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Father Oscar's NOMINATION PACKAGE FOR DISTINGUISHED GRAD
REV. FATHER OSCAR A. RAYNAL SJ '55
Oscar has achieved an extraordinary fifty-three years of of service as a Jesuit Priest. This service under the guidance of Jesus Christ, the utmost and true commander, has brought great credit upon the Oscar and the United States Military Academy, where Oscar's outstanding humanistic skills were honed. In the eyes of the Jesuit Order and those of the Long Gray Line, he is a truly distinguished graduate of West Point. Oscar fulfills West Point's goals of "Duty, Honor, Country." However, for Oscar the concept of Country has gone even further to one of territorial delimitation, because whenever and wherever he sees any person in need, he will be there. It rather embraces, in his own words, "a spirit of love that is what makes a country, a family or even a person to flourish."
Oscar was born in Mexico, in the City of Chihuahua, State of Chihuahua on March 17, 1934. He was the second of four sons born to Rosa and Hector Raynal. He grew in a very united family highly devoted to religion and true values, where respect and service to others were very important, so much that later two of his three brothers also became priests. His other brother and his only sister married. In 1940 he began grade school in Chihuahua and in 1946 he graduated from the "Instituto Regional" a Catholic school directed by the Jesuits. He continued his first year of high school in this same institution and went on to Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana from 1947 to 1951 where he finished high school.
He was awarded a scholarship given to the Mexican Government, and entered USMA as a foreign cadet in the class of 1955. After graduating from the Point, as a second lieutenant, he had an obligation of five years to serve in the Mexican Army and he became a teacher at the Non-Commissioned Officer's School at Puebla, Mexico. Since he already had acknowledge and accepted the "call of God" to serve Him and Others he was allowed to resign from the Mexican Army in 1956.
On September 7, 1956 he entered the Jesuit Religious Order convinced that his mission in life was to commit his whole life to serve his fellow men, especially the most needy, without restraint. On September 8, 1958 he took and swore the permanent vows of poverty, chastity and obedience after two years of novitiate. In December of 1960 he finished two years of humanistic studies and started three years of philosophy. In June of 1963 he obtained his P.S. degree in Philosophy at Mexico City and started as a professor at Pereyra High School. In 1966 he returned to the States at Alma College in California where he started his studies in Theology and returns to his native city, Chihuahua, where he was proudly ordained as a Jesuit priest on June 13, 1969.
After additional training, in July 1972 he was named Chaplain of Islas Marias (Marian Islands), which are a federal prison of four islands on the Pacific Ocean, where the Mexican Government sent the most dangerous convicted criminals. Oscar describes, in his own words, this unique experience in his life:
"I spent two years ('72-'74) in these Islands as a Chaplain. It was a prison with 1300 inmates, 300 of which lived with their wives and children. The bars of this prison were the sharks around it, so we would deal one with the other at the same level and in a most natural relationship. Two murderers and a kidnaper lived with me in my house. We shared all the meals and house facilities. At the end of 1972, I spent one month sharing the work, meals, and life in one of the special confinement camps where the most dangerous criminals were kept. To my surprise, when they saw me so vulnerable and friendly among them, they took care of me and kept watching over my work, since my hands were too tender for the ax and the 'machete' (long knife). I would wash my own clothing and, at no time, any of them stole it while it dried at the courtyard, even if they were so needy. After all, I realized that my closeness to them made them capable of loving back. That was the real achievement of this extraordinary experience, both in their lives and in mine."
During his stay at the prison, Oscar remembers a special occasion when the Mexican President, Luis Echeverria, visited them in October of 1972. He notes that a year before, diverse laws were approved by Congress concerning the improvement of the inmate's situation concerning wages, psychological attention and academic and cultural instruction. None of that existed at the island prison. The inmates were paid less than a dollar a month, and there was no psychological attention or any kind of help and instruction for them. During the President's stay, Oscar wrote him a letter depicting the difference between the new laws and reality. Echeverria received the letter, but several months later its content fell into the hands of the commander of the prison. He became extremely angry and, while Oscar was in a short leave from the island, the commander assured everyone that Oscar would not return. Nevertheless, and making good use of his good relations and fiends at the Federal Government, he returned to the prison taking a great risk; at the next leave a friend inmate sent him a letter saying that the commander was waiting his return to kill him. The letter mentioned about ten false accusations. His courageous attitude helped. Now the laws have been applied in several prisons and Islas Marias has become a place for the best-behaved prisoners in Mexico. The Bishop responsible of the prison felt it was too risky for Oscar to remain there, so in May of 1974, Monsignor Suarez asked Oscar to become Spiritual Director at Tepic Catholic Philosophy Seminary located in his Dioceses in the Southern State of Nayarit, Mexico until there would be a new
commander at the prison. But in September of 1975, his religious superior needed him in a five-year project to live and work among farmers who, along with the Indian tribes, constitute the poorest of all Mexicans.
In 1981, he took a sabbatical year in Brazil, which he dedicated to study the pastoral process among the poor. He returned to the State of Chiapas, in Southern Mexico, in 1982 and spent three years evangelizing the Tzeltal Tribe of Mayan descent. He learned the Tzeltal dialect in order to make possible for them to understand the bible courses, masses and baptisms. Oscar remembers these people among the happiest, joyful, sincere and smiley because they had a piece of land to cultivate, to share and make real community life. On the other hand, he recalls the Indians that did not have a piece of land having a slave-like life, being paid by the landlords hunger wages and, sometimes, they were paid with alcohol. They most often acquired tuberculosis and died young. Oscar remembers these people's desperation who, finally, took the arms to demand their rights. At this time, he was sent as Pastor in a parish at Torreon, Coahuila in central Mexico where he stayed until 1990. In 1991, he was assigned a dreadfully poor Parish where the farmers lived out of the wax that appeared in the bushes at the hills of Coahuila. He remained there until April of 1992 when he was asked to go to Cuba because, on one hand, the revolution expelled so many priests of that Island and, on the other, Oscar had a vast experience working and helping among the poorest. He spent two years in the state of Matanzas, Cuba and had under his care Bahia de Cochinos where in 1961 American and Cuban forces clashed. He remembers that food, clothing and gasoline were so difficult to acquire that very often people went desperate. He traveled over 1,000 miles a month through his Parishes in a Honda motorcycle. The work assigned to each priest was so overwhelming, and the practical difficulties were so great and many, that the hardest thing was to overcome a profound sense of frustration. At a point, Oscar fell into crisis, since he felt useless; of no good to anyone. But then, he remembers snapping out of this crisis by contemplating Christ's crucifixion. He also had become a human failure, an accursed (Gal.3,30). He remembers rejoicing at this similarity since his greatest value in life was to follow Christ's footsteps, and that made him realize that his life was not a failure at all, but just the opposite: a great success. Oscar felt his life had a great meaning since he saw himself as a great soldier fighting shoulder to shoulder with Christ, not from the distance or from a safe point but at the roughest post of the battlefield. In Oscar's own words: "Because of His commitment Christ had been crucified, and because of my commitment to the most needy people, I had tasted the greatest frustration. "
In September of 1994, after two years in Cuba, he returned to the United States, where he spent almost two years in a Parish at Brown'sville, Texas. Although he had everything in the States, compared to where he had been before, Oscar was very happy because "he belonged to the poorest Parish of the poorest diocese of Texas." He is a strongly believer that: "To trust God to the outmost is only possible from the lowest:" This outlook, which becomes clearer as time goes by, is the peak experience in his life, which he shares with all.
From 1996 to 2000 he returned to live and work with the farmers in Mexico, where he became not only his spiritual leader and fiend, but also a hard worker who helped them overcome one of the most severe dryness cycles of their history. In 2001, after 54 years of absence, he returns to his hometown in Chihuahua, Mexico where up until now he has been working harder than ever in favor of the most needed. A great example of this is the new home complex for the Tarahumara Indians who leave their natural environment because of hunger and unemployment, and come to the big cities looking for more opportunities and better life conditions. They most often end worst than before, because they lack the tools to progress in the cities. This pilot project was a big success, giving the Indians the opportunity to live in very good conditions, making their self-esteem grow, compromising them to work, send their children to school, and undertake productive activities and projects for a better life and future. Currently, this project is being analyzed as a State and National model to follow.
Oscar Raynal's entire professional life has always been devoted to others, one of unselfish contribution, solid values and unconditional love, especially for the most needed. An exceptional human being and a true friend as a student, teacher, missionary, author, worker, priest and humanist. A true and great soldier of God when it comes to give life to others.
THOSE WHO WILL WRITE SUPPORTING LETTERS:
1. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach S.J.
(Superior General Of The Jesuit Order)
Rome (Vatican) Italy
2. Many Mexican Leaders (Local and National) Aware of Father Oscar's Work With The Tarahumara Indians
3. John Feagin '55
4. Dick Lilly '55
5. Bill Welter '55
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From: "Joe Franklin" firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: usma55bus: Major Awards
Date sent: Mon, 16 JUN 2008 19:45:14,0400
I recently read the White House press release on the Medal of Freedom awards this year. Seems to me we should try to get Oscar in that league. Certainly it would ignite the folks who are trying to improve US/Mexico relationships, and I can't imagine that the Army, the Academy, and the AOG would be anything but supportive.. Does anyone have more insights on that? There are some grads in DC (in Congress and in private business) who swing alot of weight around that town. We could solicit their advice and help as part of the process.
Do we think the Medal of Freedom would be the better venue for Oscar's recognition? The problem with Distinguished Grad is the support/benefit to West Point requirement; hard to justify other than "indirectly" for the great work Oscar has done. I offer this idea in all sincerity: Oscar was in K-1 with all us other runts, and we were fortunate to have lived close to and seen the goodness of this fine man for all four years of our cadet lives.. It would be one of life's true rewards to see Oscar recognized for all he has done for his fellow man.
Please forgive me if this seems to "muddy the waters" for us. We have a number of classmates whose lives exemplify the values we would like to celebrate, so I hope this will help us figure out how best to "get all the jobs done" while we still have life and breath to do it.
Thanks to all for grinding through this message. With all respect,
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To: Oaraynal@yahoo.com.mx, email@example.com
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Subject: Congratulations on Dedication of the Second Asentamiento Tarahumar on MAY 2, 2009
From: Carl H McNair "firstname.lastname@example.org"
Date sent: Tue, 28 APR 2009 07:19:41,0400
Dear Father Oscar:
Jo Ann and I appreciate so much your nice letter of April 14, and invitation to the dedication of your second addition to the village in
Chihuahua and do wish that we could be there. However I am already scheduled to assist in a large convention of Army Aviation personnel in Nashville, TX, May 2-6, and must be there.
It is however, heartening to know of your continuing success in the construction of homes for your parishioners and I was especially pleased to read about them in the National Geographic magazine earlier this year. I took the magazine to our last Class Executive Committee meeting on FEB 14, and shared it with the class officers. There were some beautiful pictures of the countryside and the accounts of the fleet footed children who are such marvelous runners was most interesting. They are amazing. The article also mentioned the work of the Jesuits in reaching out and ministering to the people. We are all proud of you and your fellow Jesuits and do hope that we will one day have the opportunity to visit. John Feagin and Dick Lilly have shared some of the joys of their visit for
the last dedication.
We missed you at Bill Welter's funeral last month but you were much in our thoughts during the services, knowing that you too were praying with us for Bill. He will be missed among us and has now gone on to a greater place. We had a large group, over 25 classmates and family members attend and render our final salute to Bill.
You are in our thoughts and prayers for your good work and know that your dedication on MAY 2 will be a festive and joyful occasion. On behalf of the entire Class of 1955, we send our greetings and best wishes for your celebration and dedication, and wish you and the parish every continued success.
Do send us a report and some pictures that we can post on the class net.
Carl H. McNair, Jr.
Major General, US Army (RET)
President, Class of 1955