Shared By: Sisters Catarina Osorio Ixcoteyac, Helen Aida Villalta Ríos & María Magdalena Rodríguez Ortiz

Our Verbo Encarnado community, Zona 1, Guatemala, participated in the Holy Eucharist and walk in memory of the 25th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Bishop Juan José Gerardi Conedera.

As women religious, seeing how Bishop Juan José carried the message of sowing truth and justiceto show and reap reconciliation was an experience of loving our neighbor. He showed his commitment to the most vulnerable people of society and how to support Human Rights, taking the teachings of Jesus who always defended the poor and needy.

Bishop Juan José Gerardi Conedera was born in Guatemala City on December 27, 1922. Of Italian origin, his parents were Don Manuel Benito Gerardi and Doña Laura Conedera Polanco deGerardi. He had three siblings: Francisco, María Teresa, and María del Carmen.

He studied in the educational institution of Asilo Santa María in Guatemala City with the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. Then, he entered the Conciliar Seminary, on 10ªAvenida and Primera Calle in Zone 1, where he studied humanities and philosophy. After this, he attended the Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, where he completed his studies in Theology.

He was ordained a priest on December 21, 1946, in the Metropolitan Cathedral of GuatemalaCity. He served in the parishes of El Sagrario, then served as Parish priest in Mataquescuintla (1948-1951), Tecpán (1951-1955), Patzicía, Chimaltenango (1954-1955), San Pedro Sacatepéquez (1955-1956), Palencia (1956-1959). In the Curia until 1967, he held the functions of Chaplain of Santa Clara, Parish Priest in El Sagrario, Counselor of Cursillos in Christianity, and Parish Priest inCandelaria, from 1966-1967.

On May 9, 1967, Pope Paul VI appointed him Bishop of the Diocese of La Verapaz, consecrated in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Guatemala on July 30, 1967. His episcopal motto was“Constituted at the service of God in favor of all.” He assumed office on August 11 of that same year; in September 1974, he was elected third Bishop of the Diocese of Santa Cruz del Quiché.

His participation in the life of the Church was always very active; he was highly respected and lovedby the clergy and bishops. As a result, in 1972, he was elected to the position of president of theEpiscopal Conference (CEG) for two consecutive periods, from 1972-1974, and then 1974-1976; He assumed office again from 1980 to 1982; however, he had to resign his position when he was in exile.Finally, in 1974, the Episcopal Conference elected him as a delegate to the Synod of Bishops, which was held in Rome on the theme of Evangelization. Bishop Gerardi responded to this reality through his service to the poor and those most in need, promoting literacy projects, community radios, cooperatives that could raise the standard of living ofthe people, and above all, the formation of pastoral agents to spread the word of God.

He did something significant as a Bishop to promote the indigenous ministry. He was so committedto this project that he learned the Q’eqchi language. Everything was going well when two catastrophic historical events occurred in Guatemala that halted the progress of these projects: the earthquake of1976 and the internal armed conflict from 1962 to 1996.

On April 24, 1998, he presented the “Guatemala Nunca Más” report. Bishop Gerardi was aware of the risks presenting thisreport could bring, but he said, “We want to contribute to building a new country. That is why we are trying to refresh thememory of the people. This road was and continues to be full of risks and only those who have the strength to face them willbe its builders.” Unfortunately, two days later, he was assassinated in the garage of the Parish house in San Sebastián.

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