Two teachers and eleven students from St Bonaventure’s College in St John’s, Newfoundland, travelled to Washington, DC, in November 2016 to attend the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ). The Teach-In is an opportunity to further the Jesuit mission of forming young women and men of competence, conscience, compassion and commitment to a just global society on an international scale. The following account is by Claire MacLeod, one of the eleven students who went from St Bon’s:
Over a five day period, eleven members of our senior class, including myself, and two teachers, were in Washington, DC, for the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice 2016. Our journey began at around 3 am on Friday the 11th and concluded on Tuesday the 15th.
St. Bon’s has sent delegations to this conference in the past and the reviews have been universally positive. That positivity carried into the attitudes of our current delegation as we departed for a trip we’ve eagerly awaited since the last delegation returned. However, unlike all other trips undertaken by St. Bon’s, American politics dominated our conversation.
As I’m sure everyone knows by now, in the wee hours of IFTJ Reflections Wednesday morning, on November 9th, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States in the biggest political upheaval the country has seen since 1776. His controversial 16-month campaign ran on a platform of hateful rhetoric, fear mongering, and violence. Despite his sexist, racist, ableist, xenophobic comments, his alarmingly conservative Vice President, multiple bankruptcies, and court cases, Donald Trump now holds the highest office in the country. I, like half of the American population, struggle to find even a glimmer of hope for the next four years of the Trump Administration.
So how did the Ignation Family Teach-In for Justice, a conference geared towards discussion on social justice, mercy in action, and progressive Catholic values, address the election? Well, the discussions at the conference ranged from the election’s impact on minorities, to the election’s impact on the LGBT community, to the election’s impact on the Church. In addition, the discussions and speakers were fantastic, especially our delegation’s favourite, Father Boyle of Homeboy Industries. Fr Boyle SJ told students, “You’re here these days so that you can stand against forgetting that we belong to each other … and pretty soon you cease to care whether anyone accuses you of wasting your time.” Personally, I think this message created a theme well-suited for the conference. When you feel like your country is burning, time is precious. It takes an enormous, 2000-person effort to remind ourselves of what we, as Jesuits and Jesuit education students, believe in. But struggle to remember we must. The trip to Washington was a valuable experience in the struggle of memory against forgetting and I am happy that that struggle will continue next year, with the next delegation…
This reflection was first published as a link from the Campus Ministry Newsletter of St Bonaventure’s College, called Living the Magis, in January 2017. It appeared in the newsletter’s first issue under the title “Building relationships with self and world through the Jesuit network.”