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. Members of the Roses in December delegation at the altar where Archbishop Oscar Romero was slain while celebrating Mass in March 1980. 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. Members of the delegation carry signs depicting the four U.S. Church women – Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, and lay missionary Jean Donovan, along with a photo of Maryknoll Sister Karla Piette, who died during a flash flood in August 1980. 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. Members of the community of Chalatenango – where the four U.S. Church women were raped and murdered on December 2, 1980 – give the delegation a warm and enthusiastic welcome. 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. 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.