Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 27, 2000
Parish rescues human rights lawyer
Refugee project brings St. Theresa parishioners' generosity to the fore
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Maria Lopez didn't sleep for three days. There was too much excitement building up inside her. And for three days after her son Jose Linares arrived from El Salvador, she wasn't expecting to sleep for another three days. They had a lot of catching up to do.
With the help of St. Theresa's Parish, Linares, his wife and four children arrived in Edmonton Nov. 16. The bleary-eyed family was welcomed by Lopez, a sister, several brothers and a small group of parishioners including Father Bob Colburn and Phyllis Leoppky, chair of the parish social action committee.
"It's so good to see him," Lopez said with a mix of relief and excitement in her voice. "I don't have to worry about him."
Linares' story is one of political conflict. A human rights lawyer in Sonsonate, El Salvador, Linares' life had been threatened on several occasions after he came to the aid of local labourers. Lopez was in constant worry for her son's safety.
She initiated refugee sponsorship efforts for her son and his family through Catholic Social Services. Then her parish got involved.
"They have been so good," said Lopez, who always wears a smile.
The sponsorship application began eight months ago without a lot of glitches or a long waiting period. Since then parishioners have been collecting clothes, furniture and house wares for the family.
"People were totally generous," Leoppky said. "I think it comes from people being naturally good.
"I believe that social action and doing things for people is what Christianity is all about."
A local dentist has offered free dental service for the family. A couple dropped off a queen size bed which they recently bought but found too hard for their liking. Parishioners from another parish, who were visiting St. Theresa's when they heard about the new family, dropped off some linen and a bedspread.
"It makes me feel good seeing people doing this," Leoppky said. "It's nice that there are so many people out there willing to help."
Lopez has a daughter and three grandchildren still left in El Salvador. Their lives are in no immediate danger, but she prays for the day her family can be united.
"I pray to God and we'll see," she said.
Lopez's faith is a simple one and one that Leoppky herself respects.
"Maria is a person who trusts in God. She doesn't make it complicated. When she needs something she turns to God. It should be that easy."
The social action committee has caught the refugee sponsorship bug and has talked about becoming involved with future applications.
"There are so many people in the world who live in fear," Leoppky said. "Our worst problems are nothing compared to theirs. We need to be more thankful for all we have and do what we can for those who don't (have)."