A very special pilgrimage – X

The final day and return to the UK.  What an experience this has been for the pilgrims.

Last breakfast served by our lovely ladies

Daily exercise – 89 steps to and from the bedroom

After the usual 89 steps ascent and descend from her room to the dinning room for the last breakfast served by the wonderful ladies the group pack and leave the Centro Loyola.  The gardeners stop what they are doing to help the pilgrims.. what thoughtfulness and kindness of the people!

Armed guard at gate

Walk down the steep hill to the guarded gate to wait for coach

There is a steep hill from the Centro Loyola building to the gate (guarded by an armed guard) Debbie is not only physically feeling better but is also inspired and hopeful, keen to share her experience with people back in the UK.

Traffic on the way to the airport

Barbed wires used in many places

The traffic getting to the airport was the usual bumper-to-bumper ride.  Lots to see on the way.  Interesting that so many properties had barbed wires to keep people out and the country will not go short of tyres with the number of tyre shops there are!

The group were pleased to see that the airport also kept Romero alive… even if it is a mouthful.

Great to see the airport named after Romero

Debbie reflects on her pilgrimage

“I was expecting to learn more about Blessed Oscar Romero and visit a few sites and pray there but what I experienced was life changing.  I encounter much more than my expectations.  I met great fellow pilgrims with similar vision.  I met the wonderful people of El Salvador who taught me what to be community.  To give till it hurts and not count the cost, not to seek revenge but still have hope and strength in the fight for justice.

I heard of and encountered so many brave and courageous people.  They were joyful in the little things and were thanking and praising God at each opportunity.  In a land where such injustices and horror have taken place, the hand of God is visibly at work.  What great faith the Salvadoreans have!”

Julia and family keen to share their work with us

Feeding the pilgrims with such love

“Seeing CAFOD’s partners working with the people was wonderful.  I was so overwhelmed by the strength and desire of the community to change their lives, not to rely on hand-outs.  Such dignity and pride in what they did to get out of the clutches of poverty.  Amazing attitude!

“I shall do as Sr Martha asks and share my experience and stories so that I too can stand in solidarity with the people to give voice to the voiceless .”

 >> Find out more about the Romero Trust 

 

 

 

 

A very special pilgrimage – IX

The last day in El Salvador before the trip back to the UK the following day.  What a wonderful way to spend the day at a CAFOD project.  Debbie went with 11 other pilgrims to the community at Puentecitos, a small village near the border of Guatemala, who are improving community life by opening small businesses and using organic farming methods. This is the community th

at is featured in Connect 2 El Salvador scheme.

Debbie with Erasmus

They were met by Erasmus, one of the project leaders.  Sadly his father-in-law had just died in an accident and Debbie says, “despite that, he wanted to remain with us till his replacement came.  He said that our presence and support was a great help to him! I was so moved.”

 

We met Julia and her lovely family.  They were the featured family in CAFOD’s geography pack for primary school and it was wonderful to see how they had grown with a new addition to the family!

New addition to the family

Some of Julia and Fedel’s family

The group were told about all the projects that the community were involved in with CAFOD’s support working through the local partner Solidarity CVX.

>>  See here for more information about the Connect 2 project

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Tortilla made my Julia’s eldest daughter

The group were given a tour of Julia’s home and saw the chickens, pigs, sacks of corn from the previous harvest, hand-made baskets and shampoo.  Such a joy to see the community so empowered!  They were then made even more welcome with a wonderful lunch cooked by Julia’s eldest daughter on a stove using wood.  Debbie noted

“I was breathing in the smoke from the wood  even from where I was sitting and it struck me how the family have to breath in these unhealthy fumes everyday!  It made me realise  how important our Power to Be campaign was to get the World bank to invest in renewable and safe energy”

>>  Sign the petiton to the World Bank

Before the lovely lunch the community sang to their visitors

Then came the lunch which was so lovingly prepared for us.

“I was surrounded by the community and could hardly speak more than 5 Spanish words but we got on great.  Our driver was invited for lunch too and he had a Google translator on his mobile phone.  With that, we had a fun and interesting conversation.  Just goes  to show how technology can help!”

 

Partaking in the lunch provided by the Puentecitos community

 

After lunch, the community were so keen for us to see how their efforts literally bore fruit.

Showing the produce of the land

“We were taken to the neighbour’s land to show us their numerous fruit trees.

It was fantastic to see first hand what I have been sharing with volunteers and supporters in the UK.

I can see how empowered  and dignified people are.  They don’t want hand outs.  They are determine to improve their lives by putting in effort and time to get there.  It has certainly paid off!”

 

Little ones enjoying the air condition van

 

The little ones were thrilled to sit in the air conditioned van and watch a cartoon!

 

 

 

 

Community at prayer

The community pray together every Thursday and they always pray for CAFOD.  How wonderful we are thought about and prayed for too.

It was a shame that Edelmira (who was the featured person for Harvest 2017) couldn’t be with us as the local transport left before she could get to the stop but she sent her warm wishes to all of us.

Everyone came away full of hope and Joy.

Great to meet Julia in person

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

>> Find out more about El Salvador

 

A very special pilgrimage – VIII

Coming towards the end of the pilgrimage, Debbie says “I am to overwhelmed at what people have had to go through and how they have so much hope and desire for things to get better. ”

Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador

Today they were so fortunate to have a visit from Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador. He explained how during the civil war they could see the bombings taking place from the chapel.  The cardinal also spoke about Romero as he knew him in the seminary. The Cardinal said what made Romero a remarkable man was that he was free from political, military and economic powers.  And said that Romero’s message for us today was that only love can conquer.

“He was keen to dialogue with us which was just amazing!” says Debbie.

 

Cardinal Rosa Chavez said mass for them at the Loyola Centro chapel together with the priests who were on the pilgrimage.

Cardinal Rosa Chavez says mass with priest from the pilgrimage

After dinner the group heard from Sr Martha Zechmeister CJ (theologian to the Romero Centre). She painted an amazing picture of pre and post civil war in the country.  She said some very thought-provoking things.

Sr Martha Zechmeister CJ

“If at the centre of Christian faith we have the suffering Jesus, then we have to recognize Jesus in the people here and now.  Every theology has to start with contemplation which opens our eyes to what victims are going through.  We need to allow the pain of the victims to hurt us so that we can bring the Gospel to others in a new and creative way”

Sr Martha stressed that we are NOT the voice of the voiceless but that we need to give voice to the voiceless, that change has to come from grassroot level, not from above.

So much food for thought.