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The Alvaro del Portillo Social Project, Madrid

The “Alvaro del Portillo Social Project” is an initiative at the parish of St. Raymond Nonnatus, in the Madrid district of Vallecas, which arose in connection with the beatification of the first successor of St. Josemaría. Aimed at the poorest and most vulnerable people in the neighborhood (children, the aged, the abandoned, the indigent), it seeks to meet their basic needs and integrate them into the parochial community. In its first year of operation, 30 separate projects were begun, benefiting more than 1,500 people. Following the example of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, who gave catechism classes in the parish in 1934, many parishioners at St. Raymond Nonnatus dedicate time to assisting those who have been overlooked by society.

One of the most important services of this social work is the St. Joseph family dining room, where some 250 hot meals are served each day. The same facilities are used for classes in cooking and other professional training courses. In addition, from Monday to Friday, volunteers distribute non-perishable food to 200 needy families.

Project Simeon is another initiative underway. This involves visiting elderly people who live alone, and providing whatever assistance is possible.

Project Lazarus seeks to provide assistance for about 20 homeless people. It offers them facilities for bathing and washing their clothes, while also helping them to reintegrate into society. This service is complemented by the Martha and Mary initiative, which seeks to encourage them to be useful and responsible in caring for the parish and the facilities used for these social initiatives. Finally, the Nazareth Residence provides housing for 15 of the homeless.

Attention to families is another priority at St. Raymond Nonnatus. Specific projects include a school for parents, teams trained to help resolve family conflicts, and programs for accompanying single women during pregnancy and the first years of being a mother. The Gate of Bethlehem nursery provides day care for the young children whose mothers have to work and can’t pay for a private service. In addition, the Center for Childhood Education offers 80 children specialized attention in their studies.

All of these programs are possible thanks to a group of some two hundred volunteers. Encouraged by the teachings of Pope Francis, those involved know what it means to “touch Christ in the flesh of those who suffer.” The parish also offers spiritual help to the persons who benefit from the activities of the Alvaro del Portillo Social Project. Besides helping meet people’s material needs, it seeks to provide the family affection that is a mark of the Church’s charity.

Romana, No. 61, July-December 2015, pag. 324-326.