Reflections

Sing Together and Dance Together, Always: Reflections on the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice

IFTJ

Looking around the conference center ballroom packed with 1,500 enthusiastic members of the Ignatian family on a Saturday afternoon in late November, I couldn’t help but feel jerked back to the same space two years ago, when I had attended my first Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice as a sophomore. The Teach-In gathers people each year from various Jesuit institutions – high schools, universities, volunteer programs, and media outlets – to learn about and advocate for issues of social justice. That weekend two years ago had been a formative moment in my Georgetown experience; I had soaked in the passions of the people around me and absorbed a whole new set of buzzwords into my vocabulary.

Now, as a senior, I found myself at the Teach-In in a different role with different expectations. As a member of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Media Team, I was able to jump around between speakers and breakout sessions taking pictures and conducting informal interviews (and struggling to understand Twitter). Despite this mobility, however, I felt even more rooted than I had sophomore year – rooted in a desire for a deeper understanding of buzzwords like “solidarity” and “service,” and rooted in the powerful presence of an Ignatian community. For the conference’s memorial for the 25th anniversary of the Jesuits’ martyrdom in El Salvador, candles were lit for each of the 53 Jesuits who had been killed since Fr. Pedro Arrupe’s call to “boldly engage in the struggle for justice.” As each name was read, I thought of all of the brave and passionate members of the Ignatian family I have come to know personally over the past few years: the Jesuits at Georgetown who have taught me and guided me, the Jesuits I stayed with in Burkina Faso this summer who have broadened my perspective, and the countless lay people and friends who have inspired me to work toward justice.

This idea of justice, though, can sometimes seem elusive and abstract. At the Teach-In, justice felt alive. Speakers related their own experiences, like Georgetown senior Tessa Pulaski, who spoke about the First-Year Orientation to Community Involvement (FOCI) program. Breakout sessions focused on introducing people to specific issues, like migration from Central America or mass incarceration, and on providing workshop-like opportunities to practice advocacy and leadership skills.

After the evening session on the Teach-In’s first day, I walked around the large ballroom, notebook in hand, asking people what they had learned so far. My favorite answer was simple: “Sing together and dance together, always.” We had indeed all done quite a bit of singing and dancing that day, feeding off the energy in the room. But I think the idea of doing these things together goes beyond that conference center. True solidarity cannot happen unless joys and struggles, justice and injustice, are shared. Although I won’t be returning to the Teach-In as a college student, I hope to infuse this sentiment into all of my actions and thoughts, and I highly encourage more Georgetown students to experience the community of the Teach-In for themselves.

Hopey Fink (new window), COL ’15

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Catholic
Mission and Ministry