Shelton couple finds inspiration amid El Salvador’s poverty

By Terry McGuire

J.T. Batsone has a hard time finding words to describe the experience of attending Mass in the same chapel where Archbishop Oscar Romero was murdered in 1980.

J.T. and Deacon Bill Batstone of St. Edward Parish in Shelton visit a hospital patient in San Salvador, El Salvador
J.T. and Deacon Bill Batstone of St. Edward Parish in Shelton visit a hospital patient in San Salvador, El Salvador.


“I just really felt the deep connection with my faith when I was in those places,” she said after a weeklong trip to El Salvador in July with her husband, Deacon Bill Batstone.

The Shelton couple witnessed deep faith amid stark poverty in the nation of 5.7 million. They visited the sites where martyrs — including Archbishop Romero, four U.S. churchwomen, and six Jesuit priests and their housekeeper and her daughter — were slain during the country’s civil war from 1979-92.

They saw how the Catholic Church in El Salvador has stepped forward to carry out the diaconal call of service by sponsoring social services that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

“It made the experience of service … it made the experience of our marriage this three-dimensional experience of Christ in our life,” Deacon Batstone said. “It was very powerful.”

The Batstones, members of St. Edward Parish in Shelton, were among a small group of American deacons and their spouses that traveled to El Salvador as part of a mission immersion experience through the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers’ Deacon Mission Partners Program.

It was Deacon Batstone’s third visit to the Central American country and the first for J.T. (Judee). The deacon said traveling to El Salvador with his wife and sharing the experience has helped their marriage grow.

The couple saw the work of Maryknoll Sister Dr. Mary Annel of Chicago, whose 21-year ministry to people with AIDS brings them dignity in a culture where their status is “less than dirt,” Deacon Batstone said. The Batstones also brought Communion to parish shut-ins and hospital patients, and were deeply moved when their recipients laid their hands on them and blessed them.

“They had nothing to give, and they give everything,” J.T. said. “And I am like, ‘Lord, I am so unworthy for this’ … and it’s brought me to a deeper place of, ‘Lord, what can I do to serve?’”

August 18, 2013