The COAR (Community of Oscar Arnulfo Romero) Peace Mission and the Diocese of Cleveland Mission Office celebrated the martyrdom and legacy of St. Oscar Romero during a prayer service on March 24, the 43rd anniversary of his death. St. Joseph Parish in Strongsville hosted the event, which drew about 75 people.
Auxiliary Bishop Michael Woost presided at the service, telling the faithful that we need saints, men and women, to remind us of the importance of living a life of holiness. “Not a life of plastic holiness, but to be willing to embrace the radical change of the Gospel message, of Christ’s call in our lives,” he said, adding it is possible “to live the Gospel in a radical way for God’s cause and for the cause of God’s people.”
(See photo gallery above.)
Bishop Woost said St. Romero lived that message and challenged us to live it ourselves. “He inspired us – not just the people of El Salvador – but so many others to live the Gospel more generously, to recognize the Gospel in the poor and oppressed.
The event was a time of prayer and reflection, the bishop said, as well as a time to give praise for the saint who touched the lives of so many.
Father Steve Vellenga, director of the diocesan Mission Office and pastor of St. Mary Parish in Painesville, offered a reflection on St. Romero’s life, noting he was born Aug. 15, 1917 in San Miguel, El Salvador and ordained to the priesthood on April 4, 1942 in Rome. His episcopal ordination was June 21, 1970, and he was installed as archbishop of El Salvador on Feb. 22, 1977.
Father Vellenga said in the midst of a history of suffering, St. Romero lived and shared with the poor his “unshakable faith in the Lord of life, his hope of seeing in El Salvador the Christian reality of a new heaven and a new earth and a charity not simply announced, but embodied in the fate of the poor, with the people of El Salvador, from them and for the good of all.” St. Romero proclaimed the absolute human dignity that God has given to humanity he added.
“But his martyred death has forever sealed the meaning of his life and become good news for the men and women of our contemporary world. His death is the true symbol of many martyrs, especially of the multitude of anonymous martyrs of El Salvador and the entire world
St. Romero was shot and killed while celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980. After his canonization by Pope Francis in 2018, his feast day is celebrated on March 24. The annual prayer service takes place on or near his feast day.
In addition to remarks by Bishop Woost and Father Vellenga, the prayer service included photos of St. Romero and the four churchwomen who were murdered Dec. 2, 1980 in El Salvador: Ursuline Sister Dorothy and lay missionary Jean Donovan from the Diocese of Cleveland and Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, and pictures from the COAR Village in El Salvador and the diocesan mission in San Salvador.
Bishop Woost offered a blessing of groups, individuals and organizations active in El Salvador.
Also participating in or contributing to the prayer service were Father Bob Sanson, retired pastor of St Joseph Church; Father Joe Mamich, pastor of the host parish, St. Joseph, Strongsville; Deacon Mark Janezic, St. Rita Parish, Solon; Mary Stevenson, executive director, COAR Peace Mission; Susan Barnish, programs director, COAR Peace Mission; Chris Janeziec and Joe Raguso, COAR Peace Mission board members; John Hannon and Mary Ann Tinus, St. Rita Parish; John Novak and Dee Downey, St. Joseph Parish; Daphne Held, event chairperson and COAR Peace Mission board member; and members of the COAR Children’s Village in El Salvador. A freewill offering was accepted for the diocesan Mission Office and a social gathering followed the prayer service.
Click here to watch a recording of the prayer service.