Community Partner Spotlight: Maria Madre de Los Pobres
“Es necesario acompañar al pueblo que lucha por su liberación.”-Monseñor Romero
“It is necessary to accompany the people that fight for their liberation.”-Monsignor Romero
This quote by Monseñor Romero is painted on a wall at the entrance to Maria Madre de Los Pobres Parish in La Chacra, San Salvador. This parish lives this call. The area of La Chacra is among the poorest in San Salvador. The inhabitants are mainly displaced refugees from the era of the armed conflict of the 1980s. There is so much pain in the people of La Chacra stemming from collective and individual experiences during that time period. Pain tends to cause distrust, which in turn causes divisions and broken communities. Today, this pain combined with high poverty rates and overpopulation, the gang problem that the entire country faces is specifically manifesting itself in La Chacra.
However, this local reality doesn’t deter the men and women of Maria Madre from caring for and accompanying the residents of La Chacra in their struggle for a life free of violence. Maria Madre runs a school that provides a place for single mothers to drop off their kids as they leave their homes early to go out and sell their wares. Mothers know that the school is a safe-haven and that the teachers can be trusted. There is also a health clinic within the parish grounds that is accessible to anyone and everyone who may need attention. No one–tattooed (a common sign of gang membership) or not–is turned away. Providing a place at the table for all creates a welcoming community where relationships are formed. This church answers Monseñor Romero’s call to accompany. The Parish was created out of a need to walk with those displaced by the armed conflict, and María Madre continues standing with the people of La Chacra despite the local context of gang activity and violence. . In the words of Wendy Torres (a member of the Parish Clinic staff), “Maria Madre de Los Pobres Parish demonstrates that the church is not a building but rather the work of building community.” Through their social programs María Madre creates a sense of collectiveness with the vision of a neighborhood where the people can be liberated from the reality of violence.