Students reflect on a Jesuit weekend in the capital

Loyola participates in the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice

By Magazine Staff  |  Photos courtesy of Campus Ministry

Students from Loyola’s Campus Ministry attended the 2014 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice in Washington, D.C., Nov. 15-17.

The Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice is an annual gathering in which members of the Ignatian family, including Jesuit universities, high schools, parishes, Catholic institutions, and social justice partners, come together for a weekend of prayer, reflection, education, networking, and advocacy for peace and social justice.

This year marked the 17th year of the Teach-In and was special in that it honored the martyrs of El Salvador on the 25th anniversary of their assassination.

Two students share with Loyola magazine their reflections from a Jesuit weekend in the nation’s capital.

Loyola students represented the University at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for justice in Washington, D.C., Nov. 15-17.

Putting the University’s mission into action

For me, the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice was an opportunity for our delegation, as Loyola students, to put our university’s mission into action. The Teach-In combines a weekend of learning about social justice issues (our focuses this year were comprehensive human immigration reform, U.S. foreign policy in Central America, and environmental justice) with an advocacy day on Capitol Hill that allows us to visit our members of Congress and discuss why these issues are of concern to us as Catholics.

The Teach-In was powerful to me because in one room, over 1,600 people gathered from Jesuit high schools and universities across the country (as well as Mexico and Canada). We were united in our passion for social justice.

In that room, during the course of the weekend, I realized this is how I want to witness to my faith. This is how I want to put into action those Catholic Social Teachings that are part of my faith and call me to work for the poor, to work in the pursuit of justice.

An important part of the weekend for me was the experience of solidarity with the Jesuit martyrs and their companions, who were killed for by members of the U.S. trained Salvadoran military during El Salvador’s civil war in 1989. They were killed for speaking out against injustices being committed against the poor in El Salvador by the ruling powers. These Jesuits were at the UCA, the Jesuit University of Central America, and they had the courage and the faith to continue living out the mission of a Jesuit university even when their own lives were in danger.

By continuing to attend the Teach-In annually as a Loyola delegation, we are renewing our commitment, as students of a Jesuit university and in solidarity with our Jesuit brothers and sisters throughout the world, to speak out against injustices wherever the may be.

We are called to go further than just speaking out, though. I believe it is a necessary part of our faith, this “faith that does justice,” as we like to say, that invites us to be agents of change in this journey towards justice. This is why the advocacy day is such a vital part of the Teach-In weekend. We go to the Teach-In to have personal experiences, to share and hear stories of how injustices affect people throughout the world, and to learn about how to discuss these issues from a Catholic perspective. Advocating for these changes—in immigration policy, in U.S. foreign policy in Central America, and in environmental justice—is how we put this passion that the Teach-In brought alive in us into action.

I discovered a special interest in U.S. foreign policy in Central America while I was at the Teach-In, as I learned about the American foreign policy that militarizes communities in the Northern Triangle of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) and prevents people in these countries from fleeing violence and having free and fair access to applying for refugee status upon arrival in the U.S. These practices do not align with Catholic teaching on the dignity of the human person, and they do not align with our humanitarian values as a nation.

And that is why, last Monday, I stood with a group of Loyola students in Senator Barbara Mikulski’s (MD) office in Washington, discussing this troubling foreign policy and asking for change.

Lindsey Rennie, 15, is a political science major from Pasadena, Md.

Students from Loyola's Campus Ministry attended a session on advocating for chance in environmental justice during this year's Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice.

A weekend that empowered all of us

On the bus to D.C. I contemplated what the next three days would entail. I knew it was a conference on social justice issues. I knew that it was started to commemorate the Jesuits Martyrs of San Salvador. I knew that we were going to advocate on Capital Hill.

However, if I am being honest, I had no idea what to expect—which turned out to be a good thing.

When we arrived at the hotel in D.C., I was surrounded by so many people, young and old. Amidst the commotion we all filed into the Arlington Ballroom. Our little Loyola group took our seats on the far right side. For the first time, I looked out on the crowd and was overwhelmed and overcome. I saw 1,800 people. 1,800  people who shared my passion for social justice. 1,800 people who believed they could change the world.

This was the start to a weekend that empowered all of us.

We listened to speakers ignited about domestic and foreign issues, remembered the deaths of the martyrs, and practiced how to properly advocate. Above all, we were given the task to carry on what the martyrs died for.

By going to the Teach-In, we accepted to be part of something larger than ourselves. We accepted the challenge to challenge the world’s problems.

The Teach-In was an unforgettable experience that showed me what it truly means to be a Jesuit.

Juliana Neves is a first-year student in the Honors Program from Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

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