By Eddie Mikus
Ignation week was Nov. 12-19 and Fordham celebrated its Jesuit history with a series of events that reflected the Jesuit mission. Ignatian Week events began with the annual McGinley Lecture, delivered on Nov. 11 at Lincoln Center and Nov. 12 at Rose Hill. The university then hosted Fr. Joseph P. Parkes, S.J., president of Cristo Rey New York High School and graduate of Fordham College, at a Theology on Tap event on Nov. 13. Other events included a vigil for the Salvadoran martyrs on Nov. 14, a Mass for the Salvadoran Martrys on Nov. 16, a film study about Saint Francis Xavier on Nov. 17, and a Jesuit trivia night on Nov. 19. The university also commissioned a delegation of students to travel to Washington D.C. in order to take part in an annual event known as the Ignatian Family Teach-In For Justice on Nov. 18.
This year, Ignatian Week specifically focused on commemorating the murders of Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J., Segundo Montes, S.J., Ignacio Martin-Baro, S.J., Joaquin Lopez y Lopez, S.J., Juan Ramon Moreno, S.J., Amado Lopez, S.J., Julia Ramos and Cecilia Ramos, who were killed by members of the Salvadoran army at the University of Central America in El Salvador on Nov. 16, 1989. The event is widely viewed as a turning point in the Salvadoran Civil War that lasted from 1979 until 1992.
“This is the 25th anniversary of the occasion of their martyrdom,” Conor O’Kane, associate director of Campus Ministry, said. “So this is a significant year. The murder of those eight people, the senseless murder, was profoundly disturbing and unsettling and marked a real turning point, both in the Jesuit universities and institutions’ call to social justice and in that conflict.”
During the vigil, students and faculty listened to a narrative describing the night on which the massacre took place. This narration was punctuated by students who provided biographical information about each martyr. The students then placed a rose in front of a display of white crosses meant to honor the victims.
The mass, in memorial of the martyrs, featured a procession with white crosses and images of each of the deceased. The mass’ homily also focused the decision of the martyrs to work towards obtaining peace and social justice in their native country as well as the obligation for students at a Jesuit university to strive towards these goals in their own societies.
Carol Gibney, director of Ignatian Programs, said that the legacy of the martyrs lived on in the fact that the University of Central America is still operating today. “The significance of their memory is that they did not die in vain,” Gibney said. “The school is still open in spite of the horrors and the atrocities that occurred in El Salvador.”
O’Kane said that he hoped students would see their legacy as an invitation to work for social justice.
“My hope is that students will take the opportunity to reflect more deeply on their heritage as a Jesuit and Catholic university in spirituality,” O’Kane said. “My hope that, particularly this year with the 25th anniversary of the Jesuit martyrs, that we’ll have the opportunity to honor memory, attentive to their call to us today, and that we can use our gifts and talents to live a faith that does justice.”
O’Kane also spoke about some of the ways in which the massacre had impacted his own life and worldview.“Their witness has inspired many people, myself included, to continue to make the world a better place, to continue to care for the needs of people who live on the margins, to labor for a world where individuals’ human dignity and their rights are protected and valued” O’Kane said.
O’Kane has visited the University of Central America with a Global Outreach team, citing the martyrs’ example as a major motivator for him to become involved in Jesuit education.“I personally have been very inspired by their story and as I remain deeply moved by their loss,” O’Kane remarked. The story of the fallen Jesuits in El Salvador has inspired many, including O’Kane, to lives of service.