BY ANNA FERGUSON | May 22, 2014
This year is the 25th anniversary of the murders of the UCA martyrs—November 16th, to be exact. The UCA, or University of Central America in San Salvador, El Salvador, will forever be memorialized as a place of heroic social justice, where six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter were brutally slain one November evening by members of the Salvadoran army.
For social justice and liberation theology folks, this is a pretty big deal. These martyrs remained actively involved in fighting for the oppressed poor in El Salvador, knowing it probably would cost them their lives. When the Catholic Church was just starting to entertain the idea of being a Church for the poor, these Jesuits were living it, every day, fearlessly, for most of their lives.
For the Ignatian Solidarity Network, this 25th anniversary will make their Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ) even more important and memorable when members from nearly every Jesuit college, high school and organization gather in November to learn about and advocate for social justice.
As a co-chair of Creighton University’s IFTJ Core Team—we’re the ones who plan the trip logistics, recruit students and train them for advocacy before, during and after the trip—I’ve already given a few talks to students about the IFTJ, as a way to do some early recruitment. Each talk, no matter who the audience is, I try to hit on one very important point, the point of this reflection: The IFTJ is about honoring the deaths of the UCA martyrs, celebrating their work and carrying out their legacy in today’s society.
This idea of living and leaving a legacy, though, doesn’t just pertain to the IFTJ and the UCA martyrs. It’s a point, I realize, that is fairly obvious in and of itself—we all get the chance to chose who’s footsteps we follow in and what kind of footsteps we leave for others. However, as a college student, most of the time I’m just trying to stand on my own two feet through the rush of exams and papers, work and extra-curriculars, service and friendship. And I imagine life after college is much the same. Taking the time to reflect on my own legacy—where I’ve been, where I’m going and who I’m following—is a rare but precious gift.
Many of my friends graduated from Creighton this weekend. As a soon-to-be-senior, I’ve taken advantage of the latter part of this year, especially this week, to ask them for advice and to ask them the dreaded question, “What are you doing after you graduate?” As an undergrad, especially as an underclassman, I lived with this idea that the upperclassmen, especially the seniors, were so wise, so calm and had their lives figured out. That gave me hope that eventually, I too, would figure out what I’m supposed to do with my “one wild and precious life” (thanks, Mary Oliver).
False. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all the questions I’ve asked my graduating friends, it’s this: No one has any idea what they’re doing with their lives. And if they do, it isn’t a very good one. It’s vague, subject to change from day to day, out on the horizon somewhere, shimmering in the sunset. Imagine how hopeful that makes me feel now.
Despite this great unknowing, there is also a resounding sense of hope and excitement in my friends. While none of them knows exactly where they’re headed or what they’re meant to do for the rest of their lives, they all know one thing: They want to live the Magis.
Whether they’ve said it or not, everyone I’ve spoken to about their post-graduation plans is filled with this desire to take what they’ve been give at Creighton and find the more; each of them is embarking on a journey to discover it and live it, whatever way they are called. Wherever the go, whatever they do—whether they join the ranks of hundreds, even thousands of Creighton grads that volunteer for a few years, or if they enter the workforce ready to prove themselves—each of them wants to do more, be more, live more for themselves and others.
Thanks for ruining them, Jesuits.
As a soon-to-be-senior, this leaves me in awe. I have big shoes to fill this fall. As I attempt to figure out how to live the more beyond Creighton for myself, I take comfort in the passion these graduates have for going and being men and women for and with others, whatever that looks like. Like them, I have no idea what I’m meant to do with my life; I only know that whatever I do, I want to serve and love others.
As I think about these graduates, as I look at the year gone by and imagine the year coming up, I think about the UCA martyrs, whose legacy Creighton will celebrate in various ways all year long. What an amazing way to live my senior year, in the light and footsteps of these brave men and women. And may we remember all who leave a legacy of social justice, service and faith.
As I think about the work they did and the work they leave for us to accomplish, I’m reminded that every day I get the chance to leave my mark on the world, too. I firmly believe that no matter who we are or what we’re doing, it’s never too late to reflect on the legacies in our lives—the ones we attempt to emulate (legacies of love and service) and the ones we want to leave behind, whatever they may be.
May the UCA martyrs and all the important people in our lives—especially for me, the Creighton class of 2014—continue to inspire us to leave a legacy of Magis.
Anna Ferguson is a junior studying theology and journalism at Creighton University. She is originally from Wheaton, IL, which is a suburb just West of Chicago, and, yes, a PROUD Cubs fan! The oldest of six girls, she comes from a lively family who instilled in her a desire to serve the less fortunate and learn as much as she can about the world around her. She came into Creighton with the dream of becoming a big reporter one day, but the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, the service trip she attended, the volunteering she participated in, and her theology class convinced her otherwise throughout her freshman year. She couldn’t ignore her passion for service and love for the Catholic faith, so she tacked on a theology major, and dove deeper into service, social justice, and advocacy through her job in the Creighton Center for Service and Justice. Throughout these experiences, she realized that she wanted to use her writing skills for so much more than a big newspaper job. Today, her dream is to be a kind of missionary-journalist, engaging the world in the “gritty reality” around them (to borrow from Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach). (Follow Anna on Twitter @AnnaFeguson832).