Delegate Reflection: The Spirits of the Jesuits Continue On
Pam Wargin traveled with the delegation from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Wisconsin this past July. She graciously shares this reflection with us all.
My name is Pam Wargin, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to have traveled to El Salvador as a part of our parish’s delegation this summer.
When I first began the journey of preparing for this trip, I had very little knowledge of the history or of the current reality in El Salvador. I did not really understand that the country suffered a terrifying civil war between 1980 and 1992. I didn’t know that a large part of the population, including our brothers and sisters in Rutilio Grande, lived in refugee camps outside of El Salvador for twelve years during the war.
I wasn’t sure what God had to teach me on this trip. What I felt in El Salvador was heart wrenching and heart warming, horrifying and hopeful all mixed together in almost each and every individual experience.
Today, I’d like to share with you our visit to the University of Central America. The UCA- as it is called there- is a Jesuit university. The campus is much like Milwaukee’s Marquette, which is also Jesuit. It has a lovely chapel, students conversing on benches and calming walkways with beautiful trees and flowers. As a Marquette grad myself, I felt a certain connection with the staff and students around me as we walked through the grounds.
We were led to the University’s Romero Center, which houses the “Museum of the Martyrs”. This building is the site at which, on November 16th lived and worked at the UCA, their housekeeper, Elba, and her daughter Celina were murdered.
The Jesuits were a target because they had the courage to speak out against the evils that plagued the Salvadoran people including crushing poverty and abhorrent human rights violations. Their vision of a more human solution to the war made them a threat. To publicly take this stand came with a steep price.
As our young tour guide shared the details of these murders with us in Spanish, I could see and feel, before the translation, that his words were filled with anguish and pain. We saw their clothing shot through with bullets hanging in the museum. We stood at the lawn where these killings happened. We saw and heard much more, and I was affected deeply.
The horror of what one human being can do to another, came crashing in on me with a tidal force and made it hard to breathe. My heart sank to a depth that it hadn’t seen since my visit to Dachau Concentration camp in Germany.
One thing I learned about the Salvadoran people while I was there is that they grieve their losses and look for justice; but they also have a beautiful spirit of hope for the future.
Obdilio Ramos, husband of Elba and father of Celina, planted a beautiful rose garden on the lawn, which, as we saw, is still blooming beautifully. He is quoted as saying that he planted the garden, “so that from where their bodies lay, new life would come.”
I am grateful to these martyrs, for their death brought light to their world. Much needed light to expose the inhumanity of what was happening there to the rest of the world.
They showed me that Christ’s presence here on earth continues through people who bring His Love to life in the trenches of this world’s most desperate circumstances.
They showed me that the freedom to have and live my faith here in my own country is a precious gift not to be taken for granted.
I was inspired by many people that I met in El Salvador who carry on in the Spirit of the Jesuits by continuing to work for justice and peace.
Mostly, I am grateful for these martyrs, whose selfless commitment to the people of El Salvador, demonstrated to me that I must now somehow find a way to bring God’s love and healing to those who suffer from painful and dehumanizing injustices. This is what God had to teach me, and now this is my challenge…