It was more than twenty years ago that I met Fr. Robert Vachon, a La Salette Missionary. I soon discovered an extraordinary colleague; at once a scholar, a humanist and a humble man. Here is someone committed to universal reconciliation and harmony on our planet. The reconciliation he articulates, amazingly, results not in spite of differences, but in and because of them. Over time, I have come to know him as someone in awe of human diversity, open and incredibly accepting of others.
He is courageous, allowing the threads of integrity and honesty to weave the tapestry of his life. His prodigious writing, enduring organizational achievements and always gracious personal manner exemplify an intercultural expression of reconciliation for twenty-first century humankind. This spirit of reconciliation has developed throughout a long and fruitful life. Here is a glimpse of this journey, taken from personal conversations, interviews and his writings.
An only child born to a French-Canadian mother and Franco-American father, his early childhood was marked by hard work and perseverance in the midst of economic hardship. Responding to a youthful desire to become a priest, upon the recommendation of a local plumber, Mr. Petrin, he entered the La Salette Seminary in Enfield, New Hampshire.
In our series of articles on New Martyrs of the Twentieth Century, we will highlight people who are true contemporary martyrs. Many lesser-known heroes are presently memorialized in a side-altar display in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Tiber Island in Rome, Italy.
Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez (1917-1980) was the Archbishop of San Salvador, and spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture. He was assassinated while offering Mass in 1980. In 1997, Pope John Paul II bestowed upon him the title of Servant of God, and a cause for beatification and canonization was opened for the assassinated bishop. In this exhibit, he is commemorated by his Roman Missal.
Archbishop Romero denounced the persecution of members of the Catholic Church who had worked on behalf of the poor, In a speech at the Université Catholique de Louvain, in Belgium on Feb. 2, 1980, he said:
“In less than three years, more than fifty priests have been attacked, threatened, calumniated. Six are already martyrs – they were murdered. Some have been tortured and others expelled [from the country]. Nuns have also been persecuted. The archdiocesan radio station and educational institutions that are Catholic or of a Christian inspiration have been attacked, threatened, intimidated, even bombed. Several parish communities have been raided.
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Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.
Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”