Feast Day: March 24
Patron Saint of Christian Communicators and Persecuted Christians
Born on August 15, 1917, in El Salvador, Oscar Romero was one of eight children in his family. His local school went only through third grade, so his father also trained him as a carpentry apprentice, hoping to ensure that his son would always be able to get a job. Oscar meanwhile proposed the idea of studying for the priesthood, which was not a surprise to those who knew him.
After studying for the priesthood in El Salvador and in Rome—and after having to wait a year because he was “too young”—Romero was ordained a priest in 1942. His family was not able to attend his ordination because of WWII, and, when he was called home by his bishop the following year, Oscar was detained in a Cuban internment camp because he was arriving from Italy.
In 1974, Romero was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Santiago de Maria, a poor rural region in El Salvador, and in 1977 he was made Archbishop of San Salvador, the capital city. Some were disappointed with his being named bishop; they feared he would not speak up about the corruption and disappearances happening in his country. However, following the assassination of a close friend and fellow priest, Romero became a powerful advocate for human rights and the rights of the workers.
His weekly radio addresses called for an end to violence and poverty by way of social justice. His focus was on the church’s “preferential option for the poor” and a call for “an end to oppression.” In 1979, Oscar Romero was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Romero’s voice was silenced by an assassin’s bullet on March 24, 1980, as he moved from the pulpit towards the Eucharistic table while saying Mass. His message, however, still resonates with those who work for peace and justice, for those with a heart for the poor. Although his cause for sainthood was blocked for many years as “too political,” he was canonized in 2018 by Pope Francis, the first South American Pope, who knew that in his home country, Romero was already hailed as a great hero.