Jesuit Brother Treasures “Lost Painting” from Alumna’s SeriesJuly 31, 2015

In November 2014, the seven images painted by Mary Pimmel Freeman, ’07, of the victims of the 1989 massacre at a Jesuit school in El Salvador were easily found and seen. Used as emblems by the Ignatian Solidarity Network during the 25th anniversary of the killings of six Jesuit priests at the Universidad Centroamericana, along with their housekeeper and her daughter, the colorful paintings were distributed far and wide in 2014.

Bro. Glenn Kerfoot, S.J., a former campus minister at Rockhurst, said he was Pimmel’s Jesuit advisor as she developed the idea for the series, which uses color and other formal choices to express the individual personalities of the victims. Kerfoot, who moved to Belize to teach at St. John’s College the same year Pimmel graduated from Rockhurst, said he returned from a service trip in Michigan in 2007 to a unique thank-you: a portrait of the Most Rev. Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador who in 1980 was shot to death while celebrating Mass, presented in a similar style to the portraits of the 1989 martyrs — a  sort of “lost painting” in the series.

“I was quite surprised to come back and see this incredible painting sitting there in my office chair,” he says with a laugh. “When I left for Belize in 2007, I stored it here, and every year I try to come back to the U.S. and when I stop at Rockhurst, I try to visit my painting.”

Kerfoot said he mentioned Romero as Pimmel was developing her series, despite the fact that the priest was not a Jesuit and was in fact killed nine years before the murders of the UCA. Kerfoot said Romero was heavily influenced by the Jesuits and worked frequently alongside members of the order.

“The Jesuits, I think, were inspired by Romero,” he said. “I always thought that Romero was integral to the story of the El Salvadoran Jesuits that Mary was trying to tell.”

And just as November 2014 saw a number of commemorations for the victims of the El Salvadoran massacre, Archbishop Romero’s life has also been celebrated recently, with his beatification in May. Pope Francis said before assuming the papacy that one of his first acts as pope would be canonize Romero.

Kerfoot said while the painting is for him a treasured possession, he planned to leave it at Rockhurst’s campus ministry office, in the hopes that it might be displayed somewhere on campus.

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