Published: September 2nd 2010August 27th 2010
Sunday, July was a full day, and it was the first time the entire group worked as a team and found ourselves experiencing many of the same emotions as a result. We began with breakfast and then gathered out front in the courtyard for morning prayer. I kept copies of all our reflections and prayers but neglected to date them. As I look back now my sense is that today we used the one attributed to Oscar Romero where he reminds the reader that " We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's Work". I'd have to call this one of "our Oscar Romero days" (we had others) in that much of what we were exposed to today reflected upon him, his ministry in El Salvador and his messages.
The day began by us going by van to the Cathedral of El Salvdor del Mundo (the Cathedral of the Savior of the World) in downtown San Salvador. This is the cathedral where Oscar Romero is buried in a crypt in the lower hall. It is also the edifice he referred to when he said "No money would be spent to finish the cathedral until the poor had food"
The Mass we attended said by the Archbishop and was extremely well attended. We were amazed how nicely dressed everyone in the church was. This is something many of us noticed all week. Despite poverty, meager houses and the need to use communal bathrooms for bathing, when people go to work, church and the children go to school, most are clean, neat and well groomed. Only the poorest of the poor wear soiled or tattered clothing. We did see some of these folks begging at the cathedral gates , and begging in the aisles during the liturgy. But honestly, they were few in number in comparison to what I expected. Today was baptism day, and many families were bringing babies in beautiful white outfits for the occasion. At the conclusion of Mass the archbishop came mid-way down the aisle and stopped, and waited for the faithful to bring him their children to bless.
The liturgy was being filmed and the videographer was coming down the aisles filming the faithful. My sense is that our entire group made the film. We were a bit of a curiosity item, but people were very cordial, especially during the kiss of peace. Upon departure from the church and in the process of going to the crypt, I gave a woman beggar a dollar (the currency is the same for the US and El Salvador). Because of the last few days and the talk about our need to really see the poor, I found myself touching her arm, looking into her eyes and saying good morning. She seemed to be surprised and is some ways I was surprised too that this felt so comfortable. About 45 minutes later we departed the crypt church. I never expected to see her again, but she weaved her way through the crowd and came back to thank me for a 2nd time. Although some might believe she was looking for more, I knew that wasn't the case...she came to say thank you again.
After our visit to church we went shopping at El Mercado Ex-Quartel, an indoor market that was formerly an old army barrack. Here Sr. Gloria assured us we would be safe and we could bargain for goods without worry. She was apparently "connected". One particular shop owner seemed to be especially receptive to "Gloria's people" and we did well. Of course those folks who spoke Spanish did the best, but we all teamed up with someone proficient in the language and helped one another. I was looking for a ceramic fish for the house in SIC. Russ, one of the engineers spoke on my behalf and must have used the right words because shop people from all over the market kept coming back to us (and we were moving around quite a bit) bringing fish wall hangings for us to look at. I am proud to say the a Salvadoran peche in yellow green and blue now adorns the wall in Sea Isle City, NJ.
After lunch back at the volunteer house we traveled to Sonsonate and the Hogar Immaculada corazon de Maria (The orphanage of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) Our afternoon was spend playing with the children who lived there, 57 children under the care of 7 nuns. This experience had to have been one of the most emotionally difficult for all of us, and between this experience and the movie on Oscar Romero's life we viewed later that evening, our refection time was really difficult. Sadness permeated the room.
The question of "What difference will any of our efforts make in the long run?" came out for the first time that evening. This was a re-curing theme for all of us that night and all week...one we consistently struggled with and one I will re-visit in this blog over and over again. As our week progressed, the answers came from the group, Sr. Gloria, and the people we served. But for me, that night when the emotion in the room was so thick you could cut it with a knife, the answer came from Kneche..who referred to Nelson Madela and reminded us "We can only do what we can, nothing is insignificant".
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