Belen Jesuit Preparatory School welcomed its new president on Friday, Jan. 15, with a Mass of Thanksgiving. Jesuit Father Guillermo García-Tuñón became the 37th rector/president of Belen since its inception in 1854, and its seventh since its establishment in Miami.
Affectionately known as Father Willie, he succeeds Jesuit Father Pedro Suárez, who led Belen Jesuit since 2009. Father García-Tuñón also became the first president to have graduated from Belen in Miami.
The Mass on Jan. 15 honored Father Suárez’s tenure as president and was celebrated by the Jesuit Provincial of the Antilles, Father Javier Vidal.
“In all my years associated to Belen Jesuit — either as a student, teacher or priest — I have been surrounded by Jesuits and committed laymen and women of extraordinary valor and vision,” said Father García-Tuñón. “I look forward with great enthusiasm to continuing Belen’s tradition of an excellent Catholic Jesuit education following the example of my predecessor, Father Pedro Suárez, and those who came before him.
“The role of president of Belen Jesuit is a great challenge, but also a great opportunity to help form and shape the lives of young men so that they can become great leaders for the benefit of our world and the greater glory of God.”
Born in Miami Nov. 26, 1969, Father García-Tuñón graduated from Belen Jesuit in 1987 and was admitted to the Society of Jesus on Aug. 14, 1989 at the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Grand Coteau, Louisiana. He was ordained a priest Sept. 2, 2000 at Gesu Church in Miami.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Florida International University, a master’s in philosophy and a master’s in education from Fordham University in New York, a degree in theology from Instituto Santo Inacio in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and a doctorate in education from Florida International University in 2006.
Since his ordination, he has served at Belen as teacher, spiritual counselor, vocation promoter and principal. He also organized the annual summer trips of the Belen Youth Missions and was a member of the board of directors and board of advisors of the school. In 2012, he became director of Instituto Tecnológico San Ignacio de Loyola in Dajabón, Dominican Republic. He returns to Miami as director of ACU (Agrupación Católica Universitaria) and president of Belen.
“Father Willie’s return to Belen Jesuit is the culmination of a lifelong journey,” said Dr. Maria Cristina Reyes-García, principal. “As a young student in Belen, it was here where the seed of vocation was first planted. Later, as a young Jesuit pursuing his studies, he always dreamt of returning to his alma mater. We ask Saint Ignatius to guide him in his new appointed mission.”
During Father Suárez’s tenure as president, Belen advanced both in technology and growth. Father Suárez oversaw the renovation of the second floor of the school’s Miguel B. Fernández and Family Main Building, which made use of the space occupied by the Guillermo F. Kohly Auditorium to create facilities for the Communication Arts and Multimedia Center, and the College Counseling offices.
In addition to the improvements to the school, Father Suárez also led in the creation of the Wall of Martyrs. This wall honors alumni from the Jesuit schools in Cuba and Miami who gave their lives for the protection of the life or health of others, and for all that encompasses the cause of human rights, including the fight against any tyranny or social injustice.
In 2011, Belen Jesuit carried out a complete renovation of the school’s central patio, renaming it the Garrido Family Plaza. During the summer of 2012, the football field was converted to artificial turf and named the Sánchez Field. In 2014 the northwest lot was cleared and converted to artificial turf which is used for soccer and lacrosse; the field was named the Hernandez Field.
The Jesuits founded Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in 1854 in Havana, Cuba. In 1961, Belen and all private schools were confiscated by the new political regime. The school was re-established in Miami that same year and has grown over the last five decades.