"Friends and supporters of CRISPAZ, indeed everyone with any ties to El Salvador or the University of Central America (UCA), mourned the passing Oct. 16 of Dean Brackley, SJ, who had dedicated his life to the people of El Salvador since his arrival in Central America in the late 1980s, coming to replace the six Jesuits who were murdered at the University of Central America in 1989. Dean died where he spent his two year novitiate, at the Santa Tecla residence just outside the capital city of San Salvador.
Jesuit Father Jose Maria Tojeira described Dean's final days of suffering from the pancreatic cancer that took his life.
Dean Brackley speaks with a
CRISPAZ delegation in 2011
"Dean, a U.S. Jesuit, came to El Salvador to carry on the work of our (Jesuit) martyrs; he volunteered immediately after the massacre at the UCA. His 21 years here were a kind of growing love affair with this country and, above all, its people. He took Salvadoran citizenship and transferred from the Jesuits' New York province to the Central American Province. He worked in rural areas (Jayaque) and in marginal urban communities (Las Palmas), and set up a scholarship program for those who wanted to study at the UCA, but were too poor to do so. When Father Francisco Ibisate, SJ, died, Dean was named to replace him as pastor of the university parish. He taught moral theology, and was always at the service of those who approached him.
"While Dean was in the hospital, he told us he was offering up his sufferings so that God would help people to be more in solidarity with the victims of the rainstorms that have been devastating Central America and Mexico this past week. He also told us that he saw his illness as a way of giving testimony to his faith in the Lord. Realizing that death was approaching, he spoke with the doctors about how the process was proceeding. He maintained his sense of humor...his smile was constant. For those of us who were with him, the word we heard most often was 'gracias.'"
At home from a brief stay at the hospital in early October, "he was accompanied by members of the Jesuit community in Santa Tecla, as well as Vincente Espinoza and Raphael Sivatte. Near the end we were joined by Gene Palumbo, a layperson who was very close to Dean. When Gene spoke to him, it was the only time in the entire (dying) process when Dean opened his eyes and tried to smile. The end, which was very calm, as when a person is sleeping in the arms of the Father, came at 11:15 a.m."
Cathy Cornell, Board Chair for CRISPAZ, said that "we felt for Dean not only great admiration but a deep personal love. He was a man who genuinely cared about everyone he met, including those he had to oppose. In this he truly embodied what our Buddhist teacher has taught us about the need to connect with those whom we have to confront."
Always a friend to CRISPAZ, Dean would go out of his way to work with our staff and volunteers, according to executive director Dennis O'Connor. "Dean remembered everyone, and made you feel special. Although his schedule was always very full, he was always available to meet our groups coming through El Salvador for the first time, giving them both the great sense of history that he possessed, but also to hear of his own great love of the Salvadoran people."
Peter Hinde, OCarm., a founder of CRISPAZ who knew Dean for more than two decades, remarked upon Brackley's great faith. "Jesuit Father Dean Brackley has been an invaluable friend of CRISPAZ over the many years of his ministry at the UCA in El Salvador. Some of us have known him from his days of study at the Chicago Theolgical Union, followed by his years of ministry in the South Bronx, NY. We were thrilled by his quick response to replace a brother Jesuit murdered at the UCA in November, 1989. He has been the voice and spirit of Archishop Oscar Romero for numerous forums in the United States and Europe, and most particularly for innumerable visitors to El Salvador.
"Stressing how the faith and courage of the Salvadoran people made Romero the pastor he was, Dean insisted that all who came to know this people had their hearts broken and left 'ruined for life.' By that he meant that visitors could no longer accept a consumer life style and be passive before the aggression of an economic, political system destructive of these peoples. His life was given for them."