In November of 1989, a commando unit of the Salvadoran armed forces entered the campus of the Central American University (UCA) and killed six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter. It’s said they were murdered for speaking out against the government, for advocating for the poor, for working to negotiate an end to the war. And they paid for their beliefs with their lives. Yet, although their lives had ended, many believed their work needed to be carried on.
In 1990, Jesuit Father Dean Brackley volunteered to leave his position in the New York Province of Jesuits and move to El Salvador to join the staff of the Universidad Centroamericana, administering the university’s School for Religious Education and assisted in schools for pastoral formation sponsored by the UCA.
Fr. Brackley passed away on Sunday after battling both liver and pancreatic cancer.
“Dean Brackley was an extraordinary Jesuit. His 20+ years of service in El Salvador included pastoral work in numerous parishes, meeting with delegations visiting El Salvador, immersion trips, but at all times, he promoted Gospel values from the perspective of the poor. His 2004 book The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times is a powerful expression of God’s providential love for the poor expressed in the Ignatian vision. Dean will be deeply missed by the people of El Salvador, students and faculty of the UCA, and the countless compañeros he met along the way,” said Jesuit Father Thomas H. Smolich, President of the Jesuit Conference of the United States.
A few weeks before his passing, Brackley was honored by Marquette University with a Doctorate of Religious Studies, and by the University of San Francisco which established a scholarship in his name:
WHEREAS, University of San Francisco Trustee J. Dean Brackley, S.J., quietly, immediately and heroically volunteered to replace one of the murdered Jesuits from the University of Central America in San Salvador after the 1989 massacre of six university Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter; and
WHEREAS, Dean Brackley, S.J., ever since his entrance to the Society of Jesus in 1964 has displayed an uncommon commitment to the social and human implications of the Gospel; and
WHEREAS, Dean Brackley, S.J., has ever and always balanced his demanding academic and administrative responsibilities with pastoral care for the poor and marginalized; and
WHEREAS, Dean Brackley, S.J., has hosted numerous delegations to El Salvador, including groups from the University of San Francisco; and
WHEREAS, Dean Brackley, S.J., has faithfully and generously served as a trustee of the University of San Francisco for nine years;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the University of San Francisco establish a scholarship to honor Trustee J. Dean Brackley, S.J.; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this scholarship be awarded to a Latino/a student of high academic promise and significant financial need;
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that this scholarship student be designated the Dean Brackley, S.J. Scholar during his/her matriculation at the University of San Francisco.
Fr. Brackley entered the Society of Jesus in 1964 and was ordained a priest in 1976. He earned a doctoral degree in Religious Social Ethics from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1980, and traveled a vocational path marked by spiritual creativity, moral courage, and an unfailing companionship with the poor.