Tuesday, February 9, 2010
El Salvador Immersion Blog: Day 4
Saint Peter's Vice President for Advancement Michael Fazio is visiting El Salvador until February 12 as part of Ignatian Colleagues Program. Today's blog entry is part of a series of his reflections during his trip. To read the series from the beginning, start here.
Today was pretty heavy. We returned to the UCA and paid tribute to the six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter who were martyred on November 16, 1989. We learned more details of the events that led up to the assassinations and toured a museum at the UCA that features the blood-stained, bullet-riddled clothes, personal effects, and other physical remembrances of that horrible day. Graphic post-assassination pictures were also made available to those who wished to view them. Though I was reluctant, I did look at them. I have no words to describe what I saw. The worst Hollywood horror movie could not replicate the repugnance that I felt.
We also met with a representative of the UCA's Institute for Human Rights, a very influential organization within El Salvador. The institute works with communities and citizens to positively effect change in the country. Despite the fact that many citizens believe the new government will somehow cure all the country's woes, the FMLN will not change El Salvador's fate unless the citizens themselves provide the impetus for change. Though a daunting task, there does seem to be hope that El Salvador can one day see a brighter day.
Now, I don't want anyone to think that this trip is one, big history lesson about some far away country that has very little to do with our day to day lives. All of us within the program are struggling with how to unpack everything that we are learning and find a constructive way to positively contribute to our institutions upon our return. I don't think too many of us have figured that out yet. I know I haven't. But one thing is clear, theology with a Jesuit charism centers around justice. So knowing the stories that have shaped today's thinking on that issue is important. But surely there is more to it than that.
Let's talk in concrete terms. Saint Peter's College is currently undergoing a core curriculum review. Our Jesuit values will surely influence how the curriculum will be amended. Vision 2015, our strategic plan, includes several crucial initiatives to infuse Ignatian traditions into our curriculum and student life. Though we might not like to use this terminology, Saint Peter's College is a product that requires selling. The Admission and Advancement teams do this everyday. Thus, really and truly knowing the product that we are selling is so, so, so, vital to our success. (I believe we do a pretty good job overall but I know we can do better.) And somehow we need to find a way to inculcate new employees and students - heck, all employees and students - with Ignatian heritage.
How do we do all this? Well, I believe we have some minds far brighter than mine working on this as we speak. But it is going to take a throng of us to come together and figure out the ways that work best for Saint Peter's. Communicating thoughtfully the steps we, as an institution, are taking will be critical. (Perhaps that is one way I personally can be of some help.)
If we believe that our Jesuit tradition is the distinguishing characteristic that makes Saint Peter's great (and I think most folks do), I have no doubt we'll succeed.
Photo: The garden of roses at the UCA, the site of several of the assassinations on November 16, 1989.