Jesuits reflecting on the Martyrs
10 years later
November, 1999:

I knew Juan Moreno slightly at St. Marys, Kansas when we were theologians there.  He was probably three years ahead of me which would have made him a 4th year theologian when I was a first year.  He struck me as a quiet and a good person.

So when the news broke of the killing of the Jesuits and their friends, it struck close to home since I knew him.  I knew Jon Cortina and Jon Sobrino better earlier when we were in philosophy together at St. Louis and had followed their work a bit more in recent years.

My impression, then, is of people (like Juan Moreno and Cortina and Sobrino, and the people who worked with them) of great conviction who speak of that conviction despite its danger.  These are Jesuit brothers of great stature and I am proud to be able to say that I knew them.

My prayers are with them and the people that they have influenced. I am glad that we are taking the time to remember such a momentous event.  My hope is that they all did not die in vain.

- Tom Shanahan, S.J.

 My first response to the news of the assassination of the Jesuits and the women was one of horror.  Disagreements, arguments, threats, and possibly some verbal and physical trashing of these people I might have understood. But murder was utterly shocking.  My horror was accompanied by wonder and great respect.  These men surely must have known the danger they were in, but they remained a voice of justice for the poor.  It was a humbling experience for me; would we have the courage to follow our call and our consciences in the face of such evil designs?
 - Zack Zuercher, S.J. 

Simply put, when I heard of this and other martyrdoms of my Jesuit brothers (i.e. in Bierut, Lebanon) I experienced a deep grief along with the accompaniment of a deep gentle strength from Jesus' Spirit. I think we are invited into sharing in that martyr's strength in a small but real way each day. My/our strength from Jesus' Spirit was enlivened through the course of these awful events. It resounds with the glory of God where love is the final Word.

- John Horn, S.J. 

This anniversary brings three emotions to the surface for me.  I feel deep pride that, for all our failings as Jesuits, these Jesuits got it right.  They promoted a faith that does justice without qualification. In an age when we are tempted to soften the demands of justice, so as not to offend benefactors or board members, these men stand out for us as witnessness to the power of standing up to the forces of oppression on the side of the oppressed.

The second emotion I feel is deep anger.  Though we eventually cut off funding for this war, I am deeply angry that my government had a hand in this elimination of my brothers, precisely because they were voices of truth that spoke out against injustice.  And Elba and Celina were murdered so there would be no witnesses. To this day, we have not admitted what happened, so that the story would be told and a commitment would be make to change our involvement in these dirty wars.

The third emotion is deeper passion for a greater solidarity with the poor here and around the world.  Remembering the martyrs of El Salvador gives me more courage and a greater desire to know those who are oppressed and to be on their side, by more freely speaking out against unjust structures, on their behalf.

- Andy Alexander, S.J.

When I first heard  the news,  in a state of shock, I thought to myself: "O my  God!   That's Jon Cortina and Jon Sobrino's community!  (These are two Jesuits who studied Philosophy at Fusz with me in the early 60's and with whom  I had formed close friendships.)  They both must have been shot and killed.  So I have to confess I was very relieved to hear that they were the only two there who had escaped death: Sobrino was lecturing in Asia and Cortina was doing pastoral work in the hills.

But I simply couldn't believe that anyone would go in and shoot the whole community in so public  and well-known a place as a Jesuit University.  It made me realize the great impunity with which the Salvadoran military operated - with lots of money from the U.S.  When I learned later that the killers had been trained in the U.S. at Ft. Benning's infamous "School of the Americas,"  my outrage increased.

But it was a  year later, on the first anniversary of their martyrdom, that I really understood and felt deeply the tragic injustice of this cowardly murder - and the thousands of other murders committed by the army and death squads it summed up.  I clearly and sadly and angrily comprehended  the deceit and malice it represented on the part of both the government and the military.  As I witnessed the killing fields of the murders,  contemplated the graphic photos and paintings, marched and sang in the procession, and celebrated the Eucharist with Jesuits from around the world and thousands of Salvadorans, I also felt in my heart the triumphant joy that always accompanies true martyrdom.  And these 8 people are truly martyrs!  I not only prayed for them and with them, but through them and through the thousands of martyrs that fell in Salvador. How fitting that the land of "Our Savior"  now echoed with these voices of blood!

- Bert Thelen, S.J.