SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Catholic Community of Langley Park, Md., or “La Comunidad Catolica de Langley Park,” and St. Camillus Church got together last week to celebrate “Noche de Martires” (Night of Martyrs), as they have for many years.
At the beginning, it was mostly about Archbishop Oscar Romero who was shot to death in El Salvador, while celebrating Mass during the civil war in 1980. He was a prophet and realized that he, and the Church, had to defend the poor and innocent from an unjust government which cared only about dollars. Romero protested against the massacre his people was ?suffering, and his people loved him for that. This was too much for the government, so he was killed.
With the arrival of more immigrants from other countries to Langley Park, “Noche Romero” began to change. Another bishop was added to the list of martyrs: Bishop Juan Gerardi, from Guatemala, the head of the Office of Human Rights there. Gerardi was beaten to death in 1998 after he documented thousands of cases of violations of human rights, likely authored by the Army of Guatemala.
Today, the celebration of “Noche de Martires” (there are many martyrs) is a multicultural event. Many of the people who attended are immigrants with fresh memories of the unjustice or violence of their own governments. They likely knew a martyr, or had one in their own family, or simply knew about one. Some others come because the event celebrates the memory of holy people who died announcing the Gospel. There are martyrs from all the Americas.
This year, our celebration of “Noche de Martires” on March 31 began with Mass at 6:30 p.m. at St. Camillus Church and was followed by a procession to the “Camillia Room” with candles and flowers in honor of the martyrs. Stories, prayer, food, a Power-point presentation, dances, musical groups, a play, and many pictures were part of the event.
It was great to see people from everywhere under the same roof united by the same spirit: honoring holy men and women who defended with their lives a better world for all. There were people from St. Camillus Church, Langley Park, St. Michael, St. Mark, and a wonderful group from Camden, N.J. Americans and Latinos shared together in a common legacy: the martyrs.
— Br. Erick is based at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md.