Jesuit Finds Unique Calling to Preserve a Jesuit Saint’s Manuscripts

Jesuit Father Alberto Hurtado

A robust New Yorker of Irish ancestery, Jesuit Father Eugene Rooney has traveled the World. Missioned to places like Africa and Uruguay, it was in Chile where he discovered his real mission. In 1969 he left his position as librarian at Georgetown University to move to Chile to maintain the files and personal manuscripts of Saint Alberto Hurtado, Jesuit and founder of Hogar de Cristo, an outreach organization serving the poorest of the poor.

Since moving to Chile, Fr. Rooney has indexed the original manuscript collection of Alberto Hurtado, which were located at behind Saint Ignatius High School on Alonso Ovalle St.

There are eight kardex placed in four storage bins in which the original manuscripts of the creator of the Hogar de Cristo are stored. One document has phrase written in a passionate and elegant calligraphy and preached by Hurtado; “Love your neighbor is the most important thing of all.”

Some of these manuscripts are yellowish papers with faded edges and most of them have footer notes and ink stains. Rooney points out a phrase and some drawings that show the lighter side of a young man who wanted to be a priest. Finally, the librarian with strong and tender hands closes the manuscripts and carefully puts them back in the metal box as though they were fragile relics.

He says that there could have been more old printed books, but after the suppression of the Society of Jesuits most of those books were lost. All books and materials that belong to the Jesuit library have been organized using a classification system provided by UNESCO. However, in order to facilitate access to the library documents, Fr. Rooney has developed a useful and simple classification system in Office Word which allows him to reach information much more easily.

The library’s vaults are located where the dorms of the boarding school used to be. They are well protected and sheltered and have dehumidifiers. Working in collaboration with the librarians of the Alberto Hurtado University, Fr. Rooney could preserve and maintain most of the library’s material and books.

“Personal computers did not exist years ago; however, I have been learning how to use them little by little. It takes time and it is an ongoing process, a long term learning process,” Fr. Rooney says. “There are some people who wear belts as well as suspenders at the same time because they need them; I need both of them as well. “ Fr. Rooney says making an analogy of the two ways to work that he uses; manually and computer systems.

Fr. Rooney laughs so loud taking into consideration the extremely silent environment that surrounds us. He says “I have had cancer, a heart attack, and I have been deaf since I was seven years old.” In conclusion, he says “I am a disaster, but this still works well,” he says while pointing to his head.

“When my brothers appointed me to organize our libraries and to open them for academic and public services, they asked me to share the treasure and riches of our development and progress with students of the University.” He adds “It is very hard to find archives like this.”

Holding a huge white book with golden letters on it, he says; “This was the canonization speech that the Pope held in his hands when he first called for Fr. Alberto Hurtado to be a saint.”

The library’s material and books are available for researchers on this issue and all kinds of readers and these resources are classified and indexed by Fr. Eugene Rooney, the patron of the archives.

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