More than 1600 young adults gathered in Washington, DC for the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice, Nov. 7-9.
Perhaps inspired by Pope Francis’ recent visit to the U.S., a record-breaking 1,600 students and young adults gathered for the 18th annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice Nov. 7-9 in Washington, D.C. “Bridges” was a fitting theme for the gathering: connections were built, ideas were forged and friendships were made among the participants from Jesuit universities, high schools, parishes and the larger Catholic Church.
Representing the US Central and Southern Province were young people from Regis University, Rockhurst University, Saint Louis University, Spring Hill College, Dallas Jesuit College Prep, De Smet Jesuit High School, St. Louis University High School, Regis Jesuit High School, St. Francis Xavier Parish, current and former Jesuit Volunteers and several Jesuits of the UCS Province.
“We’re asked to reflect on the bridges in our world,” said Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network, which organizes the Ignatian Family Teach-In, or IFTJ. “The bridges that need crossing, to expand our circles of compassion. The bridges that need repairing, to let light shine forth. The bridges that need imagining, to create new spaces and new possibilities. The bridges that the world is calling us to create, in collaboration with each other.”
The IFTJ is a nationwide conference sponsored by the Ignatian Solidarity Network, a national faith-based social justice organization that works to mobilize Jesuit universities, high schools, parishes and ministries throughout the U.S. in order to effect social change on critical issues.
"The Ignatian Family Teach-In is full of faith, hope, and ENERGY!” Provincial Assistant for Social Ministry Mary Baudouin said. “Imagine 1700 people from Jesuit schools and parishes, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and colleague organizations all in one place to learn about and act on the faith that does justice. The excitement is palpable – and contagious. I was so happy to be there with so many delegations from the UCS province.”
St. Louis University High School senior Brendan Underwood was part of a large contingent representing the school. A 2012 graduate of Loyola Academy, Underwood, gave a compelling and heartfelt presentation on racial justice. See his presentation here.
Representatives from Dallas Jesuit College Prep
Angela Owczarek, a Jesuit volunteer who worked last year at the Harry Tompson Center in New Orleans also spoke. You can see her inspiring presentation here.
Keynote speakers for the IFTJ included Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., anti-death penalty activist and New York Times bestselling author of “Dead Man Walking;” Sister Simone Campbell, S.S.S., executive director of the Catholic lobbying organization NETWORK; Father James Martin, SJ, bestselling author and editor-at-large at America Magazine; Justice Janine Geske, director of Marquette University Law School’s Restorative Justice Initiative; and Hector Verdugo, associate executive director of Homeboy Industries.
“Everybody is worth more than the worst thing they ever do in their life,” said Sr. Prejean in her remarks. “Even those among us who have done a terrible crime have a dignity that must not be taken from them.”
"With Pope Francis' recent call for an international end to capital punishment, I could not think of a better time to have Sr. Helen Prejean speaking from the main stage at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice,” Kerr said. “Sr. Helen's passion for ending capital punishment will have an inspirational effect on the 1,600 teach-in attendees."
Jesuits speaking at the Teach-In included Father Richard Malloy, SJ; Father Alejandro Olayo-Méndez, SJ, and Father Peter Neeley, SJ, who offered breakout sessions on immigration; Daniel Gustafson, SJ, who offered insights on Ignatian advocacy; Father Timothy Kesicki, SJ, who celebrated the Sunday liturgy; and Brother Ken Homan, SJ, who spoke at the rally on Capitol Hill.
Regis High contingent with Congresswoman Diana DeGette
Nov. 9 was Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. After attending a rally on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, students dispersed to the offices of their Congressional representatives to lobby for humane immigration reform, improvement of human rights policies in Central America and attention to domestic poverty.
This year’s IFTJ featured a new event: the “Voices From the Margins ’15” film festival, presented in collaboration with America Media. The contest, which was open to undergraduate college students as well as recent graduates, invited participants to create short films focused on a variety of topics, including poverty, immigration, race, gender, human rights and the environment. Click here to view the winning entries.
America Media created a great highlight video of the Ignatian Teach-In.