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SLU Student Finds Ignatian Teach-In Transformative Year In, Year Out

Saint Louis University junior Maria Garcia attended her first Ignatian Family Teach-In four years ago. There, she met the hundreds of other attendees drawn from Jesuit institutions around the nation.

“I remember my first teach-in being surrounded by individuals as passionate as I was and leaving wanting to make a change in society,” she said.

Maria Garcia in front of U.S. Capitol

Junior Maria Garcia made her third trip to the Ignatian Teach-In in Washington, D.C. this past week. Photo courtesy of Maria Garcia

She returned to the conference in 2016 and left with even more motivation to serve.

“Every time I attend the conference, I always feel like I have to do something,” Garcia said. “I feel empowered to make a change in my life and in the communities I’m a part of.”

That sense of empowerment eventually took Garcia to Nogales, Mexico, where she saw firsthand what it was like when people were deported from the United States.

And just last week, Garcia joined 24 other Saint Louis University students in Washington, D.C., to attend the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice for what was her third — and most likely final — time. She attended as one of four team leaders, nominated by her peers to lead discussions on immigration and foreign policy.

The trip was sponsored by the Department of Campus Ministry.

“I used what I saw in Nogales to tell my story in D.C.,” she said. “That’s the most important part of advocating: telling your story and seeing how society changes.”

The annual Ignatian Teach-In unites members of America’s Jesuit academic institutions for a weekend of social justice and advocacy. This year’s theme was “Rowing in the Deep: Magis Meets Justice.”

The event featured keynote lectures presented by Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA; the Rev. Bryan Massingale, a racial justice scholar; and Maria Stephan, senior policy advisor for the U.S. Institute of Peace.

SLU Ignatian Teach-In Delegation

Twenty four Saint Louis University students traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with Congressional staff. Photo courtesy of Maria Garcia

Following the conference, students traveled to the Capitol to discuss pressing issues, including humane immigration and foreign policies. Garcia’s team met with the staff members working with Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Roy Blunt, Sen. Claire McCaskill, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Billy Long.

Garcia said she loved the lobbying and explaining the Catholic teaching behind her views with the Congressional representatives.

“Usually when you’re doing justice work, you often feel drained and tired because nothing gets fixed,” she said. “Going to the staffers and learning more about the policies the senators and representatives are working for makes our job a lot easier. It’s just as hard for them as it is for us.”

This year’s event was most likely Garcia’s last visit to the Teach-In. Next year, she plans to volunteer with the University’s Advocacy Call-In event held on campus in conjunction with the conference. But she aims to continue her work for others once she leaves SLU.

“Recently, I’ve been discerning that I want to join the Jesuit Volunteer Corps after I graduate,” Garcia said. “I’d like to take a gap year to be with the people in these marginalized communities and work in solidarity with them.”