Friends and family remembered Fr. Dean Brackley, S.J., at St. Ignatius Church last Wednesday to commemorate his life and journey to build social awareness and compassion across the world.
“[Father Brackley] really lived life to the fullest…the axiom to what you see is determined where you’re standing and he stood with the people of El Salvador, and he saw the world through their eyes and the people really influenced him,” said presider Rev. Stephen A. Privett, S.J. “[Father Brackley] was open to Salvadorans and to their hopes and frustrations —he was able to give a voice to those who at some point may have not had a voice,” Privett said.
In 1989, the Salvadoran army entered the University of Central America, and killed six Jesuit priests, a housekeeper, and her daughter. They were allegedly killed for speaking out against the government and for encouraging social improvement for the lower working class.
Shortly after the death of the Jesuits, Father Brackley traveled to El Salvador to take the place of one of the recently murdered priests. He devoted his life to injustice and continued the efforts of his predecessors as a liaison, teacher, and community organizer. Father Brackley worked enthusiastically with the Salvadoran people during the country’s civil war, gaining their recognition and gratitude.
“We are happy to have this memorial mass in honor of Father Brackley because so many of our students and faculty were inspired by the work he’s done in El Salvador,” said Julia Dowd, Acting Director for University Ministry.
Father Brackley helped develop Casa de la Solidaridad (House of Solidarity), a study abroad program in El Salvador. His goal was to build a bridge between U.S. and Salvadoran students during the government’s transition.
The program, which initiated in 2000, currently provides students with the opportunity to immerse themselves into the contrasting reality of El Salvador through a praxis component of their study.
Jessica Jenkins, a Stanford graduate, was part of 12 students in the program in 2001.
She said, “We were the second group to go, and Father Brackley taught a class for us during the four months we were there.
He had lived there for about 11 years and really brought so much grace and humor to the experience and really bridged the reality in El Salvador to students from more developed countries.”
In terms of the effect Father Brackley had in her life, Jenkins said, “He made a tremendous impact on me, and as well, with a lot of the students in the program.
My experience got me interested in Latin America and immigration issues and in which I decided to pursue a career as an immigration lawyer because of the experience.”
In 2003, Father Brackley was invited to join USF’s Board of Trustees to contribute and continue to the vision of social justice in Latin American countries.
In his homily Father Privett discussed of the characteristics associated with Brackley’s persona.
“Father Brackley walked with the poor on holy ground and entered a richer, more real world than he witnessed to among us with an integrity and simplicity that touched us all,” he said.
“Dean often spoke about a culture that was designed for sleeping, a culture that induced in us a kind of chronic low-grade confusion about what is really important in life—namely life and love itself,” he added.
Before Father Brackley’s passing, USF instituted a scholarship in his name.
The scholarship will be awarded to Latin students of higher academic promise and significant financial need.