Written by: Maura Toomb, Director of Campus Ministry, St. Peter’s Preparatory School
On the wall in my office, there are two simple crosses. They are made out of Home Depot paint stirrers that I spray-painted white, and they have the names “Emilia Claros, 35” and “Julia Claros, 30” written across them. Students often come into my office and ask what they are – “Is that some sort of arts and crafts project?” Answering these questions always becomes a great teachable moment for me.
As I tell my students, these crosses are “props” from one of my five trips to the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. Each year, my delegation and I get together to make these crosses – gluing, painting, and labeling. That labeling is always the most meaningful part for me. The names on these crosses represent people who were killed by soldiers trained at Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). They are literal victims of injustice and hate in their countries. Some names that you could write on the crosses are more recognizable than others – Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J., or Segundo Montes, S.J., for example. Other names, like “Emilia Claros” or “Julia Claros” are people that the world never got to know because their lives were cut short. And, yet, when we write their names on these crosses, we are introducing them to the world. When we lift our crosses in prayer at the Ignatian Family Teach-In or place them at the gates of Fort Benning, we are remembering those individuals, and celebrating their lives.
As I tell my students as we paint, glue, and label – remembering these lives is incredibly important. In labeling these crosses we are giving a voice, however small, to those whose voices were silenced too early. And our voice of prayer says that oppression and senseless violence cannot continue.