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A Walk With the Martyrs: 'The Bridges' Program

In 1999, a decade after the murders, Rev. Brendan Lally, S.J. ’70, former campus minister and rector of The University of Scranton, now chaplain at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, was inspired to lead the Scranton community to El Salvador “to build bridges of solidarity and understanding with the materially poor and those who suffered from war and oppression.” He discussed the program in our feature article here and talks more about his experience below.

In his words:

"I began the program in Scranton following a talk given at Scranton by the president of Sacred Heart College in Connecticut regarding his journey to El Salvador with a group of faculty in a delegation to be witnesses to the painful situation there and to find ways to grow in solidarity with the Salvadoran people, who were suffering through a painful civil war. I saw this as an opportunity for us as a sister Jesuit University to reach out to our brothers and sisters in El Salvador and stand with them in their struggle for justice and to do so in the context of our Catholic faith, as 'friends in the Lord.'"

"The purpose was not simply to visit, but to build bridges of solidarity and understanding with the materially poor and those who suffered from war and oppression.I did notice a change in the people who participated, expressed in different ways. Some were more vocal in their witnessing to their experience, others perhaps had a change of heart or deeper awareness that was communicated 'one on one' with family, friends, students, but all of us shared something that was significant in our lives as educators. I hope that their experience inspired participants to take what they experienced and 'do something with it,' in whatever way God may have been leading them. Marie Karam, now director of the Language Learning Center, was co-director with me and has more than carried her experience into her life and the lives of all who know her, developing scholarship programs for Salvadoran youth."

"I hope the 25th anniversary of the martyrs inspires others to seek understanding of our brothers and sisters in the developing world and to have the courage needed to reach out in solidarity to them, to put their faith into action, even if it is challenging. I hope the witness of the martyrs helps us to build bridges needed from their lives to ours and from our lives as educators to our students and institutions."

"When St. John Paul II was elected Pope, a reporter asked him what would be the best way to help the poor. He answered immediately: 'Grow in understanding of them!' I hope 'Bridges to El Salvador' has helped in some way to answer his call."

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