2003 Romero lecture focuses on Kathy Kelly, founder of Voices in the Wilderness

If you were tuned into WQLN radio earlier this week, you could hear the voice of Kathy Kelly, the founder of Voices in the Wilderness, traveling through the airwaves from Baghdad, where she continues to live – even during the ongoing war – as part of her crusade to inform the world about the impact of economic sanctions on the civilians of Iraq. She spoke to the world via National Public Radio, sharing her observations on the war as seen through the eyes of laypeople and children in Iraq.

Kelly launched Voices in the Wilderness after the first Gulf War, and since then, Kelly has been with her team in the capital city of Baghdad in an effort to assist the victims of war and economic sanctions.

Discussing the vision of Kelly and her team at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, March 31, will be Johanna Berrigan, a physician’s assistant who co-founded House of Grace Catholic Worker and the Catholic Worker Free Clinic in Philadelphia. Berrigan will present the annual Oscar Romero Lecture at Mercyhurst College, a series geared toward the topic of peace and justice, and will draw on her own trips to Iraq as she discusses Kelly’s efforts in that Middle Eastern country.

Monday’s presentation, which is sponsored by the college’s religious studies department, will be held in the Walker Recital Hall in the Audrey Hirt Academic Center at Mercyhurst College. It is free and open to the public.

The Oscar Romero Award and Lecture is held annually at Mercyhurst College in honor of Romero, who served as archbishop of San Salvador in the 1970s, a time of growing social and political tension in El Salvador. During his tenure, Romero evolved into an outspoken voice of the lower class – until his assassination on March 24, 1980. After growing up in poverty, Romero attended the seminary in the city of San Miguel, then continued his theological studies at the national seminary in San Salvador and completed them at the Gregorian University in Rome. Romero was ordained a priest in 1942, and, after being called back to El Salvador, became bishop in December of 1974.

Shortly thereafter, Romero’s friend, Jesuit priest Rutilio Grande was murdered, an event that ignited Romero’s growing suspicion of the “death squads” – rumored assassins for the government. Romero began to speak out against the murders, and as he became a voice against the government, he also became the church’s spokesman for liberation theology, a doctrine that justifies the church’s involvement in political conflicts that result in violations of human rights. It was for this belief and message that Romero was assassinated.

This year’s award will be presented to Kelly upon her return to the United States.
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