The Four American Churchwomen of El Salvador

 

In 1980 there were at least two U.S. Roman Catholic missionary centers in El Salvador. One in Chalatenango. The other in La Libertad. 

 

Chalatenango, the largest city in the northern Department of the same name, was a stronghold of the FMLN guerrillas at the time and scene of many battles. There the Maryknoll Sisters lived in the Parish House of the 18th-century colonial church. They worked with the Emergency Refugee Committee to provide food, shelter, transportation and burials for the poor and people trying to escape the early days of the civil war. Two of the Sisters who were so involved were Maura Clarke and Ita Ford.[1]

The other missionary center was the Church of the Immaculate Conception in the western coastal port of La Libertad in the Department of the same name. There the Ursulines of the Roman Union trained catechists, conducted sacramental preparation programs and oversaw the distribution of Catholic Relief Services aid and food supplies. They also helped civil war refugees with food, shelter and medical supplies and transportation to medical facilities. Sister Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan worked there. [2]

Maura Clarke

Clarke, age 49 from New York City, had worked for the Order for 20 years in Nicaragua before coming to El Salvador. She said, “My fear of death is being challenged constantly as children, lovely young girls, old people are being shot and some cut up with machetes and bodies thrown by the road and people prohibited from burying them. A loving Father must have a new life of unimaginable joy and peace prepared for these precious unknown, uncelebrated martyrs.”

Ita Ford

Ita Ford, age 40 and also from New York City, had joined the Maryknoll Order in 1971 and had served in Bolivia and Chile before arriving In El Salvador on March 24, 1980, the day of Archbishop Romero’s assassination. In a worship service on December 1, 1980, she read a passage from one of Romero’s homilies, “Christ invites us not to fear persecution because . . . the one who is committed to the poor must run the same fate as the poor, and in El Salvador we know what the fate of the poor signifies: to disappear, be tortured, to be held captive–and to be found dead.”

 

Dorothy Kazel

 

Sister Dorothy Kazel was in charge of the Ursuline mission. She was 42 years old from Ohio and had been a member of the Order for 20 years. The last six of those years she had worked in El Salvador and frequently went by motorbike and jeep to visit country parishes.

Jean Donovan

 

Sister Dorothy was assisted by Jean Donovan, a Maryknoll lay missionary, also from Ohio, age 27. Donovan had been doing this work for three years and had told a friend in the U.S., “The danger is extreme . . . . [I wanted to leave], except for the children, the poor, the bruised victims of this insanity. Who would care for them? Whose heart could be so staunch as to favor the reasonable thing in a sea of their tears and loneliness? Not mine, dear friend, not mine.”


[1] Wikipedia, Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, en.wikipedia.org; Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, http://www.maryknollsisters.org;Wikipedia, Maura Clarke, en.wikipedia.org; Wikipedia, Ita Ford, en.wikipedia.org.

[2] Wikipedia, Ursulines, en.wikipedia.org; Wikipedia, Dorothy Kazel, en.wikipedia.org; Wikipedia, Jean Donovan, en.wikipedia.org; Dear, The Life and Example of Jean Donovan (Dec. 2, 2005), CommonDream.org; Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland, Sister Dorothy Kazel, modern-day martyr, http://www.ursulinesisters.org.


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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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