Honoring Eduardo C. Fernández, S.J.
Delivered by Ana María Pineda, RSM
The Virgilio Elizondo Award for 2011
Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States
Photo taken by Harold F. Baquet
Loyola University of the South
In the ancient tradition of our pueblos, the story-teller had a special place as the keeper of the memory, the guardian of the treasures, of the tesoros that belong to a people. Generations entrusted the stories of their existence to the "wise ones" who preserved the "ancient word"—La Palabra Antigua. Keeping the stories of the people alive assured that the memory of our "pueblos" would be present from one generation-to-the-next-- kept alive through the cosmic myths, epic poems, legends, accounts about the past, sacred hymns, songs and poetry. This sacred task demanded great skill and dedication and above all intimate contact with the life of the pueblo. The "wise man"…the story-teller, the keeper of the memory, the guardian of the treasures, communicated through the carefully crafted "word"…through the stroke of a paint brush…and through the rigorous pursuit of the truth. El sabio, the wise man communed profoundly with his heart because it was there that God resided, and it was in the heart that truth could be discovered. Today, we, the mestizo off-spring, the Latino people, are heirs to the treasury of the past. And we are assured of a place in history because the "wise ones" took care to transmit the history of a people. The "wise man" held up a mirror before the people so that they could see who they were and be constantly reminded of their identity, heritage and existence. Tonight's honoree follows in the footsteps of the ancient story-teller, the keeper of the memory, the guardian of the peoples' treasures…
The son of Luis M. Fernández and Emilia C. Fernández, Eduardo C. Fernández was born in the border town of El Paso, Texas. This is the land which shaped this young story-teller's identity and nourished his love for his family, for their religious and cultural traditions, for the stories of his people. His love for his family and his tierra natal characterize the many contributions that Eddie has made in the church, in the pueblo and in the academy. The faithful life and many contributions of Eddie Fernandez reflect the attributes of the ancient story-teller—he who preserves the "ancient word" of the people, he who is the keeper of the memory, and he who with love and dedication guards the treasury of a people.
In his teaching and mentoring of students, in his published theological contributions, countless articles, lectures and active engagement in the formation of Latino lay and religious leaders across the country, Dr. Fernández has demonstrated a commitment not only to transmitting the history of a people but to insuring that all members of a community nurture its on-going development, an endeavor, in which all voices are significant.
Deeply loved by his students, he is a gifted teacher. He is known for being amazingly generous with his time, support and expertise. Omnipresent, he seems to have an inexhaustible amount of energy, always stepping forward in exceptional ways to help students maneuver their ways through the academic system. Dr. Fernández has made a profound contribution to Latino/a theology not only through his teaching but also through outstanding mentoring as he facilitates the formation and intellectual development of Latino/a studies at a masters and higher levels, successfully directing numerous doctoral dissertations. Dr. Fernández' deep commitment to the formation of Latino lay leaders is demonstrated in his teaching in the Hispanic Instituto and in his many pastoral involvements. A valued teacher and colleague, Dr. Eddie Fernández is also actively engaged in the life of the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University in Berkeley and in the Graduate Theological Union consortium. In all these venues, he holds up the mirror of a people's tradition, to create bridges among people of similar and different cultural and religious practices.
This gifted story-teller, keeper of the memory and guardian of the people's treasury, has consistently pursued research and publication, a practice which is evident in his many books and articles. Dr. Eddie Fernández' extensive reading and use of other Latino/a scholars in his work starting with La Cosecha: Harvesting Contemporary U.S. Hispanic Theology (1972-1998) demonstrates a concrete commitment to a teologia de conjunto in his collaboration with colleagues in his teaching, research, and writing. In this collaborative undertaking, Dr. Fernández privileges the significant contributions made by countless lay leaders which enrich his theological and pastoral work. His publications weave stories of a peoples' understanding of God, and help others less familiar with the Latino community to enter into the world of the sacred as lived and celebrated by the Latino communities.We need only turn to his published works, Mexican-American Catholics and La Vida Sacra: Contemporary Hispanic Sacramental Theology (co-authored with James Empereur, S.J.) to be immersed in the sacred practices, rituals and faith beliefs of Latinos.
The arduous task of the ancient story-teller demanded great skill and dedication and above all intimate contact with the life of the pueblo. All of Eddie's theological contributions draw deeply from the lived reality of the Latino communities with a strong "feet on the ground" approach. He is passionate about missiology. Much sought-out as presenter, liturgical presider, preacher, workshop leader, Dr. Eddie Fernández can engage the most grassroots of pastoral leaders as well as the most academic of theological audiences with a deeply appreciated grace and flair. This modern-day story-teller instructs and delights us all with his joyful performances filled with imagery, dichos, and peoples' stories. Eddie's carefully crafted "word" whether it be accounts of the past, sacred hymns, songs, or poetry are essentially reminders of how our lives are filled with the many bendiciones de Dios. And, Dios mediante, God-willing, a phrase often on his lips…life is a sacred gift and we are truly in God's hands.
Tonight with great joy filled with mucho orgullo, we bestow the Virgilio Elizondo Award, for distinguished achievement in theology in keeping with the mission of our academy on Dr. Eduardo C. Fernandez, S.J."
Ana María Pineda, RSM
June 7, 2011
San Jose, California
SCU Press Release