Nov 16, 2011 | By Jean Sammon
November 16 marks the 22nd anniversary of the 6 Jesuits and two women martyrs at the UCA in El Salvador. Remembering these men and women - who would certainly have been a powerful force in the 99% - over 1,000 students and teachers from Jesuit high schools and colleges came together in Washington DC last weekend for the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice.
Three of us from NETWORK – Lobbyist Marge Clark, BVM, Education Coordinator Shannon Hughes, and myself (Field Coordinator Jean Sammon) – were happy to be a part of it. We were all re-energized by the young leaders from around the country who engaged with us in breakout sessions and at our display table.
I facilitated a Mind the Gap! workshop on Saturday night that was filled to capacity, and Shannon facilitated a second Mind the Gap! session on Sunday. The students were very aware of the wealth gap in the U.S. (and the global wealth gap) and came with questions about whether capitalism makes this gap inevitable. We talked a lot about the reasons that wealth disparity has grown so much in the past 30 years, which was a lifetime for most of the workshop participants. We saw that it doesn’t have to continue this way. Together, we identified policies that affect the wealth gap, such as tax rates, minimum wage, labor rights, and campaign financing. And we convinced ourselves that we have the power to change these policies, if we are dedicated to educating, organizing and advocacy.
Marge worked with the 70 participants from Oregon and Washington, in preparing for their Hill visit the next day. They were clear on the basics of a visit and had great ideas about how to persuade legislators to support the DREAM Act and to support students who had lived in the U.S. virtually all of their lives. They were excited to talk about the School of the Americas, and funneling of our tax dollars to that – when it could be going to support work-study programs for students struggling to stay in school. They were prepared for a vibrant day on the Hill.
The Teach-In closed Sunday night with Mass. After such rich conversations and time spent envisioning an economy that works for all of us, it seemed ironic to hear the gospel proclaim, “For to all those who have, more will be given . . . but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” Our presider, Fr. Don MacMillan, asked that we consider the behavior displayed and consequences received by each individual in the story, but wondered aloud what might have happened to each servant if they had invested and grown together.