Father Rob Esdaile is the Parish Priest of Our Lady of Lourdes in Surrey. He visited El Salvador in 1999 and shares his reflections on what Blessed Oscar Romero can teach us today.
Father Rob visited Oscar Romero’s El Salvador in 1999
I had the privilege of going to El Salvador early in 1999 in the company of Father John Medcalf, a fellow diocesan priest (who had himself worked in both El Salvador and Nicaragua). John had been invited to observe the presidential elections and thought it would do me good to go along.
Even 19 years after the murder of El Monseñor and 7 years after the end of El Salvador’s Civil War, the wounds caused by the violence he denounced lay just below the surface. My visit was punctuated by encounters with the bereaved, with witnesses to atrocity, and with places stained still with memories of blood.
But I also visited the hospital chapel where Romero died saying Mass and the little bungalow next door where he lived in utter simplicity. And I prayed at his tomb in the Cathedral of San Salvador, where it became apparent that already the people understood that he was their saint – San Romero.
Find prayers and reflections to give thanks for Blessed Oscar Romero’s life
As I reflect on the story of the Archbishop 35 years after his Martyrdom in my comfortable, wealthy, beautiful, non-violent suburban London parish, three things strike me.
It was so good to be part of the little group handing in the Thirst for change petition at 10 Downing Street.
This event summed up for me in so many ways what CAFOD, and this campaign in particular, is all about. Read more about the hand-in >
There we were: school students, a parish priest, a campaigner who’d walked to London along the canal network from the West Midlands, and a highly skilled water engineer from a CAFOD partner organisation in Ethiopia, the nation so dramatically linked in the public mind with water shortages at the time time of the 1984 famine that led to Band Aid.
And the five of us were making the voice of the world’s poorest heard by the powerful. This is what CAFOD does so well: uniting different generations and very different life-settings around a shared faith and a commitment to work with people in poverty to build a better future. Continue reading
So I’ve reached the finishing line. I washed my hair (and the rest of me!) in a bowl of water for the last time this morning, having heated enough in a kettle to take the chill off. Then I went to collect my last container of water. In fact I only picked up five litres this time because I’m away at the CAFOD retreat this evening and I’d managed to save a bit from yesterday.
I walked back with some of the children heading for our neighbouring primary school, who seem to have been fascinated by it all. All that the parents of one six-year-old could gather from their giggling son on Monday night was that Father Rob had talked about toilets, which he clearly found hilarious. But I hope some got rather more out of the school assembly than that! Continue reading
We had a really good parish pastoral team meeting last night at the presbytery, trying to tease out priorities (including choosing our next overseas development project as a parish).
But I woke up with a headache this morning – the headache of having run out of water. A dozen cups of tea and coffee, followed by the washing-up that created, meant that I only just had enough to make breakfast and wash. I now realise what unexpected guests can mean for the world’s poorest people.
Call on the PM for clean water and safe sanitation for all >>
Day three: It’s been a busy 48 hours. We made the CAFOD Thirst For change campaign the focus of our prayer at mass, inviting people to fill in the campaign cards after the homily and to write a prayer of thought about their ‘Thirst for Change’ on the ‘raindrop’ cards.
Then we collected the cards up together with the ordinary Sunday parish collection in bright red buckets. We were able to announce that their Fast Day collection the previous week had raised nearly £1,400 (leaving our ‘Bucket-o-meter’ suspended just above the blue ‘water-level’ on the back-wall of the sanctuary). Sponsor me here >>