In a Spanish Mass honoring St. Oscar Romero, the martyr was praised for his dedicated leadership and tremendous courage, his natural ability to empathize with and be the voice for the most poor and marginalized, and the great faith and conviction that guided those virtues.
The first annual Mass for St. Romero at St. Patrick’s Cathedral was celebrated on Palm Sunday, March 28. St. Romero, archbishop of San Salvador, was assassinated March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass at a hospital chapel in his native El Salvador. The cathedral Mass also honored the Martyrs of El Salvador, who will also be remembered in future annual St. Romero Masses at St. Patrick’s.
“Thank you for participating in the first annual Mass in honor of St. Oscar Romero and the Martyrs of El Salvador...Today is a special day,” said Cardinal Dolan in welcoming remarks at the afternoon liturgy.
“We remember and we honor their courage, their service and their passion for the people of God, the people of El Salvador. And also Happy Palm Sunday. Que viva El Salvador, y que viva San Oscar Romero y Los Mártires de El Salvador.”
The cardinal’s remarks were greeted with applause from the estimated 525 faithful in the pews.
Auxiliary Bishop Luis Romero Fernandez, M. Id., of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, served as principal celebrant and homilist. Bishop Fernandez, speaking about the significance of “the Passion of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings,” noted that St. Oscar Romero was known as a courageous leader amid the civil war and political and social unrest in his beloved El Salvador.
“And he was a great communicator,” the bishop said of the saint’s ability to effectively convey the message of social justice for the poor and marginalized. Bishop Fernandez also mentioned the 1989 biographical film, “Romero,” speaking highly of the movie and of the lead actor, Raul Julia, who portrayed Archbishop Romero.
The Salvadoran Civil War began in October 1979 and ended in January 1992. The UN reported more than 75,000 died and an unknown number disappeared.
The Martyrs of El Salvador are the six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter who were martyred at the University in El Salvador in 1989; Venerable Father Rutilio Grande, S.J., who was martyred in 1977; Venerable Father Cosme Spessotto, O.F.M., who was killed in 1980; and the four churchwomen (two Maryknoll nuns, an Ursuline nun and a lay missioner), who were killed in 1980.
The six Jesuit priests were Father Ignacio Ellacuría, Father Ignacio Martín-Baró, Father Amando López Quintana, Father Juan Ramón Moreno Pardo, Father Joaquin López y López and Father Segundo Montes Mozo. The housekeeper was Elba Ramos, and her teen daughter was Celina Ramos.
The four churchwomen were Maryknoll Sister Maura Clark, Maryknoll Sister Ita Ford, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel and lay missioner Jean Donovan of the Diocese of Cleveland.
Deacon Isaac Marquez, of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Mount Kisco, served as the Deacon of the Romero Mass. He was born and raised in Ciudad Barrios, El Salvador, which also was the hometown of St. Romero. “This is very much a privilege and a joy for me, to be here on this very special day,” Deacon Marquez told CNY.
By the entrance of the cathedral altar was a display with images of Romero and the Martyrs of El Salvador. The display included a St. Romero prayer card that contains a piece of a white cloth that had been touched to Romero’s vestments. There was also a white Communion bowl used in the May 2015 beatification ceremony in San Salvador. Romero was canonized in October 2018 in Rome.
The bowl and cloth piece were provided by Deacon Steven DeMartino, who also served in the Mass, and who attended the St. Romero beatification. Deacon DeMartino is archdiocesan director of priest wellness.
Pedro César Sánchez, consul general of El Salvador in New York and Pennsylvania, in closing remarks at the Mass, thanked the faithful for attending and everyone who helped make the Mass possible. The legacy of St. Oscar Romero is not just for Salvadorans to remember and honor, he said. “It is a universal testament.”
In an interview after Mass, Maria Ines Galvez, head of the Mass organizing committee, told CNY, “This is a very special event. And the work that Archbishop Romero did for justice and for the poor is something extremely important to recognize. This Mass is very emotional for me as a Salvadoran.” Ms. Galvez is a St. Patrick’s Cathedral parishioner.
March 24, the date of St. Romero’s assassination, is World Day of Truth Concerning Human Rights Violations, as proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2010 in recognition of Archbishop Romero’s role in defense of human rights.