Remembering Martín Barahona, retired Bishop of El Salvador
above: At the Central New York’s 2006 Diocesan Convention, during the celebration of Holy Eucharist, L-R: Bishop Martín Barahona of our Companion Diocese of El Salvador, Bishop Skip Adams, tenth Bishop of Central New York, and the Rev. Holly Evans.
by the Rev. Deacon Chuck Stewart, Chair, Companion Diocese Committee
On March 23rd, the eve of the 39th anniversary of the assassination of St. Oscar Romero, the Rt. Rev. Martín de Jesus Barahona, retired Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of El Salvador, passed into the next life and was reunited among the choirs of angels with ++Oscar, his friend, fellow bishop and fellow warrior for social justice. Martín succumbed to cancer at the age of 76, leaving his wife, Betty, his daughters, Lisbeth and Eli, and many thousands of friends and admirers, many of whom are in the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York. Martín died at Divina Providencia Hospital, just a few yards from where Saint Oscar was shot.
Martín headed the Anglican Episcopal Church of El Salvador from 1992 to 2015. Before becoming a priest in the Episcopal Church he was part of the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church for eleven years. After his retirement as diocesan bishop he remained active in several causes, especially in protecting human rights of the most excluded—particularly of young people at risk, immigrants and refugees, and the LGBTQ community. He received an honorary doctorate from General Theological Seminary in New York City in May, 2012, the first Central American to be awarded this degree.
He was born in the Department of Chalatenango, in the north of El Salvador, on January 30, 1943, the second son in a large agrarian Roman Catholic family. He was originally ordained in the Roman Catholic Church, but served for more than 30 years in the Episcopal Church. Though he had left the Roman Catholic priesthood to marry Betty he remained a friend and coworker of Oscar Romero.
Martín was elected Bishop in September 1991 and on March 28, 1992 he was ordained and consecrated as the first Salvadoran Bishop of the Anglican Episcopal Church of El Salvador. Previously he had served as a priest in the Anglican Church of Panama for more than fifteen years. Martín was elected to serve two terms as Presiding Bishop (Primate) of IARCA, the Anglican Province that includes five countries in Central America.
Martín’s friendship and collaboration with the Diocese of Central New York began in the 1980s. While serving as an Episcopal priest in Panama, he and his wife, Betty, became friends with a North American and his wife, the Very Rev. Dick and Stephanie Bower. Dick and Stephanie were also serving in Panama at that time. Some years later, after Martín became bishop and Dick became the Dean at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Syracuse, they conspired—perhaps the right word—to create a partnership between the two dioceses.
This partnership has flourished as the two dioceses continue to be Companion Dioceses, sending pilgrims and visitors in both directions. Hundreds of people have grown to know and love El Salvador through pilgrimages, such as our upcoming Youth Pilgrimage, and the immensely successful annual Mission of Miracles medical mission. Likewise, Central New York has received dozens of visitors from El Salvador with love. Martín attended our Diocesan Convention and visited our parishes several times. Two Salvadoran priests, including current El Salvador Bishop David Alvarado, have spent sabbatical time in our diocese. Beside these companion relationships, Martín, Dick Bower and others were instrumental in creating Cristosal which has grown into an influential regional organization working with the Episcopal Church in the struggle for human rights in Central America.
Martín has been a powerful influence, mentor and friend to many of us in the Diocese of Central New York in understanding and living out our Christian mission. We will miss him and we will carry on the work he began.
Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe issued the following statement to the clergy of the Diocese today:
Dear Clergy of CNY:
We have received word that Bishop Emeritus of the Anglican Episcopal Church of El Salvador, Martín Barahona, died on Saturday, March 23rd after losing his battle with cancer. I offer my heartfelt gratitude on behalf of the people of Central New York for Bishop Barahona’s ministry and all that he meant to the Diocese through his tenure as the Bishop of our Companion Diocese. My thoughts and prayers go out to Bishop Alvarado, the people of El Salvador and Bishop Barahona’s family as they grieve the loss of their friend, bishop, husband and father.
Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord and let light perpetual shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Blessings of peace,
The official statement of Bishop David Alvarado of El Salvador is available to download in Spanish here and is translated below:
Jesus answered: “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.” John 11:25
The Anglican Episcopal Church of El Salvador, with deep sadness but convinced in the faith of Our Lord Jesus Christ, communicates to our beloved people of God, that this afternoon, our Bishop Emeritus Reverend Martín Barahona has died.
Bishop Martín was a happy and sensitive pastor with the needs of his people and of course with the needs of the parishioners of our Church. He had a life given in faith to Our Lord Jesus Christ and to the Holy People, so he will not die eternally, because he has drunk the Living Water whose spring is the heart of Christ, Hallelujah.
We offer our condolences and hope to the family, wife and daughters of our brother and Pastor, we pray to God that he will attend them together with all the faithful who mourn his physical departure of our beloved Bishop Martín. We ask the Lord Jesus Christ to embrace us with all his tenderness and love, to strengthen us in the confidence of his goodness to continue announcing the promise of Eternal Salvation.
We declare that at the request of Bishop Martín and his family, there will be no public exhibition and he will be cremated. Later the Anglican Episcopal Church will celebrate the life of Bishop Martín Barahona with a liturgical office, which will be announced in advance so that they can accompany us.
The Rt. Rev. Juan David Alvarado