SAN SALVADOR – A few days ahead of the canonization of slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the nuns of his former home, the Hospital of Divine Providence, await the formal announcement with a mixture of joy and trepidation, Sister Bernardita Castro told EFE.
The 90-year-old nun, who lives in the complex that includes the church where the prelate was murdered, has much to tell about Romero and, although she never met him in person, she has boundless admiration, respect and affection for the man known in his lifetime as “the voice of the voiceless.”
“We await this moment with much joy and trepidation, because we don’t know how things will play out,” Bernardita said.
Oscar Romero, who was the archbishop of El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador, was killed on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass.
The killers were part of one of the right-wing death squads that played a major role in the Central American nation’s 1980-1992 civil war.
Sister Bernardita recalls that she was one of the nuns who for more than 10 years served as a guide for parishioners and tourists who visited Romero’s modest home on the hospital grounds, which was turned into a museum.
“I was lucky that mother superior asked me to help in the small house where I spent more than 10 years learning about Monsignor Romero. I soon realized that what the other sisters said about Romero, who had met him, was true,” she said.
The nun said she read every document written by Romero that was in his home, which led her to become increasingly interested in the martyred archbishop.
“I read his writings, I read about his life, and I became very interested in getting to know him well, even though I never met him in person,” she said.
Bernardita confessed that she is “very close” to Romero and that “now that he is about to become a saint, I ask him to help me tend to the sick in the hospital and help me provide guidance to those who ask for my counsel.”
Bernardita said Romero was “a person who was very close to the people, who was fraternal, humble and an example for others.”
The nun said she was unlikely to be able to stay up until 2 am on Sunday to watch the live television broadcast from Rome of Romero’s canonization, which will be led by Pope Francis.
“Do you think I will be able to stay up? I am a sleepyhead and I go to bed very early. But I will try because this will only happen once in our lifetimes, and we have to make sacrifices,” she said.
Romero’s canonization will take place more than three years after his beatification, which was celebrated in San Salvador in May 2015 during a multitudinous Mass.