Speaking out for social justice
The call for social justice in immigration reform was voiced loudly and often on campus this spring. From quiet reflections with a handful of students to a public prayer service on the Mission steps, from the sound of single voices heard individually on phone calls to legislators to the collective voice of hundreds in solidarity at a campus rally in support of “A Day without Immigrants,” opportunities abounded for students, faculty, and staff to weigh in on the national issue. “I’m not sure we can sum up exactly what a single stance on immigration reform is, given the diversity of voices at the university,” noted campus minister Matt Smith, who participated in many of the events. “But I think there’s really a seamless connection between the issue and the Jesuit mission, because it’s people living out a faith that does justice. It’s people standing in solidarity with those who are affected by the issue. The idea of being ‘women and men, with and for others.’”
The March 14 gathering on the steps of the Mission brought together more than 100 clergy and lay leaders, said Rev. Carol Been, director of the Interfaith Council for Religion, Race, Economic, and Social Justice, which organized the event. The powerful collective cry for justice reflected in the remarks of SCU President Paul Locatelli, S.J., and others denouncing the criminalization of undocumented immigrants and those who assist them “has made a huge difference,” Been said.
The immigration debate has solidified the unity among various religious denominations and ethnic groups like no other issue, said Eduardo A. Samaniego, S.J., pastor of Holy Trinity Church in San Jose and an active member of the Interfaith Council. “It is making the Senate and Congress stand up and really rethink things.”
The individual voices of people who made calls from the campus to their legislators on May 17, joining those calling from Immigration Rights Call Centers across the country, have had a similar effect, Been noted.
That the voices come from a diverse population has particularly impressed Carlos Jiménez Cárdenas ’06, a program coordinator in the homelessness department in the Santa Clara Community Action Program. “It’s not just Latino students, which is what is more wonderful and amazing. We have students saying ‘we’re all immigrants.’” The support from the diverse SCU community has impressed Been as well. Students, she said, are “being encouraged, educated, and exposed to both the sufferings that go on in our world, as well as ways that they can do something about it.”
The odds, many would say, were stacked against Giovanni Mata Magana from the beginning. He grew up on what he calls the roughest block in East Palo Alto, where crime and violence were commonplace and drug dealers would give Magana small stipends to play soccer in the street to slow traffic while they conducted business. His mother speaks little English and works long hours to support Magana and his younger brother. His father is in prison and his brother has been in and out of jail for years. It would have been too easy for Magana to follow in their footsteps, but the easy road was not for Magana. He chose a different path and is now making family history.
When Magana comes to SCU in September, he will not only be the first in his family to attend college, but the first to graduate from high school. Even more, Magana is one of five incoming freshmen who will be attending SCU as a presidential scholar. Presidential scholars not only have outstanding academic records but, as Assistant Director of Admission Alexander Thome puts it, they are students who make you “jump out of your seat” when you read their application. The presidential scholarship is the University’s most prestigious scholarship for incoming freshmen and covers the cost of tuition.
This spring, Thome and a small team from SCU’s undergraduate admissions office surprised Magana at his high school, Eastside College Preparatory, with the good news. “He let out a big sigh of relief when he heard he was accepted and was awarded the scholarship,” Thome said. Magana had offers from other universities, but chose SCU because of the campus community, small class size, and its close proximity to his family.
The other presidential scholars are: Rae Anderson Heitkamp from Victoria, Minn.; Bennett On Wing Lee from Kailua, Hawaii; Kristin Anne Leonard from Milton, Mass.; and Charlotte Marie Lewis from Concord, Calif.
When a documentary film crew showed up at the 2005 American Crossword Tournament, Byron Walden, a math and computer science professor at SCU, did not think much of it. If anything, he thought, the crew would make a DVD that would be on sale at the next year’s tournament. Well, it didn’t exactly turn out that way. The film the crew made was “Wordplay,” one of the most talked about documentaries at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and one that is expected to draw big audiences this summer.
Will Shortz, editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle, asked Walden to create the final challenge for the 2005 tournament. Little did Walden know that challenge would put him and his puzzle on the big screen. “The big climax in the film involves my puzzle,” Walden said.
Walden likens the film to “Spellbound,” which follows eight students on their quest to win the 1999 National Spelling Bee. In both films, the life stories of individual participants are told and their passion for crossword puzzles and the tournament are shared.
“Wordplay” has a celebrity element, as well, with Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart, and the Indigo Girls trying their hands at crosswords. “Jon Stewart really knows his crosswords,” Walden said.
Walden has only a few lines and he makes just as many on-screen appearances; even so, he says, the experience of being a part of something so big and unexpected is enough of a thrill. “It is definitely fun to see your name in the credits and see the puzzle and say, ‘Hey, that’s my puzzle.’”
Not all Catholics agree with the Church all the time, and Thomas Reese, S.J., will tell you there is no point in denying it. Questioning is not, however, something most Catholics undertake lightly. These disagreements are often born out of conscience, of genuinely believing in the faith while believing equally something that is at odds with the accepted teachings of the Church.
Reese, the former editor of the Jesuit weekly magazine America, was a visiting scholar at Santa Clara during the 2005-06 academic year, and he delivered the commencement address to the Class of 2006. His message in June: “Before you are a lawyer or a business person or a doctor, you are a citizen.” As citizens, he told the graduates, “We have the responsibility to fix it. It is your city, go fix it. It is your state, go fix it. It is your nation, go fix it. It is your world, go fix it. It is your church, go fix it.” Read more.
Earlier this spring, in an April 26 talk cosponsored by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, Reese outlined his strategies for Catholics who think, question, doubt and disagree. In a nutshell, they are:
1. Understand what the Church is actually saying. Is your question the result of a misunderstanding or a true disagreement?
2. That understanding should be inspired by sympathy, not sarcasm and cynicism.
3. Do your homework on the complex issues that face the Church today.
4. Know your history—the Church has 2,000 years of tradition and history. Things have been worse, things can get better.
5. Distinguish between law and doctrine. Laws can change, and you are not a heretic if you disagree with them.
6. Understand the level of authority of doctrinal positions, especially if you disagree with them.
7. Know how to interpret the words in doctrinal statements, which are influenced by historical and culture context as well as the intended audience.
8. Realize that sometimes the Church uses words that are open to inter- pretation on purpose, to smooth over differences and maintain unity.
9. “Accept what the Church says or leave” is not the only way to deal with your doubts as a Catholic. Italians, for example, do not live their faith this way—they don’t question the Church’s authority publicly, they simply ignore it.
10. Recognize that there will always be disagreements in the Church because there have always been dis- agreements in the Church, dating back to the council of Jerusalem.
Though much of the attention today is on liberal Catholics urging the Vatican to allow female priests or birth control, questioning is hardly limited to one’s political alignment. From condoms to illegal immigration, the Church has taken many unpopular stands. Indeed, it would be hard for any organization with hundreds of millions of constituents in dozens of countries to be universally popular. Additionally, as Reese said, “a questioning mind is fostered by our education and the very culture we live in. It is part of who we are and we cannot run away from it.” That applies to all people, not just Americans, Democrats, reactionaries, or radicals.
Ultimately, Catholics are united in belief much more than they are divided by differences—belief not only in Christ, but in the power of love, reconciliation, and redemption. As Reese concluded, “Any survival strategy for thinking Catholics must be based on the virtues of faith, hope, and love.”
On April 29, as part of the Santa Clara University Alumni Association’s 125th anniversary celebration, three remarkable alumni were honored for their service to the community and the Association, and for upholding the ideals of SCU.
Ignatian Award for Community Service
The Ignatian Award recognizes alumni who live the SCU ideals of compassion, conscience, and competence, and who have been a credit to the University, through outstanding service to humanity.
Julie Burns Christensen ’70
Trading in graduate school acceptance letters for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Christensen found her calling in campus ministry. At Gonzaga University she became one of the first laywomen to work in campus ministry, and she has offered spiritual leadership at Western Washington State College, the University of Nevada-Reno, Rosemont Alternative School in Oregon, and the University of Portland. Today, Julie remains on her path of service. Her main focus is the Pilgrims’ Partner Foundation, which she co-created five years ago. It is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide free training for nonprofit organizations in the Western U.S. that serve low-income and disenfranchised populations.
Kevin Eagleson ’70
As a Bronco basketball player in the late ’60s, Eagleson was part of a talented squad that captured three WCAC titles and advanced to three NCAA Tournaments. But Kevin is more than just a skilled athlete who contributed to Bronco basketball history; he is an extremely humble man who always puts service before self: He returned to SCU as assistant coach and has taught and served as principal at schools in the Bay Area, including at Sacred Heart Nativity School, educating socio-economically disadvantaged boys. He has helped many students learn to believe in themselves, and many of those that Kevin works with have expressed how his passion toward education empowers them to want to work harder.
Established in 2000, the Louis I. Bannan, S.J., Award is given once a year to a single individual or couple who has given distinguished and outstanding service to the Alumni Association and University.
Judge John McInerny ’49, J.D. ’54
During his undergraduate years as a Bronco, John made the President’s Honor Roll and was given the Santa Barbara Medal for earning the highest GPA in the ROTC’s military science courses. Law studies were put on hold to serve in Korea, but John returned to complete his degree, then went on to serve as Deputy Attorney General for the state of California, as legal advisor and clemency secretary to Governor Pat Brown, and, beginning in 1966, as Superior Court Judge for the State of California. In 1995, SCU benefited from his work as national president of the Alumni Association. He made it policy to personally visit each alumni chapter, near and far. When he wasn’t traveling, he used his legal expertise to update the Association constitution. Judge McInerny appointed the first student to the board, and, along with Fr. German, he launched the Alumni For Others program. To this day, John remains an active board member, encouraging alumni to make connections and attend Santa Clara events.