Bishop and Martyr (1917-1980)
+ Born in El Salvador in 1917, Oscar Romero was a carpenter’s apprentice during his youth before entering seminary and worked in a gold mine to help support his family. He was ordained a priest in Rome in 1942.
+ Romero spent several years serving as a parish priest and working with various apostolic groups, helped introduce Alcoholics Anonymous in El Salvador, and promoted devotion to Our Lady of Peace. He was eventually appointed rector of the seminary in San Salvador.
+ He was appointed auxiliary bishop of San Salvador in 1970 and, in 1974, he became bishop of Santiago de María, a poor, rural diocese.
+ In 1977, Romero was named archbishop of San Salvador. Initially a political conservative, the murder of a priest-friend inspired him to become an advocate for the poor and oppressed in El Salvador. He fought against the human rights violations of the Revolutionary Government Junta and he eventually became a target of the government.
+ Archbishop Romero was murdered while celebrating Mass in a hospital chapel on March 24, 1980. Hailed as a martyr and saint, he was canonized in 2018.
+ The United Nations General Assembly declared March 24 to be “International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims” in honor of the life and witness of Saint Oscar Romero.
For prayer and reflection
“You have heard in Christ’s Gospel that one must not love oneself so much as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us… whoever out of love for Christ gives themselves to the service of others will live.”—Saint Oscar Romero
On March 24 we also remember a group of Sisters of St. Elizabeth who were murdered when their convent in Nysa (Neisse Oberneuland), Poland, was invaded by Soviet soldiers in 1945. The four sisters honored today are Blessed Maria Sapientia Heymann, Blessed Maria Melusja Rybka, Blessed Maria Adelheidis Töpfer, and Blessed Maria Felicitas Ellmerer. They were beatified with other martyred members of their religious congregation (also victims of Communist regimes) in 2022.
God of power and mercy,
who have granted to Bishop Oscar Romero
to give his life
while celebrating the Eucharist,
in a supreme act of love for you,
grant us, we ask you,
that as you gave him the grace
to imitate Christ’s suffering by his death,
may we, by following in your martyr’s footsteps,
gain eternal life.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Unofficial translation of the Collect for the Commemoration of Blessed Oscar Romero approved for use in El Salvador)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.