In El Salvador, Sisters of Providence Bring Hope through Dignity

Guest Post: Gabriela Robles – Chief Executive, St. Joseph Fund and Interim, Chief Mission Integration Officer, South Division Providence St. Joseph Health

I just got back from a once-in-a-lifetime trip to El Salvador. The purpose of the trip was to connect with the Sisters of Providence (Sisters) and learn about the work they do in support of the community. I walked away from the trip with new perspectives and a deeper respect for the Sisters and their partners.



It was my first time visiting the country, which has experienced many decades of economic hardship caused by natural disasters, government corruption, and civil war. Despite the continued difficulties, the spirit of Catholic social teachings is very much alive. I felt the spirit of Saint Archbishop Oscar Romero, a bishop considered a voice for the voiceless, who was assassinated while celebrating  Mass in 1980. A social justice warrior, he encouraged collaboration to break down systems and structures that perpetuate poverty and suffering.


I visited Saint Archbishop Romero’s gravesite during the trip and honored his legacy. The Sisters, bishops, medical directors, and Caritas Internationalis relief workers I met are called by his mission. It’s not just the community leaders who walk in his footsteps; you can feel his spirit in the makeup of the El Salvadoran people.


Immigration from El Salvador to Europe and the U.S. is very high. Children and grandparents have been left behind. The biggest influx of money comes from family sending money back home. I spent the week with Sisters Vilma Franco, Marcia Gatica, and Marita Capili, SP. They are working to build resilience and strength in the communities that have been torn apart for decades. They follow the “meet people where they are” principle and began teaching individuals how to read and write years ago. The Sisters partnered with the Department of Education to develop certificated classes and ultimately, built the trust of a generation of people. They formed deep connections with the community and are now helping the next generation get college degrees, amongst other efforts.


One story that resonated with me was when one individual spoke of his son. He said his son wouldn’t be a janitor; he wanted to be an engineer. The Sisters have brought hope and excitement for the future through their compassion and commitment to community. I returned home feeling invigorated by their dedication and plans for the communities. They put the dignity of the person first, and even though the region is still challenged by its history, there is no sense of individualism. The Sisters know that the work really needs to be done by the community.


Much like our philosophy at St. Joseph Fund (SJF) they work with the community to identify their needs and develop plans to address them. Through this work, the Sisters of Providence, with the support of other community partners, are building proud leaders who are empowered to uplift and create a lasting impact on their homes.


SJF is a bridge between the legacy of the Sisters and the future of Providence as a health system committed to equity and justice. Connect with us to learn more about our commitment to care for our dear neighbors without distinction, especially those furthest from justice.