Loyola’s First Martyrs Award Goes to an IPS Alumna’s Organization
Loyola’s new Martrys Award was created to honor the Salvadoran Martyrs. This year marks the 26th anniversary of their assassination.
In a recent letter to the Loyola community, Interim President John Pelissero wrote, “Loyola honors the Salvadoran martyrs each year because in their lives and deaths, they exemplify the Jesuit and Catholic ideals and values that we seek to emulate, such as solidarity with the poor, working for social justice, and courageously witnessing to the truth.”
Each year, the award will be presented to a faith-based organization or individual who, among other things, strives to fight social injustice, educates others, and creates awareness of issues affecting the oppressed. In addition, there is a $25,000 grant that comes with the award. This money is intended to promote the legacy of the Martyrs in El Salvador and support Loyola’s commitment to social justice.
The first recipient of this annual award is The Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants (ICDI). ICDI’s Executive Director Sr. JoAnn Persch will be accepting the award on behalf of the organization. Persch gradated from IPS in 1971 with a degree in Religious Education.
Another IPS graduate, Chris Murphy, is Loyola’s current Director of Staff Mission Formation and Faculty Staff Chaplain. He said that the ICDI is “currently responding to migrants and refuges from El Salvador and Latin America. The suffering of these people is rooted in many of the same structural injustices to which the martyrs responded. The work of the Interfaith Committee reminds us of the way to which we are the direct heirs to, and responsible for, the ongoing mission of the martyrs. For the Interfaith Committee’s dedication to addressing injustice they will receive the Martyrs Award from Loyola University Chicago.”
When given the news of being the recipient of the Martyrs Award, Persch said, “As an alum of Loyola and as Director of ICDI it made me very proud. We are an ever growing program and this award will encourage our growth to be able to serve more people. To be selected as seeing our ministry in tune with the strong faith and courage of the martyrs is very touching.”
Persch began her long and successful career at IPS where she said she was given the foundation needed to carry out programs ranging from child and adult education to parish ministry.
She recalls that at the time, the IPS Religious Education program was only offered during the summer.
“We had outstanding professors who would come from all over to teach in the program for the summer,” Persch said. “I really enjoyed the Scripture classes and also then Father John Gorman (now Bishop Gorman) who taught religious psychology. I have used what I learned many times.”
As the co-founder of ICDI, Persch has been able to see the growth of ICDI in the nine years of its existence.
“I see the hand of God working in every way. We have such a wonderful committed staff and amazing volunteers who really see our responsibility to our immigrant sisters and brothers. The fact that in nine years we are able to assist through all of our programs has to be the work of God.” Persch added, “We all receive so much more than we give through our relationships with our immigrant sisters and brothers.”
Though Persch is living in the present and fighting social injustice day by day, she is also preparing of the future.
“I want to share leadership so that when I can no longer serve in this capacity others are prepared and imbued with the vision and mission of ICDI… I would hope that we could continue raising funds that will not only keep us solvent, but keep having the ability to grow to meet the needs as they arise.”
This award is not only a great honor and opportunity for Persch and her organization, it is also somewhat of a homecoming for her.
“IPS has always held a very special place in my heart and I am so happy to be connecting again.”
**The award ceremony is taking place on November 16 at 3:30 pm in Damen Student Center Multipurpose Room South. There will also be a Memorial Mass at 5:15 pm in Madonna Della Strada, followed by a reception in McCormick Lounge.