|Janice Sevre Duszynska ARCWP|
Wednesday July 31st was the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, a former soldier who laid down his sword and pledged Gospel nonviolence to the Black Madonna at Montserrat.
That morning, Kathy Boylan, Michael Walli and I set out from the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in Washington, D.C. to witness to the Jesuits at Georgetown University. First, we wanted to ask the administration to help speedup the beatification process of the six Jesuits from the University of Central America who were martyred in El Salvador in 1989. Next we were there to remind the Jesuits of their founder’s pledge and to renounce the evil of hosting Reserved Officer Training Classes on campus. Twenty-eight Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S. host a federal program that teaches young men and women reflexive killing: killing without conscience. Of these, 15 are Jesuit institutions. For their complicity in disregarding Gospel nonviolence, the basis of our Christian faith tradition, these schools receive approximately a half million dollars each year from the federal government. The figure comes from the work of Fr. Richard McSorely who got Georgetown to shut down its Host ROTC program for three years in the ‘80s, according to legendary anti-ROTC activist, Bob Graf of Milwaukee.
I brought along my Salvadoran stole and a poster used in Baltimore a few years ago at Loyola University: “ROTC ATROCITY: NO MILITARY MURDER.” Michael carried the new banner: “You Jesuits of Georgetown University are living in mortal sin,” a quote from Father Ignacio Ellacuria, SJ). One of the six slain Jesuits, Ellacuria had written the Georgetown Jesuits about their complicity in the U.S.-funded and military-supported Salvadoran war by accepting blood money from the federal government for training young Americans to kill.
We were given a contact to approach for the beatification process, and, to our surprise, invited to Mass celebrating the feast day of the Jesuits’ founder. “The Spirit is with us,” we agreed.
I led us to the second row up close to the altar. About 20 Jesuits in white vestments were filing into the front and to the right of us so that we could see each other. Then three priests in white stepped onto the main altar. In my prayer I remembered my late Jesuit mentors, both gentle and tender with a fierce inner strength: Fr. Bill Bischel who took part in resistance at the Kitsap Nuclear Base on the West Coast and Fr. Bill Brennan of Milwaukee who protested ROTC at Marquette University. Both supported women priests.
As the Mass began, Kathy brought out a pillowcase that read: “Jesus Would Never Join the Military,” and held it gently just in front of her so the priests on the altar could see. Just before the Gospel, I kissed my stole and placed it on my shoulders. In his homily the priest addressed the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and asked: “What is the life quality that you never leave behind – you must never leave it.”
I had been waiting on the Spirit and said in a strong voice: “We can practice the nonviolence of the Gospels that St. Ignatius of Loyola taught us when he put down his sword before the Black Madonna at Montserrat and the Jesuits can begin by shutting down ROTC that teaches reflexive killing.”
The priest-celebrant smiled approvingly. Kathy later said, “That was our witness.”
After Communion we were all invited to a lovely luncheon nearby on campus. At our table was the head of Georgetown Law School. Kathy told him about Fr. Steve Kelly of the Kings Bay Plowshares who has remained in jail in Brunswick, GA since the seven nonviolently and symbolically disarmed the Trident nuclear submarine base at Kings Bay, GA on April 4, 2018. They acted on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Kathy mentioned some of the lawyers now working with Steve and the others who are facing 25 years in prison for their wake-up call exposing illegal and immoral nuclear weapons that threaten life on Earth.
After our meal, Kathy went to get the van while Michael and I witnessed outside Healy Hall and in front of the statue of John Carroll, the founder of Georgetown University and the first Catholic bishop in the U.S. After 10 minutes a policeman on a bike came over to speak with us. He asked us to move to the Free Speech Zone on the nearby Red Square. As we considered his request, another policeman walked over. We told him we were leaving for the Red Square. When he heard we were not professors or students he told us we had to stand nearby in front of the campus, not on it.
For the next 40 minutes or so, we stood in the hot sun with our message, calling out to groups of students touring the campus or just walking by. Some students took photos and Latino workers from across the street came to chat, too. A Salvadoran man parked his car when he saw “Ellacuria” on Michael’s banner and came with his daughter to talk with us. He knew the story of the six murdered Jesuits and had great respect for them. When I mentioned the School of the Americas, he nodded. He had great love for Archbishop Oscar Romero who spoke truth to power and he knew of Rutilio Grande, who “mentored” Romero.
We felt we accomplished much more than we could have expected. Besides doing our vigil which called out a ROTC program at a Jesuit university, we engaged in a dialogue with people intimately involved in the educational process at this university, but also with others who were moved by a vigil and the message we shared. This is just another example of what can transpire when one takes the risks of peace.