Scranton Plans to Remember Jesuit Martyrs

Oct 23, 2009

        The University of Scranton will remember the lives, mission and brutal murder of six Jesuit priests and educators, their housekeeper and her daughter that occurred in El Salvador twenty years ago. The University is planning a series of events to mark the 20th anniversary of their martyrdom and to further our understanding of the relevance of their lives and deaths.

        "We at Scranton and all the Jesuit schools around the world will recall how they gave up their lives because they attended to the movements of God's spirit, because they were animated by God's love, and because they committed themselves to the dream of making the world more gentle, more just," said University of Scranton President Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J. in his remarks at the University's fall convocation. "They realized that dream on a Catholic and Jesuit university campus, just like us. They were scholars, teachers, administrators, staff members, people who made a university run in all its complexity, just like us. They were alive with the experience of the love of God, just like us. And on account of that love, they heeded St. Ignatius' call to go and set the world on fire, just like us."

        According to Fr. Pilarz in a notice sent to the campus community, "What happened at the University of Central America in 1989, as well as the need for continued solidarity with the third world, is critically important to Jesuit higher education and to our mission here at Scranton."

        The first event planned to begin the campus conversation on this issue is a talk by Rev. Rodolfo Cardenal, S.J., former vice rector of the University of Central America, who lived with those who lost their lives in 1989. He will discuss the legacy of the martyrs on Wednesday, Oct. 28, at noon in the Houlihan-McLean Center. A luncheon will follow immediately after the lecture.

        The University of Scranton is one of only a few Jesuit institutions in the United States that will host Fr. Cardenal this year. He is the sub-director of the Instituto de Historia de Nicaragua y Centroamérica (Institute of History of Nicaragua and Central America) at the University of Central America, Managua, Nicaragua.

        The University of Scranton will also offer a Mass to commemorate the Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. in the Byron Recreation Complex. In addition, Scranton Jesuits, faculty and staff will meet with students to discuss their recollection of hearing the news 20 years ago during an event planned for Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. in the Fireplace Lounge of the DeNaples Center. A Latin American Film Series commemorating martyrs is also planned for later this academic year.

       Over the past 20 years, The University of Scranton has not forgotten the Jesuit Martyrs. Since 1999, Scranton students, faculty and staff have participated in the Bridges to El Salvador, a program founded by former Rector and Campus Minister at Scranton Rev. Brendan Lally, S.J., to foster a greater commitment to justice issues. In 2001, the University dedicated Martyrs Grove in an area near Campion Hall to serve as a reminder of the importance of their lives.

        "For students at The University of Scranton, and other Jesuit and Catholic colleges and universities, the Martyrs of El Salvador remind us to be the voice for the voiceless," said Thomas MacKinnon, executive director of the Pride Passion Promise Campaign at The University of Scranton, who is among the staff members working with the President to organize the campus events. "We need to be present to the voiceless, to witness their struggle and to speak on their behalf."

        In January, Fr. Pilarz will lead the senior administrators at Scranton in a pilgrimage to El Salvador to witness first-hand the legacy of the Jesuit Martyrs. As a team, they will reflect on the conditions in El Salvador and try to find ways to incorporate the legacy of the martyrs into each of their functional areas at Scranton.

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