Memorial Mass for martyred American women of El Salvador

 2005 marks two significant 25th anniversaries in the martyrs' chronicle of the small Central American country of El Salvador. On 24 March 1980, Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, was martyred as he celebrated Mass in the chapel of a cancer hospice. On 2 December 1980 Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel and lay-missionary Jean Donovan drove to San Salvador's airport to pick up Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, returning from a meeting in Nicaragua. After leaving the airport their van was taken over by Salvadoran National Guard members. The four women were taken to an isolated spot, raped, shot, and buried in a roadside shallow grave. Like the Archbishop, their deaths became another martyrdom for a Church of the poor in El Salvador, for thousands of Christians in their United States homeland, and for women religious throughout the world. To remember their witness, a Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, 3 December, 2.30 pm, at St Aloysius Church, Phoenix Road, Euston. The Mass will include parts of the Salvadoran People's Mass, written in 1980, by Salvadoran composer and poet, Guillermo Cuellar. Fr Wilfrid McGreal O.Carm. will preside and preach. There will be a retiring collection for the Contrasida AIDS Project in San Salvador, whose Director is Maryknoll Sister Mary Virginia Annel, who is also a medical doctor. The project carries out community-based prevention work, provides anti-retroviral and other treatments for those who cannot access them through the State health systems, as well as pastoral care and support. In this way the Mass will also mark World AIDS Day, held annually in early December to focus attention on the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

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