To understand the origins of this Foundation, one has to go back to Don Pascual Cervera Jácome (1881-1957), Knight of the Royal Cavalry Order of Ronda and Commander in the Spanish navy.
He was deeply concerned with the precarious conditions endured by the many impoverished children of the fishermen families who lived in the slums of El Rinconcillo, a suburb of Algeciras in the province of Cadiz.
When his son, Francisco Javier Cervera Abreu (1918-1938) was killed in action in the naval battle of Cape Palos and two years later, his wife, Milagros Abreu Herrera (1886-1940) died unexpectedly, he decided to establish a charitable foundation in their memory.
It became known as ‘La Fundación de Nuestra Señora de los Milagros’ (denomination attributed to St Luke, the evangelist who referred to Our Lady as the Virgin of Miracles)and endowed it with a substantial legacy to enable the trustees to accomplish its charitable objectives.
The purpose of the Foundation, established on 13th July 1946, is to provide religious instruction and a sound education to the children and adolescents of all the residents of El Rinconcillo, as well as the provision of social assistance, including sheltered accommodation, sustenance and other facilities of a cultural and social nature for their elderly.
He requested the Daughters of Charity to assist him with this task, which they accepted. Starting with a shed that resembled an army barracks, they began to gather the women and their daughters where they were instructed in all kinds of social, educational and religious activities as well as home proficiencies, such as sewing, embroidery and later secretarial skills and similar crafts, thus creating what became known as Nuestra Señora de los Milagros girls' school.
He also built a shrine called ‘La Ermita de Nuestra Señora de los Milagros’ in 1942 on a vantage point of El Rinconcillo overlooking the bay of Algeciras. It was solemnly inaugurated in 1945 in honour of all the 765 fallen as a result of the sinking of the Cruiser Baleares during the naval battle of Cape Palos.
With its hemispherical dome on a polygon base, it was widely identified as a point of reference for the area and has become the iconic image of the Foundation. The tradition of celebrating Mass for the repose of the souls buried or remembered there continues to this day on the first Saturday of every month.
Don Joaquín Cervera Abreu (1907-1992), Commander in the Spanish navy became the chairman of the Foundation on the death of his father in 1957.He expanded the facilities of the Foundation by persuading the religious order of the Trinitarians to set up a naval college and also to run the parish church, both built under his direction in the extensive grounds of the Foundation.
After the death of Don Joaquín Cervera Abreu without leaving any descendants, his brother Don Ignacio Cervera Abreu (1923-2006), Master of the Royal Cavalry Order of Ronda was appointed chairman. His most notable work was the modification of the statutes of the Foundation which permitted the possibility of any descendant of Don Pascual Cervera Jácome to become the chairman of the Foundation by democratic vote of its benefactors.
In 2005, Don Ignacio Cervera Abreu retired due to his failing health and Don Pascual Cervera de la Chica, one of the 52 grandchildren of the original founder was appointed chairman with the approval of the majority of the trustees of the Foundation.
Since then, the agreement with the Marillac Foundation has been renewed (they were formerly known as the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, which was founded in 2011 on the initiative of the Canonical Provinces of southern Spain). They continue tirelessly with the excellent co-educational teaching at the much-awarded school of Nuestra Señora de los Milagros.
When the Trinitarians left in 2017 as a result of an internal restructure and to ensure the continuity of the pastoral care required by the local community, the Parish of Nuestra Señora de los Milagros was assigned to the Diocese of Cádiz and Ceuta under the authority of the diocesan Bishop.
At the same time when the diocese became involved, facilities were made available in the grounds of the Foundation to Caritas (the official confederation of the social and charitable organizations of the Catholic Church in Spain) who provide assistance to the most vulnerable and excluded members of Spanish society.
The foundation today is primarily financed by the rents of eight residential flats and two commercial sites located in the building in front of the Parish Church of el Rinconcillo.
Another significant source of income is derived from its sponsors. Although registered membership has increased from the original 20 to the current 107, there is always a need for many more benefactors.
To ensure that any member of the extensive Cervera family(by birth or otherwise)has the opportunity to make a difference for the better to the charitable work of the Foundation, the Board of Trustees is re-elected every four years.
If you were to visit el Rinconcillotoday, you would find a vibrant and prosperous community partly due to the efforts of the Foundation.
Isn’t it amazing what can be achieved with a little faith and a lot of prayer?