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Alejandro García-Rivera, faculty member at the Jesuit School of Theology, passed away on Dec. 13, 2010 after a long illness. He inspired many to think freely, inquire uninhibitedly, and believe wholly. Originally from Cuba, his life path took many twists and turns – from a Boeing engineer trained in physics, to Lutheran minister and social activist, to esteemed scholar and author who embraced the Jesuit way of life.
García-Rivera joined the faculty of the Jesuit School of Theology in 1993 as a professor of systematic theology. His scholarship as a theologian bridged the disciplines of science and religion. “I believe wholeheartedly that we must begin to see the interconnectedness of the world, to grasp its complexity, even if our intellectual traditions have conditioned us to seek a different type of grasping,” he said. He often used the term “interlacing,” which he described as the artful weaving of various perspectives across disciplines to gain an insight greater than any of its components. “Everything is interconnected, and I believe God gave me such a broad journey in life so I could see the connections,” he said. García-Rivera was one of the founders of a joint JST-SCU colloquium on science, art, and religion with colleagues from JST, the SCU School of Engineering, and the SCU College of Arts and Sciences. Earlier this year, García-Rivera received the GTU’s highest honor presented to a teacher, the Sarlo Excellence in Teaching Award, as well as a President’s Special Recognition Award at Santa Clara. He was also one of the most important voices in the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States. Beloved as a teacher at the JST’s Instituto Hispano summer training institute for Hispanic ministry, he dedicated much of his life to supporting marginal communities. García-Rivera always started a course he taught in Theology and Human Suffering by saying, “It’s hard to teach a class where everybody’s an expert…because who hasn’t suffered?” For García-Rivera, however, suffering wasn’t all about gloom, unpleasantness, and pain. He saw beauty in suffering. Because if you can’t see that, he said, “there’s just one alternative left … and that’s despair.”
Here is one of García-Rivera’s favorite poems, written by Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.
Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled, (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose Beauty is past change: