Steven Boyd Saum
15 Oct 2014
By any other name, the rose would smell just as sweet, so we’re told. But let’s ground the flower in earthy specificity, where the roots of this woody perennial take hold. Family Rosaceae, genus Rosa, leafing and blooming and perfuming here, for instance, in the Mission Gardens, along the paths—or circled by benches, where mighty trunks climb up and clusters drape a trellis between the Adobe Wall and the Ricard Observatory.
“But the blossom, the blossom there—who can it be?” asked a poet and a Jesuit by the name of Gerard Manley Hopkins. A captivating question to ask, which brings us back to the name, doesn’t it? Not just in terms of the namesake of the antique variety or hybrid tea (my mother’s favorite: Double Delight)—but who would you associate with this rose, right here? For instance, a flower and stem right in front of the lovely Mission Santa Clara de Asís herself, where it’s one of the floral companions to eight simple white crosses. Those crosses bear names—of two women and six Jesuits killed by a government-ordered military hit squad a quarter century ago at the Universidad Centroamericana in El Salvador. It is good to remember these innocents murdered amid a civil war—and to remember not only for the tragedy of their deaths but also, in a way, for an act of martyrdom that became a turning point (along with the end of the Cold War) that led at last to that civil war’s end.
It is good to remember here, at Santa Clara, where the work and lives of women and men were already intertwined with the work and lives—and then deaths—in another country in the isthmus of the Americas. And not just remember but to realize the way that the relationship bound together these universities in San Salvador, El Salvador, and Santa Clara, USA. It’s fair to say that a different sense of identity began to crystallize here. So it is good to remember and understand how that’s shaped who we are, what the people of Santa Clara have done there: as engineers working on water or solar projects, as lawyers studying democracy building and human rights, and those from across the disciplines who built and nourish the Casa de la Solidaridad for students from here and other farther-flung places. It’s not only students who travel to El Salvador to study; every year faculty and staff from the Mission Campus participate in immersion trips that startle and illuminate and change the way they see the world. This September, for the first time, a delegation of university leaders from the UCA, including the rector, Andreu Oliva, S.J., came to Santa Clara to meet with colleagues in law and engineering, administration and fundraising, among other fields. Santa Clara President Michael Engh, S.J., will lead a delegation to El Salvador in November for official ceremonies marking the martyrdom. Naturally, one of the places they’ll visit is the garden on the UCA campus where the Jesuits were gunned down. It’s a peaceful and lovely place. Roses bloom there.