The roots of the teach-in stem back to 1989, when Father Ignacio Ellacuría and his five fellow Jesuits were murdered in El Salvador, outside of the the University of Central America’s (UCA) Pastoral Center, where they lived and worked.
Since then, the teach-in has been held every year—virtually this year—as a way to continue to advance Jesuit causes of social justice and working for others.
Fordham has been an active participant in years past. This year, it had one of its largest groups ever join in the Oct. 24-26 multiday conference.
“Offering [the teach-in] to students this year, particularly during the pandemic, it was even more meaningful,” said Carol Gibney, associate director of campus ministry for spiritual and pastoral ministries. “I think everybody’s seeking and desiring community … It was very, I would say hopeful, joyful, inspirational. And reminded all of us that we’re part of a larger organization, with Ignatian spirituality and pedagogy.”
Gibney said that all of the students were able to participate in the conference remotely, but they also offered Bepler Commons at the Rose Hill campus throughout the weekend as a space where students could come and break out into small groups to discuss some of the topics including climate change, anti-racism work, and civil engagement. About 12 to 15 students took advantage of the in-person option.
For Lauren Pecora, a junior at Fordham College Rose Hill, the topic of “Asylum and Detention: Working Towards Dignity” stood out for her.
“The problem at the border is so multifaceted that it’s difficult to keep up with unless you’re directly involved, but the speakers were engaging and clear,” she said. “A complete reorientation of policy is needed at the border, away from criminalization and militarization.”
For Fordham College at Rose Hill junior Mari Teli, the session called “How Do We Build Up a Broken World,” held by the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, really impacted her.
“We talked about how do we, especially now, in the time of corona[virus] , how do we build up marginalized communities? It was a really big self-reflection of, what community are you involved in and how does that community harm or help other marginalized communities around you? Do you actively see yourself trying to uplift the voices of those marginalized communities?”
Teli was part of a group of students from GO! Vote, this year’s Global Outreach project, a section of which participated in IFTJ, according to Vanessa Rotondo, assistant director, immersions and student leadership at the Center for Community Engaged Learning, who coordinated the efforts.
“We got a little creative with Global Outreach this semester, and we formed GO! Vote, which was charged with raising civic awareness across both campuses,” she said.
Rotondo said the GO! Vote team hosted pre- and post-election talks and forums on civic engagement and awareness and participated in phone banking, in addition to being involved with IFTJ.
She said the students who participated in IFTJ will put some of what they learned in action through a partnership with Cristo Rey New York High School in Harlem where they will teach the students about civic education in early 2021.
“I think the big thing that struck my group in particular was this theme of planting a seed,” Rotondo said. “They want to do something where they’re physically both planted and see and watch it grow, and I think that really struck them through the lens of working with the high school students.”