To be rooted is to be radical…We are called together to radically renew the world by the witness of the Martyrs, one another, and the Ignatian family. Rooted in truth we have all we need to do the work of renewing the earth.– Dr. Beth Ford McNamee
From October 22-24, 2022, more than 2,000 individuals gathered in Washington, D.C. for the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s 25th annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ).
The 2022 theme, Rooted and Renewing, invited attendees to root themselves in the history of the Teach-In and the legacy of the Jesuit Martyrs and their companions—killed in 1989 in El Salvador for their commitment to standing with the oppressed—and to renew a commitment to addressing today’s injustices with creativity, courage and resilience—traits embodied by the first Teach-In in Fort Benning in Georgia twenty-five years ago.
The weekend’s keynote speakers included Bill McKibben, Maka Black Elk, and Olga Segura. The first evening keynote was delivered by Bill McKibben, an author, educator, and renowned climate activist who founded the first global grassroots climate campaign, 350.org, as well as Third Act, which organizes people over the age of 60 to work on climate and racial justice.
He spoke of the critical work of shifting from a global dependence on fossil fuels, and emphasized the need for intergenerational commitment—heralding the commitment of young people as leaders in the work to avert climate crises. “We don’t know how this story will turn out, we don’t know who will win the fight,” he said, “but we do know that you have brothers and sisters from every corner of the world who are grateful for your efforts, and who are with you in solidarity.”
The first day of the Teach-In concluded with the Prayer for the Jesuit Martyrs, an annual IFTJ tradition honoring the lives of the Jesuit Martyrs and other lay and religious who have given their lives in the service of faith and justice. The 2022 prayer included an added element of inviting attendees to place white crosses bearing the names of those impacted by injustices in fencing at the front of the ballroom, where the event was being held. This served as a reminder of the vigil at the gate of Fort Benning in Georgia that called attention to the U.S. role in human rights abuses in El Salvador and other countries and the annual event from which the first IFTJ arose.
On the second day, keynote speaker Maka Black Elk, director of Truth and Healing for Red Cloud Indian School, spoke about the legacy of abuse against Indigenous people at Jesuit and Catholic-run boarding schools, designed to erase Indigenous culture. “The Catholic Church should never have been involved in the running of residential schools whose explicit purpose was to eradicate Indigenous identity and spirituality,” he said. “The visit from Pope Francis to Canada [last summer] marks a huge step on an ongoing journey towards healing. But the actual work of reconciliation is not in his hands. Through his apology, he has called on the whole Body of Christ in the churches of North America to enter into right relationship with its Indigenous peoples…Our call in our baptism toward reconciliation and love tells us that healing is possible and that we are worthy. We need to ask this of our Church.”
The final keynote speaker of the weekend was Olga Segura, author of Birth of a Movement: Black Lives Matter and the Catholic Church. She spoke of racial justice movement work, explaining that “community building [is] a way to create…systems outside of the violence in our world.” She emphasized that solidarity work necessitates “a dialogue around power: who has it, and who does not.” She called upon white Catholics—clergy and lay people—to not become complacent in racial justice work, to “imagine and create new ways to be Catholic allies.”
The second day concluded with a Mass presided by Rev. Ted Gabrielli, S.J. Other mainstage speakers throughout the weekend touched on racial and cultural equity and inclusion, sustainability and ethical purchasing, climate justice, and immigration reform.
Speakers throughout the weekend were complemented by art as a form of activism and social analysis. Francisco Herrera, a musician and longtime IFTJ artist-in-residence, was joined on the event’s mainstage by The Peace Poets, who first attended IFTJ in 2018 as keynote speakers. Their presence elevated the energy in the room through music and storytelling. Kate Marshall, facilitator of the House of Hagar Catholic Worker in Wheeling, WV, presented Rooted Growth, a dynamic and collaborative art experience focused on the year’s IFTJ theme.
The annual event culminated with a public witness in Washington, D.C.’s Union Square, with more than 1,000 individuals then attending advocacy meetings on Capitol Hill, asking Congressional members to act for humane immigration reform and climate action.
By Kelly Swan, Director of Communications, Ignatian Solidarity Network
This article is re-issued in Connections with permission from the Ignatian Solidarity Network; click here to view the original article (with more photos and videos) on the ISN website.