By Megan Marley
Digital/Social Media Coordinator
It was an interesting contrast, celebrating the life and martyrdom of an archbishop from the warm climes of Central America amid snowfall, but the cold weather March 11 didn’t damper spirits at St. Sabina Parish in Belton.
Nearly every March, Salvadorans and members of parishes with sister communities in El Salvador gather at St. Sabina for an annual Mass and celebration of Óscar Arnulfo Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador who was gunned down celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980 and beatified by Pope Francis in 2015.
Principal celebrant of the Mass was Father José Ángel Renderos, who studied for the priesthood in San Salvador while Romero was Archbishop. Fr. Renderos is co-founder of the Bishop Romero Association in El Salvador for spreading devotion to the blessed, and serves as pastor of the parish of Santa Ana in San Salvador and director of Centro Escolar Católico Santa Ana. He also said Mass for the Romero celebration in 2012.
Joining him to concelebrate was St. Sabina pastor Fr. Jeff Stephan, pastor emeritus Fr. Chuck Tobin, Fr. Michael Gillgannon, Fr. Jerry Waris and vicar general for pastoral affairs Fr. Charles Rowe. Bishop James Johnson, Jr. attended the Mass.
In his homily, Fr. Renderos described the conditions in El Salvador at the time Romero was Archbishop.
“There was extreme poverty in the country at the time, with salaries that were not very good, misery among the poor, and the people would protest. We would see the oppression of the authorities against the people, and that is how the disrespect for human rights arose towards the students, to the workers, to the farmers, to the people in general. The country was filled with violence and death,” Renderos said. “That was when Monseñor spoke up for the poor. He would say: I call upon the oligarchy! Do not idolize your wealth and store it up in a way that lets others starve to death.”
He also explained that in these conditions Romero sought to serve the most downtrodden of his flock as Archbishop, not as a political leader.
“Monseñor would say true Christian conversion is when you have to discover the reasons that make the worker, the farmer outcasts. These mechanisms can’t be treated just as a sociologist or economist, but as a Christian. To not conspire with this mechanism that is making more poor, more outcasts, more indigents, and more migrants have to leave their countries, their families, their dreams,” Renderos said.
Fr. Renderos also said that Romero’s life should continue to inspire people to seek just treatment of the poor and marginalized, including today’s immigrants.
“Jesus experienced firsthand with his family the reality of migration when he was fleeing from criminal Herod. That is what is happening with our central American brothers and other troubled countries in the world, who have to abandon their cultures, their families, their history in search of stability,” Renderos said. “To you, to us, Monseñor is speaking to our hearts: so we can be the voice of those migrants who do not have a voice.”