The SHARE Blog

Inspired: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Delegates Reflect

September 20, 2014

In July, nine delegates from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Wisconsin visited El Salvador. During the past eight years, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton has stood in solidarity with their sistering community, Rutilio Grande, in their sistering region, UCRES. Three delegates share their reflections on the inspiring people of El Salvador.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton delegation with the kids in Rutilio Grande.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton delegation with the kids in Rutilio Grande.

“Oh how I miss El Salvador!  I close my eyes and can see so many familiar faces. Whenever I’m in church I think of celebrating mass in El Paisnal with all of our friends from Rutilio Grande….I am amazed at the passion of the people. From Luis working with the youth in the community to Felicia teaching her mother to read. Antonio trying his best to lead his little community to Jorge developing organic materials to help feed his people healthy food and protect the environment. Carmen keeping the horrible past of the civil war and the lives lost alive as a lesson to be learned from and remembered. The list can go on and on. They give their all without thinking of themselves.” Jacqueline Konkol

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Corruption continues: Ex-president Francisco Flores under house arrest until trial

September 18, 2014

This piece was written prior to the following UPDATE: Ex-president Francisco Flores ordered by the First Criminal Chamber in San Salvador to await trial in prison, rather than under house arrest. Stay tuned to SHARE’s blog and Facebook page for further updates in the case.

The day after Padre Antonio Rodriguez was released from jail, Ex-president of the Republic, Francisco Flores Pérez, turned himself in after spending the majority of 2014 in hiding.  On September 5th, Ex-president Flores walked through the doors of the Attorney General’s office at 8:30am giving himself up to the courts “out of respect for the law.”

Flores escorted by PNC and military police to his home.  The ex-president is currently under house arrest as he awaits trial.

Flores escorted by PNC and military police to his home. The ex-president is currently under house arrest as he awaits trial.

Flores was president of El Salvador from 1999-2004.  During that time, the country faced one of the largest natural disasters in its history.  The 2001 earthquake devastated the country, leaving 1,500 people dead in its wake. Flores appealed to the rest of the world to help rebuild the tiny Central American country.  Taiwan responded by sending a large sum of funds, which mysteriously never reached the reconstruction projects of El Salvador.  Later on in his presidency, Flores again appealed to his friends in Taiwan to fund his war against drug trafficking and gangs. Again, the Salvadoran people never saw this money. The total funds sent from Taiwan during Flores’ five year term totaled an impressive $15 million.  However, the only beneficiary of that money was Flores himself.  Bank transactions showed that the Ex-president embezzled that $15 million from his own government.   Read More »


Case of Padre Toño illustrates corruption in Salvadoran justice system

September 17, 2014

Toño with GeovanniLately here in El Salvador, we have been witness to high-profile court cases that illustrate the level of corruption in the Salvadoran justice system. The first came as the arrest of Spanish priest Antonio Rodriguez (Padre Toño). Padre Toño is known internationally for his revolutionary work in gang rehabilitation in San Salvador–something that no one else in El Salvador dares to attempt due to the danger that lies in becoming too close to gang members.  In late July of this year, the trailblazing priest was arrested not but a few days after he had publicly called out the Attorney General for his lax response to the increasing homicide rate (connected to the gangs) in spite of the famed truce. Back in March 2012, a deal was cut with the leaders of El Salvador’s two largest gangs–MS 13 and Barrio 18.  At that time, the homicide rate dropped by over 33%. However, in the last few months, death tolls have risen higher than before the creation of the truce. Padre Toño recognized this spike in homicides as a failure of the truce, and that it is time to reassess El Salvador’s gang problem. Unfortunately, instead of being given the opportunity to improve the situation, he was arrested and charged with the following:

  • Introducing contraband into the jails (i.e. cell phones)
  • Pulling political strings for high up gang leaders to get moved to lower-security prisons
  • Collaborating in illicit acts, specifically collaborating with leaders of Barrio 18

Read More »


Update on Romero’s Path to Cannonization

September 11, 2014

As many around the world have rejoiced about by now, the Pope lifted the beatification ban on Archbishop Romero! Here in El Salvador that excitement runs deep through the population. However, for those of us who either aren’t Catholic or aren’t really “in-the-know”, we might be a little behind. What does a “beatification ban” actually mean? Is Oscar Romero now a Saint? Not quite.

Archbishop Romero is still in the process of canonization. This process was first proposed in 1994 by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council of the Family, after recognizing that Romero had a local following devoted to his memory.  Since then Romero’s case has passed through many of the steps without too much of a problem. For instance, his orthodoxy and loyalty to the church (two of the initial steps in the procedure) were confirmed by the Vatican. PROMO9This granted Romero “Servant of God” status, which is one of the titles on the way to becoming a Saint. Generally, sainthood requires the person in question to have performed two posthumous miracles, but  because Romero was martyred, Pope John Paul II assured that no miracle is required for his canonization.

Now, Romero just needs to go through the final two steps to become a saint. Beatification is step number three, when the Pope recognizes that a person has entered heaven and can intercede on the part of those who pray to him/her. For some, that recognition takes decades just to fully discern that the person really should be venerated as such. However for others, it just takes a few months.

Regardless, in the mean time, Salvadorans and others worldwide will continue to look at Monsignor Romero’s life and teachings for guidance, hold events and marches to commemorate  his assassination, and celebrate the Vatican recognition of Romero as a candidate for beatification.

For more reading on this topic, check out:

 


New Relationship, New Perspective

September 9, 2014

Laura Gilman visited El Salvador with the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton delegation in July 2014 and wrote a reflection to share about her moving experience. 

I want to share a story with you of how my immersion trip to El Salvador has changed me.

Several weeks before we left on our trip in early July, my Mother kept calling me telling me stories of the immigrant children arriving at the border in Arizona where she lived.  They had nothing with them and were sick and there was a fear of diseases spreading.  I thought, “How could a mother do this?  How could she let her child travel all alone thru Central America and Mexico and the danger they faced on this journey?”  Then I met a mother.  She is a mother in Rutillio Grande, our sistering community in El Salvador.  She told us her story of her son.  He is 17 years old and was a recipient of a scholarship from Seton to go to school and was a good student.  But he was afraid of the gangs and the violence.  He faced them on his way to school and was at the age that gangs were recruiting new members.   He was afraid for his life and asked to go to the U.S. and be with his father.   She finally agreed and got a loan at 20% interest and paid close to $7000 to a coyote guide who took him through Central America and Mexico and dropped him off at the border to cross on his own.  It took him almost 14 days to get to the US border with little food or water.  It was December when he arrived to the border and it was a time when there were freezing rains and ice storms in Texas.  He was freezing cold and wet when he crossed the Rio Grande.  He had hypothermia and literally thought he was going to die from the cold so he turned himself in to immigration.  They took him in and helped him.  They were able to reunite him with his father in Atlanta.  He has been allowed to stay in the US as long as he stays in school and gets good grades.

When she told us this story, I was overwhelmed with sadness.  I now understood how a mother could do this.  She loved her son so much that she had to make that sacrifice so he had a better life and was safe from the gangs and violence.  She misses him terribly and prays for him and his father every day.  She doesn’t know if or when she will ever see them again.

Her husband has been living in the US for 11 years and works and sends money back to her and her daughter.  She told me that she has remained faithful to her husband all these years and always will even though she doesn’t know if she will ever see him again.  She lives alone with her daughter who is 21 years old and is now studying English in college.  She is afraid to leave her home at night because of the danger.  And her daughter has to travel for an hour and a half each way to get to San Salvador to go to classes.  This also puts her in danger of running into the gangs on her way to school but she is determined to go.  She is a recipient of a scholarship to study as well.

God put me in this woman’s home to hear her story for a reason:  to be compassionate, to listen and understand what these families are going thru when they have to send their child on this journey to be reunited with family in the US for a better life.  For every child that comes across the border, there is a mother or father or grandparent back in their home country that is just as scared as the child.  There is a story as to why that child is coming to the US for a better chance and a mother who is stricken with grief and heartache that her child had to leave.

I have since connected with the son and his father in Atlanta.  I called him when I returned from El Salvador and spoke with him on the phone.  He is doing well and going to school.  I’ve also spoken to the mother on the phone and continue to communicate with her and her daughter through Facebook.  I am fortunate that I speak Spanish and can communicate with them.

Our immersion trips to El Salvador help us to connect with real people, hear their stories and build relationships that continue on every day.  It doesn’t end when we get back.  God called me to do something and I feel my call is to share this woman’s story; to understand the issues around the migrant children and help others understand that there is a story behind every child.

Jesus’ teachings weren’t confined within the temple.  His reach was far greater than just the four walls.  St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish doesn’t end at just these four walls.  We have a sister parish in Rutilio Grande who appreciate the support we give them and love us unconditionally, without even meeting us.  God meant for all of us to do more than just survive.  He meant for us to thrive.  That’s what we here at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton are helping the people of Rutilio Grande do, thrive, not just survive.  Thank you for your support and thank you for letting me share this mother’s story in El Salvador.


We All Have a Story

September 5, 2014

We all have a story. All we need is a pair of ears to listen to it. 

On Saturday, August 30th, mothers gathered together to commemorate their loved ones who disappeared during the armed conflict and to demand that the government declare that day the National Day of the Victims of Forced Disappearance. 

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Some of the mothers with photos of their disappeared loved ones

The testimonies given by the mothers of the disappeared on August 30th in the Plaza Civica in commemoration of the International Day of the Victims of Forced Disappearance were captivating and left many people with tear-filled eyes. The loss of a child is something that no one understands until they have experienced it  themselves.  However, in the case of the mothers of the disappeared they haven’t lived  through a definitive loss. Rather, because their children disappeared, the possibility that the children could be alive haunts the mothers and prohibits them from finding peace.  However, at the same time, this very uncertainty provides the mothers with they hope they need to continue in their struggle for justice.

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Gloria Anaya

Gloria Anaya, the daughter of Herbert Anaya who was an activist killed during the armed conflict, told the story of one of the mothers of the disappeared. One day, the woman received a letter from her disappeared son. The letter came in a moment when she had almost lost all hope. However, the letter rejuvenated her. For the first time in years, she had proof that her son existed.  The government denied his existence and told the mother that she was lying about the disappearance because she had never had a son in the first place.  The letter was her proof.  Her son did exist. That letter gave her the hope to keep moving forward in her personal struggle for recompense.

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Delegates Reflect: Solidarity and Accompaniment in Action

September 3, 2014

Cretin Derham Hall (CDH) from St. Paul, Minnesota visited El Salvador in June and July, sending over  20 rising Seniors and 3 teachers in each group. The delegation learned about the Salvadoran reality, visited the sacred sites, traveled to El Mozote to commemorate the 1981 massacre,  connected with scholarship students, and spent time in communities of their sistering region San Vicente. CDH supports the high school scholarship programs in CRIPDES San Vicente, which provide students the financial accompaniment they need to pursue  higher education and positions of community leadership.

 

Solidarity and accompaniment were evident throughout the trips as the students, teachers, and Salvadorans opened themselves up to share with each other. The following are excerpts adapted from reflections provided by several of the CDH delegates.

CDH July delegates with sponsored student, Saraí, in San Carlos Lempa.

CDH July delegates with sponsored student, Saraí, in San Carlos Lempa.

Upon the July visit to San Carlos Lempa in their sister region of CRIPDES San Vicente, “The noises differed from those in the city of San Salvador-changing from car horns to roosters, cows, and dogs.  After yet another delicious meal the group headed out on a tour accompanied by some of the local youth to see the different programs that have taken off in the community.  We saw that the town has very little as far resources and money but survives by helping one another and making do with what they have.  One of our CDH values is community, this trip has given a whole new meaning to that value.  The community of Salvadorans as well as the new community consisting of the members on this trip have come together in solidarity and show very sincere support for one another.  The community that we have formed together is incredible, each member contributing a different perspective on all of the new experiences we have shared on this trip.”

 

Standing in solidarity while accompanying others can change your perspective.

 

“Proper perspective is not something that can only be gained from circumnavigating the globe, or through the crossing of borders, but a trip that has been prepared in such a manner as this, certainly forces you to confront these differing realities with no place to hide, and hopefully leaves you a changed and “richer” person in every sense of the word in the future.”

CDH July delegation at Monseñor Romero's house.

CDH July delegation at Monseñor Romero’s house.

This richness changes those who visit El Salvador and gives the urge to return.

 

“…the reason I would jump at the chance to return was the solidarity I entered into with the people we met.  The hospitality the people showed in opening up their homes, sharing anything, and everything they had was both amazing and inspiring.  The friendship formed with our bus driver is something I still reflect on fondly.  The stories that were shared from the people we met often contained so much pain and heartache, yet always seemed to end with so much perseverance, strength, and hope, I can’t help but still marvel at the faith, courage, and grace they displayed as they opened up to us.  Their resiliency through the trials and tribulations of a very hard existence was truly humbling, and to have been able to meet them, listen to them, and learn from them first hand, face to face, was a blessing I will cherish forever.”

CDH June delegation smiles with the San Pedro community!

CDH June delegation smiles with the San Pedro community!


Community Partner Spotlight: Maria Madre de Los Pobres

September 1, 2014

“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

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Maria Madre’s Sister Parish, Visitation, dances with the community in front of the school building in 2013. We are currently excitedly preparing for their visit in October of this year.

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.

 


What Color is El Salvador: A Delegate’s Reflection

August 30, 2014

This piece is adapted from a reflection by Good Shepherd (KS) delegates Rick Galbraith and his daughter Paige Galbraith.  Rick and Paige visited El Salvador and their sistering community in June of this year, and shared their reflection in the Good Shepherd newsletter this past month.  Learn more about sistering relationships through SHARE

GS Kansas 2014 group pic

Good Shepard with the community of El Buen Pastor

We live in a world of color; red, yellow, blue and green.  The colors blend and form hues.  As people, we assign feelings and emotions to the spectrum.  Black, the absence of color and white, the blending of all color are considered polar opposites and can be assigned labels that evoke certain sentiments.  These two ‘colors’ allow for the most absolute contrast our minds can grasp.  To best see black, put it onto a white background and so forth.  But, what is gray?

Truth and lies are black and white.  Propaganda, rumor, exaggeration, gossip, and innuendo tend to create gray.  Either of two groups taking sides in a social controversy know they are right and the other is wrong.  To an observer where truth is difficult to discern, the controversy is usually gray.  To me, the plight of the people of El Salvador is gray.

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From Housewives to Business Women

August 27, 2014

“Somos-pues-eramos amas de casa pero ya somos empresarias.”
(“We are-no-we were housewives but now we are business women.”) -Celina

Looking for a bit of a midweek-pick-me-up dose of inspiration? Look no further than to the community of El Cristal in San Vicente. The women of this community have not only participated in various trainings through Ciudad Mujer,DSC_0641 taken on leadership roles in El Cristal, and worked on community development projects but also have come together to form an official, legal union through which they can sell their goods.

Some of their current and past projects include:

  • Attending workshops where they learn to make natural shampoos and soaps that they can then sell and profit from.
  • Petitioning the national government to receive the deeds to the land that they live on, thus giving them full ownership.
  • Even more, there are women from this group that are on the community board that brought potable water, electricity, latrines, and other infrastructure to El Cristal.

The women of this community are empowered and making their home better for all! These women are ready to bring regular economic and social development to their community. However, they lack the final funds for a physical space to actually put all of their business skills into practice. Now, some spirits may be dampened by this setback. However, that is just not the case with the women of El Cristal.  When talking about their need, Maria de los Angeles, one of the women at last Tuesday’s meeting, encouraged everyone that, “hay que seguir adelante!” (We have to keep moving forward!)  Her spirit of enthusiasm was contagious. All the other women were able to rally around that sense of purpose and remember that “una comunidad organizada tiene fuerza” (“an organized community has strength”).

 

Want to stand alongside these women in their community and economic development initiatives? To find out more about how you can accompany the women of El Cristal, please contact our Grassroots Coordinator, Sarah Hall, at solidarity@share-elsalvador.org today!

 


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