Ann Manganaro, Teka Childress, Ellen Rehg; photo by Mev

What You Understand Depends on Where You Stand

for Ellen Rehg

Mev looked up to Ann Manganaro
Co-founder of Karen Catholic Worker House
Sister of Loretto medical doctor
Compañera to Father John Kavanaugh

When Mev went to El Salvador in 1993
For the annual meeting with CRISPAZ
She sought out Ann for an interview
They spent hours together in Guarjila

Shortly after Ann’s death that summer
Mev prepared that interview for publication
For a Catholic health magazine
She was not pleased when she saw the final result

The editor had cut out something Mev deeded crucial
The part about Ann’s consciously choosing
To go to El Salvador
To act as a small counter to the evil of U.S. policy–

A million dollars a day for the decade
Going to the Salvadoran government
That was crucifying its own people–
So Ann went there to be with them

Ann was a witness to their agony
And their courage
She is still fondly remembered in El Salvador
And ought to be better known here


Dear “Hermana Ann”
by Maria Vasquez-Smith

Dear “Hermana Ann,”

Hello, my name is Maria Smith and I am a 2013 graduate of Saint Louis University. It has been a true honor getting to know you through The Book of Mev (as in your friend, Mev Puleo. Her husband, Mark Chmiel, wrote a beautiful book that you’d enjoy. It includes people like you that make me proud to be a SLU alum). This afternoon, I read an excerpt that features you being interviewed by Mev. During the time of the interview, you were both in El Salvador, perhaps sitting outside somewhere. While I read the interview, I was sitting outside my office. I had just finished eating lunch and was taking a moment to breathe and sit in the sun before returning back to work.

Seeing your name in the book reminded me of the time I met you back in June 2013, when Lindsey Weston, another graduate of SLU, and I found ourselves in Guarjila, Chalatenango, El Salvador for the 20th Anniversary Celebration of your life. Your spirit was so alive during that Mass. Lindsey and I met three of your sisters and actually ended up sitting next to them to help with translation. To be honest, I wish my Spanish comprehension had been better at the time. I did not understand a lot of what was being shared. I tried my best to translate, especially the Homily and testimonies, but Lindsey sitting on the bench in front of me with two of your sisters, surely did a better job. Never the less, there was a spirit during the Mass that was understood by all. The sheer amount of people present was a testimony to your impact. A documentary shown afterwards gave us a deeper understanding of your work.

You truly are a living saint.

And those you were so wise to teach have continued your legacy. Loaves and fishes, eh?

What captured my mind today (before I came across the pictures of the Mass, your clinic and the mural that was painted outside of it) were your words. To be honest, I would have been (or perhaps I should say, I am) very fearful – perhaps even too fearful – to make the commitment to serve in a war zone. But, as you note, you had scripture as a source of strength, along with the Salvadoran people. I am so proud to know you through the testimonies of others. It is humbling and helpful to hear that you, too, struggled to sustain your level of empathy. I am in no way living in a war zone, but I do work with people in crisis situations. Some more urgent than others. As I left work today, I had to swallow the fact that a client of mine, a single mother of three, will most likely be evicted from her apartment tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, very soon. She’s been homeless before and most likely, will be homeless again. My supervisor reminded me that I’d done all I could do. And sometimes, often, it just isn’t enough.

How did you grab hold of the courage to live amidst war? Did you ever fully recover from that? Unfortunately, El Salvador is still a war zone for many. As Mark mentions in his book, white skin often protects us from being harmed by violence… to be continued…

Backing up a bit. In response to the pictures I came across of your Mass, I’m reminded of how beautifully things seem to connect in El Salvador. Lindsey and I had been planning a trip to El Salvador after graduating from SLU. We were eager to return back to the families we met while studying at the Casa de la Solidaridad, a program through the UCA formed to host U.S. students for a semester. We bought the tickets back in December 2012 and as the trip drew closer, we heard about the Mass. As I’m sleuthing for information online to remind me of the details, I believe Lindsey and I actually attended a “Share the Wealth” by Ellen Rehg about your life in March 2013. So, perhaps it was in St. Louis that I first met you. But surely it was in El Salvador that I saw you come alive abroad. And it’s been through the Book of Mev that I’ve had the opportunity to know you through your own words. Thank you, Mev and Mark, for that gift.

While on that trip with Lindsey back in June 2013, we spent a night visiting the becarios, the Salvadoran scholarship students who are connected with the Casa de la Solidaridad. It is there I saw my now husband, Saul, for the first time since saying goodbye back in December 2011. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d ever see him again. But there we were, sitting around the same table, among friends. We had shared our feelings for each other back in February 2012, but we made no verbal mention of those feelings that night. It was special being reminded of the way Saul made me feel, even if I’d continue to bury my feelings under the guise of fear, borders and focus on my own academic/professional goals. I didn’t imagine ever getting married at that time because there was too much I still wanted to accomplish before “losing myself to someone else.”

There was a time in which I was discerning becoming a religious sister. And surely, it was women like you who inspired that thought. Your dedication to the people was… genuine, hardcore and lasting. Your persistence in sticking with your faith and vocation admirable. It allowed you to dedicate your time and live your mission in a unique way.

What a powerful image of you biking from near SLU at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital up North Grand to Karen House. To serve, to live, to dedicate your one life to the greater good. To do your small yet significant part to change the narrative. To make amends for the millions and billions of dollars our country has not invested in places like North St. Louis and instead shelled out to make and re-produce wars around the world.

Until later my friend. I have so much to say, but I must rest to face another day of disappointments and crisis. There is so much suffering in this world. I am on a daily basis amazed by how much suffering exists just within the very wealthy DC area county in which I work. You’d be happy to hear that my Spanish has improved. I can now meet with and work with and sit with and try to support many Salvadoran who’ve found refuge of a better life, better work, safety and security here in our local community. I try to do the same for each person I meet, but, at times, it can be trying to find the right amount of empathy. On days when we are very busy and many come tired, weary, afraid, upset, I pray I can find enough empathy to go around.

Thank you for your example. Thank you for your lived life. Thank you for giving of yourself and for sustaining us all through your actions and words. You are loved. Que descanse (porque ya lo merece!). Que descanse en paz.

Your friend from afar,


To the Mamas
by Lindsey Weston

Casa Ignacio Ellacuria, Tucson 13

To all of the mamas,

To all of the mamas and the mujeres who act like ma- mas. To the abuelas and the sisters, the caseworkers and the afterschool teachers… you are strong.

I know you came to this country, 800 miles on foot, with a seven-pound baby inside of you so that your little an- gel could be born on land that claims itself to be free. And yet you are so far from that. I see at least five Bor- der Patrol trucks a day; I bet you notice even more. You hear the stories of the raids and the mass deportations that take place inside of a building your bus passes every day. Yet you do not hide.

For that you are strong.

I know you haven’t turned your back on your own daughter despite the fact that at 60 you are raising her newborn. You don’t care about the adoption subsidy or the TANF cash assistance you could be awarded by the state. You face the addiction of your baby and the coinciding addiction of her baby with open eyes and an open heart.

For that you are strong.

I know you wake up at 5 to get your babies ready for school… on your own, because you told your husband to leave. I know he left nothing behind except for maybe a few bruises and an overturned table. I saw you the night before on the bus, counting your tips. $11. I know you had hoped for a bit more so you could send your kids to school with more than just a bowl of dry cereal in their stomachs. But you check the clock and it’s 6:30 and it is time to start an- other day.

For that you are strong.

You show up to my office day after day to apply for food stamps. You endure the month-long process that sends you this way and that. Despite your lack of education, when the government shut down and the Farm Bill was passed you already knew you’d lose $29 a month. You face the shame and the criti- cism that comes with asking for help. You accept the label “welfare case” be- cause you know your babies need something to eat.

For that you are strong.

I see your faces in the Huffington Post articles. “Climbing to Nowhere,” “Do We Want to Eat or Do We Want Me to Finish My Degree,” “The In-Betweeners of a Broken System,” “It’s Dirty Work, and It’s Often Demeaning Work, But at Least It’s Work.” The list goes on and on. And each day I’m reminded that you are real people, and your list of worries goes on and on, but you do not stop trying.

For that you are strong.

To all of the mamas,
Thank you for always sharing your stories and your tears and most importantly your strength.

Love, your hija, Linsita, the guerita, your mija and the little muchachita (Lindsey)


Eyes That See

Ann said to Mev—

“In the middle of a war
There are many times

When you feel
God is more absent than present

And yet, there are always
Moments of grace and revelation

When you see people’s incredible kindness
Generosity and love shining through —

Not necessarily believing people
But you see human spirits rising

To an incredible level of goodness.”



Share the Wealth with Maria Smith and Lindsey Weston:
“Finding Our True Selves, 2,565 Miles from Home”

Maria Smith and I will share on our experience in El Salvador through the Casa de la Solidaridad program. In the spirit and anniversary of the Jesuit Martyrs we will discuss the concept of “downward mobility,” that is entering in solidarity with the poor and the marginalized. Amongst chickens and speeding microbuses, we found a people filled with faith in God, hope in a better tomorrow, and a love for all that has allowed them to sigue adelante. In witnessing these traits we were able to find our true selves and a strength that has not ceased to inspire us since our return to the States.
–Lindsey Weston

Join us!
Sunday 11 November
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Sharing begins at 6:45.
At the home of Josh & Laura Aranda
Dogtown, Saint Louis


How Father Ignacio Ellacuría Saw Us

In regard to the ideal of the dominant old human being in the so-called North Atlantic and Western Christian civilization, certain features have to be rejected. These include its radical insecurity which leads it to take wild and irrational self-defense measures; its unsolidarity with what is happening to the rest of humanity; its ethnocentrism, along with its absolutizing and idolatrizing of the nation-state as fatherland; its exploitation and direct or indirect domination of other peoples and of their resources; the trivial superficiality of its existence and of the crtiteria by which types of work are chosen; its immaturity in the search for happiness through pleasure, random entertainment, and amusement; the smug pretension of setting itself up as the elite vanguard of humanity; its permanent aggression against the environment shared by the rest of humanity.


by Martín Zaldivar

El Salvador is the home to half my family (father’s side). My grandmother spends most of her days in her dwelling, close to the noisy capital. She dozes on and off in the early mornings beneath a roof of corrugated metal, over a concrete floor laid by my deceased grandfather, and between walls which don’t do enough to muffle the sound of cats yowling their prowess or their other, undoubtedly sordid affairs. I have a cousin who is young enough to believe that running from the sounds of gunshots is completely normal, and an uncle who daydreams, incessantly and unreasonably- reasonably.

My father spoke to my siblings and myself about the friends he lost during the Salvadoran civil war. He hid a book in his room which I found as a child on the civil war, which contained enough misery and anguish to open my eyes to the kind of truths which are hidden just under white lies.

I was named after my grandmother’s murdered brother. I dream about El Salvador. Such dreams usually involve running through jungles from an enemy too powerful to fathom, or surveying a battlefield from the front line with some kind of weapon in my hand. In my dreams there is usually strewn rubble on all sides, a cheerful sun, and a sense of imminent death. I know that my beloved waits for me, and that in the moment I cannot think of her.

In my heart I carry an image of Oscar Romero. If I could speak to him, I would ask him if I am doing enough, in the right way. I would ask him what I should do with all of the rage and sadness I feel when I think of El Salvador, the plight of the poor, and of my own imperfections. I’d at least buy him a coffee. I’d at least tell him that I have more work to do, Padrecito. No hemos olvidado.

Lots of people that I esteem know about El Salvador, and have gone there to work or to bear witness. They give me strength, and when I tell my family that there are people who care, that there are people who fight with them, I can feel their hearts open. I wish to return one day to El Salvador and have a place for people to heal, somehow.




This page is part of my book, Dear Love of Comrades, which you can read here.

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