Mission in Colombia

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Colegio Santa Francisca Romana - Celebrating 50 Years! 
School of Nursing
The Dispensary
Other Ministries

Colegio Santa Francisca Romana

Click here to read all about the Bogotá Nine's Adventures!

Click here to read our 50th Anniversary Newsletter

In 1961, in Rochester, Minnesota, Cardinal Luis Concha Cárdoba and Mother Callista, Mother General of the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Lourdes, expressed their desire to have the Sisters work in Colombian education. This was in direct response to a call from the Holy Father Pope John XXIII for Congregations to move resources to help developing countries. The ideal plan of the Cardinal was to start a school for middle class women to be secretaries and clerks in business offices. The school would offer a high academic level and moral and spiritual formation guided by Franciscan principles.

In September, 1962, five Sisters arrived in Colombia, namely, Sisters Maeve Cashman, Consuelo Chavez, Robaire Joswick, Baylon (Edith) Zamboni and Mary Beth Modde. In February, 1963, the doors were opened for the first students at Colegio Santa Francisca Romana, (CSFR). Two years later, the school population grew to three hundred fifty students.


Currently, there are approximately one thousand students enrolled in preschool, primary and high school. This school's success is widely known throughout Colombia, and is regarded as the top school in the country for women! Many courses are taught in English, so the students are bi-lingual. All graduates qualify to go on to college. This school, frequently ranked in the top ten, is now under consideration for a spot in the top five in Bogotá!

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School of Nursing, University of Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia

Knowing of their background in nursing, the Rector of the University of Javeriana requested assistance from the Sisters of Saint Francis, Rochester, Minnesota. In 1964, Sister Lea (Jean Schulte) arrived from the United States to help develop a four-year university nursing program to enhance the three-year diploma program which already existed. S. Jean, along with the nursing faculty, concentrated on improving the curriculum, on teacher preparation, and on the organization and function of the faculty committees. The plan was to encourage nursing education and practice through scholarship and graduate level study. Teacher preparation was seen as paramount with the ultimate goal of relinquishing the leadership roles to the Colombians once they return with adequate nursing and administrative preparation and education. In addition to the obvious goals of education, S. Jean and the staff succeeded in writing grants to: improve faculty salaries, increase the volume size of the nursing library, more fully equip the teaching facility, provide consulting services, and in-service education. The Sisters' involvement in this program was completed in August 1968, but the program continues to this day.

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The Dispensary, Bogotá, Colombia:

In 1982, the drop-in clinic, located on Colegio Santa Francisca Romana property, was founded by several alumnae, students of medicine. It serves the poor of the barrio. The Dispensary is fully licensed and approved by the Secretary of Health, and serves the students and families of Colegio Anexo San Francisco de Asis, along with any other persons who come to the clinic for medical and dental care. Most of the patients come from the barrios that are located in the northeastern part of the city of Bogotá.


The Dispensary provides basic dental and medical care, first-aid assistance, and works extensively, both on site and in the barrio, in the area of prevention. Three young professionals are employed by the Dispensary for one year terms, completing their 'rural year' as required by the Ministry of Health, in order to receive their professional titles.


Currently, the Dispensary attends an average of 400 patients in dentistry each month, and another 230 patients in medicine. Prenatal care and control is a common service provided by the Dispensary to pregnant mothers, along with vaccination campaigns, and screening for detection and control of tuberculosis. There is a growth and development program for children, measuring height and weight, supervising nutritional programs, observing development of gross/fine motor skills, social development, and language development. The 'new smile' program was developed, whereby elderly patients who have no teeth are able to receive a complete set of dentures, plus a complete medical exam and any necessary treatment, in order to restore a quality of life to each of them - gratis! Public heath care in the barrio includes home visits provided by the dentists and doctor on a weekly basis to patients who are not able to come to the Dispensary.


A significant financial support to the Dispensary is provided by the volunteers themselves, who organize a variety of activities throughout the year to raise the necessary monies for the Dispensary to continue to function.

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Colegio Anexo San Francisco de Así­s (CASFA), Bogotá, Colombia

CASFA is a Spanish language, co-educational school, from pre-kindergartan through senior high, that serves children and youth from the low-income barrios in the northeastern neighborhoods of the city of Bogotá. The curriculum offers a technical preparation as well as strong business formation. This orientation seeks to form persons with a high development of their potential, focused in the leadership of their own lives, as well as the lives of their families and communities. Senior high students participate in an apprenticeship program in a variety of businesses that are partners with the Colegio in this educational process.


CASFA began in 1985. At that time of Colombia's population of 33 million, 10 million were illiterate. The government was not able to respond to the educational needs of the people. Ss. Patricia Leon, and Tierney Trueman, along with teacher Gonzalo Diaz, decided to begin CASFA, offering education to children who were of school age, but who had no opportunity to study because of the lack of sufficient number of schools and financial resources. Senior high students participate in an apprenticeship program in a variety of businesses that are partners with CASFA in this educational process. One important aspect of CASFA is the effort to make the family, the school and the community into one single work team, in order to achieve integrity in the formation of the students. Additional programs offered by CASFA include psychological services are provided to CASFA students and parents through certified psychologists.

S. Valerie Usher, director of the mission in Bogotá, recently returned to Assisi Heights during the school break in Bogotá. The Sisters of Saint Francis ministry in Bogotá began nearly 50 years ago, and is still successful today. She shared a progress report with the Sisters at Assisi Heights. Here, in Sister Valerie's own words, is an update on the progress being made:

'This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Colegio Anexo San Francisco de Asá­s, our school in Bogotá which serves some 350 children and their families from the northeastern hills of the city - an area which began as an invasion barrio nearly 30 years ago, and remains a sector of economic and social challenge... CASFA is also in the midst of 'Phase Two' of its construction process! There's never a dull moment at CASFA!

'It is important to realize that we are not constructing a school building - we are developing a mini-campus! Phase One was a bare-bones 4-story, 16-classroom building with bathrooms, a stairwell and open-air balconies for corridors. Part of Phase One included a separate house for the caretaker and his family, an underground water tank covered by a small parking lot, and play areas for the children. We are now completing Phase Two, which consists of the addition of an L-shaped structure housing the infirmary, a locker room and bathrooms for the staff, a waste management area, workshop space and the school store/snack shop, with a public address station and a rooftop terrace for extra space during recess. This phase also includes a 3-story building for the kitchen, open-air cafeteria, office space for the Coordinators and psychologists, a faculty room and meeting area. Phase Three will include the Integrated Center for Educational Resources: a library, computer center, audio-visual center, and a 3-story ramp required by law.

'This construction, as you may recall, depends completely on donations. (CASFA's operating budget itself functions on 90% donations, so ALL the construction funding is above and beyond that!) We dared to begin Phase Two without all the funding in place, simply because we have to keep on going, or risk losing our license to operate!

'All of this heavy building was going on mere yards away from the functioning classrooms, so you can imagine the noise level, the distraction, and the potential dangers of carrying on both activities simultaneously on the same grounds! Yet our CASFA students and staff were up to the challenge, for which we are most grateful.

'Our dedicated faculty and administrative staff continue to be very creative with their own fund-raising efforts - everything from projects with the children to Flea Market sales on report card days and an evening discothèque for 'old people' (i.e., adults). We also hosted a Solidarity Banquet night targeting the members of our other school, the Santa Pacha Community. The 'Banquet' consisted of a glass of wine and a Tau-shaped cookie (made in the CASFA bakery) served by CASFA juniors and seniors with a brief program of music and dancing performed by the students and a presentation about the building project.

'We are VERY grateful to our Rochester Franciscan Sisters and Cojourners and Plan Madrina members (The Godparent Plan) who have made significant contributions to this specific project. They have made a concrete investment in a hopeful future for hundreds of disadvantaged children and youth.'

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Other ministries of the Rochester Franciscan Sisters in Bogotá, Colombia

* S. Carolina Pardo, a Santa Pacha graduate and B.A. level psychologist by training, is the link with the broader Franciscan family in Colombia and the Inter-Ecclesial Peace and Justice Office in Colombia. In recent years, her peace and justice work has taken her deep into the communities of displaced persons in Cacaricas to stand in solidarity with the poor. These communities represent localized intentional efforts of displaced and disenfranchised peoples to reclaim their land and their RIGHT to live with their families in a way befitting their dignity.


* S. Clara Inés Ordóñez, an experienced speech-language pathologist, currently offers her services at CINDA (Center for Investigation and Information for Children with Auditory Deficiency), a collaborative professional institute that reaches out to hearing-impaired children with little or no economic resources. In addition to her individual auditory-verbal therapy with deaf children (developing their oral language abilities), S. Clara Inés also offers supervision and training of the CINDA professional staff, as well as coordinates CINDA's internship program for enhancing the skills of national and international colleagues.

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