Francis Stewart works in our theology team. In this blog he looks at the links between the two new saints whose lives have such prophetic meaning for CAFOD.
By canonising Oscar Romero and Pope Paul VI together, Pope Francis is surely pointing out to us the connections between two humble yet courageous men. So what links these two great advocates of “a Church of the poor and for the poor”?
“Patron saints” of CAFOD’s work
Both men have been inspirational for CAFOD’s mission. This is because of what the teachings of one and the life of the other show us about a true encounter with people who are poor.
Find out more about Romero’s life, with our timeline.
Tania Dalton was a member of CAFOD’s Latin America team for nearly 13 years. In this blog she explains how Archbishop Oscar Romero has inspired her to begin a new chapter in her life.
Two big things are happening in my life right now:
I have started to train as a primary school teacher
Blessed Oscar Romero is being officially recognised as a saint on 14 October
It might seem conceited to say the two things are related, but in my mind, they are.
Inspired by Oscar Romero
I first heard about Archbishop Oscar Romero when I started working in CAFOD in 1999. I am inspired daily by Romero’s unwavering option for the poor, although I was a small child when he was killed for his defence of basic human rights and social justice.
On International Day of the Disappeared, CAFOD’s Clare Dixon shares the story of people who worked at the height of the conflict in El Salvador to make sure people killed by death squads did not just disappear without a trace. Sadly, some of the details of this story are distressing.
The first time I visited El Salvador in 1981 the country was plunged in a brutal civil war. Thousands of ordinary men and women were being targeted by the army and death squads, just for demanding their basic human rights, a decent wage, and freedom of speech. Nobody ventured out after dark for fear of being arrested or just snatched off the streets and I felt an overwhelming sense of fear and dread.
Archbishop Romero, the “voice of the voiceless” who had espoused and defended the cause of the poor and oppressed, had been shot dead as he said Mass in 1980. A year later I was visiting El Salvador to meet with members of his Archdiocese who, with the support of CAFOD, had set up a human rights office. Its task was to provide legal aid to help and comfort the countless victims of violence who had nowhere else to turn when their loved ones had “disappeared” after being captured by the death squads.
Isabel Marsh, who is currently on placement at St Cassian’s Centre, reflects on her time in El Salvador before she embarks on her fundraising journey 0 the Colchester half marathon.
Less than 12 hours after arriving in El Salvador, our group set off for the University of Central America (UCA) to meet with one of CAFOD’s partners. The UCA is a private university, meaning they are able to charge fees for students (but there are several scholarships and bursaries available) and are not reliant on government funding. This has meant the University has more autonomy and does not need to follow the views of the government, providing it with an independent and non-biased voice.
We were led to the Social Outreach Vice-Rectorate, for our meeting with Omar Serrano, the Vice-Rector. We spent the morning with Omar and his colleague Eduardo. Omar shared with us about El Salvador – its history; politics; society and social norms and economy.
CAFOD Step into the Gap volunteer Ciara Hogan shares her experiences of arriving in El Salvador, meeting CAFOD’s partners and seeing inspiring, creative projects.
Our first few days in Central America have been absolutely incredible. In the short time we’ve been here we have already experienced so many different people and places, each giving us so much to think about and reflect on.
Our team of Step into the Gap volunteers are about to depart for their overseas trips to either Sierra Leona or Nicaragua and El Salvador. We asked them how they are feeling and how they are preparing for their trips.
Kayleigh, Christopher, Siobhan and Hannah are travelling to Sierra Leone.
Kayleigh is on placement at The Briars youth residential centre in Nottingham diocese
At The Briars we use our morning prayer time and workshop sessions to help young people be aware of many of the issues facing communities in Sierra Leone, for example, recovering from the recent landslide. When I get back from visiting Sierra Leone I will get the opportunity to visit groups of young people and share what I’ve learnt, and I am so keen to get out there to tell them about the people of Sierra Leone, as I already know that they are invested in what I will be seeing and who I will be meeting. I cannot contain my gratitude and excitement and I truly acknowledge that this programme is a once in a lifetime.
Tania works as Communications Officer in our Latin America Team. Her role involves lots of opportunities to meet inspiring people like Edelmira, whose story of flourishing and achievement we are celebrating this Harvest Fast Day.
My first impressions of Edelmira when I met her in 2016, were of a friendly, welcoming woman, constantly busy. She was a little nervous of meeting me, a visitor from far away. I was also nervous about visiting Edelmira. CAFOD had sent me to interview her for our Connect2 El Salvador parish programme, and I was feeling the weight of responsibility!