Jesuit who replaced slain Salvadoran priests dies

Jesuit Father Dean Brackley, who volunteered in 1989 to help replace faculty members slain at the Jesuit University in El Salvador during its bloody civil war, died Sunday in San Salvador. He was 65.

Brackley, a member of the New York Province of Jesuits when he relocated to San Salvador, served at Central American University from 1990 until his death. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four months ago.

Brackley will be remembered for his tireless efforts to build awareness and solidarity between churches and universities in the United States and the poor in Central America. He wrote and lectured extensively on the need for higher education to connect scholarship to service and resources to the social reality of the poor.

His personal witness, meticulous scholarship and passion for the poor made him a voice of conscience within the global network of Jesuit schools in their response to the violence in El Salvador. His role in welcoming and orienting thousands of church delegations from the United States and Europe to the realities of Latin America helped shape the “accompaniment” of sister parishes and other advocacy groups, which in turn influenced a change in U.S. policy in the region at the end of the 12-year civil war and with the peace accords in 1992.

But when Brackley arrived at the airport in El Salvador in January 1990, he entered a war zone. His room at the Jesuit residence would be yards from the small garden where the bullet-riddled bodies of the Jesuits were found, their blood and brains spattered on the nearby walls. It was just down the hall from a parlor where the housekeeper and her daughter were killed at the same time, their decision to remain on campus overnight based on the assumption that they would be safer there because the army had sealed off the area during an offensive by the rebels. [more]

National Catholic Reporter