At the 20th anniversary Mass in Milltown for the San Salvador martyrs, Michael O’Sullivan SJ recalled some of their links with Ireland. Amando Lopez studied theology and was ordained in Milltown in 1965. Ignacio Ellacuria, the Rector of the Jesuit university where the killings took place, made his Tertianship at Rathfarnham Castle. Eight years before his death he spoke in Milltown on the situation in El Salvador. Frank Doyle, who concelebrated with Michael, was with Jon Sobrino in Thailand the day he got the news that the members of his community had been murdered in San Salvador. Jon avoided death that night because he was working with the Columbans in Thailand. Fr Jim McPolin from Limerick was in San Salvador at the time, but had opted to work in a parish rather than the University. Jim lived in the Jesuit residence in San Antonio Abad parish where the pastor and four young people on a retreat were murdered by the military in 1979. Rory Halpin (who later left the Jesuits) did some of his theology studies at the Jesuit university while living in San Antonio Abad.
Michael himself was arrested in San Salvador airport in 1991, two years after the killings, held under armed guard for the night, and deported to Nicaragua the next morning. He was able to return to El Salvador some days later following the efforts of the Jesuits in El Salvador. Michael had led protests in Ireland against what was happening in El Salvador over a number of years before and after his years as a missionary in Chile during the military dictatorship in that country where his stands on behalf of the poor and persecuted led to him having to leave the country. Read a summary of Michael’s homily below.
At the Mass in Milltown Michael said to the larger than usual congregation that when Amando Lopez lay prostrate in front of the Milltown altar during his ordination he was not to know that this act of giving himself to God would lead him 24 years later to be dragged from his bed and to have to lie prostrate in the garden of his home to be shot with high velocity bullets that would take his brain from his head and splatter it onto the grass.
Nor was he to know at the time that the front avenue he would have walked up and down during his final years of study before his priestly ordination would one day have a memorial bell erected to him, his community companions, an economically poor woman who cooked for Jesuits, her teenage daughter, a murdered Archbishop, and the suffering people of El Salvador.
Michael reminded the congregation of students and staff that the memorial bell was erected at Milltown, not just because Amando had studied and been ordained at Milltown, but because it was hoped that such a memorial on the grounds would inspire those at Milltown Institute to grow more into the commitment that led Ignacio Ellacuria, and his companions, to demonstrate in so many ways that third level learning, teaching, research, programme development, publishing, and administration could play a crucial role in the struggle for social justice as an absolute requirement of authentic Christian faith.