For wherever two or three are gathered…: A Jesuit Parish Grows Their Advocacy Work
BY DEVI ZINZUVADIA | May 29, 2019
The Jesuit family—our wider network of high schools, universities, and parishes—is strong, both separately and together. We at St. Ignatius Parish in San Francisco are fortunate to see this often at work, as we share a city with St. Agnes Parish, St. Ignatius College Preparatory, and the University of San Francisco (USF)—and a region with Bellarmine College Preparatory, Santa Clara University, and the Jesuit School of Theology.
We are lucky also to have partners from other Catholic schools and parishes with whom we regularly engage. Among many other things, this means that we have a deep bench when it comes to addressing advocacy issues or being servant leaders around social ministry needs. It is a broad and diversely dynamic group, with a variety of approaches and styles when it comes to meeting the challenges of the work—but we’re better, by and large, when we’re together.
At St. Ignatius Parish, we were able to see this in action during Ignatian Family Advocacy Month (IFAM) in March 2019. An initiative of the Ignatian Solidarity Network, IFAM shines a light on issues of migration justice. All members of the wider Jesuit family are invited to consider how they can serve the work within their own faith communities. This year saw the first ever Virtual Teach-in on Migration, an opportunity for network members to gather from near and far to participate together in prayer, education, and action planning, connected by a shared streaming of various keynotes and interactive lectures. The March summit grew out of a desire to continue the work of the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice, convened every November by ISN around the anniversary of the assassination of the Jesuit martyrs and their companions in El Salvador—keeping the conversation, and the action, moving was a primary goal. Our faith community at St. Ignatius has among its natural gifts a knack for convening, for hosting, for connecting folks together; during IFAM, we had a chance to activate these. Here was an opportunity to see how we could provide space for the work to continue during the entirety of Ignatian Family Advocacy Month.
To make the March 2 Virtual Teach-in a successful kickoff event, we collaborated with St. Ignatius College Preparatory’s religious studies faculty and the community service and social justice office to see about ways to engage their students, including Arrupe Club leadership, in the planning. As we rounded out the slate of lectures, we partnered with Dr. Erin Brigham, Director of USF’s Lane Center, and Martin Steinman, project lead at USF Law School’s deportation defense clinic, who joined Grace Salceanu, Director of the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center & Children’s Faith Formation at St. Agnes, in a conversation moderated by St. Ignatius parishioner Jim DeGraw, offering an Ignatian perspective on immigration policy and advocacy. Other talks were held around migration justice issues of interest; film nights on the theme were scheduled. All were welcomed to engage as they could, including our confirmation candidates from St. Ignatius and St. Agnes parishes, who had several opportunities to earn their service hours throughout IFAM. Our partners at USF supported these efforts by securing space for all our IFAM activities and events, for which we were grateful.
Post IFAM, as we push on through 2019, many have remarked at feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit guiding our groups along. A desire to go to the U.S.-Mexico border and serve migrant families spurred on a group of nearly 50 persons to sign up for week-long service trips to Annunciation House in El Paso. The trips will be led by Annette Lomont of St. Ignatius Parish and Judy Reuter of St. Agnes Parish, who joined the January Encuentro at the Border trip coordinated by ISN. Their group was awed by the scope of the issues, and Annette and Judy were galvanized to support wherever they could. Their faith moved forward action; they kindly gave a talk during our IFAM slate of continuing education lectures, along with other Encuentro participants. Many who attended this talk, and others during IFAM, were spurred to action; our momentum continues.
Did we hit it out of the park with every activity or lecture? We did not. The IFAM film series was not exactly a hit; our screening of The Visitor was attended by just two people! (Four if we count A/V support.) Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them—if we remember this, we know that everything we did at St. Ignatius Parish during IFAM had value, and that the next similar series of events we hold for our wider community will be even better. Our faith, as compassionate people of God, helps us know that when we see something unjust and cruel, it is our place to lift up those who are suffering; and so, the work will continue.
Devi Zinzuvadia is director of parish communications for St. Ignatius Church, a welcoming and inclusive Jesuit Catholic faith community in San Francisco. She is active in the work of ISN, serving on the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice steering committee and the Jesuit Parish Justice Summit planning committee. Devi is an alumna of St. Ignatius College Prep and is involved in a number of Jesuit network partnerships.
Ignatian Family Advocacy Month (IFAM) is a fine initiative.