Milwaukee Lutherans Support Salvadoran Catholic Church Project

A story about solidarity:

JS Online: Lutherans embrace Salvadoran Catholic church project

Posted: Jan. 29, 2005

In a spirit of ecumenical cooperation, three Lutheran congregations
in Wisconsin have paid more than half the cost to build a Roman
Catholic church in El Salvador.

The church was dedicated in December and serves the community of
Rutilio Grande, one of a number of villages built for refugees who
fled to Nicaragua or Honduras during El Salvador's civil war and
began returning before the 1992 peace accords.

About $10,500 of its $20,000 cost was paid by congregations in the
Greater Milwaukee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America with the blessing of the denomination's local bishop. After
All Peoples Church in Milwaukee started the campaign, contributions
also were made by a Catholic church in Waukesha County, Lutherans in
Germany and several international groups, said Mary Campbell, who
served five years as a missionary in El Salvador and is chairwoman
of the Milwaukee synod's El Salvador committee.

"We've walked with the people of Rutilio Grande since they returned
to that land during the civil war, and it helped them to re-
establish their community," said Milwaukee Bishop Paul Stumme-Diers,
who visited the village in 2003 with his teenage daughter, Maren.

"I haven't had anyone object or question why we would do that, and I
think that arises out of both the healthy ecumenical atmosphere that
we have in the greater Milwaukee area, but also the heathy
connection that we have with this community in El Salvador, where we
know the people, where we have walked beside the people, and where
we want to be respectful of their faith and their needs and not
impose our agenda on them."

The Milwaukee synod and some of its congregations have sent
delegations and provided financial assistance to the village in
addition to its broader, companion-synod relationship with the
Lutheran Synod of El Salvador. The synod here also has a partner
relationship in Africa with the Meru Diocese of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Tanzania.

The efforts in Rutilio Grande have included helping the returning
refugees purchase land for their village, helping them get
electrical service and building a community center.

Lutherans here also have paid to train teachers for a school, which
the financially strained Catholic Archdiocese of San Salvador built
in the village, and have organized community service projects for
village youths. This year, they will pay $24,000 for about 45
village youths to attend junior and senior high schools outside
Rutilio Grande, a program they have supported for years.

The village is named after the late Father Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit
priest who was murdered in 1977 by a death squad for doing church
work that inspired people in villages to assert their rights. Grande
was a longtime friend of the late Archbishop Oscar Romero, and his
murder was said to have set Romero on the path of social justice
that led to Romero's own martyrdom.