|March 9, 2015 • VOL. 53, NO.5 • Oakland, CA|
A boy meets Archbishop Romero — and his vocation
Thirty-five years after the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a pastor of the Catholic Church in San Salvador, his words and example continue to speak for the voiceless and to challenge me.
After Mass, my mother and I went to the cathedral's main entrance and greeted him. I will never forget this moment! His look was full of peace and trust. My mother kissed his hand as a way of respect and I did the same. After that, we went back home and tried to live a normal life in the midst of a cruel war that was being waged in El Salvador since 1979.
Two months later, on March 24, Archbishop Romero was assassinated by a sniper while he was celebrating Mass. This affected me greatly. How was it possible? Had he done something wrong? As a child I could not understand fully the dimension of this event, but when I grew up I understood clearly thanks to my commitment as a catechist in my home parish.
There, our pastor taught us about him. So I learned that after witnessing numerous violations of human rights, Archbishop Romero began to speak out on behalf of the poor and the victims of repression. He soon came to be known as the "Voice of the Voiceless."
This led to numerous conflicts, both with the government in El Salvador and within the Catholic Church. After speaking out against the U.S. military support for the government of El Salvador, and calling for soldiers to disobey orders to fire on innocent civilians, Archbishop Romero was shot dead, becoming a true witness of Jesus and the truth.
Archbishop Romero had foreseen the danger of assassination and had spo ken of it often, declaring his willingness to accept martyrdom if his blood might contribute to the solution of the nation's problems.
"As a Christian," he remarked on one such occasion, "I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people." His exemplary life was a model and supported my life and the others during the next year until the war ended on Jan. 16, 1992.
Reflecting on how his life and teachings have impacted my life I look back to those years and recall two of Archbishop Romero's sayings that have been my inspiration:
"A good shepherd must be where the suffering is." and "The only true leader and fountain of hope is Jesus Christ."
My own vocation was born sharing the sufferings of the poor. Seeing their needs for spiritual support I felt how God called me to be with them.
Here in Oakland I have had many opportunities such as helping people at Catholic Charities, feeding the hungry at the Multicultural Institute and serving the poor through St. Vincent de Paul, where I put into practice this teaching.
Talking about hope in Jesus, since the beginning of my formation, God has always been with me. I have faced many difficulties such as learning a new language, new culture and getting money for financial support, but God has never left me alone.
He has always been with me through amazing people who have shared their hearts and gifts with others and me. I just needed to hope in Him and put all my trust in His immeasurable love and mercy.
Finally, I thank God for having given me the opportunity to meet this holy man, whose life continues to be an example to follow for the next generation of bishops and priests.
(Luis Lopez is a seminarian in the Diocese of Oakland.)
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