Canadians Rowing into the Deep at Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice 2017
Every November for the past twenty years, Jesuit educated students from high schools and universities across Canada, the United States, and Mexico gather, originally held in Columbus, Georgia, but now, in Washington, DC for a teach-in for justice.
I was lucky enough to be among the four Campion College student delegation for my second Teach-In. Going into this momentous weekend, I was reminded of Robert F Kennedy and his Day of Affirmation speech in Cape Town in 1966.
In this now famous speech, Senator Kennedy said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
This really put me in the mindset for the weekend. And, this weekend did indeed begin with a moment of reflection at RFK’s gravesite.
On Saturday evening, we heard from Fr Bryan Massingale on the ever important issue of race wherein Caucasians were called upon to use our white privilege for the good, for the bettering the lot of our coloured sisters and brothers. He called on all of us to use the magis to re-create society for the better.
This discussion required some translation into our Canadian context, and it was a vivid reminder that we need to be in open dialogue about race and how we, as Canadians, can harness the magis to re-create our society wherein we are truly equal under and before the law.
The highlight events for me were the pre-opening Q&A between Fr Jim Martin, SJ and Sr Simone Campbell, SSS as well as Fr Martin’s breakout session on LGBT issues and the Catholic Church.
The former was a frank discussion about the current state affairs in the US on important topical issues – the budget, healthcare, etc. Sr Campbell did make all of us laugh despite the seriousness of the topics at hand.
The latter event was one I was very excited to attend. The session was entitled “Building a Bridge: Reaching Out to LGBT Catholics”. First off, we exist, and Fr Martin did recognise that. He reminded us that gay Catholics offer the Church amazing gifts that can empower us; and gay Catholics are some of the best people at having compassion with other marginalised peoples .
And finally, and most importantly, we were reminded that by virtue of our baptism, a sacrament that can never be revoked, we, as gay Catholics, are just as Catholic and entitled to the same dignity and respect as all other Catholics, including Pope Francis.
At a subsequent session the next day, we were further reminded that LGBT Catholics are NOT errors of God.
The remainder of the conference went very well with a live podcast for young Catholics and a great keynote speech on people power and the pursuit of a just peace. This podcast, time for a shameless plug for these great young Catholics, is called (Jesuit)ical, and it brings us the most current big time and slightly obscure Catholic news of the week … over drinks!
The hosts, Ashley, Olga, and Zac, make sense of what it means to be a young Catholic, and I really appreciate them tackling this as I too consider what it means to be a young Catholic.
The conference concluded with a mass during which we sang ‘We Are One Body’. It was another tangible reminder that, as Sr Campbell said, we must act for the 100% of the Church and not just a certain section. We are all one body in Christ.
All in all, I absolutely loved this experience, the people with whom I travelled, and all the new people whom I met, and those whom I had really wanted to meet.
Yet, as I flew home on the final leg of my trip from Toronto to Regina, I read Zac Davis’ article in America magazine, and a certain reality hit me square in the face: “retreat high,” or maybe better put IFTJ high.
We have found so much consolation at this event that will quickly and almost rudely disappear. The question now becomes, how can we translate the passive knowledge gained into action? The answer evades me right now, but with discernment, I know I’ll soon have the answer, an answer, fingers crossed, filling me with the magis.
 Image from Ignatian Solidarity Network https://ignatiansolidarity.net/blog/2017/10/23/ignatian-family-teach-in-20/
 Robert F Kennedy, “Day of Affirmation Speech”, RFK in the Land of Apartheid, accessed 8 November 2017, http://www.rfksafilm.org/html/speeches/unicape.php.
 Zac Davis, “Can the Catholic Church keep millennials from passing it by?”, America Magazine, published 19 October 2017, accessed 8 November 2017, https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/10/19/can-catholic-church-keep-millennials-passing-it.
Photos courtesy of Luke Gilmore