The Blueprint

El Salvador: Students put a face on the country for Archbishop

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Archbishop Joseph Tobin is a busy man. Knowing that the archbishop had a genuine interest in her students’ recent mission trips to El Salvador and that even a busy person needs to eat, Bishop Chatard Director of Campus Ministry Carol Wagner asked if she and her students could treat the archbishop to lunch and spend that time talking.

What followed was an hour of friendly, inspirational conversation that left six high school students feeling that their actions truly do make a difference in our world.

2016-oct-archbishopmealBishop Chatard students Hannah Pletcher, Clare McHugh, Grace Lundy, Cayley Beals, Ethan Manuszak and Jillian Fouse, accompanied by Mrs. Wagner, met with Archbishop Joseph Tobin on Aug. 31 at the Catholic Center.  They talked about what we can learn from other cultures and about witnessing how faith in the face of adversity can inspire and move people.

“You put a face on a country that is well-known but not always well-understood,” Archbishop Tobin told the students after listening to their experiences. So many times when people visit other lands, he continued, they see what is missing. He congratulated the students on their recognition of what was there – the beauty of El Salvador and its people.

The students shared that while language was an obstacle on the trip, it was not a barrier. All agreed that “we did not have to talk to get to know the Tamarindos.” (The Tamarindos was their host youth group in the country, named for the resilient Tamarind tree that stayed strong and rose from the ashes after the Salvadorian civil war in the 1980s and early 1990s).

“You don’t have to talk in the same language when you can just be together and have fun and appreciate each other,” Cayley said. “It is more about a High Five or a hug and a laugh.”

Clare explained that the groups communicated through experiences. “Every time we went up a mountain or saw a waterfall, they felt our joy in that. They could see how much we appreciate what they have.”

Mrs. Wagner explained that the bi-annual trip is as much an immersion trip as it is a mission trip. “ Time slows down there. When we go we don’t build houses, we build community with these people.”

Archbishop Tobin discussed with the students the impact the trip had on their view of world events and issues, and about how it will impact them in the future. “With a trip like this, you humanize people – not only you for them, but them for you,” he said. “I think that when we see people’s faces, we are going to be less eager to do terrible things to each other.”

The students learned many lessons: celebrate life; people are more important than things; and love has no borders. They left their new friends knowing, Grace added, “The Tamarindos are present at Bishop Chatard and we are present in El Salvador.”