A GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES
The month of March is filled with feast days of memorable saints - so it was difficult to choose which one to highlight. Because the life of Oscar Romero resonates so highly in our Diocese as well as many places of the Americas, he is the one highlighted this month in our magazine.
Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, 1980 and the Martyrs of El Salvador
Feast Day, March 24
Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdemez was born on August 15, 1917, in San Salvador. At 12 years, he was apprenticed to a carpenter and later, economic circumstances forced him to work in a gold mine. Ultimately, he entered seminary and studied in Rome. After his ordination, he returned to his native land where he worked among the poor and started an Alcoholics Anonymous group in San Miguel.
When he was appointed a bishop, radicals distrusted his conservative sympathies. However, after his appointment as the Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, a progressive Jesuit friend of his was assassinated, and Romero began protesting the government’s injustice to the poor and its policies of torture. He also pleaded with the American government to stop military aid to his country, but this request was ignored.
Romero was shot to death while celebrating Mass at a small hospital chapel near his cathedral on March 24, 1980. The previous day, he preached a sermon calling on soldiers to disobey orders that violated human rights. He had said, “A bishop will die, but the Church of God which is the people will never perish.” He is honored as a martyr by many Christian denominations worldwide.
Almost nine months after Romero’s assassination, four American women - two Maryknoll sisters, a Ursuline sister, and a lay missioner - were also killed in the course of their duties by the El Salvadoran army. Six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter were similarly murdered in November of 1989. A statue of Romero stands at the door of Westminster Abbey in London as part of a commemoration of twentieth-century martyrs.
Almighty God, you called your servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope. Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to your Word who abides, your Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and forever. Amen.