April 13, 2017

During the March break, students from St. Paul’s High School and St. Boniface Diocesan High School participated in a service mission to El Salvador. For St. Paul’s, this was the eighth mission to El Salvador and for St. Boniface, the third.


Our first full day was March 24, the anniversary of the death of Archbishop Romero in 1980. Our team was present at the Mass in his memory at La Divina Providencia Church, where his life was taken from him. Our school president, Father L. Altilia S.J. , concelebrated the Mass with several other priests from El Salvador. This Mass marked the beginning of the learning part of our mission. On the following Sunday we visited the church in El Paisnal where Father Rutilio Grande S.J. is buried. Father Grande was a friend to Oscar Romero, and when he was assassinated in 1977, a conservative Romero saw more clearly the injustices in El Salvador and he became a vigorous advocate for the poor. Before the Mass at El Paisnal, we listened to a talk by a man who knew Father Grande and gave us a first hand account of this unique servant of God.


For most of the rest of week, our team worked at the school “Escuela San José las Flores.” Work began at this location in 2015. This year, the community requested that we assist them in building a concrete and wire fence along one side of the school property. The fence would provide security for the school in general, but in particular for the adjoining garden and the Tilapia pool constructed two years earlier.


The fence project allowed the Salvadorans and Canadians to work side by side and learn from each other. Because our project was right along a roadside, we were very visible to the community and passers by. We were told many times what an inspiration our youth was to the community. Our students were in turn inspired by the joy in the people, their openness, their gratitude and their resilience despite their poverty and a tragic past marked by a cruel civil war that lasted from 1980 to 1992.


This year, as in every year in the past, we departed El Salvador much enriched by the wonderful people we encountered. Our hope is that our youth will have a different worldview and perhaps a better understanding of what is really important in life.