Erica Olson

Year Joined MKLM: 2009
Country: El Salvador
City: Sao Santo Domingo de Guzmán
Focus: Community Development, Pastoral Work
Project(s): 1. Co-coordinator of Pastoral Social, 2.Asociación de Desarrollo Comunal Indígena Náhuat (ADESCOIN)

People Served:

1) Several hundred families
2) Thirty(30) families who are associates of ADESCOIN

Project Goal(s):

1. Develop the social ministry at the church, to animate the community in a social formation and motivate them to organize/participate in workshops that will provide integral development to the community
2. Promote and preserve the indigenous culture of members of ADESCOIN; Work with the women artisans in their search for ways to commercialize their product without losing its authenticity.

Personal Data
Erica Olson joined MKLM in 2009, and arrived in El Salvador in January 2010. Erica was born in Indianapolis, IN but was raised in Louisville, KY and attended high school there at Sacred Heart Academy.

After graduating in 2003, Erica attended Boston College, where she received a degree in International Studies, with a minor in Faith, Peace, and Justice. While she went to Catholic school for 12 years, she was raised Lutheran but then went through the RCIA program her senior year at Boston College. She felt called to the Catholic faith largely from the influence of studying abroad in El Salvador for the fall semester of 2005 through the Casa de la Solidaridad, a Jesuit program run by Santa Clara University.

After graduating in 2007, she served for a year in the Dominican Republic through Response-Ability, a lay volunteer program run by the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus. Returning to Louisville, KY in June of 2008, she joined the parish of St. William and worked as the Assistant Director of one of its outreach ministries, CrossRoads Ministry, which provides urban-based retreats for young people, addressing their call to form community with the marginalized.

Current Ministry
Erica Olson’s ministry is located in Santo Domingo de Guzmán. This is a small, indigenous town in the western part of El Salvador. Being of indigenous origin, it offers a lot of cultural richness, including having the greatest number of people who speak Náhuat (the native language of the Pipiles) of any town in El Salvador. Most of the men work in the field, while most of the women are artisans, working with clay. There is an indigenous association in town called ADESCOIN (Asociacion de Desarrollo Comunal Indigena Náhuat) which strives to support both the men and women of the community in their labor through its mission of preserving the language, culture, traditions, and values of their ancestors.

Currently, Erica is primarily working to help organize the women’s artisan group associated with ADESCOIN. They are struggling to sell their product because Santo Domingo does not attract many visitors. Erica works with them to find creative ways to market and diversify their product. Ideally, the women would be able to sell directly in the community, so one of the goals of ADESCOIN is to increase the publicity of Santo Domingo and their direct work with preserving the indigenous culture so as to attract more visitors. Erica is accompanying them in this process of cultural and economic development.

Erica is also working with the Catholic Church, located at the center of the town. Recently there has been a big movement of people from the Catholic Church to evangelical sects, which has caused division in the town. In response, the priest (Fr. Juan Jose Asencio) is trying to better organize the ministries of the church, according to the principles of Vatican II, in hopes of strengthening the presence of the Church in the municipality.

Erica is forming a team of people to develop the social ministry of the parish (the only pastoral ministry that is lacking there), which will be responsible for the formation of parishioners in the social doctrine of the Church and in organizing community development projects and in preparing workshops that address both the spiritual and material needs of the community.