Monday, December 12, 2005

Padre Jon Cortina

(Google Images)
A good man died today and now a country mourns his presence. Padre Jon Cortina has never left the Salvadoran people. Even with death threats and the assassination of his fellow Jesuits in 1989, Cortina continued living the Gospel of Jesus by accompanying the people of El Salvador through a war, disasters and picking up the pieces to begin a new life. Romero was killed along with the Maryknoll church women, and still he picked up his cross. Jon was a champion of human rights, when the US government broke every rule in the book. He accepted his calling with dignity and a kind heart, while impacting the souls of those he spent his full life with.
Even after the war, Cortina continued the investigation of human rights for the people of El Salvador. He formed an organization called Pro-Búsqueda, which helps families locate children who were disappeared or kidnaped during the war. It was one of the many ways Jon helped the Salvadoran society grieve and pick up the pieces.

Padre Cortina spent a great deal of his time in northern El Salvador, an area greatly affected by the war. There, communities are still isolated from US materialism, as they struggle to put food on their table in the mists of a condition of poverty that the government still neglects in some ways. His love for the people can be seen in their faces, as they talk about the amazing relationship he had with them.

A few days ago, I attended a mass at the local Jesuit university where Cortina taught. The mass was to celebrate his birthday and pray for his health. And the pews were packed...people flowing out of the chapel. Just the presence of so many people was a testament to his great love. But there was much more than that. The emotion in that room spoke volumes; as I looked around, I could see people taking deep breaths as they tried to emotionally grasp the reality that they would soon face. I sat next to one woman who cried through the whole mass, start to finish, and her body shook as I hugged her for the sign of peace. There were students, professors, community members, families helped by Pro-Búsqueda, and volunteers just like me, sharing at a table of a collective memory.

The Salvadoran people have faced death head on with the destruction of their past. A vivid memory paints a picture of a culture formed in the image of suffering, and as one of the spiritual healers has died, one must ask "how much sadness has to exist?"

Many will say that Padre Cortina is a prophet, others will declare him a saint...but such labels are not important in retrospect. The important this is, we was there through it was his presence...and something tells me, he will never leave.
For more info on Padre Jon check out this blog from a friend.

1 comment:

Ben Qufa said...

I saw your blog this a.m.while looking for a google on the Padre.
I sent an Email response to NPRs Morning Edition piece on UC Berkley's DNA work in Salvador to locate the Adopted Out from the War.
I asked them to do a Google on the Padre.
I was at the UNCA Vigil Nov 16th,1999...with my delegation from MIch & our sister Parish Maria Madre De los Probes. After receiving the Eucarist from this Tall Jesuit, I took his picture.

A few yrs later my wife called me to the TV. She was watching the Documentary "Finding Leticia". There was Pr Cortina explainind his Pro Busceda (sp?.)

I gave a copy to The CIS when I returned to Salvador to Obserrve the 2003 elections. When I returned for the 2004 elections I met his secretary at the CIS ..she told me that he'd just gone to Mexico. & I think then to UC at Berkley.

My heart is in El Salvador..such a poketo pais with so much suffering & loss. Pr Grande, Mons Romero & Pr Cortina will allways be in my heart.

I will be returning In Nov for a month,,but will live in Oaxaca till April ea yr.

Please contact NPR for your input...I'm sure that they could do a feature on Pr & his work..

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