On New Year's Day, my brother and his family wanted to attend a mass at the Mission Church in Santa Clara University before they took the long drive home. Since I live a 20 minute walk from the university, I decided to join them.
This was the first mass I attended in the Mission Church. I must've seemed like a tourist to the parishioners, because I kept looking at the murals and sculptures all around the church. During the service, they said a prayer for immigrants and refugees and that warmed my heart.
After the mass we walked around the campus. Santa Clara University is a beautiful place. We read all the plaques to learn about the history of the place.
I was especially impressed by the 8 crosses in front of the Mission Church. The 8 crosses memorialize the 6 Jesuit priests, their cook and the cook's daughter who were killed by government forces in the Jesuit University of Central America in El Salvador on November 1989.
I remember that time very well. During the 1970s and 1980s, Catholic priests, nuns, and laity in Latin America and the Philippines were getting jailed or killed for defending the rights of the poor against their autocratic governments. Pope John Paul II was trying to suppress the more liberal members of the Catholic Church and was opposed to the Liberation Theology adherents who were fighting for social justice in many Latin American countries. I remember going to church and hearing arguments from some who thought the reforms of Vatican II had gone too far and those who thought Vatican II didn't go far enough.
This more progressive side of the Catholic Church deeply influenced me when I was growing up. Some of my biggest heroes remain progressive Catholics like Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero, and Daniel Berrigan.