Today, August 18, is the feast of Chilean Jesuit and social justice advocate, St. Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, SJ. Born January 22, 1901, Alberto’s early life was filled with hardships. His father died when he was only four, forcing his mother to sell their property to pay off their family debts. As a result, Alberto and his brother moved around during much of their youth, living with different relatives. This first-hand experience with poverty during his childhood would eventually fuel his desire to combat this injustice.
Thanks to a scholarship, Alberto was able to attend a Jesuit school, which he would not have been able to attend otherwise. This would help allow him to enter the Jesuit novitiate and pursue the priesthood.
In the early 1940s, he established Hogar de Cristo (Christ’s Home), an organization focused on helping the poor children in Chile. St. Alberto would drive around the streets at night to look for children in need of food and shelter. It is estimated that more than 850,000 children received help from the movement between 1945 and 1951.
On August 18, 1952, at the age of 51, Fr. Alberto Hurtado succumbed to stomach cancer and died. For his tireless work to help the poor and improve the church’s relationship with her people in Chile, Fr. Hurtado was canonized in October 2005. Hogar de Cristo is still functioning today, continuing his mission of helping the underprivileged Chilean youth.