By: Ellen Teague
Blessed Oscar Romero was adopted as Patron of the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales last weekend, at the annual weekend gathering of the NJPN.
On the Saturday evening a packed chapel at the Hayes Conference Centre in Derbyshire viewed a performance of ‘ROMERO - HEARTBEAT OF EL SALVADOR’, performed by Rise Theatre.
Produced in collaboration with the Archbishop Romero Trust, it looked at the life and legacy of a man who chose to challenge those in power and stand up for social justice. The play highlighted the date - 24 March 1980 - when Romero was shot dead by a single bullet while celebrating Mass at the chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence in San Salvador.
In 2017, the year that would have been Oscar Romero’s 100th birthday, the play suggested that we continue to draw much inspiration from his example. The talented three-person cast, with John Bosco playing Romero, often perform the play in schools. Through this, students have an opportunity to explore important themes relating to the world in which we live – solidarity with the poor, promoting social justice, standing up for what is right, actively living out of faith. The challenge was summed up in Blessed Oscar Romero's famous quote: “Aspire not to have more, but to be more.”
“Archbishop Romero’s life and martyrdom were a thread running through the whole Conference in this centenary year of his birth” said Julian Filochowski, Chair of the Archbishop Romero Trust. “But the climax came towards the end of the Conference Mass when Blessed Oscar Romero was acclaimed the first Patron of NJPN” he added.
At the conference Mass the congregation, led by celebrant Fr Martin Poulsom, said these words:
“Gathered as justice-seeking disciples we now acclaim Blessed Oscar Romero as Patron of the National Justice and Peace Network:
• Seeking courage to follow his example in service to the marginalised.
• Speaking out for those who have no voice.
• Exposing the abuse of power over those who are powerless
• Creating community with all who feel isolated.
• Naming the signs of God’s reign in a world which would remain silent.
• Witnessing to the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the people of our time.
• Being at one with the Church of God throughout the Earth in proclaiming Good News to the poor, freedom to those who are in chains, vision for those who cannot see, dignity for all the oppressed. Amen.
On Saturday, 12 August 2017 the 12.30pm Mass at St George's Cathedral, Southwark will celebrate the 100th birthday of Blessed Oscar Romero. The principal celebrant will be Archbishop Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark. The preacher will be Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia who is coming from Rome especially for the occasion. All are welcome.