January 20, 2020 — To mark the 30th anniversary of the assassination of six Jesuit priests and their two lay companions in El Salvador, the University of San Francisco erected a new memorial on campus.
The UCA Martyr Memorial honors the Jesuit priests, along with their housekeeper and her daughter, who were murdered on November 16, 1989, at the University of Central America by the Salvadoran military.
Fr. Donal Godfrey, SJ, associate director for faculty and staff spirituality at USF, explained that the Jesuits had spoken against the kidnapping, torture and murder of civilians, many of them poor, at the hands of El Salvador’s military regime during the country’s civil war. Because the Jesuits spoke up, they were targeted as enemies.
“With this memorial, we honor the martyrs in El Salvador, and we reaffirm our Jesuit mission to struggle against injustice and seek the truth,” said Fr. Godfrey.
On November 17, 2019, Fr. Godfrey led a procession of students and others from Mass in St. Ignatius Church to the memorial site, where they lit candles, said prayers and erected white wooden crosses painted with each victim’s name.
Fr. Godfrey, who has taken two immersion trips to El Salvador with USF students, staff and faculty, said the lives of the martyrs “make barbarity personal. They interpret for us the Gospel.”
According to Fr. Godfrey, the killers’ main target was the rector of the Jesuit university in San Salvador, Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, SJ, “and it was important there be no witnesses to his murder.”
Words of Fr. Ellacuria are inscribed on a stone on the new USF memorial: “The struggle against injustice and the pursuit of truth cannot be separated nor can one work for one independent of the other.”
“These martyrs remind us of our need to work against injustice and seek the truth at the same time,” Fr. Godfrey said. [Source: USF, Catholic San Francisco]