Canisius Contingent Participates in Ignatian Family Teach-In

January 5, 2017 By Audrey Browka

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The Be the Light Youth Theology Institute at Canisius College co-sponsored the 19th annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, which took place November 12-14 in Washington D.C.  More than 1,800 individuals from across the country gathered for the event, which provides opportunities for attendees to learn, reflect, pray, network and advocate in the context of the Catholic faith tradition.  A significant portion of attendees were young people, ages 16 – 22, the majority of whom represent Jesuit and other Catholic institutions from within the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and El Salvador.  The Canisius delegation included 21 college students, faculty and staff.  

The 2016 Teach-In theme, “Mercy in Action,” marked the closing days of Pope Francis’s Year of Mercy, inviting participants to “grow in a love which is courageous, generous and real.”   In addition to the Be the Light Youth Theology Institute at Canisius College, the Ignatian Family Teach-In was sponsored by the Ignatian Solidarity Network  

Initiated in 1997 in Columbus, GA, the Teach-In commences yearly in mid-November to commemorate the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador. Six Jesuit priests and their two companions were murdered on November 16, 1989 for speaking out against the country’s tumultuous civil war. The Teach-In relocated from Georgia to Washington, D.C. in 2010 in response to the growing interest in legislative advocacy and accompanying educational opportunities.

On the morning of Monday, November 14, attendees gathered at Columbus Circle for a public witness, gathering with signs, banners and voices to pray, listen to active advocates, and recommit to work for justice. The Teach-In then culminated with what was estimated to be the largest Catholic advocacy day of the year. Nearly 1,400 individuals proceeded to legislative advocacy meetings with members of Congress and their staffs on Capitol Hill to urge Congress to enact immigration and criminal justice reform.

Keynote speakers included Sr. Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and nationally-recognized advocate for immigrants; Rev. Greg Boyle, SJ, bestselling author and founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries; and Lisa Sharon Harper, author and Chief Church Engagement Officer at Sojourners.  

The Teach-In also offered more than 50 breakout sessions, presented by national and international speakers, including Rev. James Martin, S.J., bestselling author and editor-at-large at America magazine, and Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice.

“The Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice represents the future of our Church,” said Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network. “Attendees, particularly young people, are inspired to respond to Pope Francis’s call as people of mercy, striving to build a more justice and sustainable world.”

The Be the Light Youth Theology Institute was established at Canisius in December 2015, after the college received a $583,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment. The award coincides with a larger youth theology initiative supported by the Lilly Endowment, which seeks to encourage young people to explore theological traditions, ask questions about the moral dimensions of contemporary issues, and examine how their faith calls them to live lives of service. 

“Our unique approach for the Be the Light Youth Theology Institute will introduce high school students to what the Jesuits call ‘a faith that does justice,’ namely, Catholic philosophy and theology, viewed through the lenses of Ignatian spirituality and pedagogy,” said Canisius President John J. Hurley in announcing the establishment of the institute. 

“At Canisius, we are ideally situated to help students understand how issues of justice are truly present in an urban setting like Buffalo, and how faith and reason can form their responses to these issues,” added Stephen Chanderbhan, PhD, assistant professor of philosophy and director of the institute.