José María Vélaz Irazu was born in Rancagua (Chile), from Basque migrant parents, on December 4th 1910. When he was 10 years old and his father died, his mother decided to return to Spain with her four children. They stayed in Loyola, barely 100 metres from the house where St. Ignatius of Loyola was born.
After finishing high school at the Jesuit boarding school in Tudela (Navarre), he enrolled in the Faculty of Law in Saragossa. He made the Spiritual Exercises in Loyola, and started his noviciate there (4.5.1928).
After the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain in 1932, he continued his studies in Classical Humanities in Tournai and Philosophy in Marneffe (both in Belgium). He did four years of teaching at the Colegio San Ignacio in Caracas (1936-40) and four years of theology in Oña (Burgos, Spain, 1940-44).
He returned to Venezuela, to his Colegio San Ignacio, for two years. Between 1948 and 1954, he was Rector of the Colegio Internado San José, in Mérida. Vélaz reorganised the school financially, undertook new works to enlarge it, opened the night school for the poor children of the surrounding area with the collaboration of his older pupils.
At the end of his rectorship, he proposed to the Provincial to dedicate himself to create a large network of agricultural and forestry schools along the Pan-American Highway that was being opened between Barinas and San Cristóbal. His response was blunt: Leave your quixotic nonsense and become spiritual director of the newly founded Catholic University: in that harmless position Fe y Algeria would be born!
We invite you to watch the documentary ``José María Vélaz, sower of the future``,
The International Federation of Fe y Alegría is a non-profit association present in more than 22 countries. We are a movement of Integral Popular Education and Social Integration, we work with the impoverished and excluded sectors, promoting their integral development and participation for social transformation.