Central America pilgrimage 2005

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Heartland Old Catholic Church
25th Anniversary
of the Martyrdom of
Oscar A. Romero,
Metropolitan of El Salvador

March 2005 was the 25th Anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar A. Romero.  Archbishop Romero was an advocate for the poor, the oppressed, and the "disappeared" during the military dictatorship in El Salvador.  Monsignor Thomas attended the anniversary observances in El Salvador.  The observances included ceremonies, lectures, and tours of the capital city of San Salvador. 

Monsignor was an attendee of the Global Awareness Through Experience Program (GATE) based out of Lacrosse, Wisconsin and offered by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.  

The Sisters have developed several programs for adults desiring to personally experience the third world through travels in Central America. Participants live, eat and see the world from the eyes of indigenous peoples; their plight in recovering their dignity and economic growth. Visits with human rights organizations and religious working within the community help to expand the attendee's knowledge and experience at ground level. 

For experiences with the Global Awareness Through Experience Program (GATE), contact Sr. Maria Friedman at (608) 791-5283 or visit their website.

Right:  Monsignor donating 150 rosaries to the sister at the chapel of the Cancer Hospital in San Salvador. It was at the chapel altar (seen in the background) that Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. 

The rosaries had been blessed by Monsignor during Easter mass at the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Minnesota.

Above:  Monsignor Thomas donating rosaries to the Cancer Hospital in San Salvador.

Right:  Monsignor with Alicia Garcia, whose husband and two children were all lost to the civil war in El Salvador (1977 to 1992).

As death squads roamed the country during those years, many mothers came to Alicia with their own stories of disappeared family members.  The women checked jails, prisons, and graveyards, but could learn nothing of the whereabouts of their missing loved ones.  Archbishop Romero gathered these searching and determined women together to share their pain, continue searching for unmarked graves, and hold the government accountable for its human rights abuses.  This group of women became the organization COMADRES:  Committee of Mothers and Relatives of Political Prisoners, Disappeared and Assassinated of El Salvador (website).


Above:  Monsignor Thomas with Alicia Garcia, one of the founders of COMADRES.

The women succeeded in bringing international attention to the the situation in El Salvador.  They were so successful that the dictatorship saw them as a threat.  To break their will, the government tortured many of the mothers (including Alicia).  The women persisted despite the the brutality they suffered.

Now that the civil war in El Salvador has ended, financial, political, and moral support from abroad has all but disappeared, even though the COMADRES' work still continues.  Neither justice nor closure has come for the women of COMADRES.  

Monsignor Thomas has provided financial support to COMADRES.  Along with other benefactors, this financial support will enable the women of COMADRES to continue their work and to receive three years of group psychological counseling.  Please pray for the women of COMADRES and their loved ones.  You, too, can contribute financially to their work.


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The Reverend Monsignor Thomas Knopf-Bigelow
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Original text and certain graphics and photographs 2006 Thomas D. Knopf-Bigelow.  All rights reserved. Certain graphics 2003 Riverdeep Interactive Learning Limited, and its licensors. All rights reserved. Certain graphics 2003 Hemera Technologies, and its licensors. All rights reserved. Maps 2006 Microsoft Corporation.  All rights reserved.  Website designed and created by Will Beauchemin, Minneapolis, Minnesota.