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Honoring Jesuits Killed 25 Years Ago for Seeking Justice for the Poor
Thursday, Sep. 4, 2014
Key moment in the history of Jesuits—the order of Pope Francis and Santa Clara University’s founders—to be remembered at SCU Nov. 5 through 16
SANTA CLARA, Calif., Sept. 4, 2014— Twenty-five years ago, a well-regarded Jesuit university president in El Salvador was among those loudly proclaiming that the country’s bloody civil war, and the oppressive conditions behind it, were ruining the lives of too many poor citizens. He and his fellow Jesuits were living out the Church’s mission to act out of a “preferential option for the poor.” But his actions caused government warmongers to consider him a threat to their continued power and wealth.
On Nov. 16, 1989, they had the president, Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J., of the University of Central America, killed, along with five fellow Jesuits, their housekeeper, and her daughter.
“In some ways in the context of El Salvador, Ellacuria was akin to great civil rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr.—an effective leader who relentlessly beat the drum about injustice at his own personal peril and was killed for it,” said Michael McCarthy, S.J., executive director of the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education at Santa Clara. “His was a remarkable example of being an authentic voice for millions of voiceless people who lived in a state of powerlessness and oppression.”
From Nov. 5 to Nov. 16, Santa Clara University will honor the 25th anniversary of that tragic day with programs, lectures, and prayer events on Santa Clara University’s campus and in El Salvador.
Santa Clara University has unique ties to the UCA. Ellacuria received an honorary degree and gave the University commencement speech in 1982. In 1989, SCU provided shelter to one of the Jesuits who had narrowly escaped being murdered, Jon Sobrino, S.J. SCU also helped provide aid to the sole witness to the event, another housekeeper named Lucia Cerna, and has recently helped publish a book featuring her account of the events, La Verdad, written with co-author historian Mary Jo Ignoffo.
Each year a half dozen or so Santa Clara students join the 30 to 50 who attend Casa de la Solaridad in El Salvador, a study-abroad immersion experience that puts student talents at the disposal of the Salvadoran people for four months. Also, up to two dozen faculty, staff, and students each year visit El Salvador for immersion experiences, and this year 10 faculty and administrators from UCA will be coming to SCU and University of San Francisco for a week of visiting to enhance collaboration and learning.
SCU also annually sends a delegation of 10 students and staff to participate in the Ignatian Family Teach-in, an annual event hosted by the Ignatian Solidarity Network engaging issues of peace and justice, started in honor of the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador.
The University maintains eight crosses in front of its Mission Church year-round in honor of the martyred victims.
Events honoring the anniversary include:
*On Nov. 5, a panel discussion about the impact of the Jesuit assassinations on contemporary Catholic leadership, entitled “Leadership Born of Struggle and Hope.” Speakers will include Kevin Burke, S.J., professor of systematic theology at Santa Clara’s Jesuit School of Theology; Holy Names University religious studies professor Robert Lasalle-Klein; Lynette Parker , supervising attorney at SCU’s Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center, and Ana Maria Pineda, R.S.M., Hispanic theology professor at Santa Clara University.
*On Nov. 12, a lecture and Q&A centered on the book La Verdad, a firsthand account from Cerna, the eyewitness to the event. Cerna and her co-author Ignoffo, will be at the event to discuss the book, the impact and relevance of the events today, and to take questions.
*On Nov. 13, a prayer service led by Santa Clara University Campus Ministry will be held at the Mission Church on campus at 4 p.m. The event will include a procession through SCU’s Sobrato Mall, carrying a banner commemorating the anniversary. The service will include readings reflecting on the lives of the martyrs and a send-off for participants in the 17th annual Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice, being held Nov. 16 in Washington, D.C.
*On Nov. 13, a delegation of five Santa Clara University faculty and staff will travel to El Salvador for anniversary-related events including a celebration of the Casa de la Solidaridad Program, a mass honoring the Martyrs, a forum on the impact of the assassinations, and a vigil of remembrance.
*Because the anniversary also coincides with the 15th anniversary of SCU’s immersion program in El Salvador, Casa de la Solidaridad, on Nov. 14, SCU President Fr. Michael E. Engh, former USF President Fr. Stephen A. Privett, Casa alumni, and Salvadoran partners will all celebrate the program in San Salvador.
*Visit www.scu.edu/uca25 to find further resources on the history of the Jesuit martyrs and the events at SCU to honor them.