Remembering the Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador

by Elisa Montalvo


We called him Nacho.


I was blessed to have Dr. Ignacio Martín-Baró, S.J., as a professor when I was a student at the UCA, the Jesuit university in El Salvador. He taught me three different subjects. He was my boss when I worked at the university as a teaching assistant, and he was also my thesis advisor. Most of all, Nacho was my mentor and my friend. When I moved with my family to the United States in 1983, we continued our friendship. The last time I saw him was in the spring of 1989 when he and Dr. Segundo Montes, S.J. visited us at our home in Miami on their way to a conference.


Throughout the years, Nacho shared with me the threats he and his fellow Jesuits were receiving. I always told him they were safe. I really thought they were, because I could not imagine they would be harmed after the international uproar for the assassination of Monseñor Romero and the four American women religious in 1980. I was wrong. It did happen. Nacho, Segundo, Ellacuría, three other Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter were murdered at their home by the Salvadoran armed forces, in the middle of the night, on November 16, 1989.


33 years later, El Salvador continues to struggle as a nation, and the UCA continues to be a prophetic voice in the political discourse. Did Nacho and others that chose to be the voice of the voiceless die in vain? By no means. They impacted the lives of many that do not give up, that continue to seek justice during their journey on planet earth. I learned from Nacho to strive for congruence between my faith, my heart, my brain, and my deeds. Also, to develop the necessary skills to put my gifts and talents at the service of the most vulnerable. I learned that good intentions are not enough. I am definitely not unique. There are many people that continue to make a difference in their daily toiling, influenced by the education they received at the UCA.


On November 16th, let us each take the time to reflect on who are the most vulnerable among us, and what we may do to make a positive impact in their lives. A deed at a time!


Elisa Montalvo is a parishioner who was born and raised in El Salvador.