Romero House

Lula Lounge 2018

Romero House invites you to join us for our eleventh fundraising party and amazing Silent Auction at Lula Lounge!

Come dance the night away to the music of Asiko Afrobeat Ensemble and enjoy appetizers and a cash bar, all in benefit of Romero House, the refugees who live here, and the work that we do!

Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/162746671195442/

Link to buy tickets: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/romero-house/events/lulalounge/

 

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Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

This year’s Scotiabank Marathon will be held on Sunday, Oct. 22nd, 2017!

Romero House participates in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon as a featured charity for Romero House. We have a team of participants who run or walk in the 5K , Half-Marathon, or full Marathon to raise money to support refugees living in Romero House. The Waterfront marathon is one of our most important fundraisers and we would love to see as many people as possible out running, walking, or helping out at the water station! We are currently looking for donations and anyone to come out and cheer on our runners and walkers!

If you would like to make a donation please follow this link:

https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/TeamFundraisingPage.aspx?EventID=214580&LangPref=en-CA&TeamID=770285#&panel1-2

Donations can be made directly to the Romero House team or to a specific runner or walker on the team. If you have any question please call our Romero House phone line at 416-763-1303, or e-mail to lucas@romerohouse.org

Thank you!

The end

Today Friday October 19th, our pilgrimage has come to and end in Rome. All the memories will change for ever who we are. Let’s hope to go on a pilgrimage by ourselves when we are in Canada. Let’s step out from our comfort to challenge our spirit to reach out and in the words of Saint Oscar Romero “Aim not to have more, but to be more”.

The End

text and video by @alva43jhon, Jhon Alva

Meeting with UNHCR

On Tuesday October 16th, we had a meeting at the UNHCR in Rome. We met with Mr. Felipe Camargo, Regional Representative for South Europe, Ana Vega, and Constanza Pascuali from the Community-Based Protection Team.

Mr. Camaro, kindly, dedicated time to welcome us, and to provide us with a brief of the situation of sea arrivals mainly from Africa. His team help us understand better, the job of UNHCR in three main areas: Reception, Determination, and Integration of Asylum Seekers, Refugees, and Stateless persons. He talked about some shocking numbers. There has been as many as 90,295 sea arrivals from Jan, 2018 up until Oct 16, 2018. The main three point of entry are Spain (48,7060), Greece (24,999) and Italy (21,613).This is just over 50% of the total in 2017 (172,301). T

he conditions for migrants, who arrive in Italy, are not the best, and tend to become critical. The Italian infrastructure and system to deal with these number of arrivals is not prepared and efficient. The political environment, and the possibility of change, for the worst, of the immigration law in regards with Refugee Claimants, Asylum Seekers and Stateless persons do not paint a pretty picture for the desperate situation of people arriving mainly from African countries.

This situation has made us appreciate more the way to process refugee and asylum claims in Canada. Even if is not perfect, we are blessed to have the Refugee, and Asylum Seeker system that we have.

Text and images by alva43jhon, Jhon Alva 

Romero House Candle

After our audience with Pope Francis, we set up on a mission to find a place to leave the Romero House Candle. It felt as a very important part of our pilgrimage to Rome.

Diana Ballesteros and others had visited a beautiful church that left a profound impact in them, and she suggested the place. We found it, and it was the Church of the Holy Spirit in Sassia ‘Chiesa S. Spirits in Sassia’.

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It felt great, it was as leaving a meaningful part of the RH spirit in Rome. At the end, we saw how the cancel lit up the spirit of those who kneel down to elevate their prayers in front of it.

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Pope Francis

Monday October 15th

We attended a mass led by Cardinal Chavez from el Salvador .

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After, Pope Francis came into the Pablo VI auditorium for a brief audience, and imposed his blessing on Salvadorian and Latin American pilgrims. We felt truly blessed to be part of this audience. It was a more intimate and warm contact with the Pope.

Even with his security measures and bodyguards, Pope Francis walked among the people and greeted children, abuelitas, and pilgrims in general. He said that “being a martyr is being a witness of injustice, speaking up about it, and dying in the process”, and in that order there are many martyrs around us. At the end he joked asking the audience for if “payment had been render by each one of us to enter the audience” to what everyone said No; Pope Francis then asked every pilgrim to pray for him as a form of payment.

Such a special moment for everyone there.

by jhonAlva @alva43jhon

Learning to Believe in Miracles

A reflection from Jenn McIntyre, Romero House Director and Pilgrim:

Our pilgrimage has come to a close–though in many ways it feels like it is just a beginning.

Over the past ten days, I have learned to believe in miracles. Our pilgrimage started with a miracle–that Winnie, Maria Jose, Alexander and Diana were able to travel with us and enter Italy with their travel documents. As an eternal realist, I was prepared for the worst. As one of the pilgrims said, I had a plan A, B, C and D. Every part of me thought that we would need to pull one of those plans out. But my traveling companions had faith, deep faith, that all would be okay. They prayed the whole night on the plane and through the airport–Winnie even tucked the prayer card of Oscar Romero into her travel document when she handed it to the immigration officer. And through the gates we passed, no questions asked.

We saw miracles, gifts, in the people people that we met over the course of the last week–people who were blessed and sent by their communities from all over El Salvador and the world to be present for this event. Prior to leaving Canada, we really planned so little of our pilgrimage. We had a sense that we shouldn’t plan too much, that we would meet the right people and be directed to the right places once we arrived. That is just what happened. On day one we met three inspiring young people from San Salvador who are part of a youth moment in the Catholic church–William, Marvin and Cecilia. And then we proceeded to meet them again and again during very significant moments. Out of the 10,000 pilgrims to Oscar Romero, we were brought together in an intimate way with just a few. And there were more than just those three. We also met a young woman named Carolina, a Salvadoran/Spanish family with a mischievous little girl names Violeta and our friend Eusebio Garcia who works with the Quaker Refugee Committee in Toronto. We kept running into the same people. It was really a feeling that we were being brought together by the spirit of Oscar Romero to share this experience in a significant way.

There were two more miracles from Saint Romero while we were here, these ones experienced by members of the Romero House community in Toronto. One was the positive decision in the refugee case of a family that has waited far too long to finish their hearing process. They have finally found the peace of knowing they can build a new life in Canada. The second was that the deportation of a young woman that was to take place tomorrow was stopped. Our pilgrim group prayed to Saint Romero for her all week, leaving prayers in churches all over Rome (see the above photo). Our pilgrimage candle, which was painted by a teenager who lives at Romero House, was blessed by Pope Francis at the audience on Monday. We left the candle in a church near the site of the canonization as an offering for this young woman. It was placed in front of a fresco of Jesus with the words “Trust in Christ” below. When I placed the candle on the altar, I did it with more hope than I knew I had–I was starting to believe that a miracle might be possible. And it was. When we heard the news last night that the deportation was stopped, our whole group hugged one another and cried. Though few of them had met the person involved, we all felt that she was with us on this journey. And we were all being held in the hands of God and of Saint Oscar Romero.

The faith of my fellow pilgrims has given me strength to believe in miracles. They are people who have overcome so much in their lives–who have known a suffering that I do not. And they have seen the hand of God at work in their lives and in the world. I am learning to trust in that, to believe in the “impossible” and to let go of the need for a plan A, B, C or D.

We would like to thank all of you for joining us on this journey. And we would like to thank you for your support, prayers and faith as we have sought to hear what Saint Oscar Romero is saying to our community. We look forward to continuing to share this experience with the whole Romero House community and to celebrating that the world is taking note of the life of our beloved Monsignor Oscar Romero.

Grace and peace to you all.

 

Forgiveness as the path to reconciliation and peace

Reflection by Romero House pilgrim Alexander Duarte:
This pilgrimage has been a source of experiences and miracles for everyone and especially for María José and for me. We have shared a lot of time with people who have suffered the consequences of a war between brothers, a war that reached the Church to the point where El Salvador has seen its priests die.
Salvadorans have had to live with this pain for many years and we have seen hundreds of them in Rome as pilgrims in honor of Monsignor Óscar Romero; all happy, singing and talking about love and reconciliation, looking for ways to heal their wounds.
I always thought that it is difficult to remove resentments from the heart when those in power persecute, imprison, murder and force thousands of people into exile, to separate from their families and friends and live far away in different countries of the world.
The fear, the restlessness and the frustration of starting a whole new life takes you over and you think you can never forgive. However, Salvadorans are making a great effort to take the path of reconciliation; otherwise it would be impossible to get a country out of the pit of hate and misery.
There is no country that can prosper that way. I saw them and reflected. I thought a lot about the situation of millions of immigrants like me and I understood the message: we can seek and do justice but we must be able to forgive and live without resentment, spread the message of God, of Monsignor Romero and of all those people, like the Salvadorans, who have understood that the path of love is the way to live in peace.
On the other hand, today we share experiences with the managers in Rome of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They offered us a lot of information about refugees from Guinea, Syrian, Mali, Iraq, Morocco, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Eritrea and others, who come to Italy in claiming refuge and protection. They live difficult situations.
I just want to pray for them, I just want to ask, implore, and even order, as Monsignor Romero did, to stop the repression, to cease persecution, for the whole world to unite for freedom and a life of peace for all the people of the world.
It may seem like a utopia, but it will always be a utopia if those who have power in free nations do nothing for the oppressed peoples. My God, my lord, I beg you for a world of unity, peace and love. The world needs more actions for the poor and oppressed and fewer words and meetings. This is my reflection today.

San Romero de las Americas

Reflection by Romero House pilgrim María José (Spanish to follow):
I believe in the existence of extraordinary people, people who have a capacity to give up their lives for other people if necessary, people who are above average and who with their actions, their will, perseverance and love can change the world. Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero was an exceptional being, I see him in the love he has sown in people.
Being here in the Vatican with pilgrims from El Salvador, and from so many countries, that believe and venerate Monsignor Romero is a unique and special feeling.
Today we attend a Mass of Thanksgiving to celebrate the canonization of Archbishop Romero and then an audience with Pope Francis, a very special moment for the spirits of all who were there.
For many, Monsignor Romero’s is a beacon of hope as a bearer of the truth, someone who struggled for human rights and had a commitment to the poor.
Everyone who I talk to tells me stories about a man and am affectionate priest, loving and committed to the church, a special being now elevated above altars in the church.
Many tell me their personal stories and the miracles that they attribute to the Saint of the Americas. Luisa came from San Salvador with her two-year-old son to be present for the canonization as a sign of her faith because of the favor received from San Romero, her son was born with a heart condition that would only allow him to live a few months, and today he is still healthy .
We identify with the pilgrims that we have met along the way, with the joy and love they carry that after almost 40 years Monsignor has been canonized. They tell me that for them he was already a Saint, and now they hope that his example will multiply in everyone’s voices and hearts.
In each of his homilies, Monsignor Romero proclaimed words of hope that still hold true today.
One of them was: “If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the Salvadoran people.” Words that are being fulfilled today, but not only in El Salvador but in thousands of hearts that are scattered around the world and that have been sown with ideas and the love of the Saint of the Americas, Monsignor Romero, his words are coming true. He is risen and he is interceding for many people. We hope that his dream of justice and freedom will also reach the men and people who today suffer from poverty, injustices , violence and war.
Spanish:

Creo  en la existencia de gente extraordinaria, gente que tiene una capacidad de dar a otros hasta la vida si es necesario, gente que está por encima del promedio y que con sus acciones, su voluntad, perseverancia y amor cambian el mundo. Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero fue un ser excepcional, lo veo en el amor que ha sembrado en la gente.

Estar aquí en El Vaticano con peregrinos de El Salvador y de tantos países que creen y veneran a Monseñor Romero es un sentimiento único y especial.

Hoy asistimos a una misa de Acción de Gracias para  festejar la canonización de monseñor Romero y luego a una  audiencia con el Papa Francisco, un momento muy especial por la espiritualidad de todos los que allí estábamos.

Para muchos Monseñor Romero es estandarte de la verdad, la lucha por los derechos humanos y del compromiso con los pobres.

Con todos lo que hablo me  cuentan anécdotas de un hombre y sacerdote cercano, amoroso y comprometido con la iglesia, un ser especial hoy elevado los altares.

Muchos me cuentan sus historias personales y los milagros que le atribuyen al Santo de América en su vida. Luisa por ejemplo vino desde San Salvador con su hijo de dos años para estar presente en la canonización como muestra de su fe por el favor recibido de San Romero, su hijo nació con una condición cardíaca que sólo le permitiría vivir pocos meses,  hoy está sano.

Nos sentimos identificados con los peregrinos que hemos conseguido en este camino, con la alegría y el amor de muchos porque luego de casi 40 años Monseñor ha sido elevado a los altares, aunque me advierte que para ellos ya era un Santo, esperan que su ejemplo se multiplique en la voz y el corazón de todos.

En cada una de sus homilías, Monseñor Romero pronunció frases que a la fecha siguen vigentes.

Una de ellas fue: “Si me matan, resucitaré en el pueblo salvadoreño”. Palabras que hoy se están cumpliendo, pero no solo en El Salvador sino en miles de corazones que están regados por el mundo y que han sido sembrados con las ideas y el amor de el Santo de América, Monseñor Romero, sus palabras  se están haciendo realidad ha resucitado y él está intercediendo por muchas personas, ojalá su sueño de justicia y libertad llegue también a los hombres y pueblos que hoy sufren por la pobreza, las injusticias, la violencia y la guerra.

What is it a Pilgrimage?

by Jhon Alvarez

Sunday October 14th was our sixth day of pilgrimage in Rome, perhaps one of the most important due to the canonization ceremony. Many of us are getting to the peak of putting our bodies to the extreme demanding physical capacity. I feel exhausted, however, my spirit is getting stronger. Stronger in the sense that I’ve come to understanding better what a pilgrimage is. As humans we like to accommodate our lives to a level of comfort from which we don’t want to get out. In this level we start taking most of the fundamental gifts of life for granted.  The luxury of having all we need at hand; the comfort of our own beds and bathrooms, the security of being and feeling as local in our towns and knowing the language to communicate with others, the selfishness of having everything for us without having to share it with anyone else, the gift of having our relatives close to us every day without thinking that we might have to separate from them temporarily or perhaps forever. As time goes, we become ungrateful and start to behave like a spoiled kid who has everything in life, yet does not appreciate it. I’ve come to understand that becoming a PILGRIM is stepping out of that comfort zone into the unknown. Leaving everything to try to find ourselves within our souls, to feel vulnerable, to feel physically drained, exhausted, to feel ignorant without being able to communicate the most basic needs.

Two weeks before coming to Rome, I went backpacking in Colombia from Bogotá to Mocoa – Putumayo Colombia. I went searching into my soul, to find a part of me that I felt it was lost. I lived for a few days in the Amazon forest with Inga Indigenous communities. I disconnected from the “Artificial Matrix” we live connected in our cities. I lived, for a few days, stepping bare feet into jungle, taking my daily shower into the rivers of that region, living as one with Mother Nature. Sometimes, cleaning my body daily and burying it my dirt. It was a powerful experience. I now understand that it was a pilgrimage as well, a pilgrimage into to the guts of Mother Nature. Without knowing, that experience prepared me better to come to Rome. Here I can see the opposite of the wonders of Mother Nature. I’ve come to see the creation of human beings, the, sometimes, excesses of the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church. The contrast between humility and excess. I wonder what Oscar Romero would think of all this process where money, power and politics play a big role, leaving out the unprivileged?

Please, do not get me wrong. I believe the canonization of Monsignor Oscar Romero it is of paramount important for the simple people of El Salvador, Latin America and all the organizations like Romero House, which walk the talk with the values and beliefs that he left us through his homilies. It is important in the sense that there is hope that this canonization reach out simple Salvadorians who are still being neglected and abused by the corruption of their government.  And for the many organizations like Romero House, that day by day try to fight for social justice, helping refugees and the unprivileged to carry their burden. Now there is a more powerful reason to keep helping each other, and to strive by the values that Saint Oscar Romero taught us through his work, homilies and life.

This pilgrimage has help me to appreciate the simple, yet great gifts that I have in life. It has help me to step out of my comfort zone, to look within myself, to look myself into a mirror that shows me my gifts and shortcomings, even if I do not like them. Along this process, I have grown in spirit.

Another important lesson, today we received sad news about our great friend Lauretta Santarossa. Her father died during the ceremony of canonization. This was perhaps the most drastic reminder that life is fragile and our relatives, or perhaps we, can leave this world suddenly. With no previous notice, not being able to say goodbye to those whom we love. With no possibility to finish our plans or leave in order our lives, without unfinished business. Without the possibility to say to our kids, parents or spouses “I love you”. For this, I just cried. I thought about my mother, my kids, my wife, and how sometimes we waste time arguing and being rude about trivial stuff. I will try to say “I Love you” to my love ones every day, and to people I know, just in case I will not see them or they will not see me anymore for some reason. May our friend Lauretta goes through this process of grieving accompanied by relatives and friends, here, there is friend accompanying you in spirit. “Buen Viento y Buena Mar Lauretta, I LOVE YOU.

Lauretta

Preparation for the Canonization

Saturday midnight, around this table we make our daily reflections.

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We will take the RH community prayers and the RH candle to the big ceremony tomorow.

 

Tonight ( October 13th) we will sleep just a few hours. We will leave at 4:30 am. We hope to secure a good spot, since there is already a line up to enter the Saint Peter’s Square for the canonization of Monsignor Oscar Romero.

Oscar Romero musical

On Thursday, we attended to an Oscar Romero musical organized by the Salvadorian embassy in Rome.

There were a many artists and dancers, among them, Ines de Viaud, a Salvadorian singer who has composed many of her songs inspired in the signing of the peace process in El Salvador, and the work of Monsignor Oscar Romero as well.

Another artist was Luis Alfredo Diaz a Spanish musician who uses Oscar Romero homilies and adds music to them. He’s released a CD with his work hoping to inspire and educate new generation of Salvadorians, growing up abroad, to learn about their martyr and Saint, Oscar Romero.

Musical teaser

There was a group of Italian-Latin American girls, including one from Korea, seven girls singin in Italian and Spanish.

The common message was in line with Monsignor Romero reflections, respect for life, social justice, reconciliation and hope for a peaceful relation among human beings. Monsignor Oscar Romero legacy is spreading a cross nations, cultures, and continents.

-Text and pictures by @alva43jhon-