Service Trip to El Salvador – A Friar Tells His Story

Octavio Duran, OFM Friar News

EDITOR’S NOTE: This report was filed by Octavio Duran, OFM, a native of El Salvador, who traveled to his home country in June to assist the sick.

NEW YORK — On June 15, I had the opportunity once again to accompany a medical delegation from the Church of the Resurrection in Ellicott City, Md., to El Salvador.

The purpose of the trip was to provide medical assistance to parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Peace, a Franciscan parish that serves more than 100,000.

Among the many hats I wore was that of chaplain, providing spiritual assistance for the doctors, nurses and technical team support that make up the delegation.

During our evening reflections after a long day of work, we sat down to process the daily experience from our own spiritual perspectives. For first-time travelers to a third-world country, the experience is eye opening. As we listened to each person’s story, I encouraged them to continue to tell the stories to friends in the United States.

I shared the story of a single mother of three, who I met last year and whose house was going to be repossessed because she could not pay her $60 mortgage. I had the opportunity to see her again this year as I was helping out a pharmacy. She is in a much better space now.

Some of the doctors made home visits to the sick. In some cases, the only thing they could do was to comfort them spiritually when medically, nothing could be done.

Between the main clinic and satellite clinics, more than 3,000 people were seen. They received free medicine donated by parishioners of the Church of the Resurrection.

Medical_DelegationSome of us also had a chance to visit the Divine Providence Hospital, a hospice for cancer patients, and the place where Archbishop Oscar Romero was killed.

We also visited The Catholic University, where Fr. Dean Brackley, SJ, a professor of theology at the Universidad Centro Americana (University of Central America-UCA) in El Salvador, gave us a tour of the Centro Pastoral Mons. Romero, located on the campus.

In the ‘70s and ’80s, Fr. Brackley worked in social ministry and education on Manhattan’s lower East Side and in the South Bronx. He taught at Fordham University in the Bronx from 1989 to 1990, before joining the staff of the Universidad Centro Americana in 1990. There, he succeeded one of the six Jesuits martyred in the UCA massacre the previous year.

To see photos of the medical delegation from Church of the Resurrection participating in various activities while in El Salvador, click on the photo of Octavio above.

— Br. Octavio is a photographer in the Province’s Communications Office.