Blessed Oscar Romero continues to inspire listeners through radio

IMAGE: CNS photo/Melissa Vida

By Melissa Vida

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNS) — In San
Salvador’s traffic jams or at work, people turn on Radio YSAX to listen to Blessed
Oscar Romero’s homilies, just as they did over 30 years ago.

“I listen to this radio station in
Romero’s honor, because it is the one he used,” Karen Larin, a radio
listener, told Catholic News Service. “Hearing his voice is great; it’s as if he were here, talking
with us.”

From the 1970s until his assassination in March
1980, Blessed Romero used the radio station YSAX to inform Salvadorans and the
international community of the horrors of El Salvador’s civil war. In a time
when public media was self-censoring, Radio YSAX served as a spiritual guide as
well as a news broadcast.

“Oscar Romero collected notes from his
listeners and then disclosed when and where human rights were being violated,”
Father Edwin Henriquez, director of the radio, told Catholic News Service.

“Without the radio, there would be no Archbishop
Romero,” Father Henriquez said. “We
wouldn’t know the truth of what was happening at the time, and he wouldn’t have
been able to tell the world about the crimes committed against humanity here.”

Reopened in 2015, the station has
set itself one purpose: to keep Blessed Romero alive. Every weekday, at 1 p.m.,
the late archbishop’s voice reverberates again through the speakers and draws radio
listeners from all over the world. When the radio is cut for a few days, people
from as far as Europe and Australia call to know what happened.

“This radio station gives us hope,”
Larin said. “Romero represents a father’s love to us, but he was also a
father who defended us, because he denounced the abuse of power.” Larin
said Blessed Romero helped his followers reconnect with a concrete, nearby

In developing countries, the radio as a
means of communication remains influential. With only 20 percent of the country’s households having
internet access and more than 10 percent of the population being illiterate, the
radio has a broad outreach in El Salvador. It answers the need for real-time
information and reliable, interactive hosts.

For Estephanie Castillo, volunteer at YSAX, the
radio is also a relevant tool to evangelize and raise awareness on everyday

“Through the radio, we can transmit
fundamental values to build a caring and just society,” she said.

Radio YSAX speaks to people of all ages. Hearing Blessed Romero’s voice reassures
older generations, who recognize him and identify with the historical context
of his speech.

“But the radio program also speaks to
the youth,” Larin said, “because they learn about (Blessed Romero) and
our past, and that gives hope for our country.”

Most radio volunteers are millennials.

“Our youth needs to bring the light of
Jesus and remind others that there is still hope,” Castillo said. Quoting Blessed
Romero, she said, “We need to see the truth with open eyes and with our
feet grounded, but with our hearts full of the Gospel and of God to look for
solutions of justice.”

For the listeners, Blessed Romero’s message
of faith and social justice is still valid in 2017. Yesterday’s state-enforced
violence and guerrillas became today’s gang barbarism. As Father Henriquez recalled,
Blessed Romero did not give in to political correctness when condemning such abuses.

“Romero did not seek applause nor
praise and, indeed, some naysayers disliked him because the message of Jesus always
has social consequences,” Father Henriquez said. “It’s not that we meddle
with economics or politics, but we seek to touch people’s hearts … and that
transforms society.”

And El
Salvador is in dire need of social change. Still hurt and polarized by the civil
war that took place in the 1980s, the country suffers from the rocketing
unemployment rates and the highest homicide rate in the world. Gang members
extort, rob and kill civilians.

violence we have known during the war has been transformed, the culture of
death is still prevalent and our youth is suffering the most,” Father Henriquez

In this postwar
context, Blessed Romero remains a beacon of hope.

“In my own personal hardship, I feel
like he accompanies me and helps me,” Castillo said.

continues to speak to us in the midst of violence, impunity and corruption: We
should pay attention to him,” Larin said. “Oscar Romero is alive.”

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