Our Final days in El Salvador, were a mix of sadness and hope. Sadness at leaving this country, which has had such a history of suffering and martyrdom, and the hope, a result of seeing the work CAFOD is supporting through our “Connect2” programme. A small group of us were fortunate enough to visit the community of Puentecitos about 80 miles from San Salvador in the rural area of the country. Out in the country there is little sign of the influence of the countries northern neighbour – no Macdonald’s, no KFC and no big banks. The people here live a very simple life struggling to grow sufficient food for their families and with no monies to pay for the further education of their children. The welcome we received from the community was warm and generous; we were delighted to meet with people highlighted in the CAFOD material and to learn of the improvements which were slowly taking place in their lives. Rosas took us around her small holding, pointing out the small fish pond and the crops she and her family were raising – maize, oranges, star fruit, all of which she was more than happy to share with us. Working this plot is extraordinarily hard as it is on a steep slope and must be back-breaking work. However, thanks to the support of CAFOD’s partner the Jesuit Development Service the land is now yielding more produce and is much more sustainable. Rosas told us it had taken 15 years of work to get it to this standard and she now shares her knowledge with other small farmers in the area.
We were welcomed to the little church in Puentecitos where the community had gathered to meet with us and share a non-eucharistic service followed by simple refreshments. I took with me a simple wooden cross which had been made by Jon, one of our supporters from Bolton. It is made of English Elm and from one piece of wood Jon made two crosses. One is here in the office and the other as a sign of our solidarity was given to the community together with a selection of photos and information from St Mary’s Parish in Brownedge, who have signed up to “Connect2”. The community led by Fidel (see photo) were delighted to receive them and hear of our solidarity with their struggle.
On Friday evening our pilgrim group celebrated a final Mass together at the Loyola Centre in San Salvador. It was a very moving celebration as we brought all we had experienced to the Lord. The sorrow, the song, the hope, the solidarity, these are the gifts bestowed on me by the martyrs and the people of El Salvador who have struggled and who continue to struggle for justice in the light of their faith.