BY CHRIS KERR | April 24, 2013
On April 24, 2012, Fr. Don MacMillan, S.J. was honored with the Robert M. Holstein “Faith Doing Justice” Award at Boston College. More than 125 people gathered to celebrate Macmillan’s witness to the Social Teachings of the Catholic faith through his solidarity with the economically poor and marginalized in the United States and around the world.
The evening featured great food and conversation, as well as remarks by ISN executive director, Christopher Kerr, a tribute to MacMillan by Victoria Kennedy, the award presentation by ISN board members Robyn Caponi and Jack Raslowsky, and finally remarks by Macmillan.
Don MacMillan S.J.’s Remarks:
Amilcar Lopes ‘97 started me on this faith and justice journey at BC. He helped me build on past experiences…walking with MLK, Jr. back in 1964/5 for civil rights when I was in philosophy studies; being stunned by the death of Rutilio Grande, SJ and then Archbishop Romero when I was a high school teacher and administrator; then the Jesuits at the UCA.
Eventually missioned to BC where I met Amilcar, he wanted a memorial service for the Jesuits of the UCA plus their two friends. So we nailed together some crosses, formed a prayer service and have been doing it ever since. Then I learned that students were driving to Georgia for the SOA vigil. I read up on it and learned that it was started by Fr. Roy Bourgeois and Jack Seery plus a few others. Jack was a Jesuit with me. Fr. John Savard, SJ and I decided to go to Georgia to the SOA vigil/protest. Students planned to drive down…we blessed them and missioned them off from the St. Ignatius Church parking lot and the next morning John and I flew down to meet them there. Younger though we were at that time, we were not driving 24 hours to Georgia. The next year another group formed and off we went again to Georgia. This time I was determined to cross the line and so we all did. I probably don’t deserve this award because unlike Bob Holstein who got arrested and imprisoned for his speaking out against this injustice, I got bused to a football field three miles away and didn’t even get a ban and bar letter from federal property. I failed as a protester!!! After that, I stuck with the prayer part!
And so BC was among the growing community from across the country that was waking up to the actions of the School of the Americas. We heard Joe Kennedy, then a member of Congress, file bill after bill to get Congress to stop funding this school. He almost succeeded, coming within seven votes. Still we kept going. Large groups of student showed up at my office every fall and we would prepare them and fund raise and go to Georgia. One year we had 110 students plus a group of others who met us there. Some colleagues and faculty, JVCers, Alums and more went to the Vigil. “No mas, no more, cry the hills of Salvador” became our anthem among other songs. By this time, the Teach-In started under the leadership of Bob Holstein and his companions. And then ISN came into being in 2004 and the teach-in continues. Martin Sheen, Sr. Helen Prejean, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, and many more came/come to speak to the large Jesuit gathering each year.
Mass grew beyond the boundaries of the tent. It seemed that almost everyone in Columbus came to that Mass. All 28 Jesuit Universities and Colleges plus a growing number of secondary schools and parishes came. We joined in with the others and the prayer vigil numbered close to 20,000 at one point. Today we still go to the teach-in but it’s in Washington, DC now to give us access to Congress for advocacy. A shameless plug for next November 16-18. Without getting political, attention is diminishing somewhat…media doesn’t cover it and federal officials have intensified their actions against the protesters but the cause remains and we need to keep talking and calling for a change. Delegations go directly to the Latin American and South American governments asking them to stop sending troops to the WHINSEC. For the most part, they are beginning to stop.
I have been privileged to visit families in El Salvador who were victims of the civil war conducted by soldiers trained at the SOA. This whole vigil started because 6 Jesuits and their housekeeper and her daughter were killed the night of November 16, 1989. Congressman Joe Moakley took up the charge after Joe Kennedy and now Jim McGovern. It’s just hard now in the arrogant climate of Washington. And all we are doing is what is written in the gospel to care for the oppressed and deliver them from every evil to the best of our ability. I go to Cuernavaca, Mexico each summer with a delegation of students and we sit in the houses of the poor and hear their stories of survival and sometimes failure. It’s heartbreaking but also inspiring.
[gn_quote style=”1″]Faith doing justice is a way of life for those who follow Jesus Christ. That’s what I try to do here and have tried to do in past apostolic assignments[/gn_quote]Faith doing justice is a way of life for those who follow Jesus Christ. That’s what I try to do here and have tried to do in past apostolic assignments at BC High for example and Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River. Sowing seeds in people’s hearts, letting them know that they can do something. They don’t have to take on the SOA, but they can serve as Jesus serves. Every neighborhood has needs. Parents can raise children with awareness of others who need compassion and help. I have a friend who donated a kidney to her friend’s daughter; another works in immigration services to relieve the burdens placed on people who are trying to have a dignified life; people have donated money to help students get an education; a student gathered an international group in Boston to discuss arms trading and control; another student has created a website that helps others find something they can do to deal with, and I’m quoting only a few of the possibilities, “homelessness, human trafficking, immigration detention, criminal justice reform and education reform.” Groups of BC students work all year long in various programs such as 4Boston, Appalachia, Urban Immersion, Loyola Volunteers, Pulse and many more. Lawyers do a lot of pro-bono work for the poor; medical professionals offer free services to the wounded and sick of the cities; everyone can do something. The service groups on this campus come to realize that there is much more to this “being for others” than building a resume. They come to understand that we are not building just a community, but a just community.[gn_quote style=”1″]They come to understand that we are not building just a community, but a just community.[/gn_quote]
So some of the seeds that many of us plant are taking root and growing. I am very confident that the next generation will change the ways things are done. The tenets of Catholic Social teaching will be more than tenets; they will be the way of life. Human rights and responsibilities will be the daily process. There will be corporate responsibility. There will be no more sweatshops. My favorites to dislike Coca-Cola and Nike will begin to be responsible companies among other companies that need to step up to justice. Consumers can help in getting corporations to be responsible organizations, responsible to people and to the planet. Treaties like NAFTA and CAFTA will cease to exist and neighbors will be neighbors not competing tribes for turf and dominance. But it’s a struggle and will be because sin exists in our hearts. If we want justice on our planet, we need to be just persons ourselves. God’s grace is there for the asking…in fact He just gives it out…so let me thank people and this is dangerous to do because I can’t name everyone, so you are not left out if I don’t say your name: Bob Holstein who lived his Christian commitment and raised the awareness of Jesuit institutions across this country to the actions of the SOA – may he rest in peace ; Sarah Berger Gonzales, his niece, a BC Alum and someone who brought her passion and commitment to BC and to us all and continues to do so in her work at the World Bank, dealing with women’s issues in developing countries; Mrs. Vicki Kennedy and her work for equal rights among many other things; Fr. Tom Massaro, SJ a theologian who has taken the lead in writing about Catholic Social Teaching and justice; Fr. Jim Bernauer, SJ who has formed the Center for Jewish-Christian Studies; Fr. David Hollenbach, SJ for his formation of the Center for Human Rights and International Justice; Fr. Fred Enman, SJ who founded Matthew 25 and builds houses for the lower income and poor families in Worcester, MA; Dan Ponsetto and the Volunteer and Service Learning Center; Stephen Pope, John Makransky, Matt Mullane, Michael Himes, John Paris, Jim Keenan , Lisa Cahill, Shawn Copeland, Ruth Langer, Chris Darcy, Dan Leahy and the list goes on with all the women and men who teach and sow the seeds of faith doing justice in every department at this university both academic and in residential life. BC is where we have been planting these seeds, the world is where these people will go to grow and bloom and develop peace and justice.
And now ISN is in the very capable hands of Chris Kerr. He was handed a great package of deeds and efforts from Ann Magovern, the former director and BC Alum. I thank them for not just honoring me but all of us at BC, the Jesuit order and beyond who have been educated by the Jesuits ever to excel. We know our responsibilities and will follow the advice of Fr. Pedro Arrupe and seconded by Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach, both former Superiors of the Jesuit Order, to be women and men for others.
Let me close with a prayer from Fr. Arrupe that many BC students and Alums have heard many times:
Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekend, what you read, what you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decided everything.
Education is the key, so let’s get on with it.
Thank you, Ann Magovern, Chris Kerr and the ISN Board – I am grateful and proud to accept this honor and to share it with all who seek justice.
Chris joined the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) as executive director in 2011. He has over fifteen years of experience in social justice advocacy and leadership in Catholic education and ministry. Prior to ISN he served in multiple roles at John Carroll University, including coordinating international immersion experience and social justice education programming as an inaugural co-director of John Carroll’s Arrupe Scholars Program for Social Action. Prior to his time at John Carroll he served as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and secondary levels in Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Chris speaks regularly at campuses and parishes about social justice education and advocacy, Jesuit mission, and a broad range of social justice issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ). Chris earned a B.A. and M.A. from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He and his family reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.