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February 13, 2023, San Salvador, El Salvador – Adrian Dominican Sisters Leonor Esnard, OP, and Barbara Kelley, OP, were among 42 delegates – Catholic Sisters, graduate students, professionals, and activists – who took part in a November 29-December 12, 2022, delegation to Central America: a journey of discovery, solidarity, and advocacy.
The experience encompassed two separate delegations. Roses in December, the November 29-December 4, 2022, experience in El Salvador, was co-sponsored by the SHARE Foundation and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an organization of the elected leadership of the majority of congregations of U.S. Catholic Sisters.
Roses in December marked the 42nd anniversary of the killing of four U.S. Catholic missionaries who were in ministry in El Salvador. Members of the delegation spent much of their time learning about and honoring those four martyrs. In addition, they learned about Archbishop Oscar Romero, who stood up for human rights and was shot on March 24, 1980, and six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter, who were murdered during the night in November 1989 in their residence at the University of Central America.
True to the mission of the SHARE Foundation to focus on accompaniment, solidarity, and advocacy, the delegates also learned about the current political context in El Salvador – marked by increasing oppression and martial law – as well as the programs offered by SHARE’s local community partners to make a difference in the lives of the people. They also had the opportunity to hear the stories of the people and to show their support.
Immediately following this experience was the Vamos A La Milpah delegation to Honduras, December 5-12, 2022. Some participants stayed in the urban area of San Pedro Sula to learn about the circumstances of the people who live in cities and about the programs of the Sisters of Mercy that helped to address their difficulties. Others traveled about seven hours by bus to Bajo Aguan, an agricultural area, to meet people who continue to defend their water and land rights, often at the risk of their lives.
The experience of meeting the campesinos who were threatened by extractive industry corporations to give up their land became poignant to members of the delegation after their return to the United States with the news that several land rights activists in Honduras were killed.
Each day was filled with scheduled events and activities, but the delegates also had time to share their lives and their experiences with one another during long bus rides, meals and at the retreat center and hotels where they stayed.
Sister Leonor said that, while this was her first trip to Central America, “the lush green woods were a warm reminder of my previous trips to Havana” in her native Cuba. Speaking Spanish throughout the two-week experience “was another way for me to engage with people and reconnect with my native culture and language.”
Sister Leonor said she learned much from the experience. “My most compelling awareness was the solidarity shared by the people among themselves and with us,” she said. “We learned about human rights violations, extensive poverty, the abuse of women, the detention of youth, political torture, and death. Suffering was endured, but it was not the center of people’s lives. Suffering was integrated into transforming and motivating [the people of Central America] to create collaborative, vital organizations for advocacy rooted in faith.”
Sister Barbara spoke of her gratitude to the Congregation for the opportunity to participate in the delegation. “It was an eye-opening and a heart-opening experience as I learned about the difficulties that the people continue to face – and yet the welcome, the joy, and the friendship they shared with us,” she said. “The experience has changed me and has helped me to feel in my heart that the people in El Salvador and Honduras are my brothers and sisters – and that we’re all connected."
Sisters Leonor and Barbara will share their experience in greater detail during a live stream presentation, scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST Thursday, March 2, 2023.
View recordings of their presentation below, in English and Spanish.
English audio (presentation begins as 5:35):
Feature photo: Sisters Leonor Esnard, OP, left, and Barbara Kelley, OP, at a mural in El Salvador. The Sisters were members of the Roses in December delegation to El Salvador and Honduras.
March 22, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters issued the following statement, calling for an immediate end to the violence against Asian Americans and people from the Pacific Islands, and for the enactment of strong legislation against these hate crimes.
We join in the national call for an immediate end to acts of violence against our Asian-American and Pacific Island sisters and brothers. We were horrified by the mass murder in Atlanta last week of eight individuals – seven of them women, including six women of Asian descent. The killings evince racism and misogyny, pointing to a hate crime.
On the day of these mass murders, a report was issued that showed nearly 3,800 hate incidents have been reported against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders nationwide since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Most of these hateful acts were directed at Asian women who encountered spitting, name-calling, shunning, refusal of service, and physical assault as they went about their daily life and work.
No one should be subjected to such hateful and violent behavior. Each of us is made in the image of God and precious in God’s sight and none exempt from our nation’s promise of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
We call on Congress to enact strong hate-crime legislation to ensure those rights are protected by law. And we pray for a profound conversion of heart among us all that we may root out the racism that continues to cause such injury to our sisters and brothers of color and to erode the moral fabric of our nation.