U.S. Deacons Travel to El Salvador with Maryknoll

Bill and JT on a parish home visit
by Deacon Bill Batstone 
Bill is a deacon of the Seattle Archdiocese and member of the Maryknoll Deacon Mission Partners )

In July of this year, my wife JT and I participated in a one week mission immersion to El Salvador with the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers as part of their Deacon Mission Partners Program. I have made two prior trips with Maryknoll to El Salvador, but being able to make this trip with my wife was special because we were able to share this experience of the holy together as a couple.

The first part of the trip was a pilgrimage focused on visiting the sites where the Catholic martyrs died. These places are truly holy ground. We celebrated Mass in the chapel where Archbishop Romero was assassinated and at the location where the four church women were murdered. JT was the lector at both of these Masses, which was a great honor for her. We also visited the University of Central America (UCA) where the six Jesuit priests were executed and prayed at their tombs. We also spent time at the wall commemorating the 75,000 people who died or were disappeared during the violent civil war. We were also blessed to have talks by people who knew and worked with Archbishop Romero, the church women and the Jesuits. The Gospel witness of love and peace that these people gave in a time of such violence and death remains a shining example to all of us.

JT at wall commemorating the 75,000 killed during the war
The second part of the trip focused on the present day reality of El Salvador. We visited an AIDS clinic and got to meet several of the patients and hear their stories. The clinic was founded by Maryknoll sister Dr. Mary Annel, MM over two decades ago. Sr. Mary spent an afternoon with us explaining her ministry to people who suffer not only from the disease but the social stigma that isolates them from the community. Another highlight was being able to visit with and bring communion to people in the local hospitals and to make several home visits to the homebound parishioners of Cristo Salvador Parish. This is a parish where Maryknoll Fr. Jack Northrup, MM works and is near the Casa Clementina, the guest house where we stayed in San Salvador.

Being able to share this experience with other deacons and their wives from across the United States helped us to explore our common call to the diaconate, and being together in El Salvador helped us to more deeply connect with our ministry of service. Each of us came back much more centered in our ministry than when we arrived. I have always been “a Matthew 25 kind of guy”, so having an opportunity to share the experience of ministering to the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and those dying in El Salvador helped bring me face to face with Jesus in a new way and made me feel connected in a deeper way with Jesus’ mission to bring the Good News to the poor and suffering of the world.

Group with parish ministers
When we were accompanying the parish ministers on the hospital and home visits, many of those we visited prayed for and blessed us as we prepared to leave their room or home. This was a profoundly humbling experience and reminded us that, as with all encounters with Jesus, we left each visit with more grace than we could offer those whom we visited. They ministered to us and proclaimed the Good News to us that we now bring back to our ministries here in the Northwest.