Remembering the sacrifice of the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador

By Rita Buettner  |  Photos by Marc Camille, Ed.D.

Twenty-five years ago, during the Salvadoran Civil War, armed men broke into the home of six Jesuit priests in San Salvador and murdered them and their housekeeper and her daughter.

To commemorate the Nov. 16 anniversary hundreds traveled to El Salvador this weekend to reflect and pray.

Marc Camille, Ed.D., vice president for enrollment management and communications, represented Loyola University Maryland in El Salvador and took these photos during his time there.

During a visit to a memorial of the martyrs, Camille visited the rose garden where the murdered Jesuits were found dead (upper left). On display at the memorial are relics of the martyrs, including the torn, stained clothing worn by the victims. Also on display is a cassock worn by Archbishop Oscar Romero (lower left), who was assassinated in a separate incident while offering Mass in an El Salvador hospital chapel on March 24, 1980.

Visitors to the site looked into the rose garden. A group prayer was offered in memory of the martyrs.

Hundreds of people attended the opening Mass for the weekend, held on the covered outdoor basketball courts at Universidad Centroamerica.

The Mass was presided over by the Metropolitan Archbishop of San Salvador Jose Luis Escobar Alas (wearing red in the photo above). The provincial of the Central American Jesuits, V. Rev. Ronald A. Mercier, S.J., concelebrated with the Archbishop and other priests and read a lengthy letter (as seen above) from the Superior General of the Jesuits, Rev. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J.

When Camille visited the university chapel, he saw these illustrations at the back of the chapel and up on the walls. They depict the assassinations in graphic detail. He noted that while they are out of sight lines of those attending Mass, they are directly within view of the Jesuits presiding over the Masses and seem to serve as a constant reminder of the sacrifice of their brother Jesuits.

At a press conference (upper left) the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) presidents and/or institutional lead representatives posed with AJCU President Rev. Mike Sheeran, S.J., Jesuit Commons President Rev. Charlie Currie, S.J., Congressman Jim McGovern from Massachusetts, and the Universidad Centroamerica Rector P. Andreu Oliva, S.J. Camille is third from left.

Banners marking the anniversary are on the lower left. On the lower right is the chapel where Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated while saying Mass.

The AJCU group visited Romero’s home and Camille noticed this portrait of the beloved archbishop (upper left), his blood-stained clothing, some of his archbishop’s attire, his simple living quarters, and his car.

On the eve of the anniversary of the martyrdom, Camille (left) lights candles before a candlelight vigil with Rev. Philip Boroughs, S.J., president of the College of the Holy Cross, and Rev. John Fitzgibbons, S.J., president of Regis University.

The Mass was held at UCA, with more than 100 Jesuits concelebrating the Mass.

During Sunday morning Mass at El Salvador’s National Cathedral, Camille took the photos below of Romero’s tomb. The Mass was held in the crypt under the National Cathedral because of the presence of Romero’s tomb.

Pictures of the Jesuit martyrs and candles were placed at the foot of Romero’s tomb.

Camille took these photos from the nave of the National Cathedral, noticing the ornate stained glass windows and beautiful religious artwork.

The AJCU group drove more than an hour into rural El Salvador to visit the site where four Maryknoll sisters were kidnapped and murdered by the El Salvador military in 1980. The chapel was built to memorialize them, and it now serves the tiny and very rural community in which it is located.

Learn more about the 25th anniversary of the sacrifice.

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