Youth Pilgrimage to El Salvador Strengthens Empathy, Gratitude, and Love for Others

The following article is written by Chuck Stewart, Deacon at St. James’, Skaneateles about the youth Pilgrimage he went on with youth and adults from the Diocese of Central New York.

In July, ten people traveled to El Salvador as part of the ninth or tenth – I’ve lost count – Youth Pilgrimage to El Salvador – pilgrimages that began in 1997. There were three youth – all women – from Christ Church, Binghamton, one from Trinity, Watertown, and one from St. James’, Skaneateles, in addition to three adults. Bishop DeDe and her son Ryan joined us for the second half of the trip.

I think it’s almost impossible to describe the trip, so I’ll give you a sample of the quotes the young women.

“What made you happy?” “People – so welcoming. I like talking to people and watching the people as we rode [in the van].” “They hold priests with great respect. Religion is big. So many churches.”

“What surprised you?” “Everything was so different from what we see in the media.” “So kind and respectful.” “So much commercialization and billboards.” “Leaving the [Catholic] cathedral I saw a poor little boy picking up used gum from the sidewalk. I want to adopt him.” “The kids were surprised we don’t speak Spanish – everyone they know speaks Spanish. I learned a lot of Spanish words.”

“What was different?” “I am grateful for water I can drink.” “I felt so welcomed. They said, ‘Thank you for visiting.’ so many times.” “I am so grateful for my family – for clothes – for eating.”

“What made you sad?” “Leaving.” “Their struggles. I don’t want to leave.” “Thinking about their futures. I want kids to be able to go to school.” “How much the youth impacted me. I did nothing. They appreciate. I don’t appreciate enough.”

On the third day of the pilgrimage I sent this to my Rector, “Report to the congregation: It is such a privilege and joy to watch these young women’s eyes opening.

‘Lord God, you reveal yourself to us in so many subversive and unassuming ways. Give us the eyes to see the miracles and resurrection that happen every day.’”

The little parish of St. Luke in San Miguel. This corrugated steel building is their church.

Visiting the Archaeological ruins of St. Andres

Program participants for the Youth Pilgrimate to El Savador are listed below:

  • Christ Church, Binghamton: Emmanuella Magot, Nyantwig Akol, Hawa Mikaya
  • Trinity, Watertown: Ingrid Knudsen, Thomas Knudsen
  • St. James’, Skaneateles: Sydney Spanfelner, Chuck Stewart
  • Zion, Pierrepont Manor: Carol Forrester
  • St. Peter’s, Cazenovia: Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe, Ryan Probe
An important part of the Youth Pilgrimage to El Salvador was learning about the history of armed conflict in the country. The group visited the Jesuit university where six priests and two lay women were martyred in 1989, in addition to the Memorial to Memory and Truth, to find out a little bit about the history of armed conflict in El Salvador. Bishop DeDe, Deacon Chuck Stewart and youth also met with Bishop David Alvarado.

During their time in El Salvador, the youth had the opportunity to help with a VBS at San Francisco de Asia, meet with people from Cristosal, to learn a little more about their work in the country on human rights, and participate in Eucharist.

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