Our El Salvador mission ministry at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas, began in 1998. Paul Darilek, a parish member, was a volunteer with CEBES, the predecessor of FUNDAHMER. He encouraged us to enter into a sister community relationship with a community in El Salvador. He gave us several choices, but the faith community of Agua Blanca, Morazan quickly captivated our interest.
Agua Blanca consists of four communities of subsistence farmers in a mountainous area. Agua Blanca was the home of Father Octavio Ortiz. Father Octavio was martyred before the civil war. Agua Blanca was in the conflictive zone during their civil war that ended in 1992.
The purpose of our sister community relationship is partly to show that there were people in America that cared about them, so they could hope for a better life. At first we just exchanged letters, to develop friendship and solidarity and to increase our faith and understanding. Then when hurricane Mitch destroyed their crops, we responded to their needs for funds for seed and fertilizer to replant.
Eight members of our ministry first visited our sister community in the summer of 2000. This first-hand experience opened our hearts to the poor people of El Salvador.
Agua Blanca did not have a church building, so we committed to raise the funds to help build a chapel for worship, prayer, and ministry. Through the grace of God, and through the generosity of some anonymous members of our parish, the funds for the chapel were raised.
FUNDAHMER coordinated the chapel project with Don Alejandro Ortiz, the father of Octavio, donating the land, and the people of Agua Blanca providing the labor. In about six months, the chapel was built and it was dedicated to the memory of Father Octavio Ortiz on January 18, 2002.
We also help on various projects that have a long-term benefit or enable the people of Agua Blanca to help themselves. Some programs have included a micro-lending fund, equipment for a carpenter’s cooperative, a training program for health providers, tile roofs for some of the homes, Flor de Maiz artesenia cooperative, and the corn silo program. Our delegations have visited Agua Blanca many times to form friendships, and to interact with our friends with medical, spiritual, and children’s activities and staying with the people.
But our major program is to provide scholarships for students that could not afford to attend school otherwise. Since 2003, this has benefitted 12 to 18 students each year, and since 2006, a small group has been going to the high school graduations.
We have all been blessed by this opportunity to be associated with the faithful people of Agua Blanca.
Rev. Msgr. Patrick Cronin
Prince of Peace El Salvador Mission Ministry
7893 N. Grissom Road
San Antonio, TX 78251