Participating in the ISN delegation this summer was both memorable and significant for me. This was not my first trip to the region. But it was my first pilgrimage with colleagues only from Jesuit-related ministries. Nearly 35 years ago I completed my first year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in southeast Montana. I worked as a child care worker on the Northern Cheyenne reservation for most of that year. Our community was introduced to the region of Central America by missionary priests (Capuchins) fleeing a repressive government and military for their work with the poor of Nicaragua. I realized at the end of my JV year that it would be important for me to stay close to persons who would help me “unpack” my experience of that year. I was overwhelmed by the poverty of the Native Americans, the lack of education and the violence of alcoholism. I made a decision to join a JVC staff.
Six months into my first year on the Midwest JVC staff, I received a call from my Jesuit colleague at the time. He told me that the archbishop of San Salvador had been murdered (March 24, 1980). I didn’t know at the time exactly what that meant. But I learned all too quickly that many thousands of lives — including mine — would be affected by that news.
It has been important since 1980 and 1989 to create community to remain close to life-changing experiences. To understand more and more how the lives of those made poor and the marginalized communities in our world have much to tell us about the need for community to remain engaged in the struggle for justice.
I am blessed to work at the University of San Francisco where a yearly immersion trip to El Salvador has shaped the lives of many faculty and staff in the mission and values of the university. Our students study at Casa de Solidaridad in El Salvador as well as in marginalized communities locally. My hope as a recent delegate to El Salvador is to remain close to persons who keep me connected to what we experienced in El Salvador: university students seeking to create community with persons on the margin; families who seek information regarding their sons’ and daughters’ whereabouts in a quest for safety and freedom from violence; the legacy of the Jesuit martyrs and their companions who gave their lives promoting a faith that does justice in our world.
As we celebrate the communion of saints this month may we also welcome the children at our borders and seek solutions together for the reasons they flee their homeland and families. May our universities and schools and parishes be safe harbor for those in need of who we are and what we proclaim.