Program Brings Hope Through Forgiveness
Elizabeth Serna receives a certificate from Agnes Salichs creator of groups of Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Elgin. Xotchil Hernández (right), group assistant, holds one of several photos of the people in the workshop. She presented one to each workshop member. (Observer photo/Margarita Mendoza)
EsPeRe participants pose at their celebration, May 20, at St. Mary Parsih in Elgin. The program focuses on how forgiveness can improve one’s spiritual and daily life. (Observer photo/Margarita Mendoza)
Father Christopher Kuhn (back), pastor of St. Mary in Elgin, stands with Agnes Salich. Deacon Luis de Leon (seated in front of Salich) helped present the program. (Observer photo/Margarita Mendoza)
By Margarita Mendoza, El Observador Editor
June 15, 2017

ELGIN—What would you do to “get rid of painful memories” and feel “healed or forgiven”?

That was the motivation for Agnes Salich, a parishioner at St. Mary in Elgin, to take a workshop called “EsPeRe”  (see box).

She said the sessions in a “private and secure” setting help  “start a healing process while affirming the sense and meaning of life. Because, if there is still pain, when you remember an ungrateful memory, that is because you have not healed or forgiven.”

EsPeRe provides simple tools to learn how to forgive and be reconciled with yourself and with others by working on your own emotions and the consequences of offenses.

What is EsPeRe?

EsPeRe, the name of the program offered at St. Mary Parish in Elgin, stands for Escuelas de Perdón y Reconciliación, the School of Forgiveness and Reconciliation.

The capitalization can also represent three Spanish words that together form the essence of what participants are waiting for. They are:

Esperanza — hope;
Perdón — pardon, or forgiveness, the heart of the program; and
Reconciliación — reconciliation.

Learn more about EsPeRe from Agnes Salichs at 787/486-2425,

An English version of the program is Forgiveness International.  Learn more at

Salich was so influenced by her EsPeRe experience, she now coordinates these forgiveness workshops in her parish.

Since then, she and Elia Hernández have been trained to conduct the program, and with help from Paty González, coordinator of the Schools of Forgiveness and Reconciliation (EsPeRe) in Chicago, offered sessions at St. Mary.

Salich says the program teaches the participants “to see pain with a new sight. ... There are beautiful testimonies of those who completed the classes and have managed to forgive themselves and forgive others.”

The most recent class started  March 4 and ended May 20.

During the closing ceremony one participant, who asked not to be identified, shared his story of an abusive childhood that led to low self-esteem.

He developed rebellious and aggressive behaviors, learned how to box, realizing even as he did,  “that all of this was making me a felon. I even wounded someone and I ended up in jail.”

While taking the course, he said, “I realized the great responsibility that all humans have to take that introspective leap to know ourselves so we can have the power to release that repressed child we all have inside.”

Another participant, Johana Forero, said “This course helped me to see life in a different way also, to find goodness in other people and in myself. It helped me to have charity, to put myself in other people’s shoes, especially in those who I somehow offended once.

“I made a pact with myself,” she continued, to reconcile herself “with people who surround me and, seek to be the person that I always wanted. I highly recommend it to everyone ...  going through difficult times.”            

EsPeRe “started in Bogotá, Colombia, was designed by Father Leonel Narváez, a Colombian priest, who made efforts to understand the root of hatred, revenge and violence,” Salich said.  

EsPeRe leaders say they believe:

�–� That the change of attitude is built from within a person.
�–� That no human differences deserve violence.
�–� That resentment and vengeance paralyze the development of individuals and communities.

They also say benefits of the program are:

�–� To teach you to forgive step-by-step, and to heal the wounds of past offenses.
�–� To promote the culture of forgiveness and reconciliation as safe paths of peace.
�–� To accept that forgiveness is the best way to respond to violence.
�–� To peacefully promote justice and to demonstrate, through our conduct, that by forgiving we can live with human dignity.

“I came looking for some tools to control my way of thinking,” said Elizabeth Serna, a May 20 program graduate, “(and) with a little desire to seek forgiveness and (to learn) the reason why the other person who attacked me acted in that way.

“Help came to my soul. Forgiveness is freedom in my soul,” she said.

“To participate, you need to be at least 16-years-old and want to learn to manage emotions and feelings related to anger, grudges, resentment, and desire for revenge caused by offenses received in the past that still disturb your inner peace,” said Salich.

This “is a course for brave people who want to find themselves and restore their peace,” Salich said.