Role model Raúl - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Lent 2023 newsletter


Larry Parr, El Salvador

Scholarship students enjoy a special lunch prepared by Raúl.

Greetings from El Salvador.

I hope that everyone is enjoying the beginning of spring and the Lent and Easter season. I have always found Lent and Easter to be an important time of reflection; however living and working with young people from marginalized communities in El Salvador has brought new perspectives on the life and message of Jesus.

Our young people face so many challenges, such as poverty, gang violence, lack of opportunities, and social exclusion. They have to sacrifice so much just to have an opportunity to go to high school. There is a lot of temptation to join the gangs or drop out of school, but many young people here continue to do their best and strive for a more just and peaceful society.

Raúl with the lunch he cooked for our students

Despite their hardships, I also find them having hope in the resurrection through their perseverance to succeed in bettering the lives of their families and transforming their communities. Their successes and motivation to help their community demonstrate that there is hope for a more inclusive and just world.

In this spirit, I would like to highlight the experience of one of the young people in our program.

I first met Raúl’s family 15 years ago. I was accompanying the local community foundation to visit Raúl’s older brother and offer him a scholarship to go to high school. Raúl was only 9 years old and lived with his mother and older brother in a humble home. The house was in a part of the town that was controlled by gangs. I found out that Raúl’s father had been murdered around the same time that Raúl was born. His mother worked very hard so that her two sons could have opportunities. I was struck by the perseverance and strength of this family to work for a better future.

Over the next couple of years, Raúl started to participate in our sports program. He showed a passion for playing soccer and was an excellent teammate. When he was in his first year of high school, he too entered our scholarship program, and I got to know a whole new side of Raúl. He studied hard to get good grades and received tutoring at the local Jesuit university every Saturday morning.

During our reflection meetings, he demonstrated a genuine commitment to helping others and creating a better community. He participated in many social projects in the community such as motivational workshops for middle school students and activities of the local community development organization. He also began to develop as a leader of our scholarship program and was an example for the other students.

One night I received a call from Raúl in the middle of the night. He informed me that one of his friends in the sports program was being persecuted by the gangs and had fled the town. He was very worried for his friend, and I later accompanied him to visit his friend and make sure that he was safe. Eventually the problem was resolved and his friend was able to return to the town. I was so impressed by Raúl’s love and compassion for his friend and the way that he was able to be there in his time of need.

With Raúl at his graduation from culinary school

Raúl’s dream was to become a chef. After he graduated high school, he continued to work for his dream by going to culinary college. Only about 9% of Salvadorans graduate from college, so Raúl and his family had to make many sacrifices to reach his dream. He continued to work very hard in college as well as help out in the community. In 2020, he was able to graduate with a technical degree in culinary arts.

Now that Raúl has graduated from the program, he continues to give back to the next generation of scholarship students. He once cooked a special celebratory lunch for all of the current students and continues to be an example for the rest. This year he has joined the scholarship support committee that helps organize the program. He is working full time and also giving up his free time to be a mentor for the students and lead the reflection meeting.

Raúl and the other students have taught me so much about life and what it means to really work for the kingdom of God. I see the face of Jesus in the young people that diligently work for a more just and compassionate world that gives opportunities to all.

Please consider joining our circle of COMPANIONS IN MISSION. Companions in Mission are generous donors, like you, who give financial gifts on a regular (usually monthly) basis. For more information visit  Become a Companion in MissionThank you so much for your generosity!

Larry Parr
Larry Parr joined Maryknoll Lay Missioners in 2007 and for 15 and a half years worked in youth, educational, sports, and leadership and community development programs in Las Delicias, a community northwest of San Salvador.