Fifteen LMU students and staff traveled to Washington, D.C., in October to attend the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s 25th annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ). Each year, Campus Ministry and the Pam Rector Center for Service and Action (CSA) partner together to take LMU students to this event, which gathers more than 2,000 high school and college students, staff, and concerned individuals to network and attend workshops with internationally recognized speakers, pray, and advocate for a more just world.
The theme of this year’s teach-in, “Rooted and Renewing,” invited participants to ground themselves in the historical roots of the teach-in event and the legacy of the Jesuit martyrs and their companions who were killed in 1989 in El Salvador for their commitment to standing with the oppressed. Participants could renew a responsibility to address the world’s injustices today with “creativity, courage, and resilience,” all traits representing the theme of the first teach-in in Georgia 25 years ago.
The keynote address was Bill McKibben, a climate activist and founder of 350.org, the first global grassroots climate campaign, and Third Act, which organizes people over 60 to work on climate and racial justice. IFTJ also continued an annual tradition of the “Prayer for the Jesuit Martyrs,” which honors the lives of Jesuit martyrs and others who have given their lives in the service of faith and justice. This year attendees could go to the front of the ballroom to place in fencing a white cross bearing the names of those impacted by injustices and served as a reminder of the original vigil at the gate of Fort Benning in Georgia during the first IFTJ. One thousand participants also got the chance to make their voices heard for Advocacy Day, where they visited legislative leaders on Capitol Hill.
Andrea Payre Madrigal ’25, an entrepreneurship major, decided to attend the teach-in because she’s new to the Ignatian community and wanted to learn more about it. Attending the teach-in made her realize there are so many more people like her who are passionate about faith and justice, and she felt like this experience strengthened her faith in God and people. “I learned so much about the Ignatian community in this country, heard some of the most impactful human justice stories, quickly explored D.C. and its monuments at night, and made a couple more friends, both from LMU and other schools,” said Payre Madrigal. Getting the chance to learn about the story of the teach-in and the history of the El Salvador martyrs has shown her that justice is not a solitary burden but a group effort, and she now hopes to visit El Salvador sometime soon.
For Payre Madrigal, one of the weekend’s highlights was speaking with McKibben, one of the keynote speakers. “I’m passionate about sustainability and justice, and one of the focuses was environmental justice,” said Madrigal. “I’ve been a fan for a couple of years now, about the climate crisis in general and my impact and place within the fight for environmental justice, and asking him for advice on my next steps for my environmental justice work.”
Gabi Jeakle ’23, an English major from Seattle, Washington, attended this year’s IFTJ for the fourth consecutive year, starting in her first year at LMU in 2019. Each year, as she’s gotten busier at college, it’s felt harder and harder to go with everything going on. “This year has been no exception because I love the teach-in and going to D.C., so I went, and it was such a renewal experience,” said Jeakle. “It reminded me why I love Jesuit education so much. I have always found the teach-in to be so grounding in Ignatian values and ideology and those things that we lose track of in the weeds, everything that’s happening at LMU that we’re doing. It can be hard to remember that it’s all rooted and connected to our Ignatian values.”
Jeakle was a presenter at the teach-in this year and shared a session called “Bringing It Back Home,” where she talked about creating a teach-in on your campus, to ground students in community organizing. “Students learned the important thing about this program is localizing it to their community and how that creates an opportunity for students to network with each other and community partners,” said Jeakle. “And that’s what I love so much about the teach-in that we do at LMU because we get to work with both our community partners in L.A. and the students on our campus to center justice work around the community we’re in. Our teach-in at LMU is not just about sharing stories and the justice issues that need to be addressed, but we’re sharing how to address them.”
The annual LMU Advocacy Teach-In focuses on how to create social change beyond advocacy and will take place on March 25, 2023. The teach-in consists of a keynote speaker and a selection of workshops led by various nonprofit organizations. Each workshop focuses on a tool to create social change. Check CSA’s LEO page for more details during the spring 2023 semester.