This blog post was written lovingly by Kathleen McBride, Central America Regional Director, in memory of a great man, Father Fernando Cardenal.
See also: Testament of Father Fernando Cardenal
Father Fernando Cardenal – a Revolutionary for Love
For those of you who met Father Cardenal, we are sad to share the news of his death. On Feb 2nd, Father Cardenal went into the hospital for a hernia operation. His health began to deteriorate five days after the surgery as a result of septic shock due to peritonitis. After 18 days in the hospital he died in Intensive Care on Feb 20th.
For those of you who met Father Fernando on your journey to Nicaragua either recently or during the 80´s, you will remember a stunning tall white haired man with tender blue eyes who spoke of conversion, transformation, action and consequences – the story of a life dedicated to social justice.
Fernando was an unusual Jesuit. He joined the Sandinista Revolution clandestinely in the early 70’s during the struggle against the Somoza Dictatorship. After the overthrow of the dictator in 1979, he served as the National coordinator of the Literacy Campaign which brought the national illiteracy rate down from over 50% to 12.9% in a 5 month period. The effort won the highest award from the United Nations. Later he served as the Minister of Education during the Sandinista Revolution. Because of his involvement in the Sandinista government, Father Cardenal was expelled from the Jesuits in 1984 by the Superior General Father Kolvenbach at the insistence of Pope John Paul II. In 1997 Father Cardenal was reinstated to the Society of Jesus as his case was considered an authentic case of conscientious objection – the only case in 460 years of Jesuit history of a Jesuit expelled and reinstated.
His memoirs, now in English (Faith and Joy: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Priest) recount his journey from the time of his conversion in Colombia as a result of his experience with the poor in a marginalized neighborhood on the outskirts of the city of Medellin all the way to his entry into the Sandinista Front and his work in the Revolution, his expulsion from the Jesuits and his return to the Society of Jesus. His story is a remarkable story of love, hope and a lived out preferential option for the poor of a man of faith.
CGEE mourns the loss of this remarkable man whose life of commitment has touched so many.