25th anniversary of slaying of the 4 churchwomen

Twenty-five years ago, four American churchwomen were murdered in El Salvador:

On a December morning in 1980 a small assembly of priests, nuns and peasants gathered in a cow pasture in El Salvador to witness the exhumation of four North American women. One by one their broken and disheveled bodies were dragged from the shallow grave: Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, both Maryknoll Sisters; Dorothy Kazel, and Ursuline Sister, and Jean Donovan, a lay missioner both from Cleveland. They had been missing since 2 December when Dorothy and Jean, in their distinctive white minivan, had left for the airport to pick up Maura and Ita on their return from a meeting in Nicaragua. Two days later some peasants alerted church authorities and led them to the site of this hasty burial.

Each woman had followed a different path. Maura and Ita had spent many years in missions in Nicaragua and Chile. Dorothy Kazel was the longest in El Salvador. Jean Donovan, only twenty-seven, had wrestled with the possibility of marriage and the security of a lucrative career before choosing, instead, to remain in El Salvador. But for each one, called by Christ to live out her faith in solidarity with the poor, the path had led to the same cow pasture.

It was a possibility they had all wrestled with and faced up to. After all, they had all to one extent or another been touched by the witness of Archbishop Oscar Romero, assassinated only nine months before. In words which Ita Ford quoted on the night before she died, he had said,

"One who is committed to the poor must risk the same fate as the poor. And in El Salvador we know what the fate of the poor signifies: to disappear, to be tortured, to be captive and found dead."

From Maura Clarke and Companions. Read the rest of this essay and other materials about these 4 martyred women at the Share Foundation web site.


Anonymous said…
I just read a book on forgiveness. It is very difficult to forgive the people who committed these crimes. But it seems that not to forgive will make us victims forever. One can forgive, but one must never forget. If we don't learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it.
Anonymous said…
I wonder if El Salvador has learned from the past... To this day I ask myself, what would Monseñor Oscar Romero think of the country if he were alive today? Many good people died in the name equity, but frankly I see more progress made backwards than forwards in this country. Yet, I'm thankful for those braves that AGAIN made evident that the struggle of the masses for a good tomorrow is perpetual and claims to be heard. Rest well, Sisters.
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