Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Boston College Remembers the 20th Anniversary of Murders of Jesuits in El Salvador

Jesuit Father J. Donald Monan (Courtesy Boston College)
Boston College will hold two events in November marking the 20th anniversary of the murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter on the grounds of the Jesuit community at the University of Central America in El Salvador.

Wednesday, Nov. 4, 7 p.m., Gasson 100: Boston College Chancellor Jesuit Father J. Donald Monan will moderate a program titled "Living Legacies: the 20th Anniversary of the Martyrs of El Salvador." The panel will include Jesuit Father Rodolfo Cardenal, former vice rector at the University of Central America who lived with the six Jesuits; Elizabeth Lira, a faculty member and director of the Centro de Etica at Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Santiago, Chile; and US Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), who as an aide to the late US Rep. Joseph Moakley (D-Mass.) was instrumental in reshaping American policy toward the nation where the murders occurred.

Monday, Nov. 30, 4:30 p.m., Robsham Theater: Fr. Monan will moderate a discussion with historian Noam Chomsky and University of Central America co-founder Jesuit Father Jon Sobrino — who was away from the Jesuit residence the night of the murders — titled "Memory and Its Strength: The Martyrs of El Salvador."

Fr. Monan, who was president of Boston College at the time of the killings, worked tirelessly to marshal the Jesuits' response to the murders, urging the United States Congress to pressure the Salvadoran government to bring the killers to justice.

"I return to the full set of events that took place [in November 1989] very, very often," says Fr. Monan. "It sounded an alarm to me as an educator, as a university person, as a Jesuit and as a human being. What happened was so atrocious and such a public attack on all of these things, we wanted to do something."

Fr. Monan was among a group of Jesuit priests who visited the site of the tragedy soon after the killings occurred. "I was so moved by being on the scene shortly after the murders took place and then returning later for the actual trial," he says, "and being close to the Jesuit community who in the first instance – right after the murders – really did not know either the perpetrators or what the extent of the attack on them was going to be; whether this was a single horrific incident or whether it was going to be followed up by other attacks on the university and the Jesuits there."

McGovern said, "The 20th anniversary of the murder of the Jesuits at the UCA is a time, certainly, for sadness and reflection. But it is also an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the principles of social justice and peace to which they dedicated their lives — and their ministries."