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 about new beginnings.
We met in the morning with a representative of Las Dignas, one of the first feminist organizations in El Salvador. Founded in 1990, this group works to prevent violence toward women, to eradicate gender injustice in the workforce and in education, and to ensure the civil rights of lesbians. Sadly, despite a new government that promised “change,” the representation of women in Salvadoran government is now as low as it was when the Peace Accords were signed in 1992.
In the afternoon we met with Trina and Kevin Yonkers, the directors of Casa de Solidaridad. Fr. Mark Ravizza, S.J. who works with Casa, was also there. As I noted earlier in the week, the Casa program is a study abroad experience run out of Santa Clara whereby students, primarily from Jesuit institutions, work in El Salvador to both teach and learn.
Both of these visits are wonderful examples of what it means to be Ignatian. Why? Because they focus on action. The academic world often gets trapped somewhere between “experience” and “reflection.” A situation is witnessed and then it is analyzed. The Ignatian paradigm takes it one major step further. We are called to act and act in a particular way – with an emphasis on justice and a preferential option for the poor. I have spent nearly half my life in Jesuit institutions. But I think now – finally – I’m starting to get it.
The best way to experience something is to actually have direct contact with the situation. Fr. Kolvenbach, the former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, told us that solidarity is learned through "contact" rather than through "concepts." You have to have your feet on the ground to really witness what is going on. That’s why we came here. But the truth is more than 80% of the world lives like this. I really feel as though I won some sort of genetic lottery by being born where I was. My eyes have certainly been opened.
Reflecting upon experiences is vital. This includes listening, which Romero did so very well. But reflection is not enough. We must act. Tom McGrath of Loyola Press who is down here as well reminded us of that prayer we say at every Mass as part of the Penitential Rite: “…in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.” This hit me hard. I’ve recited this prayer a million times and never really gave it much thought until now. I have failed to do a lot.
But, yes, I struggle with what is to come. How exactly am I going to start “acting?” Mark Ravizza noted that the Salvadorans have an expression: We make the road by walking. I found this so profound. There is no obvious road to take. Lord knows I am really good at over-thinking things. I don’t know what the end of the road looks like, but I just need to start walking. Eight days ago I said I really didn’t know what the point of all this was. Well, I think I just might have figured it out.
I want to thank, once again, President Cornacchia, Fr. Mike Braden, my wife Lauren, and my family for their support and prayers throughout this experience that I will never forget. And to those who read these reflections, thank you, too. I am more than happy to talk about my experience at any time.
I want to leave you with a prayer that John Sebastian of Loyola University New Orleans chose for this evening’s blessing before our final dinner together. Though it is not clear who the author is, it has been attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero. I believe it sums up perfectly the past eight days.
A Future Not Our Own
It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.
This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.