As the Santa Clara University community continues to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Paul Locatelli, S.J., we wish to express our solidarity from El Salvador.
Over the years, we have been fortunate that Paul took time out of his busy schedule to regularly visit us here in El Salvador. About once a year he would come down and give a talk to the Casa students during the final retreat of the semester and celebrate the despedida (going away) mass. The students always appreciated his presence. Honestly, however, I don't think Paul came for the students. He came because the people of El Salvador somehow filled him.
Moved to Tears
Every time Paul visited, he made it a point to visit the Quintanilla family. The 'Quints' as we call them are a remarkable family who, during the war, had to flee their home in Suchitoto to escape the wrath of the military. They suffered greatly during the war, losing two children, and having to live in the basement of a church for two years. Rosa, the mom, is the cornerstone of the family. One night, while drinking hot chocolate in their humble home, Rosa told Paul her story. Paul listened attentively for two hours as Rosita shared the joys and hardships in her life. Trena and I remember very vividly. Paul's eyes filled with tears as he listened to Rosa's life story.
Paul was always generous with his time when it came to our four daughters (Sophia, Grace, Hannah, and Emma). Whenever we visited SCU, he would always make time to visit with them. He especially enjoyed escorting them to the bookstore so they could pick out a special gift. The love our family shared with Paul was a grace. When we told our girls he was sick and was going to die, they were very sad.
Sophia asked if she could see him one last time. Nine days before he died, Mark (Ravizza) and Trena went to visit Paul in the hospital. He was asking about the girls. They told him that Sophia wanted to see him. He said that he wanted to see her and encouraged us to break the hospital rules and sneak her in. We did, and Sophia and I had the chance to say goodbye to Paul and let him know how much we loved him. For Paul's generosity, we are grateful.
Casa de la Solidaridad
On April 4, 1999, Trena and I met Paul Locatelli, S.J. for the first time. We had recently been hired to start Casa de la Solidaridad and were invited to Easter dinner at the Jesuit community. Of course, we were a little nervous to meet the 'president' but he laid our fears to rest as we talked about how both he and Trena came from rural beginnings. Any new initiative, like Casa, is vulnerable. There were times over the past 11 years (especially in the early years) where the whole program could have been dismantled. If it weren't for Paul's commitment to the Casa model of education, the Casa certainly would not be here today.
We give thanks to God for the gift of Paul Locatelli, S.J.