We meet the 1st and 3rd Thursdays at St. Gertrude's Ministry Center
(6214 N. Glenwood), beginning at 8:00 p.m. Folks are welcome to join us at anytime.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Women in the Church and the Massacre at the Sumpul River

A friend writes:
no puedo olvidarme de la fecha 14 de mayo y la masacre del sumpul....
"I'll never forget the 14th of May, neither the date nor the massacre at Sumpul. I will never forget this day when year after year so many good people of all parts convene at the shores of the Sumpul to commemorate the people who have given their lives to reach a better life. Still we continue in the same fight. God willing those of the DHP will achieve it for the people of Chalatenango." --Don Bahlinger, SJ

He refers to the massacre at River Sumpul in El Salvador. The US Institute of Peace reports:
"On 14 May 1990, units of Military Detachment No. 1, the National Guard and the paramilitary Organización Nacional Democrática (ORDEN) deliberately killed at least 300 non-combatants, including women and children, who were trying to flee to Honduras across the Sumpul river beside the hamlet of Las Aradas, Department of Chalatenango. The massacre was made possible by the cooperation of the Honduran armed forces, who prevented the Salvadorian villagers from landing on the other side.


"The Salvadorian military operation had begun the previous day as an anti-guerrilla operation. Troops advanced from various points, gradually converging on the hamlet of Las Aradas on the banks of the Sumpul river. In the course of the operation, there had been a number of encounters with the guerrillas.

"There is sufficient evidence that, as they advanced, Government forces committed acts of violence against the population, and this caused numerous people to flee, many of whom congregated in the hamlet, consisting of some dozen houses.

"Troops attacked the hamlet with artillery and fire from two helicopters. The villagers and other people displaced by the operation attempted to cross the Sumpul river to take refuge in Honduras. Honduran troops deployed on the opposite bank of the river barred their way. They were then killed by Salvadorian troops who fired on them in cold blood."

The oppression continues. Today untold numbers flee the oppression of the Roman Catholic Church, even as others take up the battle from within. These are surrounded by both secular and Church forces of exploitation, and the body count of these continues to soar. One of these asked me about how to live life faithfully in todays climes, how to live simply, act justly, and carry on collectively with our God. She admires the pattern of Jesuit formation; she understands herself oriented to family life and yet her horizon includes a vision that fuses the values together in a witness of the Kingdom. I am gratefully awed by her desire yet at the time admit responding reflexively. With regret I sought counsel from two beloved friends.

One spoke from his years as a college campus minister and counselor. He mentioned two encourage my friend in two ways. First, to pursue individual formation via personal enrichment, further education, retreats, spiritual direction (Charis ministries would be a starting point). Many scholarships are available to this end. For instance, I am reminded of a female artist from China who was sponsored to master the craft of stain glass making under Europe's giants. She has since led the creation of Beijing's renovation efforts for its Cathedral.

Second, he mentioned social enrichment such as group connection, a need I hope Kairos Chicago fulfills.

To this second, another spoke from his years of work with a Jesuit work. He said that the desire is enacted in a multiplicity of ways. For instance, some former Jesuit volunteers [JVs] network to form settlement patterns in the vicinity of a neighborhood. They get together to pray, to share a meal. Personally, I know this network helped to raise me in Seattle. My family had a "families group" event once a month.

I was reminded of two things. First, that the very reason our education centers developed was on the basis of local demands from those who admired the Jesuit formation. I gather that same demand can have a powerful impact to influence the Society. Second, that one group of lay wooed a Wisconsin provincial to accept their vows. This was something like twenty years ago and yet he reports they remain cohesive. People responded in a backlash and the experiment ended, but it proves the power of collective persuasion. 

Finally, a word to set my own agitation in context. Many Jesuits will react to this reflexively based on having become jaded by decades of persistent effort on the part of those encouraging women ordinations. A veil of ignorance clouds clear judgment and obfuscates honest exploration, all dialogue continues to be muffled by superiors. In my experience, I was guided not to join women standing at Maria de la Strada, and cautiously given permission to attend a meeting to discuss the standing. Though distinct, the desire to living as Jesuits do picks open this same wound. 

Do not shy away. As Dr. King said in Why We Can't Wait, "the tension is like a boil that must be uncovered to be healed by the air of public opinion" (85). Continue to dream the dream, to ask the question and--to quote a Kairos Chicago member--"use civil disobedience against the Church." This is no open invitation to senseless take-over, for Gandhi spoke of such action in terms of an offering. As you know, the true aim of such resistance aims at the heart of a lover. But neither is this a passafire--as Ignatius said "Go Light the World on Fire!" Likewise, follow the words of our least Society's second founder, Pedro Arrupe, "Fall in love, stay in love, and it will change everything." Best wishes in the struggle.

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