BY KELLY SWAN | May 24, 2019
“May you be a beacon of light that brings hope to those who have been discarded, dehumanized, or forgotten. Let us not wait for tomorrow, but rather allow our faith to move us to justice now.”
-Sr. Norma Pimentel, M.J.
On May 21, 2019 at the first annual Ignite: A Celebration of Justice in New York City, the Ignatian Solidarity Network honored Sr. Norma Pimentel, M.J., and Fr. James Martin, S.J., for their commitment to faith and justice—for “being a beacon of light to those who have been discarded, dehumanized, or forgotten.”
As executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in McAllen, Texas, Sr. Pimentel works to provide humanitarian aid to migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. Her role has situated her as a powerful voice in the U.S., advocating on behalf of those who migrate and urging immigration reform that upholds the dignity of those seeking refuge at the border, fleeing violence, poverty, and other injustices.
Fr. Martin, best-selling author, Jesuit priest, and editor-at-large for America Media, was recognized for his work to invite the Catholic Church to welcome another group on the peripheries—LGBT people. He is a sought-after speaker on the topic at parishes and institutions, bringing warmth and compassion to a topic that has been fraught with controversy and pain in the Catholic Church.
“I would invite you to help work for a church where we don’t fire people simply for being out, or even for being legally married,” Fr. Martin said to event attendees. “A church where our leaders will someday stand up for LGBT people when they are persecuted or even executed, and won’t provoke a mother to cry simply for saying her child is queer, and most of all where a 13-year-old Catholic can feel welcome in his or her or their own parish.”
Each was presented with the 2019 Robert M. Holstein Faith Doing Justice Award, which annually recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a significant commitment to leadership for social justice grounded in the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
The award’s namesake, the late Robert (Bob) M. Holstein, was a former California Province Jesuit, labor lawyer, fierce advocate for social justice, and one of the founders of the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice—the precursor to the Ignatian Solidarity Network. Previous honorees include Fr. Gregory Boyle, S.J., founder of Homeboy Industries; Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University; Fr. Michael Garanzini, S.J., Chancellor of Loyola University Chicago; Sr. Carol Keehan, D.C., President, Catholic Health Association; Rev. James L. Connor, S.J., former President, U.S. Jesuit Conference; and Sr. Helen Prejean, C.S.J., anti-death penalty activist.
ISN also presented the Legacy of the Martyrs Award at the event to The Center for Undocumented Students at Saint Peter’s University. The award honors individuals or organizations who have made significant contributions to sustaining the witness and legacy of the Salvadoran martyrs—the six Jesuits and two laywomen who were killed for their commitment to upholding the dignity of those who were oppressed.
Since 2014, The Center for Undocumented Students (TCUS) has supported undocumented students at the university, shedding intellectual light on the political and economic realities of immigration in our world today and creating a community where undocumented students feel welcome.
Under the leadership of Jennifer Ayala, Ph.D., TCUS offers access to legal support, a resource library, academic advising, career mentoring, and financial aid guidance, and provides a safe space for undocumented students. Ongoing collaboration with other university departments and outside organizations provide opportunities for faculty and staff workshops, pro-bono legal and counseling services, and connection to other community services. Dr. Ayala was joined in receiving the award by TCUS founder Dr. Anna Brown, Saint Peter’s University president Dr. Eugene J. Cornacchia, and a vibrant group of university students and alumni who have found a home at TCUS.
Two young alumni of Jesuit universities, Eric Clayton (Fairfield University ‘11) and Meaghan Fanning (Rockhurst University ‘12), were also recognized at the event, presented with the Moira Erin O’Donnell Emerging Leaders for Justice Award. Clayton is a Catholic Relief Services senior program officer in the organization’s new Mission and Mobilization division. Fanning is the manager of the refugee services youth program for Jewish Vocational Service in Kansas City. The award is given in memory of Moira Erin O’Donnell who had served as ISN’s executive director for less than a year when she passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 33. The annual award honors individuals ages 23-33 who have received an undergraduate degree from a U.S. Jesuit university and have demonstrated significant social justice leadership in their communities.
Honorary committee members for Ignite: A Celebration of Justice included Very Rev. John J. Cecero, S.J.; Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D.; Rev. Dan Corrou, S.J.; Very Rev. Timothy Kesicki, S.J.; Rev. Daniel Lahart, S.J.; Rev. Matt Malone, S.J.; Sr. Donna Markham, O.P.; Ph.D., Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J.; Sr. Virginia O’Brien, S.U.; Tony Oroszlany; Jack Raslowsky; Joan Rosenhauer; His Eminence, Joseph William Cardinal Tobin, C.Ss.R.; and Rev. Dennis J. Yesalonia, S.J.
Generous sponsors included SOMOS Community Care, Church of St. Ignatius Loyola (NYC), Georgetown University, Santa Clara University, Loretta Holstein, The Loyola Foundation, Vince and Robyn Caponi, Charlotte Mahoney and Peter Albert, Bob and Jackie O’Donnell, Eileen and Tony Oroszlany, Sue Baber, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, Loyola University Chicago, Notre Dame School of Manhattan, Saint Ignatius High School (Cleveland, OH), Saint Peter’s University, St. Francis Xavier Church (NYC), USA Northeast and Maryland Jesuit Provinces, and Xavier High School (NYC).
Kelly Swan is communications director for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. She is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University. Kelly has done work related to parish social ministry, child and family advocacy, community education and organizing, and magazine publishing in both West Virginia and northern New Jersey. She lives in the Cleveland, Ohio area with her husband and four children.