BY ISN STAFF | November 14, 2018

“The world is crisscrossed by roads that come together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.” – Pope Francis

From November 3-5, 2018, nearly 2,000 individuals from more than 125 institutions across the Jesuit and greater Catholic network gathered in Arlington, Virginia and Washington, D.C. for the 21st annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. This year’s theme, Discipleship at the Crossroads, drew inspiration from Pope Francis’ call to “get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas” to better journey together “towards the Good.”

Spring Hill College students cheer during the traditional Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice roll call.

The weekend centered around storytelling, illustrating the dynamic ways in which each individual life and sphere of influence can build momentum toward justice and hope, from the very personal to the global.

Bishop George Murry, S.J., with Scranton Preparatory School students at the 2018 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice.

Speakers throughout the weekend provided a powerful contrast in both style and scope as they explored timely justice issues, personal experience, and intersectionality. Attendees were invited to travel the “crisscrossed roads” of family life, education, institutional Church, and local and global community life. These themes were transposed with the lived realities of injustices related to immigration, the U.S. criminal justice system, race, gender, sexuality, environmental degradation, and gun violence.

Dr. Nichole Flores, assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia, brought justice into the immensely personal realm of family life. Through a powerful recounting of her experience of becoming a mother, she tied the individual yet universal experience of new motherhood to her visceral reaction to the zero-tolerance immigration policy which led to the separation of thousands of parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border earlier in 2018. “We have moral obligations to care for one another as family,” she said. “Imagining the common good in terms of family can help us to enact a just solidarity in our time.”

Bishop George Murry, S.J., (Diocese of Youngstown) drew attendees into a wider consideration of justice through reform within the Catholic Church, drawing from his role as former chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee Against Racism. “While racism is America’s most persistent sin, it appears as if the American Catholic Church has been virtually silent about it,” he said. He grounded his call to action in personal relationships as a starting point, urging attendees to “make an effort to know someone of a different race, to listen to their story, to walk in their shoes, then to use the gifts that you have been given…to offer people on the margins opportunity.”

The weekend’s main stage sessions concluded with a mix of keynote and performance from The Peace Poets, a Bronx-based artists’ collective. The message wove together the local and global, touching on the realities of the artists’ community in light of immigration, race, and mass incarceration. “Recognizing that home is where we need to do the work,” they proclaimed the experiences of people living on the peripheries of power by employing the richness of protest and performance art.

Space was created on the main stage throughout the weekend for pain, healing, beauty, and hope through transformative presentations from Ignatian Network Speakers. These members of the Ignatian family are invited to share their own stories and local work for justice with the aim of providing a model for attendees to imagine how that work might play out in their own homes, neighborhoods, schools, campuses, parishes, and cities.

Kassina Dwyer, Alexandra Heredia, and Rachael Martines, students at Loyola University Maryland, spoke about the student movement Loyola Rising. The movement emerged in solidarity with the Baltimore Uprisings of 2015, after the murder of Freddie Gray. Their work today is to call Loyola’s attention back to the daily violence affecting our society and Baltimore City, especially in the midst of mass shootings in our nation.

Other notable speakers included: Jorge Huete-Pérez, Ph.D., senior vice president of the University of Central America (UCA) in Nicaragua, speaking about the current unrest in the country and resulting migration to the U.S.; Fr. James Martin, S.J., on building LGBT-inclusive lives and communities; and policy briefings from Jane Adams (Bread for the World) and Joanna Williams (Kino Border Initiative).

Fr. James Martin, S.J., with attendees after his large scale breakout session: Reaching Out to LGBT People in our Lives.

“During IFTJ, I experienced God’s love and the Church like never before,” said Hannah Tanner, a junior at the University of Michigan and a member of the Jesuit St. Mary’s Student Parish. “It was truly faith in action.”

California schools meet with a staffer from U.S. Senator Kamala Harris’s office.

While heavy rains impeded Monday’s annual Public Witness, more than 1,500 attendees spent the day prior to the 2018 midterm elections on Capitol Hill, advocating for humane immigration and criminal justice reform.  

Brophy College Preparatory delegates met with Senator Jon Kyl’s office.

“Advocacy Day is one of the most tangible ways that we as Brophy students can live out one of our essential values: Committed to Doing Justice,” shared Saul Rascon Salazar, a member of the Brophy College Preparatory class of 2019. “In my case, this day made me feel empowered knowing that as a DACA recipient, I was able to look at these people who have a lot of influence and tell them that I need clarity on my immigration status and to not be kept in limbo.”

Nikolas Kirk, Andre Bengtson, Saul Rascon Salazar, students at Brophy College Preparatory, with Beth Clarke, faculty at Brophy.

Rascon Salazar spoke from the main stage with three other Brophy students—Yael Balbuena Basto, Andre Bengston, and Nikolas Kirk—on their work spearheading the school’s #DREAMon Campaign, designed to fight for a legislative DACA solution and educate the Brophy community on the importance of DACA. After Advocacy Day, Kirk shared that “voicing our concerns on life issues and seeing the effect it has on our legislators is where I see the potentiality of God’s love and communion.”

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