Posts Tagged poverty

Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri: It’s Not Just for Lawyers

By Blake Heath, Chair of the Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri

Since September of 2011, I have had the privilege of serving as the chair for the newly formed Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri (YPB).  The goal of the YPB is to support the mission and programs of Legal Aid of Western Missouri through social events, fundraising initiatives, and community outreach efforts.  Many people are unfamiliar with the work that Legal Aid does or they assume that the organization is just a bunch of lawyers so there is no need or way for them to get involved.  The YPB hopes to spread the message of what Legal Aid does and to change the perception that the organization is just for lawyers.   Below is more information about the YPB and a brief description of some of the work we have done and will be doing in the future.

In December of 2010, the staff at Legal Aid put together a small focus group of various young professionals in the Kansas City area to explore ways Legal Aid could raise awareness about the mission of Legal Aid, recruit volunteers, and raise financial support.  Legal Aid recognized that older more established attorneys made up the majority of its volunteer and financial support base.  Legal Aid wanted to expand that base to younger individuals, and Legal Aid wanted to find support outside the legal profession.  After several more meetings, the YPB was officially formed to help Legal Aid recruit young professionals willing to further the mission of Legal Aid.

While Legal Aid’s primary purpose is to provide access to the legal system for clients who are normally shutout of the legal system, the work has a much deeper impact on our community.  For instance, Legal Aid is a leader in converting abandoned properties in the urban core of Kansas City into occupied, high quality housing.  Every year, their Economic Development team works with the City and other not-for-profit agencies to bring litigation that brings 80-100 abandoned properties up to code.  Legal Aid’s work in obtaining Protective Orders and divorces for hundreds of victims of domestic violence every year has been proven to be one of the most effective ways of stopping the cycle of violence.  And, every year they get hundreds of people who are permanently and totally disabled access to long-term, pro-active medical care by getting them onto Medicaid when their benefits have been wrongly denied or terminated.

To help support these programs and the mission of Legal Aid, the YPB has been active since its formation in September of 2011.  We have participated in the annual Party with a Purpose, held informational sessions where Legal Aid staff attorneys described their practice areas, assisted with the construction of a one-of-its-kind playground for children with disabilities, and participated in the Run for Justice 5K put on by the Lawyers Association of Kansas City.  In addition to these events, we will be sponsoring a charity bingo event this summer, we have tables for our members at the Legal Aid Justice for All luncheon, we will promote and participate in Legal Aid’s annual golf tournament, and in the fall we will travel to rural Lafayette County Missouri to volunteer with Legal Aid’s Migrant Farm Workers Project Monday Night Outreach.

If you would like to find out more about the YPB or any of our upcoming events, then please feel free to contact me at blake@boughlawfirm.com.  You can also find us on Facebook at Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri.

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A review of Sr. Maria Riley’s paper: “Can We Talk about Social Protection?”

A review of a paper by Sr. Maria Riley, O.P. of the Global Women’s Project of the Center of Concern, Washington, D.C.

Once again Sr. Maria Riley, O.P., from the Center of Concern’s Global Women’s Project brings a thoughtful, forceful paper for our reflection and response.  In “Can We Talk about Social Protection?” she discusses how to improve our current social safety net system so that a true and viable social protection system exists for all citizens.  This paper is a follow-up to last month’s “Shredding the Social Safety Net.”

In this paper, Sr. Maria points out that these are difficult times in the United States.  Vulnerable people in our society are plagued by unemployment, growing poverty – extreme poverty in some 1.4 million households – as well as hunger and food insecurity.  The society is also witnessing a growing crisis of care-giving across the generations from child care to chronically ill and disabled care to elder care and the growing inequality both in levels of income and in access to services.

At the same time it seems public concern and political commitment to care for those most in need is diminishing. The will to ease the suffering of the most vulnerable through social welfare that was ushered in from the Great Depression through the 1970s has gone sour. Social welfare has changed from being considered a social good to being attacked as a negative burden supporting the “lazy and undeserving.” The concept of entitlement as a right or need has shifted to being seen as a privilege that many do not merit. And the responsibility of government “to promote the general
welfare” as stated in the Constitution has been degraded to accusations of intrusion by “big government.”

Changes in attitude have many roots in our culture, from an extreme sense of individualism, to the ascent of economics as the prime political and social concern, to politics and ideology and to lack of information or misinformation.

To read Sr. Maria Riley’s entire paper, go here.

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The Affordable Care Act

March 27, 2012

By:  Jeanne Christensen, RSM

Editor of KC Olive Branch and Justice Coordinator, Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community

The Affordable Care Act was passed as a reform law that would require all insurance plans to cover preventive care at no cost.  This included free check-ups, free mammograms, immunizations and other basic services.  This is important because many women cannot afford these basic preventive health care services; and it saves lives and money –- for families, for businesses, for government, for everybody.  It is a lot cheaper to prevent an illness than to treat one.

It included, based on a recommendation from the experts at the Institute of Medicine, women’s preventive care should include coverage of contraceptive services such as birth control.  In addition to family planning, doctors often prescribe contraception as a way to reduce the risks of ovarian and other cancers, and treat a variety of different ailments.

Because some religious institutions, particularly those affiliated with the Catholic Church, have a religious objection to directly providing insurance that covers contraceptive services for their employees, the original bill exempted all churches from this requirement -– an exemption that eight states didn’t already have.

In February, 2012, compromise rule was enacted.  Under the compromise rule, women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services, no matter where they work.  So that core principle remains.  But if a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company -– not the hospital, not the charity -– will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles.

The result will be that religious organizations won’t have to pay for these services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly.  These employers will not have to pay for, or provide, contraceptive services.  But women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services their insurance companies pay for; and they’ll no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars a year that could go towards paying the rent or buying groceries.

Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women.   We live in a pluralistic society where we’re not going to agree on every single issue, or share every belief.  That doesn’t mean that we have to choose between individual liberty and basic fairness for all Americans.

To overturn the Affordable Care Act to rid it of the contraception mandate, for which there is now a workable compromise, will endanger thousands of Americans.  Those already covered under the Affordable Care Act will lose their coverage.  This includes children up to age 26 who are now able to remain on their parents’ insurance, children with pre-existing conditions, restrictions to participation in Medicaid programs and the like.  It would further penalize the most vulnerable among us.  Many not-for-profit organizations who serve the poor support the Affordable Care Act for this reason.  Is it not our moral responsibility to provide for the most vulnerable among us?

 

 

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Lobbying Congress for a Faithful Budget

Note:  I participated in these days and was energized by the significant number of young adults who participated.  It give me hope for the future!  Jeanne Christensen, RSM

At the end of March, over 700 persons from many religious denominations participated in the 2012 Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. Ecumenical Advocacy Days is a movement of the ecumenical Christian community, and its recognized partners and allies, to strengthen Christian voices and to mobilize for advocacy on a wide variety of U.S. domestic and international policy issues.

The highlight of the three-day gathering was the release of a Faithful Budget. This promotes comprehensive and compassionate budget principles that will “protect the common good, values each individual and his or her livelihood, and helps lift the burden on the poor, rather than increasing it while shielding the wealthiest from any additional sacrifice.”

On Monday, March 26, EAD participants delivered the Faithful Budget to their Senators and Members of Congress, and lobbied for restoring economic opportunity, ensuring adequate resources for shared priorities, prioritizing human security, meeting immediate needs, accepting intergenerational responsibility, environmental reform, access to health care, and the role of government.

Key talking points included:

  • Restoring economic opportunity: invest in programs that promote economic mobility and security, like high-quality, affordable education, sustainable jobs with living wages, policies that help families to build assets, and international aid programs that build economic security in the world’s most vulnerable places.
  • Ensuring adequate resources for shared priorities: reinstate a just tax system that calls for shared responsibility, among individuals and corporations, to ensure sufficient revenues to meet our needs and priorities.
  • Prioritizing true human security: make investments in growth, not destruction, in order to build meaningful security for individuals, families, and communities.
  • Meeting immediate need: protect the funding and structure of core safety-net programs while ensuring investments in critical human needs, social service, environmental protection, and humanitarian and poverty-focused international assistance programs.
  • Recognizing a robust role for government: we need the government’s continued partnership to combat poverty, reduce extreme inequality, restore economic opportunity for all, and rebuild a robust middle class. The faith community cannot meet the need alone.
  • Caring for God’s Creation sustainably and responsibly: make budget choices that protect air, water, and land – the entirety of Creation – that they might be preserved for future generations.

The Faithful Budget was spearheaded by a coalition of leading Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other faith-based organizations affiliated with many of the major religious denominational movements.  It is a continuation of the Faithful Budget Campaign, an effort launched in July by the religious community during the height of the congressional debt ceiling battle to lift up faithful voices on behalf of the nation’s most vulnerable in order to encourage the administration and Congress to maintain a robust commitment to domestic and international poverty assistance programs.

The full document as well as additional details about the Faithful Budget Campaign can be found at www.faithfulbudget.org.

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Happy Birthday ObamaCare!

By Mary Ellen Howard, RSM, Executive Director of the Cabrini Clinic, Detroit, MI.  This clinic is the oldest free clinic in the U.S.

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), landmark legislation designed to provide coverage for more than half of the nation’s 52 million uninsured citizens, and to address abuses in the insurance industry.  The law is being implemented gradually.  The uninsured poor have to wait until January 1, 2014 before Medicaid will be expanded.  Until then, they will continue to defer care, or to seek it at free clinics and hospital ERs.

Since 1995, I have served as Director of the oldest free medical clinic in the nation, St Frances Cabrini Clinic of Most Holy Trinity Church.  Free Clinics are nonprofit organizations that use volunteer health professionals to provide free or low cost care to uninsured individuals.  Cabrini Clinic was founded in 1950 to provide for the primary medical care needs of Detroit’s uninsured poor families.  We have a full-time staff of five, and over 100 volunteers.  I came to the clinic following a 20-year career in hospital administration, including as CEO of two Mercy Hospitals.

It didn’t take me long, after coming to Cabrini, to figure out that free clinics were not the answer to the problem of the millions without access to healthcare in the USA, including the 200,000 uninsured persons in Detroit.  This led me to get involved in local advocacy for access, and national advocacy for changes in health policy.

In 2009, I supported President Obama’s efforts for health reform, although the resulting ACA falls far short of the single payer expansion of Medicare that I had hoped for.  ACA maintains a market-based insurance system, and does not effectively address the escalating cost of health care in this country.  Still, it promises to cover 32 million of the 52 million uninsured which deserves our support.

On January 1, 2014, Medicaid eligibility will be expanded nationally to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) which in 2012 is $15,418 for an individual and $31,809 for a family of four.  In contrast, eligibility in Michigan is at only 35% of FPL or $3,910 for an individual and $8,068 for a family of four.  If your annual income is above that, you are too rich for Medicaid in Michigan.  ACA will also cover childless adults who formerly have been ineligible for Medicaid, regardless of poverty or severity of illness.

This year, I was awarded a fellowship from the McGregor Fund to study the effect of health reform on free clinics and their patients, and to help them through the transition.  Free clinics are in a key position to help their uninsured patients apply for the Medicaid expansion and find a new Patient-Centered Medical Home.  Given the demand for service and limited resources of many free clinics, long-range planning tends not to be a strong suit.  Through the fellowship, I hope to keep free clinics aware of developments, provide tools to assist them, and encourage them to chart their destiny in this time of change.

There are many unanswered questions about ACA.  With the Supreme Court challenge to the mandate, and with presidential candidates vowing to repeal the law, will it be fully enacted?  And if it is, where will the newly insured find care?  Will there be sufficient primary care providers who will accept Medicaid patients and Medicaid reimbursement rates?  Who will remain uninsured, and where will they find care?  Will there be a future role for free clinics in the health care safety net?

Three states have received a federal waiver to expand Medicaid coverage for their citizens in advance of ACA:  Wisconsin, Vermont, and Massachusetts.  I contacted free clinic leaders in these states to learn their experience and what can we expect when Medicaid is expanded in the rest of the nation.  They reported that no free clinics closed as a result of the expanded coverage.  In fact, volume of patients seeking care at the free clinics continued to grow.  Free clinics helped enroll their patients in these new programs, and helped them find a new Primary Care Provider (PCP).  The latter proved a challenge, due to a critical shortage of PCPs and their refusal to accept Medicaid.  As a result, several free clinics are now accepting Medicaid patients, but not billing Medicaid.  Because the population served has unstable income, they frequently go off and on Medicaid, and require navigation assistance.  Dental care and prescription assistance remain huge gaps in service which some free clinics are attempting to fill.

Who will remain uninsured under ACA?  It is estimated that only 40% of the uninsured will be eligible for the expanded coverage. The other 60% are undocumented immigrants and naturalized citizens in this country less than five years.  Some persons, otherwise eligible for Medicaid, will not be able to pull together the required documentation, e.g., a birth certificate.  Others are exempt from the mandate and will choose to remain uninsured.  And some will choose to pay a penalty rather than acquire insurance.  All of them will need care.

The future of ACA is uncertain, but one thing seems certain.  The need for free clinics will not soon disappear.  Communities will continue to need free clinics, and free clinics will continue to need the support of their communities.

Health reform is a work-in-progress.  Health care advocates must continue to work for a national healthcare system which has as its goal improved population health rather than profit.  The Affordable Care Act is a step in that direction, and we must ensure its continued implementation, while at the same time working towards “Health Care for All.”

*Cover photo attribution to LaDawna Howard, Creative Commons licensed content.

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High Interest Rates Drain Local Wealth

By:  Molly Fleming-Pierre

Communities Creating Opportunity Policy and Development Director

“On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act.   One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they journey on life’s highway.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Every day, thousands of families in Missouri struggle to stretch their wages across mounting bills.  Times are tough, within our faith communities we are finding too many families who lack the income to meet their basic needs.  In these difficult times, social service agencies, church emergency assistance funds, and food banks are all but tapped out.  As the financial woes for our working families mount, many Missourians turn to high interest credit, like payday and car title loans, to meet their short term credit needs.

Payday loans are small, short-term loans that are secured by a borrower’s personal check.  Payday loans typically cost $17 for every $100 borrowed and must be repaid in full before the borrower’s next payday—which translates to an annual percentage rate (APR) of 445% for a two-week loan, meaning that many borrowers pay more in fees than they actually borrow. For a “typical” payday loan in Missouri, a borrower completes eight back-to-back transactions before fully repaying an average loan of $300. This accrues $410 in interest fees.

These loans cause a predatory cycle of debt that traps our families into a spiral of recurring high interest fees. Exorbitant interest rates on payday loans ensnare our struggling families into spirals of debt so usurious that a $300 loan for the month’s groceries typically ends up costing our families a whopping $710.[1]  With these rates, the average borrower pays more in interest than the original loan amount.  The triple-digit interest rate is a product of the payday loan’s very unfair design: a loan that is due in full, plus interest and fees, in two short weeks and is secured by access to a family’s banking account.

These high cost loans don’t reflect the family values of our communities, and they dishonor the old adage that hard work and persistence create prosperity.  Even individuals who are able to repay their astronomical payday and car title loan debts are unable to build credit as these lenders refuse to report positively to credit agencies.  Small dollar, high interest borrowers are therefore trapped in a financial subclass that does not allow them to maintain income or build wealth.

There are now over one thousand payday lenders in Missouri, not to mention the hundreds of car title lenders and pawnshops.  That’s more than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined.  While these loans are marked as a short term fix for unexpected expenses, they tend to trap people in debt.  Because the loans (and fees) are due in full within two weeks to a month, the borrower is forced to come up with a sizeable amount of cash in a short time.

Especially in these difficult economic times, we know that Missouri families deserve better.  In order for lending to build assets in our communities, lending products must abide by a fair interest rate.  As an interfaith community, we are building a grassroots base to outlaw the triple digit interest rates that cause the debt rap.  Lowering the APR to a reasonable figure, like 36 percent APR can be accomplished by either lowering the fees charged, or by giving families more time to repay the loan.  In either case, it means a family will be given a fighting chance to succeed, rather than being ensnared in a product that by its very terms makes it almost certain the family will fail.

This month as we celebrate the life and the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, we are called to “transform the Jericho Road so that men and women and not constantly beaten and robbed along life’s highway.”  The Jericho Road in Missouri is broken.  Our rural, suburban, and city roads across the state run rampant with predatory lenders that charge triple digit interest, robbing our families of the wages they need to survive.  Faith community efforts are critical to freeing our neighbors from the payday debt trap.  Religious and community groups throughout the state are building a movement to Cap the Rate on these triple-digit interest products.  Visit www.cco.org or www.moresponsiblelending.org to learn how you can get involved.  Together, we can transform the Jericho Road.


[1] The average payday borrower in Missouri has 8 loans each year, most often taken out in back-to-back transactions. They therefore pay $48 in fees eight times, or $384, for what is essentially the original $290 line of credit. These data are from the Center for Responsible Lending.

 

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Pequeña Comunidad: The road to New Hope in El Salvador

Editor’s Note:  December 2 marked the 31st Anniversary of the 4 U.S. Churchwomen in El Salvador.  We remember these brave women who were brutally murdered in El Salvador in 1980.  In their honor, you are invited to reflect on what Pat Marrin has written.  May it speak to your heart.  It is reprinted from The SHARE Foundation: Building a New El Salvador Today Churchwomen Commemoration Guide – 2010

 

by Pat Marrin, National Catholic Worker Reporter and 2010 Romero Delegation to Nueva Esperanza, El Salvador Participant

The road to Nueva Esperanza is dusty and rutted, a bumpy ride for the old pickup truck Gigi Gruenke drove to San Carlos to get me. She knows the roads well from her six years in El Salvador, from 2001 to 2007, as a Maryknoll lay volunteer working with the sisters of the Pequeña Comunidad (“Little Community”) in the Baja Lempa region of the country.  She is back to visit and has offered to help me tell the story of the sisters as part of NCR’s coverage of El Salvador 30 years after the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated on March 24, 1980.

Nueva Esperanza (“New Hope”) has 140 families and is one of the last towns along the Lempa, the country’s main river, which winds snakelike from the Honduran border and empties into the estuaries along Pacific coast 10 miles south of here.  We negotiate around some cattle. A young girl and her brother hitched a ride in the back of the truck when we stopped at a market to pick up 42 eggs. A week of celebrating Monseñor Romero has kept the Pequeña Comunidad sisters busy feeding visitors.

I hold the four stacked cardboard trays tied with string. My arms flex to cushion the eggs at each bump. The children in back sway and hang onto the pipe frame above the truck bed. El Salvador is a place where metaphors spring to mind to help interpret fragile realities. I recall Scott Wright’s story about what it was like to be in the country during its brutal civil war. An activist from Washington, D.C., he had come down in the early 1980s to work in the refugee camps on the Honduran border, then slipped into the country to accompany the thousands of terrified people hiding out in the hills from the helicopter gunships and army patrols. During a stop to rest in the jungle, a woman handed him her baby to hold while she went off to do something. This was El Salvador. If you came here you were entrusted with something precious.

We drop off our riders and park the truck next to the sisters’ walled compound. The town exhibits a rustic simplicity that is also another name for poverty. Across El Salvador, from the urban sprawl in the capital to the tiny cantons in the mountains accessible only on foot, people are living on the edge. Even 18 years after the 1992 peace accords, political divisions and vast inequities still reflect a lack of resources throughout the country, but especially in areas held by the rebels during the war.  Malnutrition, no funds for schools or health clinics, and unemployment are forcing young people to head north or join the gangs that pervade even the rural areas.

Accompanying the people

This is where the sisters of the Pequeña Comunidad live and minister to a network of 47 surrounding communities. Their style is immersion with the people and their objective is empowerment. They catechize, do sacramental preparation, counsel ordinary ministry but with a bottom-up approach made popular 40 years earlier after the Second Vatican Council and the emergence of Christian base communities that emphasized the role of the laity in the church.  We enter the compound where Srs. Nohemy Ortíz, Hortencia Preza and Valentina Pérez join us in a large, covered courtyard with plastic chairs arranged in a circle, an all-purposespace for meetings, meals and prayer. At one end is a garden sculpture of a seated Romero.

Ortíz has been with the community for most of its 40 years. She says that it was “formed in the womb of the Christian base communities” where lay men and women were trained to conduct Bible study in the many outlying villages visited only rarely by priests. The grassroots vitality of the base community experience attracted young people to the church. Many young women who wanted to commit their lives to service but did not feel called to traditional convent life sought a new form of religious life among the poor. In 1970, the “Little Community” was formed. The sisters did not wear religious habits and did not seek formal status under church law.

Ortíz says that as many as 50 people, both men and women, were involved with the community, but that its vowed membership never exceeded 15. Today, there are a total of eight sisters: the three serving in the Baja Lempa area; two sisters, Ana Beatriz Landaverde and Maria Isabel Figueroa,  serving in San Salvador; and three others, Anna María Barriento, Yulma Bonilla and Carmen Elena Hernández, in Morazán. Two North Americans, St. Joseph Sr. Elena Jaramilla from Orange, California and Providence Sr. Frances Stacy from Spokane, Washington also work with the sisters.

“We never thought of ourselves as an institute or congregation,” Ortíz says. “We were committed to Jesus of Nazareth as his followers and disciples. Rather than take traditional vows to a superior or to a bishop, we take our vows before the people.”

Not having canonical status is outweighed, she says, by the freedom to go where the people need them, and to be prophetic in pursuing justice, even when this is difficult or controversial.

Preza tells of her path to the community; since childhood she had felt a desire to serve but her mother had discouraged her from considering the brown-habited nuns they saw in church. “I joined a choir and youth group where I met Nohemy and some of the other sisters. They didn’t wear habits and I wondered how they could be sisters,” she says. But the more she came to know them and their work with the people, the more she felt called to accompany them. She made her vows in 1989, while the war was still going on. She was 24 years old. “The church became real to me,” she says.

Pérez describes her childhood devotion to her family, but says that she knew she wanted to reach out to others and thought she needed to join the convent to do this. She met Preza, who was holding weekly meetings at her church. “I realized I could dedicate myself to God without going far away to do it. Nohemy kept asking me, ‘When do you want to join us? Come, the door is open.’ ”

Pérez read her vows publicly in 2006. She says that one of the things she values is the sisters’ freedom to reach out to all religious sects and faiths, as Romero had done.

Option for the poor

In its early years, the new community took inspiration from the 1968 Latin American bishops’ meeting in Medellín, Colombia, where the phrase “God’s option for the poor” was first uttered officially. A new spirit took hold in Latin America, challenging the traditional alignment of the church with wealth and power. In both urban and rural areas, Bible study led to analysis of the causes of poverty, unjust labor practices and land distribution, and the treatment of people by the police and military. Those in power, threatened by growing pressures for reform, accused some priests of being communists, including two Belgian priests who have worked closely with the Pequeña sisters, Frs. Pedro Declercq and Rogelio Ponseele. The struggle pitted conservative bishops tied to the wealthy and the military against the popular church led by Romero, who struggled unsuccessfully to hold both church and nation together toavert civil war, which broke out in 1981.

The image of the martyred Silvia Maribel Arriola is carried in this year’s commemoration march honoring El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero. The Pequeña sisters, vowed to accompany the people, were caught up in the conflict. One member, Sr. Silvia Maribel Arriola, who made her vows with the group in 1975, is revered as one of El Salvador’s most beloved martyrs. She came to the community because of her desire to serve Jesus in the poor and through her friendship with Ortíz. Arriola was Romero’s personal secretary from 1977 until his assassination in 1980. A nurse, she was with a group of 97 refugees killed by the army on Jan 17, 1981. She was 29 years old. The bodies were doused in gasoline and burned to destroy evidence of the civilian massacre, one of 200 documented from the war.

The sisters say they continue to look to Romero for inspiration. Preza and Pérez cite his defense of human rights as the greatest challenge. For Ortíz, Romero remains a model of prophet, teacher and pastor. “He gives us spiritual eyes to see so we can continue to build the reign of God,” she says.  “He is now a risen in the people.

“Everyone wants him to be canonized, but not just as an object of devotion, someone to light candles to. He lived his life in total faithfulness during a very crucial moment in El Salvador’s history. We will honor him by living as he did, saying what he said. And that is not so easy.”

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