Recalling the martyrs of El Salvador

Ita Ford, Maura Clarke; Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, Jean Donovan

Ita Ford, Maura Clarke; Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, Jean Donovan

Fr Michael Campbell-Johnston SJ will celebrate a Mass on 4 December to mark the 30th anniversary of the murder of four women missionaries in El Salvador.  The four sisters - Maryknolls, Ita Ford and Maura Clarke; Ursuline Sister, Dorothy Kazel; and Lay Volunteer, Jean Donovan - were raped and murdered in El Salvador on 2 December 1980.  Their murders took place nine months after the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, on the eve of the civil war that engulfed the country for the next 12 years.

Fr Campbell-Johnston SJ was the British Jesuit Provincial from 1987 to 1993, and has worked extensively in the Caribbean and Latin America.  The address at the Mass on 4 December will be given by Therese Osborne, a member of Viatores Christi in Dublin, who was a co-worker with Jean and Dorothy in El Salvador.

The four women were travelling in a van and stopped by Salvadoran security forces not far from the country's international airport.  Ford and Clarke had just returned to the Central American republic.  A UN-sponsored report of the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador concluded that the abductions were planned in advance and the men responsible had carried out the murders on orders from their superiors.  The martyrs joined the many thousands who were to die as El Salvador entered its darkest period of history. 'They were real icons of holiness,' said one of the organisers of the event. 'They were martyrs whom we remember for their great courage and commitment to the poor.'

The Mass to mark the 30th anniversary of their murders will take place on Saturday, 4 December, at the Church of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street, London W1, starting at 11am.  The event is sponsored by the Conference of Religious, the Archbishop Romero Trust, CAFOD, Pax Christi, Westminster Diocese Justice and Peace Commission, and Progressio.  There will be tea and coffee afterwards in the parish hall.

Share this story