During our time together in Mariona, my new friends Oti and Aida have filled many hours sharing their memories of Archbishop Oscar Romero. The strong hug he provided in a time of struggle. His homilies echoing from every radio in town. Even the horrors that they encountered at his funeral. But, as we shared a cup of coffee in a small room of Oti’s house, I asked them for a few words to describe this man and they both had to pause for a moment. “… love… solidarity… a voice for the voiceless… the fight… the defender of the poor…” As I listened to these two women speak, one word resounded in my mind “ejemplo.”
Archbishop Romero was, and continues to be, an example for those of us who desire to live our lives oriented toward social justice. He placed himself firmly on the side of the poor and took their struggles to be his own. He used his privilege and strength as the head of the Church of San Salvador to call for a more just nation. He listened intently to the needs and desires of poor and suffering Salvadorans and he responded not only in words but in deeds. During his three years as Archbishop, Monsignor Romero lived simply, prayed constantly, and refused to compromise his morals.
Reflecting on my situation as a student at a Jesuit university, I have begun to see that this man exemplifies all of the qualities this education tries to foster in me. I heard the phrases “men and women for and with others,” and “the preferential option for the poor” a thousand times since I was in high school but it was when Oti and Aida spoke of the Monsignor that I fully realized what this sort of life looks like. My hope is that I will be able to convert this new understanding and follow the example Archbishop Oscar Romero has set when I return home from this semester at the Casa de la Solidaridad in El Salvador.
“…amor… solidaridad… Voz de los sin voces… lucha… defender de los pobres…”