Four Martyred Women if El Salvador. May 30, 2015

The journey if this mission ends at the site where four missionary women were raped and killed in an off the best area in the dark of night. The monument stands where they were buried naked in a shallow grave. A young boy walking on the road noticed the meg shift grave exposing some of the bodies and he alerted authorities. 

These women fed the hungry and clothed the naked; they taught the Faith and cared for the sick; they brought hope to desperate people and tried to strengthen their families and communities in the midst of the raging civil war. Their names are Ita, Dorothy, Maura and Jean. In their honor, we  celebrated a Liturgy on the Feast of the Holy Trinity. 

Our God of Love in a community of Persons giving and receiving Love…the Spirit is at the intersection of this giving and receiving,  creating an explosion of Love. These women lived and witnessed to this awesome Love.  They gave and received, being an empty vessel filled with the Spirit. They were baptized in the Blood of Christ, as was Oscar Romero and every martyr of the Faith. 

I am on a beach along the ocean waiting to return to Chicago early in the morning. I return wanting this experience to live in my memory. What is the purpose of going to a poor country only to return with a “business as usual ” attitude, which is easy to fall into. I encounteted inconvenient and uncomfortable truths about economy and the inter-relatedness of the peoples  of the world. As I walked through a relatively new mall in San Salvador, I felt like I was in America, with certain stores having Spanish names. Starbucks was quite visible. “What happened to the culture of El Salvador?” , a question I ask, not certain I want to know the answer. 

My hope is that each one of us CAN make a small difference by becoming more aware of our country’s influence, which is both positive and negative. We can make changes in our lifestyle and choices, doing our own part. We can pray the beatitudes and the sermon on the mount letting the messages of the word of Christ sink deeper in our hearts. Conversion is a long ,and usually gradual, process of allowing God’s Grace to be the energy that guides our life’s journey. I return filled with much hope. 

Offered Mass for Sr. BJ  yesterday with the mission group…may she rest in peace. Fr. Frank 


Chapel of the Assasination. May 29, 2015

Many years ago, on March 24, 1980, while I was a first year seminarian at Mundelein, Oscar Romero was assassinated. I heard about it through one of the seminarians who knew about Romero and violence in El Salvador. Until then, I had never heard of Romero, nor did I have any knowledge about the realities in el Salvador and Romero’s prophetic voice. Somehow, at that moment , I was drawn into the story of his life and the persuasive teachings of liberation theology. Oscar Romero is one of the most important people in my life and priesthood. 

Nothing could prepare me for the experience of standing in the very spot behind the altar in the chapel of Divine Providence Hospital. The spot is HOLY… He knew he was going to be killed and had to have seen the van pull up in front of the doors to the chapel. He had to have see the open window with the rifle pointing towards him. He surrendered. Romero was killed because of the hatred of the Faith. This must be understood, for there were/are many in the Church who question whether he was killed for the Faith or simply for political reasons. This is why it has taken so long for the Church to FINALLY beatify this martyr. Certain church leaders felt Romero bordered on being a Marxist who tried to foment violence. Ridiculous!! Just read his homilies and speeches. This prophet threatened so many in the church, even here in El Salvador. Not everyone here loves Romero or wants to have anything to do with him. Sad…

Prophets will always be killed or attempted to be silenced. Romero’s Voice continues to be heard, for he can never be silenced, not even by a bullet. He is a Voice for the Voiceless. What is the voice of Romero trying to tell us in the States? What might he be saying to us about our economy…the way we spend our money, our use of power, our constant spending? It is known who his assisin  was and that the President of El Salvador ordered the killing. In our own country is a “school” to teach people how to assassinate political leaders. The one who shot Romero may very well have been “schooled” here. Wherever he learned, he was an expert shooter. One single bullet in the heart. 

Romero lives in my heart. 

Peace. Fr. Frank 


Unbound. May 28, 2015

Visited  an organization in Santa Anna near San Salvador dedicated to walking with the poor and marginalized. Unbound was founded by a man from Kansas named Bob Hentzen and his wife. They walked a LONG casino from Kansas City to Chile. Yes… The country Chile!!! And I thought my caminonin Spain was long, being only 500 miles. 

We were taken to two homes of families who have been helped by Unbound. Essentially, one helps by becoming a sponsor, or “padrino/padrina, for a child or an elderly person. The sponsor donated $30  dollars per month for a period of time solely determined by sponsor and Unbound. You receive photos and letters on a regular basis telling you what specifically your donation helped to fund in areas of education, health, recreation, nutrition and clothing. All purchases and their receipts are kept, registered and complied to safeguard transparency. 

At one of the homes, ( see photos)  the mother was so happy and grateful for her own  house,  made from plywood and metal “walls.” This was given to her and her husband by Unbound.  She welcomed us inside, which was both beautiful and humbling. The photos and religious articles on the walls indicated people who love  family and their catholic faith. We all walked away quite taken aback. 






 How am I to respond to this experience, and the experience of standing in the spot where Oscar Romero was killed and the experience of the women organizing to empower women who suffer in domestic violence and the experience of seeing the workers on the cashew farm and the experience of talking with Emilio who gave up a lucrative career in the world of finance and the list goes on. 

How does christ wish me and you to respond,  in gospel fashion, to the poor and marginalized? SEE…JUDGE…ACT is the mantra. It is the third one that causes the most difficulty. 

The Making of a Cashew. May 25, 2015

We Arrived in a small village outside of San Salvador called Lempa, noted for its cashew plantation. If you ever wondered why this nut is so expensive, not to forget  delicious, I have the answer. 

Cashews grow on trees and each individual nut is enclosed in a hard shell. One nut  per shell. Each of these shells is taken down from the trees, heated, shelled, cleaned, separated, placed in bins, freeze dried for shipment. The work is labor intensive, hard, and hot. These nuts are organic and fair trade, meaning proper labor practices are observed grounded the plantation and production in principles of justice. 

The economy of El Salvador is a constant theme as we explore the realities of a small country like El Salvador emerging from centuries of Spanish rule, colonization, the brutal “elimination” of native peoples, the displacement of whole populations to suit the financial gains of those who conquered the land and the civil war in the late 1970’s into the early 1990’s with the slaughter of tens of thousands of Salvadorans 







Knowing this painful history and the influence of our own government is unsettling, to say the least. Knowledge can be power if we use it to make the world a better place. We are all brothers and sisters in the Lord. Everything we do and pray affects every human being in ways known to God. But we must allow the God Who Remains in each of our hearts to open our eyes to the beautiful but unsettling ways our behavior and social policies affect those we can’t see. In so many ways, the ways that we live our lives…our lifestyles…come at a deep price. Millions of people around the world are living in significant poverty and injustice. Millions upon millions….

Meeting the men and women who work at the cashew farm, talking with a group of women who are addressing the violence and poverty women face in El Salvador and beyond, opened my heart to the struggle so many have of simply trying to feed their families and have sort of a roof over their heads. Why is there so much disparity in the world? Why do we consume so much and make a lifestyle out of buying and possessing? 

What is our role in the poverty of humanity is a question we must dare to ask….

Peace. Fr. Frank 

Visiting Blessed Romero’s Tomb. May 24, 2015

When Oscar Romero was a priest, he was walking down the street in his collar, several women approached him begging him to visit their sons locked up in jail. One of the young men had diabetes and needed his medication or he would die.  Romero didn’t truly understand why they were imorisoned but he agreed and “snuck” the medication inside and was able to give it to a pleading mother’s son. 

After the incident, he continued to meet with these impassioned mothers…women…who became one of the instruments  God used to pry open Romero’s heart to the truth. His prophetic voice began to be gently articulated as he “saw” the realities of injustice. Romero emerged from his protective shell as he allowed the Light to shine in dark places, including in his own heart. What was this darkness? Ignorance and indifference to those who have no voice or power. It’s much easier to say, “There’s nothing I can do,” or worse, “I CAN’T make a difference.” In listening to these “comadres” Romero found his own voice for the voiceless. 

In approaching the tomb of Oscar Romero I was struck by the bronze relief over the tomb. At the corners of each tomb is a woman holding one of the four gospels. In the center of the bronze relief is Romero lying in peaceful death wearing a crucifix that was torn and ripped in the cross and corpus. The shirt he wore as he was assassinated is enclosed  




  in glass and on display near the main altar in the cathedral. One can see the blood and a small, neat HOLE in the upper left side, near the heart. The assassin knew what he was doing and he did it with precision. 

Today was a beautiful , powerful and sobering day.  Being there, near the tomb, right before my eyes, is an experience that can’t be had reading a book. Nor can hearts be changed simply by reading and watching the news. Seeing, talking with and sharing stories with people who live with such uncertainty and injustice is something most of us can do in our own way. But we have to be willing to walk away from such encounters different…troubled…wondering how one should respond. When you see poverty and injustice on such a large scale, it takes one’s breath away. 

On this Feast of the Holy Spirit, when our breath is taken away, Christ breathes His Spirit in us. This Spirit frees us from discouragement and apathy, as it did Romero. The spirit frees us to respond in our own little ways to righting the wrongs in the world. Who will even notice or care? God is the only one Who need see us responding. For Romero, it all began with a “chance” encounter with desperate mothers wanting him to do something. One short,  little visit to a young man in prison set Romero on his path. One small step at a time will eventually change the world. 

El Salvador. May 23, 2015

sitting at o’hare waiting to board for the flight to San Salvador for a mission trip. Twelve of us comprise the “group,” an appropriate number by biblical standards. We will to visiting various sites that Catholic ReliefServices has a presence in. Our goal is to return to Chicago to build awareness for the mission and purpose of Catholic Relief Services. 

What a beautiful touch of irony that we arrive in San Salvador during the festivities associated with the Beatification of Oscar Romero, who was assassinated while saying Mass on March 24, 1980. He was a passionate prophet for the poor and those suffering from injustice. Romero started his ministry as a rather timid leader who played it safe, staying within the bounds of established ways of being a bishop and excersizing authority. It was the brutal death of a number of his priests, particularly Fr. Rutilio Grande, and the continued disappearance of countless people, that totally transformed this quiet, conservative leader into a man of fire with the Spirit. He was in his late 50’s, yet another reminder that we are never too old. 

I believe our group is in store for quite an experience, one that will awaken dormant ideals and trouble consciences that are much too comfortable. Seeing with one’s own eyes the harsh realities of decades,and even centuries,  of injustice is a fairly certain vehicle of inner transformation. People can be reduced to the impersonal status of statistics that several about in newspapers and on news programs. Even the visuals associated with television and the Internet are inadequate,  for we are far removed from the reality these statistics and stories describe in the comfort of our living room or  local coffee houses surfing the web. 

Pray for us on this mission in which the demands of the gospel will most assuredly enlighten, awaken and disturb. 

Oscar Romero…Pray for Us

Peace. Fr. Frank