Remembering Rev. J. Donald Monan, S.J.: Commitment to Justice for the Jesuit Martyrs

BY ISN STAFFMarch 23, 2017

Reverend J. Donald Monan, S.J., the 24th president of Boston College from 1972 to 1996 and Chancellor of the school from 1996 to 2017, died March 18 in Weston, Massachusetts.

Rev. J. Donald Monan, S.J. (Gary Wayne Gilbert via bc.edu)

As president at Boston College, Fr. Monan animated the Jesuit response to the 1989 murders of the six Jesuit priests and two lay women murdered at the Jesuit’s University of Central America (UCA), visiting the site shortly after the meetings, attending the trial of the accused as an international observer, and tirelessly working to keep the murders at the forefront of American priorities, working with Congress to pressure the Salvadoran government to seek justice.

In a statement announcing a 2014 Boston College exhibit, “One Night in November,” marking 25 years since the murders, Fr. Monan shared the following: “I return to the full set of events that took place very, very often. It sounded an alarm to me as an educator, as a university person, as a Jesuit, and as a human being. What happened was so atrocious and such a public attack on all of these things, we wanted to do something.”

The Rose Garden at the University of Central America where five of the Jesuit martyrs’ bodies were found on the morning of November 16, 1989. 

And “do something,” he did. Commemorating the 10th anniversary of the murders at Boston College, U.S.  Representative J. Joseph Moakley, who headed a special task force appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives to investigate the UCA murders, shared reflections on Fr. Monan’s commitment to justice for the Jesuit martyrs: “Fr. Monan single-handedly made a network of Jesuits to keep this thing going. You don’t know hard it was to keep El Salvador in the newspaper after three or four months. The Jesuits did an outstanding job, and Fr. Monan, absolutely.” (see Boston College Chronicle)

Fr. Monan lived a commitment to justice, both in his involvement in El Salvador, and during his years at Boston College. He imparted his dedication to his students, often stating: “We must do all we can to ensure that freedom predominates over oppression, justice over injustice, truth over falsehood, and love over hatred.” (see The People’s Quest for Leadership in Church and State)


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