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 military warmongers to consider him a
threat to their continued power and wealth.
Investigations found that 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
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, including
study-abroad and other immersion experiences there. In 1982, Ellacuria
receivd an honorary degree and gave the University commencement speech.
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.
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
*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 Nov. 16 in
*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.
to find further resources on the history of the Jesuit martyrs and the
events at SCU to honor them.
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