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Going home after 20 years...

News of the Diocese

December 6, 2010

...Cleveland Missionary honored as 'Noble Friend of El Salvador'

One day in the port city of La Libertad, on the southern coast of El Salvador, a young boy who was preparing for his first Communion asked Msgr. Richard Antall if killing birds with a slingshot was a mortal sin.

The priest asked him what he did with the birds once he got them. "My momma cooks them and we eat them," the boy replied.

"The priest has a very special window to people's hearts," Msgr. Antall recalled recently. "A question like that is difficult to forget. There is still hunger in this country."

His 20 years as a missionary in El Salvador have given Msgr. Antall a unique window into the heart of a people that have lived through civil war, earthquakes, floods, and the daily struggles of too little food and too little hope for the future.

When he arrived in El Salvador in January 1986 he was a young priest, only four years out of the seminary. It was a dangerous time to be a Catholic missionary, with Church workers caught in the middle of the civil war then raging throughout the country.

Six years earlier, government-backed paramilitary forces had murdered a religious sister from Antall's home diocese of Cleveland, along with two other sisters and a lay missionary. Nine months before that, Archbishop Oscar Romero had been gunned down while celebrating Mass in the capital city of San Salvador.

Msgr. Antall said he felt the tensions of the war when he first arrived at Immaculate Conception parish in La Libertad. He was greatly affected too by the heat, the smells and the poverty of the port city. But, he added, "as I grew to know the people, I fell in love with the parish."

Read the complete 'Catholic News Agency' news release>


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