March 2019 – Executive Director’s Reflections & News from El Salvador

From the Peace Mission’s Executive Director

By Mary K. Stevenson

Solidarity & Generosity

Our translation program with high schools began in 2004, when I, in my first official act as Executive Director stood in front of a closet full of suitcases and boxes of untranslated letters from the previous few years. They had renovated our building with very little notice and the letters had gotten trapped inside.

Renovation finished, new Executive Director, new crisis, first desperate phone call to Brother Tom Carroll, OFM, at Padua Franciscan High School. Before I finished my sentence he said, “Of course, we’d love to help you.” Tonya Barba, Strongsville High School, visited the office that same week. She had begun volunteer-translating at our office in high school and wondered, now that she was a Spanish teacher, did we need help? Can you say Holy Spirit? Thinking to play on the Catholic guilt I contacted campus ministry offices and Lisa Hardin at St. Edward called immediately, “I’m ex-Peace Corp, Honduras, this is fantastic.” And so it has gone: relentless generosity.

I’ve visited the students in their classrooms. The most surprising thing that I learned? “How many of you went off to 1st grade NOT knowing English?” At least five hands go up. Always. No matter what type of school. Language is a key to solidarity and understanding. Thanks is not a big-enough word, but thanks.

News from El Salvador

El Salvador Elects New President

On February 3rd Salvadorans elected a new president, Nayib Bukele.  He was elected with the biggest majority in recent history.  He broke the mold in several ways: he is young, 37; he is Muslim, descendant of a large Palestinian migration to Central America over the past century; he ran independent of the major parties.

He is a former mayor of the capital city, San Salvador where he was widely regarded to have done a good job.  Hopes are high that he can bring fresh energy, ideas, and ethics.  He will take office on June 1st for the single, 5-year term of El Salvador’s presidency.