Loyola College, Timor – Leste

“Go forth and set the world on fire” were the words with which St Ignatius of Loyola sent St Francis Xavier off on his missionary work in Asia. This too was the message on the banner at the recent graduation of the first ever graduating class of a new College in Timor-Leste.

“In Timor-Leste, the rich are favoured, the poor are easily punished. Now I want to become a judge” says Alex, one of the inaugural graduates of Loyola College in December 2018.

Timor-Leste still staggers under the repercussions of Indonesian occupation (1975-1999) during which 183,000 people died from fighting, disease and starvation. When independence was finally won, the country was left without a government, official language, currency or legal system. Ninety percent of schools were severely damaged or destroyed by the departing armed forces, and one third of the adult population is illiterate.

Into this void stepped the Jesuits with their largest and most ambitious endeavour in Timor-Leste. “The Jesuit Education Project” is assisting the Timorese Government to reform the country’s secondary and further education system.

As part of this project, Colegio Santo Inácio de Loiola (CSIL or “Loyola College”) was opened six years ago in Kasait, Timor-Leste. Loyola College aims to educate students who will go on to become the future leaders of their country.

Jesuit Mission Australia, with the generous backing of Australian benefactors plus fundraising by the students, families, staff and College communities of Australian Jesuit and Companions Schools collectively provided more than $6m – almost half the funding. Students from some of these Australian schools participate in immersions at the College, which helps build cross cultural understanding and motivates further fundraising.

The first ever graduating class at the secondary College received their results in early 2019. The College Dux and Valedictorian achieved the highest year 12 result in the country. In fact nine of the top ten students in the country came from Loyola College. This is a remarkable outcome for a new school. The graduates are now awaiting university offers and scholarships for further study with some having already received those opportunities to study in Japan, Hong Kong and Korea.

Fr Trung Nguyen SJ, the Rector of Jesuit Mission Australia and Fr Brian McCoy SJ, the Provincial of the Australian Jesuits, both from Melbourne, were in Timor-Leste over Christmas 2018 for the celebration of the College’s first graduation.

“The atmosphere was ecstatic. The parents walked in procession side by side with their child as they graduated. What a beautiful image of parents journeying with their children.

Toward the end of the ceremony, one of the student leaders called all the graduates to stand up. All raised their right hands and made a pledge to be part of the school’s alumni, to support the school, to serve God and their country.” says Fr Trung.

For further information or to donate please visit, https://jesuitmission.org.au/give/class-of-2018/.