New saint ‘keeps watch’ over Hispanic Catholic community

Latin-American Catholics celebrate the canonization of St. Oscar Romero

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Denver’s Queen of Peace Parish was filled with faithful Salvadorians and other Catholics from the United States and diverse Latin-American countries Oct. 14, all celebrating with deep devotion the canonization of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, whom Pope Francis declared a saint that same day.

Auxiliary Bishop of Denver Jorge Rodriguez celebrated a Spanish-language Mass at the Denver parish and highlighted the saint’s words as Archbishop of San Salvador in his homily: “If God accepts the sacrifice of my life, let my blood be a seed of freedom and the sign that hope will soon be a reality.”

“Archbishop Romero practiced Christian virtue to the highest degree: to the point of giving up his life; to the point of martyrdom,” Bishop Rodriguez said.

He highlighted Archbishop Romero’s “faith in Christ, his love for the poor, and his complete dedication to the advocacy and defense of their dignity as people and children of God.”

“[He was a pastor] who opted for the poor, for the oppressed, for those persecuted by the government, for those whose dignity and rights were violated with impunity. He was, as he himself said, ‘The voice of the voiceless,’” Bishop Rodriguez assured.

AURORA, CO – OCTOBER 14: Bishop Jorge Rodriguez celebrates Mass for newly canonized Archbishop Óscar Romero at Queen of Peace Catholic Parish on October 14, 2018, in Aurora, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Moreover, the prelate affirmed that St. Oscar Romero reminds the faithful that, “at times, love of neighbor requires social and political commitment, which can even take the form of prophetic denunciation, of the defense of excluded rights and of committed action.”

“We also live in the midst of injustices, of our own brothers and sisters who are deprived of their liberty in detention centers for not possessing documents; of immigrants whose rights are violated and find themselves separated from their families; of our brothers and sisters who day after day leave home fearful of being arrested… while they work honestly to offer a future to their children,” Bishop Rodriguez said.

“According to Catholic teaching, when we are dealing with human beings who possess inviolable and unalienable rights, we need to act respecting their dignity… allowing everyone to have access to what they need… especially helping the poor in a spirit of solidarity,” Bishop Rodriguez told the Denver Catholic in a previous  interview, in which he also quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood… [and] immigrants are obliged… to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens” (2241).

In that interview, he explained that, with the common good in mind, comprehensive policies can be created, keeping in mind the tension between the immigrant’s right to migrate and the State’s right to control its borders. Such policies could make a “both-and” of respecting the human person and the law, instead of an “either-or.” These laws, he assured, need to be at the service of the human person.

During his homily, the bishop called those present to action: “It is urgent that we help these brothers and sisters, that we be by their side, denounce the trampling of their rights, and participate in the political battle for a comprehensive immigration reform.”

AURORA, CO – OCTOBER 14: Parishioners celebrate the canonization of Archbishop Óscar Romero during Mass at Queen of Peace Catholic Parish on October 14, 2018, in Aurora, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Moreover, Bishop Rodriguez brought attention to El Salvador’s Civil War from 1980 to 1992 — although its origin can be traced back the 1960s — which left more then 75,000 dead civilians and 9,000 missing.

“Many of you, or many of your family members, came to this country fleeing death,” he told the congregation. “Over so much suffering and over you and your families, now a Salvadorian saint keeps watch: St. Oscar Romero, whom even some of you here today met personally.”

Following the Eucharistic celebration, the faithful assembled at the parish center to honor the martyr’s canonization with dances and traditional dishes.

One of the attendants was Deacon Edgar Valle, from Presentation of Our Lord Parish in Denver, who met Archbishop Romero personally.

“He transformed my life. He’s a spiritual father for me. I have read all of his homilies at length, which have helped me as a deacon and preacher,” he told the Denver Catholic.

Thus, many Salvadorians celebrated those prophetic words of St. Oscar Romero before he was assassinated: “As a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection: If they kill me, I shall rise in the Salvadorian people.”

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Last November 11, on the centenary of its relocation to a 93-acre campus in suburban Washington, D.C., Georgetown Preparatory School announced a $60 million capital campaign. In his message for the opening of the campaign, Georgetown Prep’s president, Father James Van Dyke, SJ, said that, in addition to improving the school’s residential facilities, the campaign intended to boost Prep’s endowment to meet increasing demands for financial aid. Like other high-end Catholic secondary schools, Georgetown Prep is rightly concerned about pricing itself out of reach of most families. So Prep’s determination to make itself more affordable through an enhanced endowment capable of funding scholarships and other forms of financial aid for less-than-wealthy students is all to the good.

What I find disturbing about the campaign is its “branding” slogan. I first became aware of it when, driving past the campus a few months ago, I noticed a billboard at the corner of Rockville Pike and Tuckerman Lane. In large, bold letters, it proclaimed, “FOR THE GREATER GLORY.” And I wondered, “…of what?” Then one day, when traffic allowed, I slowed down and espied the much smaller inscription in the bottom right corner: “Georgetown Prep’s Legacy Campaign.”

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam [For the greater glory of God], often reduced to the abbreviation, AMDG, was the Latin motto of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. Georgetown Prep is a Jesuit school. So what happened to the D-word? What happened to God? Why did AMDG become AM[D]G while being translated into fundraising English?

I made inquiries of Jesuit friends and learned that amputating the “D” in AMDG is not unique to Georgetown Prep; it’s a tactic used by other Jesuit institutions engaged in the heavy-lift fundraising of capital campaigns. That was not good news. Nor was I reassured by pondering Father Van Dyke’s campaign-opening message, in which the words “Jesus Christ” did not appear. Neither did Pope Francis’s call for the Church’s institutions to prepare missionary disciples as part of what the Pope has called a “Church permanently in mission.” And neither did the word “God,” save for a closing “Thanks, and God bless.”

Father Van Dyke did mention that “Ignatian values” were one of the “pillars” of Georgetown prep’s “reputation for excellence.” And he did conclude his message with a call for “men who will make a difference in a world that badly needs people who care, people who, in the words Ignatius wrote his best friend Francis Xavier as he sent him on the Society of Jesus’s first mission, will ‘set the world on fire’.” Fine. But ignition to what end?

Ignatius sent Francis Xavier to the Indies and on to East Asia to set the world on fire with love of the Lord Jesus Christ, by evangelizing those then known as “heathens” with the warmth of the Gospel and the enlivening flame of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith. St. Ignatius was a New Evangelization man half a millennium before Pope St. John Paul II used the term. St. Ignatius’s chief “Ignatian value” was gloria Dei, the glory of God.

Forming young men into spiritually incandescent, intellectually formidable and courageous Christian disciples, radically conformed to Jesus Christ and just as deeply committed to converting the world, was the originating purpose of Jesuit schools in post-Reformation Europe. Those schools were not content to prepare generic “men for others;” they were passionately devoted to forming Catholic men for converting others, the “others” being those who had abandoned Catholicism for Protestantism or secular rationalism. That was why the Jesuits were hated and feared by powerful leaders with other agendas, be they Protestant monarchs like Elizabeth I of England or rationalist politicians like Portugal’s 18th-century prime minister, the Marquis of Pombal.

Religious education in U.S. Catholic elementary schools has been improved in recent decades. And we live in something of a golden age of Catholic campus ministry at American colleges and universities. It’s Catholic secondary education in the U.S. that remains to be thoroughly reformed so that Catholic high schools prepare future leaders of the New Evangelization: leaders who will bring others to Christ, heal a deeply wounded culture, and become agents of a sane politics. Jesuit secondary education, beginning with prominent and academically excellent schools like Georgetown Prep, could and should be at the forefront of that reform.

Jesuit secondary education is unlikely to provide that leadership, however, if its self-presentation brackets God and announces itself as committed to “the greater glory” of…whatever.