Fr Rutilio Grande, born in the small town of El Paisnal on 5 July 1928, was a Jesuit of unsuspected religious and human depth. In his weakness he found his greatness. He lived much of his life in the silence and humility of those who are becoming, step by step, companions of Jesus. Those who dealt with him always found a good man, approachable and helpful. For seminarians he was an authentic formator and for the Salvadoran clergy a sensitive spiritual companion. Rutilio knew how to be a counselor, an understanding and kind companion, and at the same time firm and serious with regard to Christian life and the responsible exercise of presbyteral ministry. The peasant communities, to which he himself belonged and which he served with dedication as a pastor, found in him a warm, self-sacrificing and kind religious, ordained a priest to share life with the community of the followers of Jesus who bear witness to the Good News.
Fr Grande understood his religious and priestly vocation in the light of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. His way of life, his teaching, and his pastoral practice were imbued with the reading that the Conference of Latin American Bishops made of the orientations of Vatican II during their assembly in Medellin, Colombia, in 1968. The renewal underway in the Church generated more than a few tensions also in the Archdiocese of El Salvador and within the Seminary itself.
The appointment of Saint Óscar Arnulfo Romero as Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977 opened the door to a new stage of ecclesial conversion. The growing awareness of the need to promote a transformation of the inhuman circumstances of life of the peasant majority, a situation caused by the unjust structures of Salvadoran society, sparked the social and political struggles of this convulsive period in the history of this Central American country. Many members of the ecclesial communities participated actively in the social and political struggle. For Fr Rutilio, his team, and his close collaborators, who were committed because of their faith to the struggle for the justice of the Gospel, there was a clear distinction between pastoral work and partisan political militancy. However, for the minorities who felt their power to be under threat, Rutilio was seen as an obstacle to be removed. He was murdered, along with two lay companions, in Las Tres Cruces, a few kilometres from San Salvador, on 12 March 1977.
Letter from Fr Arturo Sosa, SJ, Superior General, 3 January 2022
Tribute to Rutilio Grande, SJ
Rutilio Grande: “Witness to a Church that goes forth, shepherd who smells of his sheep”