Prayer in a Base Community in El Salvador

By Rick Dixon, MLM

NOTE: In January, 2014 there will be presidential elections in El Salvador. This report describes how one base community is dealing with having people from ARENA (a very conservative right-wing party) and FMLN (the left wing party) in the same base community. It is not always easy. 

A couple of recent events have struck me deeply, and given me hope. 

Last week the cardinals in Rome wanted to give Pope Francisco a special concert.  They invited elite officials of the Italian government and “friends” of the church. All the arrangements were made. The orchestra, the diplomats and their families and the cardinals arrived for the big night.  But to the shock of the waiting crowd the pope did not show up.  “The Empty Chair” read the headlines in the papers the following day referring to the pontiff’s absence.  The interpretation given by many was how the pope, who did not call in sick, has been speaking about returning to the roots of the gospel, to the roots of our religious orders, to the roots of what Jesus stood for.  “The Empty Chair” was a strong message of how the papacy and “church” is not a club of privilege in these times of crisis.   

And then last Friday at the base community meeting on the street where I live in Cojutepeque we were talking about derechos y deberes.  The reflection quickly became political as someone mentioned the deber a votar, and one person responded, “Why vote?  It’s the party with the most money that wins.”  Then there was a series of accusations about the last elections in Cojutepeque: How Lupita, the Mayor of Cojutepeque (Arena Party), won by a slim margin only because she went to the senior shelters and loaded people into vans and took them to vote. This led to the comment of how the El Frente Party was handing out $10 bills to people on the street with the advice to vote “red.”  From here our base community meeting sounded more like a political brawl than faith-based sharing. But in the end what became evident was how people are looking for a political messiah, some powerful elite to arrive with the answers to fix the country.  Finally one man said what El Salvador needs is a church like the one that was led by Oscar Romero.  The Arena Party folks even agreed with this.


Siento que el pueblo es mi profeta Romero said in one homily.  And his emphasis on Sentir con la iglesia (“to feel what the people are feeling”) continues to be a strong message for the church to return to its gospel roots.  After a good retreat of our Maryknoll Lay Missioners on our core values last week, I pray that each of us continues to give an important space to the poor and together may we put Jesus at the center of our lives. 


Rick Dixon is an American Maryknoll Lay Missioner serving in Cojutepeque, EL Salvador. His missionary focus is education, economic development and pastoral ministry with the goal to facilitate Base Communities, adult literacy, youth development and job skills. He participates with the Base Community in their meetings and activities each Saturday and Sunday. On Saturdays there is a liturgy of the word and a formation for the group and on Sundays a music group that meets. Rick assists with these and helps out in whatever the community needs or asks—helping with a reflection or reading.

Mr. Rick Dixon, MLM

Cojutepeque, El Salvador