Deacon Michael O’Donnell on how we can emulate the Salvadorean saint in Scotland.
Recently people gathered together in Glasgow for the Romero Talk ‘Responding to the Cry of the Poor Today: The witness of St Oscar Romero and the Martyrs of El Salvador’ which was given by Peggy Healy.
Peggy had been a member of the Maryknoll Sisters, a religious society of Catholic missionaries, for over twenty years serving in Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1980s.
Later, she qualified in Human Rights Law and spent years advocating for young people from Latin America for which she received an award
from President Clinton.
Peggy’s ministry in Central America was during the dictatorships of the military and the control of the most powerful families. Many people including Archbishop Romero, priests, religious sisters and thousands of citizens were killed or
simply ‘disappeared’ for speaking out against the injustice they and others were subject to.
Peggy’s Talk was not just looking back at the atrocities which happened, though these can never be forgotten, especially the murders and rapes of the four women: Ita and Maura both Maryknoll Sisters, Dorothy from the Ursuline Sisters and Jean a volunteer who lost their lives months after St. Romero for their serving the
She focused on where we in our own situations can take something from the witness of these people and try to be witnesses to the Gospel today.
In a small group we discussed this. It was clear we weren’t able to leave everything and everyone to go out to another country. This is not open to most people.
What we can be is a person who would respond to someone who is struggling in their own lives no matter how big or small their issue is. We are to
accompany them in seeking resolution to it. It may not be some major action but it is our contribution to living the gospel.
We can be involved with Church agencies such as SCIAF or Justice & Peace in raising people’s awareness of issues of injustice such as asylum seekers, low-wages, homelessness, trafficking etc.
We can be ‘a voice of the voiceless’.
Pope Francis in his Encyclical Laudato Si’ encourages us all to care for the earth, our
common home in the context of the relationship between God, people and the earth.
In our lives we can do this in simple ways such as recycling to the wider ways such as educating others about it both informally and in more structured ways such as pointing out the injustices that multi-national companies and governments
are doing to the earth and people.
The earth is our home and we as Christians must look after it and all its inhabitants.
In our own ways of living the gospel we can work together for the good of all. As Pope Francis said to the bishops “I want you to be shepherds withthe ‘smell of the sheep’ on you”. As people we too have to stay on the side of love in the world.
There is a Prayer attributed to St Romero but wasactually written by another bishop. I encourage you to read it. One part which we can all take
encouragement from is:
“We cannot do everything and there is sense of
liberation in knowing that. This enables us to do
something and to do it well.
We are workers, not master builders;
Ministers, not Messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own”.