Young Activists Put Faith in Action at 20th Annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice

November 14, 2017 — For two decades, the annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice has addressed timely social justice issues in the Catholic context, this year with a focus on racism and immigration. 

From November 4-6, nearly 2,000 individuals — mainly young adults representing 26 Jesuit colleges and universities, 49 Jesuit high schools, seven Jesuit parishes, current and former Jesuit Volunteers, and hundreds of alumni of Jesuit schools — gathered to hear speakers talk about social justice concerns ranging from Black Lives Matter to LGBTQ communities in the Catholic Church to feminism and environmental justice.

The largest annual Catholic social justice gathering in the U.S., the Teach-In attracted young participants hailing as far away as Canada, Mexico and El Salvador.

The 2017 theme, “Rowing Into the Deep: Magis Meets Justice,” called attendees to explore a more deeply authentic, courageous, generous and compassionate response to the changing realities of our world.

Jesuit Father Timothy Kesicki delivered the opening prayer on Saturday evening.

“For 20 years, the Teach-In has invited the Jesuit network and broader Catholic Church to reflect on the realities of injustice facing our country and global community,” said Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network. “This year’s Teach-In theme invites us to ‘row deeper’ into the realities of racial injustice, inhumane migration policies and other challenges of our times.” 

“Where do we get the courage to row into the deep? Well, perhaps that courage begins with the humble recognition that ‘I am a sinner,’” said Jesuit Father Timothy Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the U.S., who delivered the opening prayer. “The sea which we will row into these days is the sea of social sin and injustice.”

Father Bryan Massingale, racial justice scholar and theology faculty member at Fordham University, delivered the first keynote speech of the event, diving right into the depths of that social sin.

“We're going to do some really heavy stuff … because talking about racial justice, in light of the magis, isn't easy,” Fr. Massingale said. “Race too often leaves us uncomfortable, tongue-tied, embarrassed and stammering, limping from ineffective response to crisis-motivated engagement — in other words, we deal with race when we have to, because all hell is breaking loose.”

Other keynote speakers included Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, executive director of Pax Christi USA; and Maria Stephan, senior policy advisor for the U.S. Institute of Peace.

The Teach-In also offered more than 50 breakout sessions, presented by national and international speakers, including Fr. James Martin, SJ, bestselling author and editor-at-large at America Magazine; Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice; Joanna Williams, director of education and advocacy for Kino Border Initiative; and Maureen O’Connell, Ph.D., racial justice scholar on the theology faculty at La Salle University, along with prominent student activists for immigration reform and racial justice.

Joanna Williams (far right), director of education and advocacy for Kino Border Initiative, leads a breakout session on immigration.

The audience sang “Rowing in the Deep” to the tune of Adele’s 2010 single “Rolling in the Deep.”

Initiated in 1997 in Columbus, Georgia, the Teach-In is held annually in mid-November, commemorating the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador. The six Jesuit priests were murdered on November 16, 1989, for speaking out against the country’s tumultuous civil war, along with their housekeeper and her daughter. The Teach-In relocated from Georgia to Washington, D.C., in 2010, in response to the growing interest in legislative advocacy and accompanying educational opportunities.

On the morning of Nov. 6, the Teach-In participants assembled at Columbus Circle in front of Union Station in Washington for a public witness, gathering with signs, banners and voices to pray, learn and advocate.

They then proceeded to advocate directly with members of Congress in what is estimated to be the largest Catholic advocacy day of the year.

Nearly 1,400 individuals proceeded to legislative advocacy meetings with members of Congress and their staffs on Capitol Hill to urge Congress to enact immigration and criminal justice reform.

As Fr. Kesicki urged in his opening prayer, “Let us row then, because we didn’t come this far to sit on the shore. Let us set out into the deep and together discover the magis that God has in store for us!”

To watch all the livestream speeches and sessions of the Teach-In, visit Photos are available on the Jesuit Conference Flickr account.

[Source: Ignatian Solidarity Network]

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