From the very beginning I learned about the hard work that went into farming. Those of us who simply benefit from the fruits of agricultural labor are unaware of how laborious and challenging it is. Farmers wake up at the crack of dawn to make their way to the fields. Under a hot sun they till the earth, plant the seeds, water the ground and nurture the crops in order to provide abundant harvests not only for their own families, but also for the whole community. I witnessed firsthand the trials they faced with drought, pestilence and constantly fluctuating market prices.
What impressed me most, though, was that in the face of such adversity they never let up, they never desisted, they simply “plowed” ahead. Farmers would wipe their brows, pick up their tools and till the earth, plant the seeds and water the ground. They are truly the backbone of Dominican society.
Belen is no different.
For over 160 years the Jesuits of the Antilles Province, together with thousands of lay collaborators, have been working hard to till the great field that is Belen and have thus provided the world with an abundant harvest. Waking up at the crack of dawn, through all kinds of weather, dedicated men and women have labored unceasingly to build and grow one of the most important and fertile educational institutions around. Belen stands today as a testament of extraordinary commitment and is a true labor of love.
We have come a long way. I have often heard my predecessor, Fr. Pedro Suárez, S.J., quote the great English physicist and mathematician, Sir Isaac Newtown, who said, “If we have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Giants like Fr. Bartolomé Munar, S.J. who with a small company of priests and brothers laid the first foundation in 1854 by order of the Spanish crown for a new school in Cuba. Giants like Frs. Felipe Arroyo, S.J., Luis Ripoll, S.J. and Brother José Feliz, S.J. who, after being expelled from Cuba, made their way undeterred to Miami with the intention of planting all over again the seeds of Belen in exile. Giants like Frs. Juan Manuel Dorta-Duque, S.J., Francisco Pérez-Lerena, S.J. and Marcelino García, S.J. who took 30 acres of swampland in west Miami-Dade and turned it into the beautiful campus we have today.
Fr. Suárez was right. He and I have been the beneficiaries of such giants who saw farther and worked harder to get us to where we are today. There is no question that the Belen Jesuit story is one filled with the heroics and hard work of giants who wiped the sweat off their brows and, through all kinds of weather, motivated by their passion for educating young men in the tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola, tilled the earth on which Belen stands and thrives.
And so now a new chapter begins. As incoming President, my tenure marks the first time in our rich history that a Jesuit born in this country is installed as president and the first alumnus of our great school in Miami with the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of those giants. I am humbled by the great responsibility that has been given to me. As the new President of Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, I recognize the task that is before me. As daunting as it may seem, it is knowing that there are hundreds of very dedicated teachers, staff members and administrators who make up the Belen community and are completely vested in this endeavor, that makes it exciting and real. We at Belen know that our role as educators is a vocation to till, to plant and water so that after our concerted labor, it is the Church and the world at large that will reap the harvest.
The thousands of alumni scattered throughout the world, leaders of our society and communities, who have been the beneficiaries of such a grand education are well aware that they are charged with the obligation to be men for others in a world that desperately needs them. They are the fruit of Belen Jesuit. They are the harvest of our labored and sacred tradition. They are the sons of those giants. I call upon these men, my brothers, to reach out to Belen, to reengage and recommit to their alma mater to make sure that generations to come will also have the extraordinary opportunity to receive an education that prepares them to lead and serve.
During the next few months I will be learning what Belen is like from the office of the President. I will be assessing the state of the school to better continue our progress and, where warranted, implement the changes that will help us reach our highest potential. I encourage you, the entire Belen community, to take an active role in helping me to maintain the standards that we have historically striven for. I invite you to approach me and express your expectations, voice your concerns and share your dreams for Belen Jesuit. I look forward to hearing from you, learning from your perspective, sharing your vision and actively collaborating in continuing the great work that is and always will be Belen.
It goes without saying that our students depend on this collaboration. Their parents have entrusted us with their most precious assets wanting only to fulfill their responsibility of providing for their sons a solid Jesuit education rooted firmly in the values of Jesus Christ. It is in this way that we can assure our continued success and provide for the world a fruitful harvest. I count on your prayers and those of Our Lady of Belen.
Fr. Guillermo M. García-Tuñón, S.J., Ed.D. '87