US missionaries remembered 25 years after martyrdom

25 years after four US churchwomen in El Salvador were abducted, raped and shot by national guardsmen, ecumenical groups around the world have assembling at the site of their deaths to honour their memory.

CLICK HEREThe four women - Sister Maura Clarke, M.M, Sister Dorothy Kazel, O.S.U., Sister Ita Ford, M.M., and lay missioner Jean Donovan - were killed in El Salvador on 2 December 1980. The murders were part of a brutal pattern of attacks by death squads and members of the Salvadoran Armed Forces against persons working with El Salvador's poor and war refugees.

The women were killed nine months after the assassination in March 1980 of El Salvador Bishop Oscar Romero, who also defended the poor against the right-wing Salvadoran government.

The anniversary observance was co-sponsored by the SHARE Foundation, the Leadership Council of Women Religious (LCWR), the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) and Pax Christi USA.

Among the attendees are the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA.

In January 1981, as a young congressman from southeastern Pennsylvania, Edgar was part of a congressional team that visited El Salvador "to investigate the deaths of our fellow Americans." Other members of the team were Maryland Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski, now a US Senator, and Massachusetts Congressman Gerry Studds, among others.

"Our prevailing emotion then was anger and despair brought on by the unacceptable reality that these young lives, so full of hope and promise, were so brutally snuffed out," Edgar said. "These four women were drum majors for justice in a land where their lives were threatened every day."

The team brought the women's story back to the US, where their deaths influenced popular opinion about the US government's financial support of the Salvadoran military. "I don't believe the people of the United States want to see their money being spent to help the military kill and rape women," Mikulski said bluntly on a 1981 broadcast of 20/20.

"Today," Edgar said in remarks prepared for the commemoration, "it is possible to think of Jean and Ita and Maura and Dorothy with a smile and a celebration of the gifts they gave us. Their lives and their deaths are a reminder, so badly needed in our turbulent times, that a witness for truth and justice cannot be crushed, that Jesus will not desert us when our confrontation with evil must result in death, and that men and women united in faith by a common Lord are indomitable."

Edgar said: "These four women, by the way they lived and the way they died, are models for us all. Another martyr, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, 'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.'"

Twenty-five years after their martyrdom, four American women are remembered (Church Executive 2/12/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Four Churchwomen - American martyrs in El Salvador

Priest has not forgotten nuns killed in '80 (Beacon Journal 5/12/05)
Slain women still inspire missionaries (The Journal News 28/11/05)
Questioning the Official Story at Fort Benning (altPress)
Mourning turns to celebration of missionaries (The Plain Dealer 3/12/05)
Real people are the real saints (The Plain Dealer 3/12/05)

6 Dec 2005