Walking with St. Oscar Romero: Sacred Heart School journeys from home to Rome

A few years ago, the Archdiocese of Washington invited us to “Walk with Francis” in honor of the pope’s visit to Washington, D.C. This year, Sacred Heart School has been walking with the newly canonized St. Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador and champion for peace and the poor who was martyred while celebrating Mass in 1980.

Sacred Heart School--photo of students with St. Romero and cranes - TGF use ONLYOur journey has taken us to the heart of the classroom and the Vatican, to Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador and to St. Romero’s nieces, and as far away as Norway. On March 20, 2019, in anticipation of St. Romero’s feast day (March 24), we celebrated a Mass with students from around the Archdiocese of Washington.

As we “Walk with St. Romero” this year, we reflect on his homilies, rejoice in his canonization, and try to live his legacy of justice and solidarity. In the weeks preceding his Oct. 14, 2018 canonization, students led morning prayer by introducing different quotes from Romero. Teachers also created lessons from the quotes. Middle school students, for example, reflected on Romero’s prophecy, “Each one of you has to be God’s microphone.” They put up a message board for people to comment on the meaning of this challenge. Second graders constructed a replica of Divine Providence Hospital and chapel, where Romero preached his last homily before being martyred during Mass on March 24, 1980.

The school also hosted a catechetical evening with parents. Students, dressed as Romero’s many siblings, assisted in the presentation. St. Romero’s actual brothers, Tiberio and Gaspar, attended the canonization in Rome. (Gaspar died last month at the age of 89).

In class and at the catechetical evening, students folded origami peace cranes that we sent to the canonization Mass at the Vatican. The colorful cranes had a bright yellow tag that read, “Sacred Heart School loves Romero. Send us a message about your connection to Romero or experience at the canonization….”

Five Sacred Heart School teachers, along with a group of parents and parishioners, served as the school’s ambassadors at the Vatican. We gave the origami cranes to pilgrims from around the world who came to experience Romero, Pope Paul VI, and five other witnesses become officially recognized saints. We also shared the cranes with Cardinal Rosa Chávez and two of Romero’s nieces from the saint’s hometown of Ciudad Barrios. The crane’s message included a QR code that allows us to see the country of origin of those who scan the code. Our cranes reached as far as the Salvadoran diaspora in Norway.

Another project that bridged home, Rome, and beyond was collecting the school community’s prayers. Our school’s director of religious education carried them in her backpack to the canonization Mass, a papal audience the following day, and to churches throughout Italy. A highlight for several members of the trip was praying for all of the students at the tomb of the Franciscan saint, Anthony of Padua. We lovingly left the prayers at his tomb then celebrated Mass.

Our celebrating continued with students from around the archdiocese on March 20 with a Mass in anticipation of St. Romero’s feast day (March 24). Our choir sang songs in honor of Romero. Our offertory collection supported local people in need with gifts of money and food. We reflected on the same readings that St. Romero celebrated with during his last Mass: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (John 12:24).

St. Oscar Romero is legendary for many members of our community, especially those with Salvadoran roots and those who seek solidarity with them. His canonization provides a special opportunity to explore his prophetic path and challenges us to walk this same holiness. We hope in this Paschal season of dying and rising that you too will walk with St. Romero. As the saint preached in his last homily, “We know that every effort to improve society…is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God requires of us.”

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Cinnamon Sarver serves as the director of religious education at Sacred Heart School.  She has theology degrees from Boston College and the University of Notre Dame. Having traveled to El Salvador four times to research St. Romero’s life, she enjoys speaking and writing about his legacy.

 

This post was adapted for ToGoForth, and reprinted with the permission of the Catholic Standard. Read the original version at the Catholic Standard website and learn more about the March 20th mass honoring St. Oscar Romero

Oscar Romero: A Saint for Our Days

444px-Oscar_Romero_by_puigreixachAs Catholics, we believe that our Church is guided by the Holy Spirit. For many, the shortcomings and failure of our Church leaders to protect the most vulnerable in our communities have undermined that bedrock belief. Yet, in the midst of this chaos, the Holy Spirit has made His presence evident through the timely canonization of Saint Oscar Romero. With Romero’s canonization, the Holy Spirit is lifting for the entire Church a model of Christian leadership that is needed in our Church today.

Most people are familiar with the narrative of Romero’s life. A conservative priest then bishop who had a powerful transformation that led him to become a voice for the poor and marginalized in El Salvador. That transformation is often attributed to the assassination of Romero’s good friend, Father Rutilio Grande. While the event had a significant effect on the new archbishop, Romero’s transformation was rooted in his experience as Bishop of the Diocese of Santiago de María. This diocese, a poor and rural region, brought Romero in direct contact with the suffering people of El Salvador.

It was in Santa María where Oscar Romero encountered Christ in the suffering and persecuted people to whom he ministered. It was here where he came into contact with the repression and violation of human rights experienced by the farmers under his pastoral care. This closeness with the suffering of his parishioners made him sensitive to the day-to-day needs of the people in El Salvador. Here he learned to listen with the heart and to speak without fear. He learned to accompany the abandoned, the despised, the vulnerable. It was his ability to do these things that made Oscar Romero the archbishop that the people of El Salvador needed.

Today, we are in need of such leaders. Our Church needs leaders who take the time to encounter Christ in those who are suffering, those who are hurting, and those who have been regarded as disposable. Romero, through this encounter, was moved to speak and act on behalf of those on the margins. It was this experience of accompaniment that also fed him the prophetic words that touched the souls of those living through the repression.

Our situation here at home is in no way comparable to the dire situation of El Salvador in the 1980s. However, today we have communities that live in fear. Families that are being separated at our southern border. People fearing for their lives can no longer see the U.S. as a place where they can “breathe free.” In this environment, prophetic voices are needed. These prophetic voices won’t be elevated until all of us–clergy and lay leaders—immerse ourselves in the lives of our brothers and sisters on the margins. Only by going to the margins will we be able to acquire the language of love that can move others to action.

Young people who have come to distrust most institutions are looking for the modern-day Romeros. They want to be inspired by the holiness of this man, and they will only be convinced if you and I decide to imitate Romero. The Holy Spirit has lifted up a saint we desperately need in our Church and world today.

Going Deeper:

Pray with St. Oscar Romero and discern how you can work for justice in your community. Looking for some ways to get involved? Check out these tools and resources that will help in your advocacy with our brothers and sisters on the margins.

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Javier W. Bustamante, Director of the Center for Cultural Engagement, is responsible for implementing, coordinating and supporting a comprehensive program of social, cultural, intellectual, spiritual, governance and community service programs that complement the academic mission of The Catholic University of America. 

 

Happy 100th Birthday Blessed Oscar Romero

Blessed Oscar Romero of San Salvador, El Salvador, is pictured in this 1979 photo. Aug. 15 would have been the slain archbishop’s 100th birthday. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

The 100th anniversary of Blessed Romero’s birth, August 15, 2017, falls on the glorious Feast of the Assumption. Archbishop Romero’s 1977 homily from the Assumption, and more importantly, his steadfast work for justice on behalf on his beloved Salvadoran people, can shed light on this oft-misunderstood feast.

This feast honors the assumption of Mary’s body and soul into heaven. We are reminded of Mary’s importance in our faith, and also of the reality that we, too, will one day share a bodily resurrection…a truth we proclaim in the Creed. While this truth can be difficult to comprehend, Blessed Romero used the occasion of the Assumption to underscore a more tangible truth: while we are destined for heaven, we must strive to do God’s work on earth. In his 1977 homily from the Assumption, Archbishop Romero says, “For those people who seek true happiness, there is a definitive Kingdom of Heaven, a life beyond our life, but this kingdom is obtained by working in this life and committing oneself to the fulfillment of God’s plan.” Romero then praises Mary for her exemplary model of earthly service.

Later in the homily, Archbishop Romero speaks to Mary’s heavenly existence: “[F]rom this light in heaven, she [Mary] illuminates the dignity and the rights of the human person.”

The fact that we are destined for such glory underscores our dignity and rights in the here and now. In honor of Mary’s assumption, we can renew our earthly efforts to safeguard our human dignity as God’s children. In this spirit, Blessed Romero’s 100th birthday serves to greater illuminate the importance of the Feast of the Assumption.

During his lifetime, Blessed Romero’s work for justice inspired such hope in his suffering people that he became known as the “Voice of the Voiceless.” Martyred at the altar on March 24, 1980, Archbishop Romero was beatified on May 23, 2015.

At my parish in Washington, DC, Blessed Romero will be well celebrated. During Masses on August 15, at 7:00 a.m. (English) and 6:45 p.m. (bilingual), we will hear about the Assumption and Romero’s devotion to Mary. We have invited the congregation to stay for birthday cake in honor of Romero after the evening Mass. Parishioners have also been encouraged to bring non-perishable food items or baby supplies to stock the parish’s pantry for the needy.

Two parish missionary groups will observe the occasion in El Salvador. La Juventud Franciscana (Franciscan Youth) left in mid-July with our Parochial Vicar Fr. Kevin Thompson, OFM Cap. to attend a Romero symposium at the Jesuit University of Central America, visit a children’s hospital in San Salvador, and be guests of the parish’s rural Salvadoran sister parish. A group of adult missionaries, Los Misioneros de San Francisco de Asís (Missionaries of St. Francis), will accompany our parish’s Salvadoran pastor, Fr. Moisés Villalta, OFM Cap. and Parochial Vicar Fr. Urbano Vasquez, OFM Cap. to many of the same sites in August. They will celebrate Romero’s actual birthday in his hometown of Ciudad Barrios, San Miguel.

On this feast day, I invite you to celebrate Blessed Virgin Mary, Blessed Oscar Romero, and the dignity that we all possess and work as a Church to bring to the world.

Cinnamon Sarver is a parishioner of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart parish. She has theology degrees from Boston College and the University of Notre Dame. Having traveled to El Salvador four times to research Blessed Romero’s life, she enjoys speaking and writing about his legacy.

This post was adapted for ToGoForth. Read the original version at the Catholic Standard website.


Going Deeper

Plan to celebrate the life of Blessed Romero in your own faith community!  For example, include a remembrance of Romero in a Liturgy on or around his birthday (in the Prayer of the Faithful, homily, etc.) or host a service or advocacy project in honor of Blessed Romero’s Centennial. You can celebrate Blessed Romero’s life around his birthday, or any time throughout this year.

Feliz Centenario del Beato Oscar A. Romero

El Beato Oscar Romero de San Salvador, El Salvador, es retratado en esta foto de 1979. El 15 de agosto habría sido el 100o cumpleaños del arzobispo asesinado. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

El centenario del nacimiento del Beato Oscar A. Romero será el 15 de agosto de 2017 y se llevará a cabo en la Solemnidad de la Asunción de María. En la homilía de Arzobispo Romero en la Fiesta de la Asunción de 1977 nos puede iluminar sobre esta fiesta que a menudo es mal entendida.

En esta fiesta se honra la asunción del cuerpo y del alma de María a los cielos. Se nos recuerda de la importancia de María en nuestra fe, y también de la realidad que nosotros, algún día, compartiremos una resurrección corporal…una verdad que proclamamos en el credo. Aunque esta verdad puede ser difícil de comprender, el Beato Romero usó la ocasión de la Asunción para recalcar una verdad más palpable: mientras estamos destinados al cielo, debemos esforzarnos por hacer la obra de Dios en la tierra. En su homilía, Arzobispo Romero dijo,

“[P]ara decirles que no está en esta tierra el destino del alma y del hombre que busca la verdadera felicidad, que hay un reino de los cielos definitivo más allá de nuestra vida, pero que se conquista precisamente trabajando en esta vida, entregándose al cumplimiento de los designios de Dios.” (Romero, 15 de agosto de 1977)

Romero luego alaba a María por su modelo ejemplar de servicio terrenal.

Más tarde en la homilía, el Arzobispo Romero habla de la existencia celestial de María, “¿Cómo sirve María?… desde esa luz de los cielos, ilumin[a] la dignidad del hombre, los derechos del hombre.”

La realidad es que estamos destinados a tal gloria lo cual afirma nuestra dignidad y nuestros derechos en el presente. En honor a la Asunción de María, podemos renovar nuestros esfuerzos terrenales para salvaguardar nuestra dignidad humana como los hijos y las hijas de Dios. En este espíritu, el Centenario del Beato Romero sirve para iluminar la importancia de la Fiesta de la Asunción.

Durante su vida, la obra por la justicia del Beato Romero inspiró tanta esperanza en su pueblo sufriente que se hizo conocido como “la Voz de los sin Voz.” Martirizado en el altar el 24 de marzo de 1980, el Arzobispo Romero fue beatificado el 23 de mayo de 2015.

En la parroquia del Sagrado Corazón en Washington, DC, el Beato Romero será bien celebrado. Durante las misas del 15 de agosto, a las 7:00 a.m. (en inglés) y a las 6:45 p.m. (bilingüe) escucharemos acerca de la Asunción y la devoción de Romero a María. Hemos invitado a la congregación a permanecer después de la misa para el pastel de cumpleaños en honor de Romero. Los feligreses también están invitados a traer alimentos no perecederos o artículos de bebé para los programas de la parroquia de los necesitados.

Dos grupos de misioneros de la parroquia observan el Centenario de Romero en El Salvador. La Juventud Franciscana (JUFRA/OFS) viajó en julio con nuestro vicario parroquial, P. Kevin Thompson, OFM Cap. para asistir a un simposio de Romero en San Miguel, visitar el hospital de niños en San Salvador, y visitar nuestra parroquia hermana en la Quebradas, Jocoatique. Otro grupo, Los Misioneros de San Francisco de Asís, acompañarán a nuestro párroco salvadoreño, P. Moisés Villalta, OFM Cap. y a nuestro vicario parroquial, P. Urbano Vázquez, OFM Cap. para visitar los mismos sitios de Morazán y el norte de San Miguel en agosto. También participarán de la celebración del natalicio 100 de Romero en su ciudad natal de Ciudad Barrios, San Miguel.

Les invito a unirse a nosotros para celebrar la Santísima Virgen María, el Beato Oscar Romero, y que todos trabajemos, como una iglesia, para traerle dignidad al mundo.

Cinnamon Sarver es feligrés del Santuario del Sagrado Corazón. Ella tiene licencia de teología de Boston College y una maestría de teología de la Universidad de Norte Dame. Ha viajado a El Salvador para estudiar la vida del Beato Romero y le gusta escribir y dar charlas sobre el legado del Romero.

Este post fue adaptado para ToGoForth. Lea la versión original en El Pregonero.


¡Celebre la vida del Beato Romero en su propia comunidad de fe! Por ejemplo, incluye un recuerdo de Romero en la liturgia  (en la Oración de los Fieles, homilía, etc.) o acoge un proyecto de servicio o defensa en honor al Centenario del Beato Romero. Usted puede celebrar la vida del Beato Romero alrededor de su cumpleaños, o en cualquier momento este año.

I Am Ready for “San Romero”

Fr. Juan MolinaI am ready for “San Romero” or Saint Oscar Romero of the Americas, who was recently beatified, why? Having visited the tomb of the now Blessed Oscar Romero in El Salvador many times, one can only wonder why people from all over the world – and from all corners of the tiny country of El Salvador – pay respects there, and pray for his intercession. Why do powerful people visit his tomb and speak of what Romero means for the poor?

More importantly, why is it that the poor also go visit his tomb and feel as if Romero is still walking with them, speaking for them, and interceding for them? Romero interceded for them in life, and now in heaven.

It seems to me that the Catholic doctrine of “sensus fidei,” or “sense of faith,” applies here. As the preparations for the beatification of Archbishop Romero were underway, people tried to explain the meaning and process of beatification, as well as of canonization, or sainthood.

Yet, for many, Romero already is and, for a long time, has been a saint.

On Facebook, on the day of the beatification, someone I know wrote “Viva San Romero de America!” or “Long Live Saint Romero of the Americas!” and asked others to refrain from explaining that Romero is not a saint yet, only a blessed.  “While there is still a ways to go before Romero is ‘officially’ recognized as a saint,” the person said, “to a lot of people, he is already a saint!”

Perhaps there is a kernel of truth in this. And that is why “sensus fidelium” (another use of the same term) applies here. I will not go into the details of how a first miracle can be dispensed when someone is declared a martyr, or how a second miracle needs to be proved and ascribed to that person to be named a saint and thus “canonized.” Even better, I will not go into how a pope (Saint John Paul II having done this himself) can even dispense from that second miracle and declare a person a saint.

My point is simpler. In the primitive church, the saints, particularly martyrs, were recognized as saints because of people’s devotion for them.  The catacombs in the Roman Empire  are filled with the remains of martyrs who died for their faith, people would go visit them and pray to them. This reminds me why people come to the “catacomb” at the crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Salvador, to visit the remains of San Oscar Romero, the martyr.

Romero died because, as Cardinal Angelo Amato said in the beatification homily, “His option for the poor was evangelical, not ideological.” The archbishop martyr died out of love for his people, and his people recognized his heroic acts.

We must wait for the process of the canonization of Blessed Oscar Romero. Yet, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, in No. 92 and again in No. 785, that “The whole body of the faithful. . . cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of faith (sensus fidei) on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals.”

At the beatification Mass of Archbishop Oscar Romero, one could see the mix of faithful who attended. There were the humble who admired what was happening before them, and others perhaps more knowledgeable of the process, who also rejoiced in the event. There were also bishops ascertaining and witnessing the historic event. Such, it seems to me, is the sensus fidelium.

I am ready for Saint Oscar Romero, I am ready to celebrate once again the faith of the people who proclaim that a prophet arose in the midst of a suffering country and spoke the words of the Gospel. I know I probably have to wait for a miracle before that happens, but I am ready!

Fr. Juan Molina is Associate Director for the USCCB Office of National Collections and Director for the Church in Latin America.

Recognizing Romero

Archbishop Oscar Romero in San Salvador in 1979. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

Archbishop Oscar Romero in San Salvador in 1979. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

I met Oscar Romero most memorably, most personally on a winter day in 2003 on the coast of Massachusetts.  Of course, I didn’t meet him “in person.”  At the time I was on a silent retreat spending days in prayer and reflection.  The freezing waves of the North Atlantic in January crashed on the rocky shore outside the retreat house.  I couldn’t have seemed further from the tropics of El Salvador, where Romero served as Archbishop of the capital city from 1977 until he was martyred as he celebrated Mass on March 24, 1980.

Although I never actually met him in person, I encountered Oscar Romero in some way as I prayed the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who encouraged participants in this prayer experience to imagine real people who reflect Christ in the world.  I still had much to learn about Romero and his place in history, but fragments of stories I knew about him surfaced in my prayer, and on that retreat I recognized him as a personal model of faith.

On May 23rd, the Church will formally recognize and declare Oscar Romero to be among the Blesseds of the Church, a key step toward possible eventual recognition as a Saint.  Over 250,000 people are expected to participate in Mass on Saturday morning at San Salvador’s cathedral, and I am grateful that I will be among them.  I will travel there with ten members of my Washington, D.C. parish, and our pastor, who himself left El Salvador as a teenager in 1981 in the midst of civil war.

Our parish group felt called to make this pilgrimage on this occasion when the Church will recognize in a special way Romero’s great witness of faith — to pray, remember, and celebrate among the people whom he loved, in whom he found Christ, and for whom he gave his life. This is, after all, one profound way that the lives of holy people and the Communion of the Saints touch us.  Their witness calls us to follow on the journey, and draws our attention to grace in our own time and place, even in the most desperate circumstances and darkest hours of history.

Monseñor Romero offered us an example in his capacity to notice and respond to God’s grace in the lives of the people he encountered each day.  He didn’t grow in this gift alone, but was formed by the witness of many others, and in a special way by the movement of grace in people suffering the crushing weight of economic exclusion, violence, and war.  If he could preach to us again this Saturday, he would without a doubt direct our attention to the ongoing suffering of many of our sisters and brothers in El Salvador and neighboring countries, and their continuing need for justice and peace.

The Central American civil wars of the 1970s and 80s formally ended decades ago, but the lives and wellbeing of many people continue to be threatened today by violent drug cartels, abusive practices of multinational corporations, and persistent corruption among police, military, and civic leaders.  In March of this year, El Salvador suffered one of its deadliest months since the end of its civil war in 1992, with at least 481 murders, many through gang violence.  Families continue to send their children away in search of safety.  They often undertake dangerous journeys to the United States, which represents a confusing and tragic mix of promise and peril in the lives of ordinary people in Central America.

In many ways, it is to the people of El Salvador that our parish group goes on pilgrimage this week, and among whom we seek to hear God’s call and recognize God’s grace.  Such recognition may be sudden, or can take many years.  It is often deeply personal, but is especially rich when shared with others.  As with those travelers on the road to Emmaus that we hear about in the Gospels, it always calls for our response.  We are still growing to recognize God’s grace in the life of Oscar Romero.  His memory reminds us also to look for it among our neighbors near and far who are overlooked or oppressed – and to respond.

Ian Mitchell photo - close cropIan Mitchell is Catholic Social Teaching Education Coordinator in USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.