Commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Jesuit Martyrs of the UCA

jesuit-martyrs-poster-draft-2-2A Reflection by Loriana Harkey

On Sunday, November 16, Creighton University hosted a Salvadoran dinner and film to inform and honor the Jesuits martyred in 1989 during the war in El Salvador. Before the film, everyone was provided a homemade Salvadoran meal by a family who owns a local restaurant here in Omaha that consisted of pupusas and tamales. The film focused specifically on the six martyred Jesuits, the housekeeper and her daughter. The Jesuits saw their mission as converting Salvadorans to become Europeans Catholics, but upon arriving and experiencing El Salvador and the people they found a new mission: to unify faith in God with justice for the people. During this time of war, the church did its best to help and support the people. Unfortunately, the church suffered the same destiny as the poor.

Oscar Romero, a well-known bishop of the Catholic Church in El Salvador who was assassinated while giving mass, said earlier in his life that he did not fear death. He believed that if he died, he would be resurrected in the people. It takes a brave person to stay in a position of authority in the face of danger. The same goes for the martyred Jesuits. Many others fled and went into hiding when they heard that people were being killed, but these Jesuits held their ground. They had not done anything wrong and had nothing to hide, so they felt there was no need to leave. This is similar to Jean Donovan’s theory, an young American adult volunteer who was killed in El Salvador along with three Salvadoran nuns. She knew it was dangerous to go back to El Salvador, but she had to go back. She felt the need in her heart. In 1990, many Salvadoran students joined the military academy to help their country fight the communists, especially since the university was a definite target of the communists. They’d sing chants full of specific threats or “goals” such as, “We’re ready to kill heaps of terrorists.” Needless to say, peace wasn’t easy.

One point brought up in my psychology class was the fact that to punish people who kill people, we kill those people. It seems a bit backwards and odd. Some may justify this by saying that if you kill the killers, than they will no longer be. But then what does that make you? A killer? Or a peacemaker? A war was definitely not wanted by everyone. Though wars are hoped to end in peace, many realized that at the end of this war, there would no longer be suffering, but instead there would be something worse: death.

One student in particular named Espinoza came to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to be trained to fight in the conflict. The U.S. spent a total of $15 million under the Reagan Administration on the El Salvador war to help the people fight the guerrillas who were against the Salvadoran government. The methods these newly trained soldiers used on the FMLN guerrillas were cruel. They burned their already dead bodies and shouted phrases like “May Buddha keep you company in hell.” It is understood why these soldiers were so upset by these rebels, but they seemed to have been using just as cruel methods to fight back as had been used on them. Unfortunately, a group of these U.S. trained soldiers were responsible for death of the Jesuit martyrs. Espinoza was a witness to the murders of the Jesuits. He remembers the men being ordered to tell the Jesuits to come out onto the front lawn. They were then ordered to murder them. They were given specific orders as we find out that the Jesuits were purposefully shot in the head as if toMartyrs-Prayer-Card-Back-copy-772x1030 shoot out the brain or the control center of these Jesuits, as Jon Cortina explained. Cortina was good friends with the Jesuit martyrs. In fact, he lived with them. By the grace of God, he was not murdered because he was out of town during this tragic event. Knowing this makes it all the more special to be a part of the Cortina Community, a group of students who strives to live in Cortina and the other Jesuits’ footsteps by giving back to the community through service and social justice. The two women, the housekeeper and her daughter, were also killed, perhaps so there would be no surviving witnesses. They were brutally shot and died holding each other on the kitchen floor.

After the film and during discussion, one audience member shared her vision with us. She asked us, “Where does our faith meet reality?” It is great to talk about all of these injustices, but what are we going to do about it? She believes that in all of the classes we take, we need to think about the poorest of the poor and what we can do to help them, even if it is just a math class. Though this vision would not be easy to accomplish, we have to remember that peace isn’t easy. It is an incredible thing to know that we still honor the UCA/Jesuit Martyrs in 2014.

Public Policy, Elections, and Making Legislative Change

For this Sunday’s Formation Time, we welcomed Creighton and Cortina alum Patrick Carter to speak to the community about public policy and how it can create justice for all. Patrick graduated from Creighton in 2010 with a degree in Justice and Society. Upon graduation, he completed a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the University of Minnesota. Patrick currently works with Minnesota Department of Human Services as a legislative liaison. Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 9.27.00 PMPatrick provided great insight into the legislative branch and emphasized that you have to understand the system before you can make change. He shared ways how everyone can make an impact on public policy, from bringing ideas to legislators to meeting with your congressperson about a certain issue to contacting an executive leader with your concerns about a new law.

Patrick’s talk was fitting because of Election Day on Tuesday. As Patrick said, every election has a lot at stake, making it especially important that we exercise our right to vote. Here are a few resources to help educate you about important local, state, and federal elections this year as well as important voting information:

Douglas County Election Commission — find your polling place in Omaha, sample ballots, and more.

Voting Requirement/Process by State

Nebraska voter guide — the Omaha World-Herald‘s guide to elections in Nebraska. Nearly every major newspaper has a site like this, so non-Nebraskans can find a similar guide at other major newspapers.

Ballot Hero — sign up with an account, input your voting location, and learn about the candidates looking for your votes on Tuesday. (for Nebraska voters only)

League of Women Voters — create a personalized ballot to take with you to the polls on Election Day!

NBC News Decision 2014 — a nifty guide to this year’s Election Day that will be great for tracking key races across the country. Keep a close eye on Republicans to see if they takes control of the Senate.

Thank you to Patrick Carter for sharing your knowledge with Cortina. And remember to vote this Tuesday!

What Cortina Was To Me: Strength and Direction in Community

I entered the Cortina Community with a fairly strong sense of social justice.  Social justice first interested me in the 6th grade when I started speaking out against sweatshops and Nike.  This advocacy didn’t garner me much popularity, and I became used to being independent and working on my own.  The high school wrestling team gave me my first real sense of community, of belonging and being part of something.  I finally felt part of my faith community when I attended the Jesuit Family Teach-In my junior year of high school.  I realized how important community is not just for my own health, but also for social justice.  Cortina taught me that.

My best friends Bill, Pat and Tim also joined Cortina.  I thought we would all live in the same suite, but the leadership thankfully changed plans in the middle.  We picked roommates but were assigned suitemates.  Unable to be with only the people that made me comfortable, I had to branch out into the wider community.  I made amazing friends as I became the guy with a minivan, a self-proclaimed giver of excellent hugs and the oddball who always slept on the couch in the common areas.  These experiences not only helped me find joy, but taught me the vital importance of love and community in social justice.

I learned what it means to give myself to community, to serve and to love others.  More importantly, I learned what it means to let others love and serve me.  I share in the brokenness and struggles.  As a weightlifter and wrestler, I sometimes find it difficult to realize that others might be stronger than I am.  The wonderful people on my floor, however, demonstrated inexplicable love and kindness.  They helped me learn humility, generosity, and what how to engage social justice in a way I could have never done on my own.

Many of my community mates also unknowingly helped me discern my vocation.  Most knew I was interested in joining the Jesuits, but only six knew I was in the midst of the application second semester.  Through their support and graciousness I learned what vocation means—to be called not just by God, but just as much by the community.  My vocation, given by God and community, is to be a voice for the voiceless.  It is to live justly, live communally, live as a Jesuit.

-Ken Homan, A Cortinian in

Ken Homan pic

What Cortina Was to Me: Invigorating

Three of my four college years were spent living and engaging in the Cortina Community. To say these three years were life changing would not be giving them enough credit. In many ways I am both jealous of and excited for the upcoming freshman class for the having the opportunity to be a part of this community when beginning their journey at Creighton. However, I was blessed to be challenged and inspired by my peers, resident advisors, and those whom I served (yes, service was not a one way street) all while being a part of a caring community.

Before becoming a part of Cortina, I was ignorant and happy to be so.  Through our Sunday community time, service sites, and community conversations, I was challenged to actually open my eyes and confront the injustices in our society.  Service at Siena Francis, a local homeless shelter, started as an uncomfortable endeavor for me.  How was I, a 20 year old college student, suppose to connect with someone who lost their home, job, and is struggling with addiction?  For some reason I could not get around the prejudices I walked into Siena Francis with.  However, week after week, I returned to serve breakfast and participate in their weekly celebration of sobriety.  Slowly, I began to get to know the clients of Siena Francis and was able to see them for individuals they were as opposed to defining them by their homelessness.

These moments at Siena Francis, along with a service trip centered around homelessness in Denver, ignited my passion and shaped my post-graduate plans.  By addressing my prejudices and deciding to focusing my energy on the issue of homelessness, I ended up a volunteer at a transitional housing facility in Omak, Washington.  Sure, my case may be slightly more drastic compared to most of my peers, but Cortina provided a safe space where I could confront my ignorant attitude.  I was able to reflect on my beliefs, be exposed to social justice issues, expand my comfort zone and gain meaningful relationships, all of which was done alongside my peers and supervisors.

One word to describe my Cortina experience: Invigorating.
-Kayla Zobel
A Cortinian in 2009-2010, A Cortina RA from 2010-2012
kayla zobel

What Cortina Was To Me: Galvanizing

The Cortina experience gave me a very real and human perspective on some of the most pressing social justice issues facing our world today. Most notably, my experience focused heavily on immigration. Through a half-week service trip and weekly volunteering at Pixan Ixim in south Omaha, I was presented with a salient example of the plights of modern immigrants in my own backyard. Relaxing around a dinner table and swapping stories in quasi-Spanglish was the best context for learning about individual immigrants’ decisions for coming to the U.S.,  their unique struggles within our own city, and their hopes and dreams for their lives. Nowhere in textbooks or newspaper articles could I find stories like I heard through immigrants firsthand. Combined with the information I was presented from the Cortina ethics class and conversations with fellow students, the valuable experiences in Cortina gave me a balanced view of the multi-faceted nature of immigration, as well as many other topics such as gay marriage, human trafficking, sustainability, the death penalty, etc.

Though my Cortina experienced has long since ended, the critical lens through which I view social justice issues continues to hone itself within the context of my education, my career decisions, and my political views. As a future dentist, I am cognizant of healthcare difficulties facing immigrants. My aim is to one day provide low-cost dental services to various under-treated populations. As a citizen, I try to be aware of current events affecting unjust practices in our world by listening to NPR, voting, and engaging with people of different worldviews than mine. Truly, the Cortina experience has shaped the way I approach my life. I live with greater gratitude for the opportunities afforded me. However, the concept of social justice mandates more than mere reflection. Social justice demands action, just as love demands action.  And it is through my actions that I hope to continually live out the values I acquired through my time at Creighton and in Cortina.

One word to describe my Cortina experience: galvanizing
-Theresa Greving, A Cortinian from 2009-2010

Theresa G