Delegate Spotlight: Maryanne
Our blog series, Delegate Spotlight, feature past participants from SHARE’s major delegations. A delegate is someone who travels with a group (delegation) to El Salvador to learn about the history, politics, and people to better accompany the Salvadoran people. Interested in becoming a SHARE delegate? Check out our major delegation page for information on the upcoming International Solidarity Delegation in July!
Spotlight On: Sister Maryanne Ruzzo, SC
SHARE Delegation Experience: 2015 Churchwomen Commemoration Delegation
Wanting to go to El Salvador started with a movie long before I entered the Sisters of Charity. When the American missionaries were killed in 1980 I was just out of college and really didn’t know much about what was happening in El Salvador nor did I remember much, if anything about their story. About 5 years later I attended a retreat and a movie about Maura, Ita, Dorothy and Jean was shown. I remember being emotionally drained and challenged by that movie and realized then that God might really be calling me to religious life. Their courage, their passion, their strength, their faithfulness inspired me to take steps toward entering the Sisters of Charity where I have met many other women who have inspired and influenced my life and taught me how to live the Gospel call of making the love of God visible in our world. So when the opportunity came for me to represent LCWR Region 1 on a co-sponsored trip between LCWR and SHARE to EL Salvador for the commemoration of the 35th Anniversary of the martyrdom of these women, I was excited and extremely grateful. These women were not dead but were very alive everywhere we went!
And we went everywhere! To the Cathedral where Romero celebrated many liturgies, to the Crypt downstairs where he was buried, to the wall called the Monument of Truth and Memory which names over 30,000 who were either murdered or disappeared, to the University of Central America and to the rose garden memorial where the 6 Jesuits and the housekeeper and her daughter were killed, to the Chapel where Romero was killed and to his home, to 3 base communities with connections to the missionaries and SHARE, to the site where the Missionaries were killed, and to the cemetery where the Maryknoll sisters were buried. We met with grassroots movement leaders, human rights defenders, mothers of the disappeared, government leaders and with farmers from an organic co-op who are planning now for the challenges from climate change. We heard stories of those who survived the war and of the root causes of migration.
What stayed with me the most? I’ll try to share a few of these experiences with you. The first was when we drove to the site where the women’s bodies were found. When the bus turned off the highway we were told that that was when the missionaries suspected that something horrible was going to happen. We rode in silence imagining what that had to have been like for them. The silence was piercing, and so were the bangs we heard that sounded like gunshots but later we found out were fireworks. We met up with a procession, had mass in a chapel at the site and then heard testimonies of how the missionaries had saved so many people’s lives at the risk of their own. We heard from a woman who had been 10 when Maura and Ita had saved her life by stashing her in the car trunk as they drove to safety through check points with the military. Later we met her at one of the base communities and this was the second experience that has stayed with me.
This young woman, Monte, along with many other women her age shared with us all the organizing and advocating they are doing for human rights and for their children and for their land and for each other. These women would have all been children of the women who were leaders with the Missionaries during the war. These women have kept the gangs out of their area (gangs have taken over almost ¾ of the country). They have kept 4 mining companies out of their area. They have organized youth groups and farms and co-ops. I found myself challenged by what they have been able to accomplish considering all they have been through. It was evident that the church women were as alive in them today as they were 35 years ago.
Another experience was when we went to the last of the base communities. It was night. As we got off the busses to process up the hill we were met by children singing and others holding candle lanterns that were given to us to light our way toward the plaza where fireworks were displayed. Together we walked forth in solidarity to remember and continue to celebrate the God who is alive in all of us through the memory of these women. There wasn’t a dry eye in the procession. After speeches and music and poetry and a meal all 117 of us were sent off with different families to spend the night in their homes. That would be another story!
Probably the event that haunts me the most was a skit done by a youth group. They acted out a letter that they wrote to Maura, Ita, Jean and Dorothy. Five of them wore names of countries or cities that are presently experiencing or causing violence. They held a deep red cloth and bounced the globe back and forth toward each of these places. They spoke of how they know that they have experienced the ravages of violence and war in their own country but were also concerned about what to do because “Our whole world is bleeding because of war and hunger”. These young people who have very little are so aware of the need for God in our world and desire to make things better.
This image of the globe being tossed in the bleeding red cloth challenges me as the whole trip has challenged me to look at my own call once again. Over 25 years ago the witness of the lives of Maura, Ita, Dorothy and Jean opened a door for me to say yes to Jesus and become a Sister of Charity. I find myself asking what is the yes that God is inviting me to today through the hopeful, passionate, faithful, resurrection people of El Salvador? And how will I live Charity today in this place we call home where God desires to be birthed over and over again? And I ask you, what is the yes that God is inviting you to today?