Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States
March 22, 2016
An Open Letter to ACHTUS Members and ACHTUS Friends on the Death of Fr. Virgilio Elizondo:
The ACHTUS community laments the loss of one of our founding members, Fr. Virgilio Elizondo, August 28, 1935 – March 14, 2016. His death by his own hand has left those of us who knew and loved him in a state of shock, anguish, and disbelief. It is as if Holy Saturday arrived quite early this year.
Nationally, Fr. Virgilio is considered the “Father of Latino Theology,” and was featured in Time magazine, December of 2000, where the headline read: “If Jesus had been born in San Antonio.” We remember him as one of our own and celebrate his extraordinary contributions to U.S. Latino/a theology. We are grateful for his inspiring courage, for his generous spirit, and his joyous being. His intuitive genius launched Hispanic/Latino/a discourse in the US, so much so, that the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS) stand on his shoulders. It is safe to say that many of us would not be theologians today but for his contributions. In 1972, he founded of the Mexican American Cultural Center, now known as the Mexican American Catholic College. He had the courage to share publicly Latino/a stories of faith at a time when the world was hostile to these and in so doing, he encouraged many of us to stand up a little straighter and feel a lot stronger about our place in the Church. In 1988, Fr. Virgilio was one of eight founders of ACHTUS and every year since, an award bearing his name has been given to an outstanding theologian for their contributions to Latino/a theology.
Fr. Virgilio was a generous man, who for decades consistently mentored and offered financial support to Latino/a graduate students of theology and ministry from across the U.S. and other parts of the world. His joyous spirit lifted those of us fortunate enough to share a meal with him, to pray with him, and to reflect on our lives with him. He received the University of Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal (1997); was named professor of Pastoral and Hispanic Theology at the University of Notre Dame (2000); and received the John Courtney Murray Award (2007) from the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA). Even with these, and many other accolades, he remained a faithful priest and humble servant of the Church.
For the last ten months, Fr. Virgilio was burdened by an allegation of sexual misconduct that led to what he called “a dark night of the soul.” He maintained his innocence throughout and was devastated by this allegation. For innumerable years the lives of many have been greatly affected by sexual abuse and we pray for all who have suffered.
We remember our brother Virgilio in prayer. We ask for God’s loving mercy for Virgilio and for all of us. We are grateful for the many ways he blessed our lives and many other lives.
Que descanses en paz Virgilio.
ACHTUS Board of Directors
Dr. Nancy Pineda-Madrid, Boston College, President
Dr. Elsie Miranda, Barry University, President Elect
Dr. María Teresa “MT” Dávila, Andover Newton Theological Seminary, Vice President
Dr. Jorge Aquino, University of San Francisco, Past President
Dr. Hosffman Ospino, Boston College, Secretary
Dr. Gilberto Ruiz, Loyola University-New Orleans, Treasurer
Dr. Ondina Cortes, St. Thomas University, Board Member
Dr. Jeremy Cruz, St. John’s University, Board Member
Dr. Peter Anthony Mena, Phillips Theological Seminary, Board Member
Dr. Chris Tirres, De Paul University, Board Member
Dr. O. Ernesto Valiente, Boston College, Board Member
Ms. Melissa Pagan, Emory University, Associate Member Representative