Photo story published in U.S. Catholic, November 2007

Catholic college students get schooled in peace and protest at the annual School of the Americas vigil.

Loyola students at SOA
Photo by Megan Sweas

“Close it down!” Patrick Eccles, a Loyola University Chicago chaplain, shouted to a group of 50 Loyola students about to embark on a trip to Columbus, Georgia to protest the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA). “Close it down,” they replied weakly, seeming unsure of their voices, mission, and comrades.

Three days and 830 miles later, the students stood in a tight circle, arms around each other, waiting to return home. After praying together—for the victims of the SOA, for the efforts to close it, and for the community formed over the weekend&mdashthey repeated the call and response. “Close it down!” they yelled unabashedly this time, turning other protesters’ heads.

The moment was spontaneous—”a positive way to keep people together” when the bus was late—says Rachel Hart, a chaplain and trip organizer. Yet after a transformative weekend that was part spiritual retreat, part social action, and part community building, it was an appropriate “sending forth.”

“There was a community and a spirit of the group that didn’t just end in Georgia,” Hart says. …


PDF of “Basic training” (includes photography)