Reading about SLU’s receiving of Rex Sinquefield’s fifty million dollars reminded me of a letter Mev Puleo wrote to then SLU President Biondi 25 years ago …
After the exhilarating World Youth Day experience, Mev jumped right into her doctoral program at the GTU in Religion and the Arts. Early on, she became acquainted with Maria Bower, a doctoral student in spirituality, with whom she increasingly spent time. She also continued her Haiti solidarity work with local activists Pierre LaBoussiere and Nancy Laleau. But even as she began her study, her experience earlier in the year in El Salvador was raising all kinds of questions to her about higher education. She dashed off the following letter to St. Louis University President Father Lawrence Biondi.
6 September 1993
Lawrence Biondi, S.J.
St. Louis University
221 North Grand Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63103
Dear Father Biondi,
Greetings from a SLU alumna living in California. I hear good words about you from both my father, Peter Puleo, and from some SLU faculty with whom I keep in touch, such as Sr. Dolores Greeley. Congratulations on your good work.
I am writing in response to the “Campaign for St. Louis University” materials. You and those who worked on this produced a beautiful publication with an attractive layout — which I appreciate as a professional photographer. A while back, when I was heading to El Salvador for a meeting, Fr. McGannon gave me some literature on both the SLU Campaign and for the UCA-El Salvador Campaign. (I imagine you are familiar with that publication as well, put out by the AJCU in D.C.).
As a graduate and great fan of SLU, and as a person who has been active in solidarity work with Central America for more than a decade (which I began during my student years at SLU), I was jarred by looking at the two campaign booklets side by side. I am very impressed with the UCA’s attention to “Social Outreach,” their ongoing analysis of the “national reality,” their attention to institutional violence, defense of human rights, and to bringing together people from across the political spectrum to try to encourage a more just, humane society. They are explicit in their aims to educate the privileged (the literate and college-bound) to lead and serve the needs of the majority of the country. While the SLU booklet mentions community service and scholarship funds, these themes of immersion, analysis and engagement in the local social reality are absent. Read the rest of this entry »
“[You in the Western countries] have organized your lives around inhuman values [which] are inhuman because they cannot be universalized. The system rests on a few using the majority of the resources, while the majority can’t even cover their basic necessities. It is crucial to define a system of values and a norm of living that takes into account every human being.”
–Father Ignacio Ellacuría
Quoted in Noam Chomsky, Deterring Democracy
We should never pit them against each other. Anyone, therefore, who claims to be for one and not the other does not understand their significance for the black community, for America, or for the world. We need both of them and we need them together. Malcolm keeps Martin from being turned into a harmless American hero. Martin keeps Malcolm from being an ostracized black hero. Both leaders make important contributions to the identity of African-Americans and also, and just as importantly, to white America and Americans in general.
–James Cone, Martin, Malcolm and America: A Dream or a Nightmare?
James Cone; Maryknoll, NY; 1988; photo by Mev
Help men and women of good will—
from every land and color and language and religion—
to bring liberating moral pressure to bear
and awaken their consciences
so that they will help the human race
to be freed from the shame of the subhuman beings
whom wretchedness produces,
and from the shame of the superhuman
who are begotten of excessive prosperity and luxury.
— Dom Helder Camara, Hoping against All Hope
Dom Helder Camara; Brazil; 1987; photo by Mev
Thinking of you a lot these days
Been reading the martyrs
Here in my homey little cell
(For a while I got solitary for asking disruptive questions)
Wanted to send you this little gem from Monseñor
It’s like he read my mind
I’ll try to call you collect
Before you take off on your odyssey
Love in a Time of Nukes,
The church in Latin America
Has much to say about humanity.
It looks at the sad picture
Portrayed by the Puebla conference:
Faces of landless peasants
Mistreated and killed by the forces of power,
Faces of laborers arbitrarily dismissed
And without a living wage for their families,
Faces of the elderly,
Faces of outcasts,
Faces of slum dwellers,
Faces of poor children who from infancy
Begin to feel the cruel sting of social injustice.
For them, it seems, there is no future—
No school, no high school, no university.
By what right have we cataloged persons as first-class persons or second-class persons?
–Oscar Romero, El Salvadoran Archbishop
–from the novel, Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine
Every day during the years of conflict in Central America, tortured bodies were found along roadsides—as in Jesus’ day the crucified victims of the Roman Empire were displayed on the side of the road—to instill fear in the population. Every day during the 1980s and early 1990s in Central America, people were killed, disappeared—because of faith, because of their belief in a God who meant life, abundant life, life is all its fullness, for every human being.
–Margaret Swedish and Marie Dennis
People are not just killed by death squads in El Salvador; they are decapitated and then their heads are placed on pikes and used to dot the landscape. Men are not just disemboweled by the Salvadoran Treasury Police; their severed genitalia are stuffed into their mouths. Salvadoran women are not just raped by the National Guard; their wombs are cut from their bodies and used to cover their faces. It is not enough to kill children; they are dragged over barbed wire until the flesh falls from their bones while parents are forced to watch.
–Father Daniel Santiago