BY ISN STAFF | November 3, 2023
“You, all of you here, are an important part of how we become a boundless and beloved people walking together.”
-Ellie Hidalgo, Co-Director, Discerning Deacons
From October 28-30, 2023 in Washington, D.C., more than 1,900 individuals gathered for the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s 26th annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ).
The 2023 theme, Boundless and Beloved, invited attendees into the boundlessness of community and creativity that is possible when working together for justice.
The weekend’s keynote speakers included Monique Trusclair Maddox, Sr. Norma Pimentel, and Ellie Hidalgo.
The first evening keynote on Saturday was delivered by Monique Trusclair Maddox, the CEO and board chair of the Descendants Truth and Reconciliation Foundation, which works to be a moral and intellectual leader in the pursuit of truth, racial healing, and transformation in America.
She spoke of finding out that she was a descendant of the GU 272, who were enslaved persons owned and sold by the Jesuits in order to keep Georgetown University from financial ruin, emphasizing their resilience and the necessity of centering descendant voices in contemporary conversations on racial reckoning. “Listen to the survivors; learn from the descendants,” she said. “Trust us to lead the Church to a place of restorative justice.”
Saturday’s mainstage events concluded with the Prayer for the Jesuit Martyrs, an annual IFTJ tradition honoring the lives of the Jesuit martyrs and other lay and religious who have given their lives in the service of faith and justice.
On Sunday morning, keynote Sr. Normal Pimentel, executive director, spoke about the importance of welcoming migrants with kindness and fierce tenderness.
She said, “The only way we can make a difference is by standing up and saying that there is room for everybody in this world, not just a select few.”
The final keynote speaker of the weekend was Ellie Hidalgo, co-director of Discerning Deacons. She spoke about the ongoing Synod on Synodality, on women’s leadership in the Catholic Church, and the movement “to renew the diakonia of the Church, the mission of the Church, putting our faith into action.”
“Imagine a prophetic diaconate serving a synodal, listening Church, that inlcudes men and women,” she invited the audience of nearly 2,000 young people clamoring for a more just and inclusive Church and world. She emphasized, “We want to hear women preach. We want to hear Gospel reflections that reflect our lives as mothers, as grandmothers, as sisters.”
Sunday concluded with Catholic mass. Other mainstage speakers throughout the weekend touched on racial and cultural equity and inclusion, ethics and artificial intelligence, the great outdoors, climate justice, and immigration reform.
Speakers throughout the weekend were complemented by art as a form of activism and social analysis. Francisco Herrera, a musician and longtime IFTJ artist-in-residence, was joined on the mainstage by The Peace Poets, who first attended IFTJ in 2018 as keynotes, and Claire Hitchens, who composed an original song premiered at the gathering. Their presence elevated the energy in the room through music and storytelling. Kate Marshall, facilitator of the House of Hagar Catholic Worker in Wheeling, West Virginia, presented a dynamic and collaborative art experience focused on the year’s IFTJ theme, and Catholic Artist Connection and Discerning Deacons held an Art and Synodality exhibition.
The annual event culminated with a public witness in Washington, D.C.’s Union Square, with more than 1,000 individuals then attending advocacy meetings on Capitol Hill, asking Congressional members to act for humane immigration reform and climate action.