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Sister Peggy O’Neill « Afflicted with Hope

Sister Peggy O’Neill

“The people hold me: their light, their hope.  These people have learned to live in the dark; they have developed a night vision.  The light comes from within the darkness.  Nothing outside is going to throw light that resolves anything.  It comes from within together.  It is emerging, analyzing, trying.  It is really the Advent story.”

Sister Peggy O'Neill

Editor’s Note: This is one of a plethora of wise and poignant adages from the well-respected local sage – Sister Peggy.  Her candid wisdom abounds across El Salvador, and I finally had the privilege of meeting this often spirited and humorous comic, always insightful and provocative thinker, forever honest and genuine pragmatist.  She is a firm believer in using the arts to bring peace to heal the traumas of God’s people in this country.

Ever the clever teacher, Sister Peggy explores and utilizes a  myriad of techniques to be effective in challenging her students.  Designed around the theme “prevention,” the program in which she immerses herself is designed to offer non-violent strategies to “at risk” youth.  Seeing the brightest youth with the most potential take the risks to emigrate the country, she works tirelessly to create job opportunities in an effort to entice them to remain within their own community; this ultimately maintains the family structure and energizes the country.  At her side is a constant companion – her faithful dog, Luna, who sensing her need for daily prayer and reflection, obediently lies still beside her during those quiet times of solitude.  Relaxing to her can be 20 minutes in the hammock.

We interviewed Sister Peggy at the Centro Arte para la Paz, a non-profit organization, in Suchitoto.  Formerly the Santa Imelda School and Convent from 1917-1980, the property was abandoned during the country’s civil war.  In 1995 the Sisters of Charity established it as an alternative space for the community for the purpose of building a culture of peace.  It is not a static place.  Art exhibits in the museum are constantly changing.  New groups of students are moving in and out of various training programs.  Its hostel is always in demand.  Its building program expands to meet the community needs and popularity of Suchitoto’s tourists.  64,000 people have been served in its programs over the past four years.  The potential for this “vision- become- reality” seems endless.

I actually consider myself as having two kinds of DNA.  The biological kind came, of course, from my parents.  They were both precious people.  My mother, deeply spiritual in every sense of the word, was an extraordinary person.  She cultivated my dad’s spirituality.  My dad, a respected organizer and president of his local union, could be characterized as a “plumber philosopher.”  He knew how to talk to people at all levels from President Truman at the Inaugural Ball to his men on the job. (more…)


    Afflicted with Hope / embracingelsalvador.org is one of many outreach ministries at
    Saint Stephen Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA)
    30 West Main Street, PO Box 266
    New Kingstown, PA 17072

    Tax deductible donations for support of this work in El Salvador may be sent to the above address.