning the various prayers affiliated with Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, well working on lectoring in Spanish.
Outside of the class hours, I have been working on my conversational skills a great deal with the students at Santo Domingo. I have also begun to accompany the students here on their pastoral assignments. Most of these assignments take place on Saturday or Sunday, and consist of visiting various neighborhoods and parishes within Bogotá to visit with the people, teach catechism courses for adults and children, perform communion visits and to assist at masses.
My first “pastoral” activity was to attend a graduation/talent show for el Colegio Santo Tomas de Aquino. This is a school operated by the friars for boys and girls ages 4-12, and boys 12-18 years of age. The event was entitled "Olympiad Tomasinas," and featured a variety of dances representing the Colombian cultural, and finished with a promotion (graduation) ceremony for the oldest level of boys. At this event, I met a number of the friars who serve at the school, as well as number of the Dominican sisters who operate the sister school to Santo Tomas de Aquino, el Colegio del Rosario del Santo Domingo.
This coming week, I will be be taking several excursions with my Spanish class around Bogota. In my next post, I will describe the events surround Corpus Christi here, further describe the life here at Santo Domingo and some of the apostolic works that the brothers here do in further detail.