2019 Delegation for the 30th Anniversary of the UCA Martyrs

Maddelyn Guerke, 2020

"Al salir de aquí, cada uno vaya a ser constructor de esa nueva civilización del amor que tanto necesita nuestra patria."  (By leaving here, each one will be a builder of this new civilization of love that our homeland needs so much.) 

 These words from Oscar Romero were on my mind all week; and has been at the front of my mind since returning. Traveling to the praxis communities of the UCA students (these can be equated to service-learning sites at SJU) allowed us the opportunity to witness the incredible relationship between student and community member-- one filled with genuine love and their authentic self. These relationships are visibly empowering to both parties involved, creating a sense of mutuality and learning from one another. It is a relationship that was described by each student and community member as one of familial love. With this relationship, students are able to better understand the reality of millions of people in their country, and feel empowered to improve it.  

Relationships like these are what made the mission of Oscar Romero and the UCA martyrs so powerful. 30 years after the martyrdom of the UCA Jesuits, thousands of people came to the procession to honor their lives not just because of faith, but because of the impact of the love and compassion each priest shared with marginalized individuals and communities throughout the country. Nico, a student of the UCA, quoted a song when reflecting upon the last three months at his praxis site that said: "Cuando el pobre crea en el pobre, ya podremos cantar libertad" (When the poor believe in the poor, we can sing liberty). The love and compassion exhibited by the UCA students, Saint Romero, Padre Ellacuría and his counterparts, will generate lasting change in the country, as it empowers marginalized populations. How can my experiences in witnessing these relationships translate into my service and every-day life at St. Joe's? While reflecting in El Salvador and upon my return, I have come to realize that is not charitable acts that promote justice, but instead it is listening, being present, and seeking to understand--things I hope to now bring to service and relationships. Upon returning from El Salvador, I am reflecting upon ways in which I can use the love I shared and felt in El Salvador, to generate justice for both the United States and El Salvador.”

Fr. Brendan Lally, S.J.

“The experience as part of the SJU delegation to the 30th Anniversary of  the Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador confirmed on the deepest levels the importance of being in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in El Salvador, as a part of the developing world.  Our meetings with people in the remote areas of the country, who were living in the most humble poverty, made clear the need to keep our eyes on the world around us, and in the light of Christ's call to "love one another", to accept our responsibility to do more than sympathize with the challenges of the materially poor, but to take compassionate action to "make a difference."  Our delegation, especially our three students, represented SJU very well, building bridges with the students of the UCA as well as with the other delegations attending. Our visit to the Santa Luisa School, for the poorest of the poor in San Salvador, gave us new resolve to act on behalf of the young people of San Salvador, by advocating for them and the specific needs of their school.

I come home from this pilgrimage of solidarity, hearing the words of an elderly woman in the poorest region outside the city, telling us that she is "grateful for the life she has before her......It is the life she has been given and she intends to live it to the fullest."......... It was a message of Jesus speaking through the voice of the poor......to be grateful for even the simplest things,

to accept the challenges of daily life with trust, confident that God can weave all things together unto the good if we believe. She reminded us of that message.  I hope we can pass it on.”

Michael Fontana, 2020

“I think a word that serves our experience justice is communion because it is unifying in its versatility. We were able to experience communities established on the incline of a volcano, who while in desperate need, found the courage to rely on God to supply for them. We were able to become part of the community with the students of the UCA, and feel like we had a family away from home. We were able to receive communion in celebration of the legacy of the Martyr’s. In focus, the five days spent in El Salvador felt like months because of the openness and hospitality gifted to us through the UCA students, other Jesuit Universities, and Kevin and Trina. I truly felt the meaning of solidarity and walking with others in their lives, living along side of them. These words are just a reflection of our experiences, but the power they hold within us is much more transformative than words can describe.”

Dr. Peter A. Clark, S.J.

“The experience in El Salvador was exceptional. It was spiritually uplifting, intellectually challenging, and personally fulfilling. I am so proud to be a Jesuit and to have been able to walk with my Jesuit brothers from around the world as we commemorated the lives of the Jesuit martyrs and their two female companions. The SJU students were an inspiration. They were the only students from any American Jesuit University. They related very well with the students from the UCA and not only bonded with them but they learned from one another. The faculty and the Jesuits from the other Jesuit universities all commented on their presence and the depth of their knowledge. Our students had the opportunity to meet and talk with Jon Sobrino, SJ, Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Provincials, Congressmen, and the poorest of the poor. They touched the hearts of so many people and I truly believe that their hearts were touched even more so. It was an experience of a lifetime that will take months to unpack fully. SJU should be very proud of our students and how they represented our university.”

Dr. Richard Gioioso

“The commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Jesuit and lay martyrs at the UCA in 1989 brought together participants from around the world, especially from the Americas and Ignatian communities. The official title of the gathering - Llenan de luz la historia (They fill history with light) - serves as a reminder of the commitment and sacrifice of the eight people massacred in the brutal civil war in El Salvador from 1980-1992, and as an example for students, faculty, staff, citizens, parishioners, activists, elected leaders, among others, that we can be a light for others who are marginalized and excluded in society - locally, nationally and internationally. As a Jesuit institution, Saint Joseph's University is privileged to share in the legacy of the martyrs, as are all members of our community who can feel inspired by their courage to confront injustice.”

Dr. Bill Rickle, S.J.

“Although I can’t say I knew them well, I met Frs. Martin-Baró and Ellacuría in the late 1970s when I was a theology student in Chicago and Mexico City.  I was present for the 25th Anniversary Commemoration, representing another Jesuit University at the time.  But I was the only one from there from the university. Of course, the whole event was extremely moving. 

This time, accompanied by a team of two Jesuits, a Political Science professor and three stellar students, the experience was so much richer. Visiting two “praxis sites” where the Casa de las Americas has been accompanying the people there for a long time was eye-opening, especially for the students. Seeing how our students just “drank in” the whole experience and how they related to the young people we met along the way, was so gratifying. Conferences at the UCA were informative and inspiring, especially by Cardinal Czerny on the Amazon Synod. The evening Masses and candlelight procession with thousands of people participating were truly moving. SJU was well represented, and PRESENT to the event and the people there.”

SJU 2019 Delegates:

Maddelyn Guerke, ’21, Dr. Richard Gioioso, Michael Fontana, ’20, Odir Duenas, ’20, Fr. Brendan Lally, SJ, Dr. Peter Clark, SJ, Dr. Bill Rickle, SJ

Return Report of the SJU 2019 Delegation

SJU 2019 Delegation Photo Album

"Pilgrimage to Salvadoran Martyr Site Inspires Hawks" (The Hawk Newspaper, 2019)

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