Posts Tagged ‘delegations’

Delegate Spotlight: Maryanne

March 18, 2016

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?

High Levels of Forced Displacement Threaten “Peace”

February 2, 2015

Forced Displacement is a phenomenon from which the Salvadoran population has suffered for decades. During the 1980s, hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee from their homes to escape the violence of the Salvadoran military. Today, an estimated 130,000 Salvadorans are displaced around the country due to gang violence. In the wake of the commemoration of 23 years since the signing of the Peace Accords that ended the Armed Conflict on January 16th, 1992, many have taken the time to reflect on whether or not Salvadorans are living in peace today.


Celia Medrano, Projects Manager at Cristosal, meets with the Drew Delegation

At the beginning of January, SHARE’s delegation from Drew Theological Seminary met with Foundation Cristosal, a human rights and community development organization working to provide resources for victims of forced displacement. Upon hearing the news of the thousands of children arriving at the US-Mexico border this summer, Cristosal began preliminary research concerning the topic of forced displacement in El Salvador. They soon realized that this part of the Salvadoran population has very minimal access to resources that would assist them in their search of security.  Those who have been displaced as a result of gang violence make up only about 2.1% of the national population. Though this percentage may seem small, it is higher than that of Colombians who were displaced during the Colombian armed conflict. Read More »

Call to Renewal of Solidarity; Invest in a Project of Hope

June 30, 2014

SHARE board member Jean Stokan wrote this piece after joining us for the June 1st presidential inauguration delegation.  Jean is Director of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Justice Team and was recently elected to the National Council of Pax Christi USA.  She has walked, lived, and worked in solidarity with el pueblo salvadoreño for over thirty years.

Presidential Inauguration in CIFCO, San Salvador.

Presidential Inauguration in CIFCO, San Salvador.

June 1st marked an historic day in El Salvador. In addition to the new political space created with the FMLN party assuming the power of presidency, it represents a chance to build on the dreams and strong organization of a people who have sacrificed and suffered tremendously to create a more just and peace-filled society.  How much can be accomplished over the next five years remain to be seen.  Surely, it seems that Archbishop Romero and the many martyrs are hovering close, wanting to be invoked in order to keep the struggle for justice grounded in values of deep faith, unwavering hope and great love.

SHARE youth delegates learn and play with CRIPDES regional team members.  Delegates build relationships to continue walking in solidarity physically, through advocacy, and financial commitments.

SHARE youth delegates learn and play with CRIPDES regional team members. Delegates build relationships to continue walking in solidarity physically, through advocacy, and financial commitments.

After many years of solidarity with El Salvador, and gratitude at having witnessed this new moment in El Salvador’s history, I am torn between mixed metaphors from my Christian tradition. I feel like Mary at the tomb who just watched a sliver of light crack from the rolled-away stone; but I also sense Herod—forces threatened by the birth of Hope, ready to pounce on any significant proposal for change, or semblance of an economy that tries to make a “preferential option for the poor” and marginalized. Read More »

2014 Presidential Elections Report

April 14, 2014

After many weeks of compiling elections reports from national and international observers, we finally present a summary of our observations for the first and second round of elections.  It was such a pleasure to have over 100 certified international observers join nearly 60 national observers throughout the country to ensure a free and fair electoral process.

SHARE El Salvador has observed every presidential election in El Salvador since the signing of the Peace Accords, and this year was no exception. SHARE accredited national and international observers to monitor the 2014 Presidential Election process, with a group of 56 national observers and 108 international observers in the first round of elections.  A group of 31 international observers and 56 national observers helped guarantee the transparency of the run-off election on March 9th, observing in many of the same voting centers as the first round.

Observers represented various organizations, universities, and religious institutions,   including small groups from CARECEN, SALEF, a Berkeley city councilmember, and ex-mayor of Berkeley, Gus Newport.  National groups included the Alliance for the Defense of the Rights of Rural Women and members of the LGBTQ community.  164 observers monitored voting centers in San Salvador, La Libertad, San Vicente, Cabañas, Ahuachapán, Chalatenango, La Paz, Sonsonate, and Usulután in February.

International observers from SHARE, Sister Cities, and CISPES held a press conference in February to announce elections observations and congratulate the TSE for a smooth and transparent process. // Observadores internacionales de SHARE, Ciudades Hermanas, y CISPES hicieron una conferencia de prensa para anunciar sus observaciones y felicitar al TSE por un proceso electoral muy transparente.

International observers from SHARE, Sister Cities, and CISPES held a press conference in February to announce elections observations and congratulate the TSE for a smooth and transparent process. // Observadores internacionales de SHARE, Ciudades Hermanas, y CISPES hicieron una conferencia de prensa para anunciar sus observaciones y felicitar al TSE por un proceso electoral muy transparente.

Throughout the entire process, observing preparations, Election Day, and the transmission of results in both February and March, our observer reports highlight the Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s transparency, professionalism, and fluidity during the 2014 electoral process.

The TSE made many improvements to the Salvadoran electoral process for 2014.  They allowed a greater window for citizens to register to vote, closing the electoral registry just 122 days prior to the February elections.  The TSE also ensured an update of the same electoral registry, removing thousands of deceased voters from the list and, for the first time, expanding the registry to include 10,337 Salvadorans living abroad to vote via absentee ballot. The presence of many different national and international observation missions, as well as Salvadoran government institutions and non-government organizations, including the National Civil Police (PNC), Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, political party representatives, TSE representatives, and presence of the Green Cross first-responders teams also contributed positively to the 2014 electoral process.

Second round press conference with SHARE and CISPES observers. // Conferencia de prensa de la segunda vuelta, con observadores de SHARE y CISPES.

Second round press conference with SHARE and CISPES observers. // Conferencia de prensa de la segunda vuelta, con observadores de SHARE y CISPES.

Thanks to the implementation of residential voting centers throughout the country, this year’s elections were much more accessible to citizens, an important advance in the voting system.  Citizens did not have to wait in long lines, and there was also special attention given to pregnant women, the elderly, and differently abled. El Salvador is the last country in Latin America to implement residential voting.

For the first time, PNC agents on duty at voting centers were also able to vote in the last polling station at each center. Read More »

El Salvador Election monitoring: blog no. 2 – the Magic of Witnessing

March 7, 2014

The following reflection was written by Cathy Lester, a first round elections observer, and representative for Meta Peace Team.  Cathy lives in Grayling, Michigan.  She writes a blog for the Traverse City Record-Eagle website.  You can read some of her other posts here. 
Americans take our right to have elections somewhat for granted. This was brought home to me by the enthusiasm of the Salvadoreños. They were not only glad simply that they were allowed to have elections, they were extra-glad that, as I said in my previous blog, the electoral process has been reformed into something they could believe in.
The Election Monitors arrived at the voting center at 5:00 a.m., when it was supposed to open. By then, both the major parties already had tents up and were making lots of noise. 
Arena tent
I have to say the party of the Right had a lot more money to spend on tents, balloons, signs, drums, banners, food, etc. Their music had a triumphal, bouncy, we´ve-already-won air. I also noticed a certain racial divide: none of the right-wingers had “Indian” features, most of them had a middle-or-upper class air, and a lot of them were tall, fat and/or had big booming voices. (I think the “vigilantes” were chosen partly for that.)
The workers’ party had more country people, and more that looked Indian, and few that were fat. Or tall or overbearing. Their music was strong, serious, and determined – in a minor key but very upbeat.
The observers were surprised by the almost carnival-like atmosphere. I spoke to some Finns from a European group of Election Monitors, and they were saying, “In Finland, when we vote we´re so silent, it´s like going to church!” 
Outside the center, there was a constant stream of cars honking. Groups from the various parties were waving flags and chanting, singing, playing music. In addition, the sidewalks were crowded with vendors calling their wares: Mango-mango-mango! Election souvenirs, best prices! 

Why should you go on a delegation?

August 18, 2013

UCC Salem delgates stand with El Socorro community members by the mural they painted together

UCC Salem delgates stand with El Socorro community members by the mural they painted together

“El Rosario was a metaphor of the country for me. There are bullet holes on the outside, but the inside is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. It represents a hopeful Salvadoran people.” -Cretin Derham Hall high school delegate

This Summer, SHARE led six Grassroots sistering delegations to El Salvador. An important aspect of SHARE’s sistering delegations is the community homestay.  Delegates experience Salvadoran life in a rural setting, learning how to make tortillas, playing soccer, and visiting with families.  Both delegates and community members come away from the experience with a new appreciation of another culture, and lasting relationships.

CRIPDES San Vicente hosted two delegations during the month of June.  Students and teachers from Cretin-Derham Hall spent 3 glorious days in El Sector Volcán, playing soccer, learning about what it means to be an organized community, and dancing the night away.

“I have learned that war is always terrible. It is never the answer.”Cretin Derham Hall high school delegate

Read More »

A is for Alfabetización

July 3, 2013

Fourteen SHARE literacy brigadistas (delegates) arrived last week in San Salvador to learn about the literacy campaign in El Salvador, helping the 14% of the Salvadoran population who are currently illiterate achieve basic reading and writing skills. These brigadistas are high school and university students, mothers, and idealists who saw a need and understood some of the reality for someone who has had the doors of knowledge closed on them. 100% literacy in El Salvador starts with volunteers who can share the knowledge that ought to be a human right for everyone.

The SHARE brigadistas met with fellow volunteers and those coordinating the literacy endeavor, including the Minister of Education, Franzi Hato Hasbún, and the head of the Department of Literacy within MINED, Angelica Paniagua. Both officials shared the achievements and goals of the Programa Nacional de Alfabetización (PNA) at a conference with MINED and CISPES. Delegates learned about educational structures of the past and how the present literacy program (PNA) is evolving educational access for Salvadorans. It is exciting to witness the volunteers who are crucial to the literacy program’s success. Stay tuned for more updates from the Literacy Brigade!

“A literate community is a dynamic community, one that exchanges ideas and engages in debate. Illiteracy, however, is an obstacle to a better quality of life, and can even breed exclusion and violence” (UNESCO).

Brigadistas Embark on Literacy Brigade!

June 26, 2013

This weekend, 14 brigadistas head to El Salvador as part of the 2013 Literacy Brigade. These SHARE brigadistas are certainly full of mixed emotions: they are enthusiastic, empowered, and anxious to meet new friends and experience the massive changes that El Salvador is going through, politically, socially, and economically. As Elsie Serrano, a student at Eastern Michigan University, prepares to embark on this journey, she shares a few parting thoughts with us.

Scholarship students train to hold literacy circles in their communities

Scholarship students train to hold literacy circles in their communities

Why are you going on this Brigade?

I am going on the Literacy Brigade because I believe that literacy is a human right and that it is an essential tool for people to empower themselves and improve their lives. I am excited about the opportunity to participate in the Literacy Brigades and to witness SHARE’s [along with MINED and CIDEP] efforts first hand.

Why is it important for you to connect with El Salvador?

My family moved to the United States from El Salvador in the 1970’s and for this reason I am eager to give back to the country and the people in any way possible.  After learning about El Salvador’s history in class, I am passionate about its future.  El Salvador and the United States have always had close ties so I believe it is important to strengthen these connections through solidarity and programs such as SHARE’s literacy brigade. Read More »

Here’s to 25 more years of sistering!

June 10, 2013


Yesterday ten North Americans found their way from Kansas City, Missouri to La Chacra, El Salvador to spend time with their Salvadoran brothers and sisters. Maria Madre de los Pobres Parish and Visitation Parish celebrate their 25th anniversary this week, honoring the work and relationships that have formed since 1988 and all that will come in the next 25 years. 

Parishioner Steve Engler tells us a little more about Visitation’s sistering relationship with Maria Madre de los Pobres.
How has your relationship with Madre de los Pobres impacted your ministry in the US?

It’s a point of reference for me.  When I teach, which is my primary ministry, our relationship with Madre gives tangible life to concepts like solidarity and communion.  In addition, it gives me joy.

What is one significant memory you have of working with individuals in your sister parish? What is your favorite thing about going on this delegation year after year?  

Lots of memories.  I’ve been on three delegations – this will be my fourth.  One memory is sitting with Padre Daniel waiting for white smoke from the Vatican eight years ago.  It was a wonderful moment of the universal church.  Both of us were disappointed by the outcome but it was still a strong moment to be a part of the church community.  Probably my strongest memory is watching one of our doctors, Joe Henry, care for elderly patients.  Joe would always sit down with them, rub their back and listen carefully to their ailments and their story.  After that he did whatever he could to help them medically.  I see that as the model of our relationship with each.  Lets always be sure to sit down, be connected and listen to each other – after that, let’s do what we can together to help the people of LaChacra.

New Picture (3)

How is your relationship with Madre de los Pobres changed over 25 years?

There has been steady growth in our relationship.  In the beginning it was the passion of our pastor, Bob Rost, that gave the relationship life.  Now, 25 years and 3 pastors later it’s our people, about 200 of them together with all the people on staff and all the sponsored children at Madre that keep this thing going.

Why is it important to you to stay connected to Madre de los Pobres?

Hope.  We give each other hope.

The Theory of Education and Literacy of Paulo Freire

April 25, 2013

“I didn’t understand anything because of my hunger. I wasn’t dumb. It wasn’t lack of interest. My social condition didn’t allow me to have an education. Experience showed me once again the relationship between social class and knowledge.” –Paulo Freire 

The Salvadoran Ministry of Education is leading the literacy campaign. Source:

The Salvadoran Ministry of Education is leading the literacy campaign to free 500,000 more from illiteracy.

Freire’s concept of education and literacy is about people becoming aware of their power together to overcome oppression. When you are oppressed, you cannot perceive clearly the order that serves the interest of the oppressors. Freire’s perception of humankind and oppression is key to understanding his method of consciousness-raising. A traditional view  perceives humans as moldable and adaptable objects. His proposal sees humans as subjects, independent beings, able to transcend and recreate reality. Consciousness is determined by the socio-economic and political context. Freire identifies three levels of consciousness: Read More »

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