New saint ‘keeps watch’ over Hispanic Catholic community

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

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.”

COMING UP: Care for Her Act: A common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies

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The pro-life community is often accused of only being pro-birth; however, a congressman from Nebraska is seeking to not only bring more visibility to the countless organizations which provide care for women experiencing crisis pregnancies through birth and beyond, but to also imitate that care at the federal level and enshrine it into law.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R), who serves the first congressional district in Nebraska, is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill that’s been in the works since last year. The overall goal of the bill is to “[commit] to care for that journey of life through a complementary set of services whereby the government makes a decided choice on behalf of the life of the unborn child and meeting the needs of the expectant mother,” Rep. Fortenberry told the Denver Catholic.

The Care For Act seeks to accomplish this through four basic provisions: A $3,600 tax credit for unborn children which would apply retroactively after the child is born, in addition to the existing tax credit for children; a comprehensive assessment and cataloguing of the programs and resources that are available to expectant mothers; providing federal grants to advance maternal housing, job training mentorships and other educational opportunities for expectant mothers; and lastly, offering financial incentives to communities that improve maternal and child health outcomes.

The Biden Administration recently indicated that they’ll be removing the Hyde Amendment in next year’s budget, which has historically been in place to prohibit pubic funds from going to abortions. The Care for Her Act would circumvent this to some degree, and it would also test whether Rep. Fortenberry’s dissenting colleagues who have in the past expressed that women should be cared for throughout their pregnancies and beyond are willing to stand by their words.

While the conversation around pregnancy and women’s health often centers around abortion, Rep. Fortenberry intentionally crafted the Care for Her Act to not be against abortion, per se, but rather for women and their babies.

“Abortion has caused such a deep wound in the soul of America,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “However, the flip side of this is not only what we are against, because it is so harmful, but what are we for? So many wonderful people throughout this country carry the burden of trying to be with women in that vulnerable moment where there is an unexpected pregnancy and show them the gift of what is possible for that child and for that woman. Let’s do that with government policy as well.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R) of Nebraska is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill which seeks to provide a community of care for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Even The Washington Post has taken notice of the Care for Her Act. Earlier this year, Rep. Fortenberry introduced the idea to his constituents, and as to be expected, he received mixed feedback. Those who are pro-life were supportive of the idea, while those who support abortions were more apprehensive. Still others shared consternation about what the government ought to or ought not to do, expressing concern about what the Care for Her Act seeks to do.

“My response is, if we’re going to spend money, what is the most important thing? And in my mind, this is it,” Rep. Fortenberry said.

However, he was very encouraged by one response in particular, which for him really illustrates why this bill is so important and needed.

“One woman wrote me and said, ‘Jeff, I had an abortion when I was young. But if I had this complement of services and commitment of community around me, I would have made another decision,'” Rep. Fortenberry recalled. “And I said ‘yes.’ That’s why we are doing this. For her.”

So far, Rep. Fortenberry has been able to usher support from a number of women representatives on his side of the aisle. He is hopeful, though, that support could come from all sides of the political spectrum.

“Is it possible this could be bipartisan? I would certainly hope so, because it should transcend a political divide,” he explained. “We, of course, stand against abortion because it is so detrimental to women and obviously the unborn child. At the same time though, I think that others could join us who maybe don’t have the fullness of our perspective, who want to see the government actually make a choice on behalf of protecting that unborn life.”

Amidst the politically polarizing discussions about pregnancy and unborn life, the Care for Her act is a common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies. It offers women facing an unexpected pregnancy the chance to experience hope in a seemingly hopeless situation and make a life-giving decision for both herself and her child.

“I’m excited by this,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “I think it opens a whole new set of imaginative possibilities for America, a transformative ideal that again makes this moment of vulnerability when there is an unexpected pregnancy, our chance, our commitment as a community of care.”