Legacy of the martyrs award
November 16, 2019, marks thirty years since Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J., Ignacio Martín-Baró, S.J., Segundo Montes, S.J., Juan Ramón Moreno, S.J., Joaquín López y López, S.J., Amando López, S.J., and their housekeeper Elba Ramos and her 15-year-old daughter Celina Ramos were murdered at the University of Central America in San Salvador, El Salvador.
The legacy of the Jesuit martyrs significantly influenced the Church and the Jesuit community around the world. Across the Ignatian network of Jesuits and lay collaborators, new ways of working for justice, grounded in Christian faith, have developed over the course of these thirty years.
The Ignatian Solidarity Network is a direct product of the martyrs’ legacy. The deaths of 70,000 innocent individuals over the course of El Salvador’s 12-year civil war, many killed by Salvadoran soldiers who received U.S. military training at the former U.S. Army School of the Americas, gave ISN founders like Robert Holstein and Fr. Charlie Currie, S.J., the impetus to invite the Jesuit network to be part of working to bring attention to U.S. involvement in Central America. From 1996 to 2009, the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice took place in conjunction with SOAWatch’s vigil at the gates of Ft. Benning, the location of the former School of the Americas before it was renamed in 2001. While the Teach-In moved to Washington, D.C., in 2010, the legacy of the martyrs remains at the core of ISN’s social justice education and advocacy efforts.
The Ignatian Solidarity Network bestows this award on individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to sustaining the witness and legacy of the Jesuit martyrs and their companions.
Previous Award Winners
Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor
Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor develops creative strategies and innovative public policy to improve workers’ lives in a changing economy. The Initiative draws on Georgetown’s distinctive identity—its commitment to intellectual excellence, grounding in the Catholic and Jesuit traditions, history of inter-religious cooperation, global reach, and prominence as an arena of policy debate in the nation’s capital—to advance prosperity, broadly-shared economic justice, and respect for the dignity of labor.
Founded in 2009, the Kalmanovitz Initiative was created as a space to engage questions of workers’ rights and the future of the labor movement. Since then, the KI has taken on special projects that explore policies supporting workers’ rights, coalition building between labor and community groups, and connecting students to local advocacy and organizing opportunities.
The Center for Undocumented Students – Saint Peter’s University
Since 2014, The Center for Undocumented Students (TCUS) at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, NJ has worked to support undocumented students at the university, to shed intellectual light on the political and economic realities of immigration, and to create a community where undocumented students feel safe and welcome.
Under the leadership of Jennifer Ayala, Ph.D., TCUS collaborates with other university departments and community organizations to offer services and support to undocumented students. TCUS offers access to pro-bono legal support, a resource library, academic advising, career mentoring, counseling and community services, and financial aid guidance, and provides opportunities for faculty and staff workshops.
The work of TCUS sustains the legacy of the martyrs—the six Jesuits and two laywomen—who were killed for their commitment to upholding the dignity of the oppressed.
Kevin and Trena Yonkers-Talz
Founding Directors of the Casa de la Solidaridad Program
(Awarded on 10/7/15)
Kevin and Trena Yonkers-Talz accompany college students from the US as they encounter the realities of life in El Salvador through Casa de la Solidaridad. Casa is a study abroad program based at the Jesuit’s University of Central America (UCA), in San Salvador, El Salvador, and sponsored by Santa Clara University, rooted in four pillars: sustained accompaniment of the poor, rigorous academic reflection, community support, and spirituality, and draws inspiration from the lives of the six Jesuit martyrs and their companions at the UCA in 1989. The program, founded in 1999 by Kevin and Trena, serves students from Santa Clara University and other universities across the United States, with a specific focus on additional students from members of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.
Kevin’s academic interests lead him to a focus on human development, theology, and multicultural education. Trena’s academic interest in college student development theory and liberation/feminist theology often lead her to time spent at Casa praxis sites with students.
Kevin studied economics and psychology at Fairfield University and received an M.S. in college student personnel services from Miami University. He then studied at Boston College (M.Ed.) and has his doctoral degree in international and multicultural education from the University of San Francisco. Trena studied accounting as an undergrad at Grand Valley State University and received her M.S. in college student personnel services from Miami University and an M.Ed. in religious education from Boston College. Trena and Kevin worked with Jesuit Volunteers: International in Belize, Central America for two years prior to their work in El Salvador.
Kevin and Trena are parents of four daughters–Sophia, Grace, Hannah, and Emma.
Kino Border Initiative
(Awarded on 4/29/15)
The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) is a binational organization that works in the area of migration and is located in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. The KBI was inaugurated in January of 2009 by six organizations from the United States and Mexico: The California Province of the Society of Jesus, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, the Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist, the Mexican Province of the Society of Jesus, the Diocese of Tucson and the Archdiocese of Hermosillo. The KBI’s vision is to help make humane, just, workable migration between the U.S. and Mexico a reality. Its mission is to promote US/Mexico border and immigration policies that affirm the dignity of the human person and a spirit of bi-national solidarity through:
- Direct humanitarian assistance and accompaniment with migrants;
- Social and pastoral education with communities on both sides of the border;
- Participation in collaborative networks that engage in research and advocacy to transform local, regional, and national immigration policies.
Rep. Jim McGovern
(Awarded on 11/13/14)
Throughout his career Representative Jim McGovern has upheld the witness of the martyrs, working for social justice and human rights as a staff member for the late Representative Joseph Moakley and representing the people of the 2nd District of Massachusetts. The Congressman has been a consistent voice for U.S. policy that respects the dignity of the poor and marginalized in El Salvador and beyond. Most notably, Congressman McGovern played a key role as an assistant to Congressman Moakley in the U.S. Congressional investigation into the murders of the Jesuits and their companions. In the immediate years following the murders, he traveled to El Salvador many times to meet with a wide range of individuals, seeking the truth about the murders as well as the U.S. involvement in the massacre. Congressman McGovern has been recognized with honorary degrees from the Jesuit University of Central America in El Salvador as well as a number of U.S. Jesuit universities.
Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación and Radio Progreso
(Awarded on 11/13/14)
Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación and Radio Progreso (ERIC) and Radio Progreso are Jesuit sponsored NGO’s in Honduras whose work encompasses grassroots radio programming; training on human rights, community organizing, and empowerment; and the formation of leadership committed to social change; and aiding migrant families.
In June 2009, Radio Progreso was shut down by the military as the Honduran coup was developing, and the station has been occupied several times since. During this same time, more than 50 journalists and social commentators have been murdered in Honduras, and many more have been kidnapped, tortured, or suffered death threats.
In April 2014, one of the Radio Progreso team members, Carlos Mejia, was brutally murdered. In a press conference following the tragic event, Fr. Ismael Moreno Coto, S.J., stated that 16 ERIC/Radio Progeso employees, including Mejia, have received significant death threats since the 2009 Honduran coup.
This award will be accepted on behalf of ERIC and Radio Progeso by the director of both programs Fr. Ismael Moreno Coto, S.J. Popularly known as Padre Melo, Fr. Moreno is a Jesuit priest and human rights activist in his native Honduras. Fr. Moreno has also previously testified before the U.S. Congress at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission regarding the human rights situation in Honduras and the fear he, his staff, and other journalists experience.