As we reflect on the annual observance of World Humanitarian Day and our call as Catholic health care ministry, there are two people who offer selfless examples of how one person can make a difference. Jean Donovan and Father Oscar Romero, within months of one another, lost their lives in El Salvador. Their deaths have had a great impact on not just Catholics, but on people of all faiths, because they lived in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable people of that country and died among them. Their words offer us much to reflect upon. …
"Several times I have decided to leave El Salvador. I almost could, except for the children, the poor, the bruised victims of this insanity. Who would care for them? Whose hearts could be so staunch as to favor the reasonable thing in a sea of their tears and loneliness? Not mine, dear friend, not mine."
Jean Donovan (David Scott, "December's Rose Blooms Despite the Cold," Posted 2009)
"When we struggle for human rights, for freedom, for dignity, when we feel that it is a ministry of the church to concern itself for those who are hungry, for those who have no schools, for those who are deprived, we are not departing from God's promise."
– Oscar Romero (The Violence of Love)
As modern day martyrs, these two individuals were not alone in their endeavor to continue in Jesus' mission. Every day humanitarian aid workers help millions of people around the world, regardless of who they are and where they are. World Humanitarian Day is a global celebration of people helping people. On this annual observance, we honor and remember all those who work to protect the vulnerable and underserved. In a world plagued with violence, combating injustices requires perpetual love for one's neighbor and complete faith in God. Humanitarians today step past the boundaries of cultures and imitate the love of God.
Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who continue to serve God's people even at the risk of their own lives:
Father, we thank you for your constant care and protection. Today, we ask a special blessing on those who answer the call to do your work in some of the most dangerous and violent situations. They risk their lives to give a voice to the vulnerable and to share compassionately in their suffering. Bless, protect, and strengthen all who serve in the struggle for human rights and let us be ever mindful to and stand in solidarity with their loving and steady examples.
Jean Donovan (April 10, 1953 – December 2, 1980) was an American lay missionary who was raped and murdered with three nuns in El Salvador by a military death squad while volunteering to do charity work during that country's civil war.
Oscar Romero (August 15,1917 – March 24, 1980) was a priest of the Catholic Church in El Salvador and became the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador. He was assassinated while celebrating Mass at a small chapel located in a hospital. In 1997 Pope John Paul II bestowed upon him the title Servant of God.