"I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the Salvadoran people."
-Archbishop Oscar Romero
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of Salvadorian Archbishop Oscar Romero. As I hold this man's legacy and witness to the gospel in my prayers, I think about Romero's story. I meditate on his conversion experience. I think about how he went from being a bookish sort of fellow, intentionally removed from any sort of gospel activism, to one who became immersed in prayerful action for an oppressed and impoverished people, unpacking and applying the tenets of liberation theology. I am moved as I contemplate what transformed his heart, his spirit, his presence in the warring nation of El Salvador. I imagine the night, just three weeks into his appointment as archbishop, that he traveled from the capitol to a country side church in Paisnal, where one of his priests had been murdered - along with two other parishioners - for standing with the peasant farmers in their desire to create farming cooperatives. I see the people gathered around Romero, quietly beseeching his support, and I ache fathoming what anger mixed with compassion must have started a fire in his own heart.
As I contemplate Romero's presence among the terrorized people in this rural community, I wonder how any of his experience inspires or relates to my own - so far removed from Central America? How does his life and witness to Love inform my own call to live as a catholic in this global community? Where am I being invited to stand in solidarity? What spaces of poverty or injustice am I called to witness first hand? How am I being invited to recognize the struggle that calls for the immediacy of Christ's presence?
"God needs the people themselves to save the world . . . The world of the poor teaches us that liberation will arrive only when the poor are not simply on the receiving end of hand-outs from governments or from the churches, but when they themselves are the masters and protagonists of their own struggle for liberation." - Archbishop Oscar Romero
Romero's conversion hinges upon his knowledge and first hand experience with the poor. It's his relationship with the victims of violence, his proximity to the peasants and priestly people struggling to live in peace, that informs his transformed ministry and leadership in El Salvador.
Today in North Minneapolis, the Visitation sisters are going about their daily lives of active prayer and communal ministry. They rise for early morning prayer at 7am, attend mass at 8am with neighbors and friends; go about their days with a commitment to open the door to whoever rings the bell, inviting them to be their vocational calling and "Live Jesus!" They pray again at noon, 4:45pm and 8:15pm. In each internal experience of prayer, the sisters will tune into how they are experiencing Christ alive and calling to them through their neighborhood. They, not unlike Romero, are witnessing to the transformational power of relationship, of proximity to the poor and those living on the margins. They are following in the footsteps of their founders, Francis and Jane, and finding alignment in the gospel narrative of Mary and Elizabeth: visiting and tending to the love wanting to get born in each of us.
In our urban ministry, the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis choose to reach out in a special way:
- to companion and affirm those who are impoverished and lonely — those living on the fringes of society.
- to support those committed to a ministry of peace and justice by sharing our Salesian spirituality with them.
- to educate and network with those who, in being materially secure, seek ways of growing in faith, hope and love by bridging with people in our multi-cultural community.
- to provide spiritual formation for those affiliated with us in a variety of ways.
- From "Ministry of Prayer and Presence"
Tonight, a group of people ranging in age from 20-45 will convene under the auspices of the Visitation sisters in a space devoted to discernment. These young men and women will be dwelling inside the questions of calling, of vocation; they'll be prayerfully focusing themselves, at least for two hours, on the invitation to live their gifts and honor their divine purposes. They will, not unlike Romero, be invited to "come and see" the love on fire within their own hearts for a ministry, career, calling -- in possible proximity to the poor.
I hold all this information as I pray through my writing this day, marveling at the juxtaposition of the beloved Romero, the presence of the Visitation sisters in North Minneapolis and the way a whole host of men and women are entering into this space of intentional reflection.
Please join me in prayer for all that is at work on this day, and in the many to come, as the spirit of Romero is felt alive and resurrected in the people of Salavador, as well as those many miles beyond: in the hearts and minds and actions of the spiritual beings in North Minneapolis.
Peace and gratitude,
Melissa Borgmann Kiemde