Sisters to focus their El Salvador ministry on education and formation of youth
Photo Gallery: Return to La Papalota
As of January of 2015, Sisters of Providence were once again living in the house in La Papalota in the Bajo Lempa region of El Salvador, where they first arrived in 1995. The return to the La Papalota house will facilitate community life and the ministries of the sisters.
The decision of the Leadership Team of Mother Joseph Province to focus the Providence mission in El Salvador on the education and formation of youth and young adults is the result of a two-year discernment process. Bishop Orlando Cabrera, who initially welcomed the sisters to his diocese of Santiago de Maria in 1995, has given his support for this decision and welcomed the sisters’ renewed engagement in the Bajo Lempa region of El Salvador.
The La Papalota house was constructed by the Sisters of Providence on land owned by the La Maroma
Cooperative and has had sisters living in it and/or ministries located there since 1995. Provincial Superior Judith Desmarais, Sister Marilyn Charette, presently living and ministering in El Salvador, and Sister Kathryn Rutan, who will be returning to El Salvador in October, had the opportunity to meet with the executive group of the La Maroma Cooperative in May.
“Thank you to all of you who have prayed for the success of the Salvador mission,” Sister Judith wrote to the sisters. “We have been searching and discerning to have a focus and Providence has provided.”
In 1995, the long-running civil war in El Salvador that led to thousands of deaths and the destruction of the nation’s economy and infrastructure had ended. The Salvadoran people were struggling to rebuild their country and their lives. It was then, in 1995, that the Sisters of Providence received an invitation from the people and the pastoral team of a rural area in the department of Usulutan (the Bajo Lempa), which included the communities of La Papalota and Angela Montano. They responded by sending five sisters: Isabel Cid, Marilyn Charette, Frances Stacey, Kathryn Rutan and Ema Maureira. These sisters felt called to be a healing presence for a people ravaged by war and to be a Providence community among and with the Christian Base Communities in the Bajo Lempa.
In his homily at a Mass on the occasion of the sisters’ arrival in La Papalota, Bishop Rodrigo Orlando Cabrera presented them to the people, saying, “I give you the Sisters of Providence as a gift of God.”
Sisters’ mission in El Salvador has evolved over time
Over time, changes have occurred in the local church, in the pastoral team and in the Christian Base Communities. These changes required the sisters to review their presence in El Salvador and to determine the focus of their ministry there. Beginning in the mid-1990s, in response to a general lack of support for the education of girls, the sisters developed a scholarship fund to provide assistance to girls and young women for secondary education. Their needs were quite simple: money to purchase the required school uniform, bus fare to and from secondary schools in neighboring cities, and for lunch each day. Over the years the sisters expanded their involvement in this scholarship program to help boys and young men, and also students attending universities. Beginning in 2015, with the new mission focus, the sisters hope to further expand the scholarship program to include even more young Salvadorans.
Two of the original group of sisters who served in El Salvador – Sister Marilyn Charette and Sister Kathryn Rutan – and also Sister Marita Capili, will move into the La Papalota house in January. Sister Marcia Gatica, a member of this local community, is in San Salvador studying at the University of Central America. It is hoped that more sisters will join the local community and mission team in the near future.
A Providence Associate, Delmi Serrano Ayala, presently administers the scholarship program. Because the families in the Bajo Lempa region often cannot afford the necessary tuition, clothing and books, education often ends with grades 5 and 6. With the assistance of the scholarship program, many young people have completed their secondary education and some have been able to go on to a university education.
The cost of the education of these Salvadoran young people is very inexpensive by our standards. Junior high students need about $60 to start off the school year in January and then $10 a month for transportation to their local school. High school students need a start-up fund and then between $35 and $40 monthly, depending on the distance they live from their high school. A university scholarship provides students with between $50 and $150 monthly.
The scholarship program also includes a personal and social development and like skills formation process. Once a month, the youth gather for sessions and activities provided by Providence Associates Transito Ruano Castro, her husband Anibal Castro, and the other Providence Associates. In addition, each scholarship recipient participates in some kind of community outreach service which is integral to the formation program.
A little investment reaps huge benefits for these young people, including better jobs and better lives for themselves and their families. “At this time, given the crises in Central American countries including El Salvador, providing assistance to these young people is critical,” Sister Kathryn said. “Anything we can do to help them stay and succeed in school is essential for them, their families and their country. An opportunity for education provides an alternative to the gangs, to becoming a victim and/or a perpetrator of violence which is sometimes the only option which presents itself.”
Scholarship assistance means hope for tomorrow. The support provided by the Providence scholarship program, in solidarity with the many donors who support the program, makes it possible for these young people to realize their dream for a future in El Salvador. They hope to graduate, find jobs and to be able to support their families and other young people who, like them, are trying to achieve their dreams.
These are some of the young people the scholarship fund has helped:
- Carmen Gochez – graduated as a technician in nursing.
- Manuel Vijil – has earned a degree as an industrial engineer.
- Mario Wilfredo Juarez, PA – has earned a law degree.
- Mirna Elizabeth Martinez Barahon, PA – has earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing.
- Tulio Adrian Mancia Arriaga, PA – was the first university graduate from the scholarship program, earning a degree in computer science.
There are many more young people in the Bajo Lempa Region who are hoping you will continue your generosity until they, and their younger brothers and sisters, can take advantage of the education that means so much.
The Sisters of Providence share their hopes
How you can help support and strengthen this ministry?
Donations can be made by individuals or by groups. The gift is tax-deductible.Please make your check payable to the Sisters of Providence and note that your donor preference is for the ministry in El Salvador. Then send your gift to:
Sisters of Providence
Office of Development
1801 Lind Ave SW, #9016
Renton, WA 98057-9016
To make a donation by credit card, click here.
If you have questions, please call (425) 525-3019.
Thank you for helping these young people in El Salvador create a future full of hope!