Cafod's Colette makes Romero Trust Pilgrimage to El Salvador

By Colette Byrne, Cafod community participation coordinator

I was privileged to be asked to represent Cafod on the Romero Trust Pilgrimage to El Salvador in November. I joined 26 other pilgrims as we learned about the history of the civil war, the loss of many innocent lives, and how people were, and still are, fighting against injustice.
 
In the mid-1970s, violence in El Salvador was increasing. The government killed poor people who stood up for their rights. Óscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, would speak out against the government during his sermon, which was broadcast on the radio. The whole country listened. Although his life was often threatened, he continued to speak out. Romero was a Cafod partner and when his radio station was bombed, Cafod provided funds to help rebuild it.
 
In his sermon on 23 March 1980, Romero ordered the army to stop killing people: ‘In the name of God, and in the name of these suffering people, whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I beg you, I implore you, I order you, in the name of God, stop the repression.’ The next day, a shot killed Romero as he celebrated Mass in the chapel at the Hospital of Divine Providence.
 
Cafod is hugely proud that our friend and partner was declared a saint in 2018, and he continues to inspire our work today. I was delighted to visit a Cafod project which focuses on promoting a culture of peace and justice in society, where a team of psychologists, funded by Cafod, works with people to learn how to resolve difficult family situations and disputes in a non-violent way.
 
I was truly inspired to meet a group of women who, with support from Cafod, set up their own community banking system, enabling them to form friendships and a strong community built on trust. They worked and saved money together, and received training in leadership programmes and farming, empowering the women to take a leading role in their community, outside of their homes.
 
A personal highlight was a visit to a school where we were treated to a fantastic performance of music and dance by the young people and children. They were such talented and happy people, who expressed incredible amounts of gratitude to Cafod for our continued prayers and support. These youngsters all have difficult home lives, with limited job opportunities, and many are led to a life of gangs. One youth, aged 15, danced for us with the most amazing smile on his face. He used to be a gang member but has never looked back since joining their Cafod-supported project. The introduction to a safe environment, alongside people who wish to live in peace, means that gang life is a thing of the past for this teenager.
 
I was so lucky to see Cafod’s work first hand, and I can say with hand on heart that every kind donation, no matter how small or large, is making a life-changing difference to so many people living in the world’s poorest communities. Cafod has a fantastic network of wonderful parishioners, just like you, who volunteer with us, to enable us to continue our vital work. To find out what opportunities you could get involved with, please contact me via tel: 07779 804242 or email: cbyrne@cafod.org.uk