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Mercy Sister, who wrote a book about Archbishop Romero, attends his canonization

Mercy Sister Ana Maria Pineda, a native of El Salvador now living in Omaha, was among thousands gathered in Rome on Oct. 14 to celebrate the canonization Mass of Archbishop Oscar Romero and six other servants of the church.
 
Tired but gratified later that evening, Sister Ana Maria told the Catholic Voice by telephone that she hopes the saint and martyr from El Salvador she wrote about in her book, “Romero and Grande: Companions on the Journey,” will move people to emulate his commitment to justice, tenderness and compassion for the most vulnerable.
 
“In this political climate … perhaps people will take steps toward making a significant change,” she said.
 
An advocate for the poor and against the violence and oppression attributed to the El Salvadoran government at the time, Archbishop Romero was shot dead while celebrating Mass at a chapel in a hospital March 24, 1980. He was beatified by Pope Francis in 2015.
 
Sister Ana Maria’s book tells the story of the archbishop’s friendship with Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande of El Salvador, who has been credited with inspiring Archbishop Romero. He was assassinated in 1977.
 
“These two men had human limitations and fragility, but the beauty of the story is what they do within those limitations,” said Sister Ana Maria, a theologian and associate professor at Santa Clara University in California who was elected in April to the leadership team of the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community in Omaha. “It provides hope for me, hope for all of us.”
 
Sister Ana Maria described witnessing Pope Francis, who is from Argentina, canonizing a Latin American saint.
 
“Pope Francis, a Latin American pope – he would understand what it means to raise someone from the smallest country in Latin America,” she said. “In many ways, Pope Francis shares the love for the poor that Archbishop Romero had.
 
“This is a significant moment not only for the life of the church, but in El Salvador, which has for decades struggled with injustice in the lives of the poor.”
 
Sister Ana Maria said she met Archbishop Romero a year before he was killed. He had such charisma, she felt his presence as he entered the room, she said.
 
“There was a powerful sense that he knew who he was,” she said.
 
For many, Archbishop Romero already was a saint, Sister Ana Maria said. “Now, the church has declared that the way he lived is an authentic way of living out your Christian commitment.”
 
Due to his championing of the poor and drive for social justice, the archbishop was a polarizing figure even in her own family, she said.
 
But for Sister Ana Maria, who came to the United States when she was 2 years old, he was “an example to all of us.”
 
“And now, to see the church demonstrating to the world – ‘Yes, this man lived a Christian life, a life of goodness in the Gospel’” – this action could inspire others to live by that example, she said.