Jesuit Martyrs Remembered on Rockhurst CampusNovember 18, 2014

On Nov. 16, 1989, soldiers stormed into the Jesuit residence at the Universidad Centroamericana in San Salvador, El Salvador, killing six Jesuit priests who worked in the community as well as their housekeeper and her teenage daughter, both of whom were staying at the residence at the time.

They represent a handful of the more than 70,000 people killed in the country’s decade-long civil war. But a quarter century later, the attack and its victims still hold power. Jesuit colleges and universities across the U.S. and the globe commemorated the 25th anniversary of the massacre, including Rockhurst University.

On Tuesday, Nov. 11, the University unveiled a new plaque outside of Sedgwick Hall dedicated to Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J., Ignacio Martín-Baró, S.J., Segundo Montes, S.J., Juan Ramón Moreno, S.J., Joaquín López y López, S.J., Amando López, S.J., their housekeeper Elba Ramos, and her daughter Celina Ramos. On either side of the plaque are roses, with tulips in front and behind it.

The University commemorated another important connection to the events of 1989 on Thursday, Nov. 13, as Mary Pimmel-Freeman, ’07, spoke to both faculty and staff and students about her series of portraits of the martyrs, which have been used by the Ignatian Solidarity Network as a worldwide symbol during the anniversary.

Pimmel-Freeman said the story of the martyrs, their work and their courage affected her when she learned about them at the annual Ignatian Teach-In.

“They really had a deep love and commitment to the people of El Salvador,” she said.

With the aim of both coming to grips with each martyr’s personality and brining to life their legacy, Pimmel-Freeman researched and painted portraits of each of the martyrs and of Elba and Celina Ramos. The paintings were purposeful, layered with meaning and allusions to the Jesuits’ work and personalities. Pimmel-Freeman said she got to know the men and women behind the photos during her project.

Because of their use by the Ignatian Solidarity Network, the paintings have found a whole new audience, and some of those viewers have pointed out meaning in the paintings that Pimmel-Freeman said she never even intended.

“I love all the things that people bring to the paintings themselves,” she said. “That’s one of my favorite things about this project — it shows that art speaks to us on a deeply personal level.”

Pimmel-Freeman spoke of the ability to expand one’s “circle of compassion” as a way to affect change in the world. She said she hopes her paintings, and the legacy of the Jesuits who are their subject, can expand some of those circles and help bring the men and women who died Nov. 16, 1989, to life.

“That’s what this project was all about,” she said.

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