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Stories

A Legacy of Love and Justice

On February 9, 2015, professors Ana María Pineda, RSM (Religious Studies Department) and Juan Velasco (English Department) commemorated the 35th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Romero and the 38th anniversary of the death of Rutilio Grande, S.J. Their lives were remembered in a presentation that drew from poetry, art, and reflections of their spiritual journey. The commemoration provided an opportunity for Professor Pineda to share some of her research and to connect with a seminar on Romero and the Salvadoran martyrs, which she taught during the Winter 2015 quarter.

Many are familiar with the story and significance of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and his commitment to the suffering poor of the country. His defense of the poor cost him his life. In the name of the Gospel, Romero’s prophetic voice denounced the abuses of the poor in El Salvador. He was killed in El Salvador on March 24, 1980. There is another lesser-known story of the Jesuit priest, Rutilio Grande, who is often only referred to as the friend of Romero. He was killed on March 12, 1977 for his defense of the poor of El Salvador. Many would claim that it was his death that was responsible for Romero’s radical conversion from a conservative bishop to one committed to the struggles of the poor in El Salvador.

Since their deaths, both of these men have become idealized and presented as martyrs who died for their faith and for the poor. The story that is not told is how both Romero and Grande were ordinary men confronted by their own fragility and human limitations. For many students taking the course “Romero and the Salvadoran Martyrs,” this is the most compelling story. Despite their human fragility they found transformative ways of living in a world of conflict and oppression and found the courage to be in solidarity with the marginalized and voiceless people of El Salvador.

Since his death, Romero has been considered a “saint” by many familiar with his life and ultimate death on behalf of the poor of El Salvador. In a similar way, even the lesser-known Grande has been thought worthy of sainthood. After many years in delaying the process of canonization for Romero, the Vatican announced on February 4, 2015 that Pope Francis had officially declared Romero a martyr of the Second Vatican Council. Romero's beatification will be celebrated in El Salvador on May 23, 2015. This welcomed news was followed by the unexpected announcement that the process of sainthood for Grande was begun several months ago.

The students in the course participated fully in the presentation of “A Legacy of Love and Justice,” they spoke with Francisco Mena, executive director of Crispaz, in El Salvador, and they lived through the history-making events leading up to Romero's beatification.

religious studies