In honor of the 25th Anniversary of the martyrdom of the six Jesuits and two lay colleagues who were murdered in El Salvador in 1989, Jesuit institutions across Buffalo are collaborating on events from the Canisius Jesuit Community to St. Michael’s Parish, and from Canisius High School to Canisius College. Featured at the center of their remembrances was a presentation on Nov. 10, by Maura Toomb, director of campus ministry at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City.
Toomb’s talk, entitled God is real in El Salvador, was inspired by her participation in a delegation to El Salvador organized by the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN). Her focus was on the lives of the Jesuit martyrs of the UCA and what each of us can do at home to continue their legacy. “Fr. Jon Sobrino, SJ, told us that God is real in El Salvador,” said Maura recalling the delegation. “God is real and alive in the Salvadoran people because that is where God needs to be. Twenty-five years ago in the face of oppression, and still today, confronting gang violence, instability, and mass migration, God is real. God is with His people who are hurting. Through the example of the martyrs, He calls us to do the same.”
Toomb spoke following the Sunday morning Mass at St. Michael’s parish in Buffalo, to students at Canisius High School, and on campus at Canisius College in the Christ the King Chapel. “It’s been an opportunity to raise the consciousness of the parish community, an opportunity for a witness to take place, one that honors the Martyrs’ tremendous sacrifice in the ultimate Christian witness,” said Fr. Peter Murray, SJ, associate pastor at St. Michael’s. To increase attendance, St. Michael’s promoted the event through various parishes in the area.
“On the first day of our trip to El Salvador, Fr. Sobrino, told us to go out and meet real people,” reflected Maura on the summer immersion with ISN. She continued:
“I am so grateful to have met the amazingly resilient community of Carasque, the UCA students, Sr. Peggy O’Neill of Centro Arte de la Paz, and the dedicated men and women who work for Crispaz. Yet, the most real people I encountered were the martyrs themselves. My time in El Salvador taught me, more than anything, that the Jesuit martyrs, along with Elba and Celina Ramos, were just normal men and women who were simply using their gifts in the way they felt called to by God. For them, that meant speaking out against the injustice they witnessed, regardless of fear. They were people just like us. That simple realization has helped me to live as they lived – to be a woman for others, as inspired by Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ”
In addition to talks by Ms. Toomb, Fr. Michael Tunney, SJ, opened the doors of the Loyola Hall Jesuit community to Canisius College students for a discussion on The Jesuits of El Salvador and the Jesuits Today. A special Mass commemorating the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador also took place at Canisius College, where students gathered for a remembrance procession during the 9:30 p.m. Sunday liturgy.
After the events on campus conclude, 21 students and staff from Canisius College will participate in a delegation traveling to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 15-17, joining over 1,300 other individuals participating in the annual Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice. Interested individuals can watch all the speakers presenting on the main stage through an online Live Stream. Among this year’s speakers are: Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International and co-author of Oscar Romero: Reflections on His Life and Writings; Michael Lee, PhD, associate professor of systematic theology at Fordham University and author of various works on Ignacio Ellacuría, SJ, one of six Jesuits murdered in 1989; and Ismael Moreno Coto, SJ, a restless human rights activist in his native Honduras and director of Radio Progreso and E.R.I.C.