Clockwise from bottom left: Sister Dorothy Kazel -Ursuline from Cleveland, Maura Clarke & Ita Ford -Maryknoll Sisters, Jean Donovan lay church worker.
Last night I watched the film, “Roses in Winter,” featuring the life of Jean Donovan, a lay church worker murdered with the three nuns on December 2, 1980. It reminded me of how much we have to be willing to give to fully follow Jesus in care for the poor.
Jean Donovan and Sisters Maura Clarke, Ita Ford and Dorothy Kazel were Americans serving the poor, particularly the refugees and children of murdered peasants. Jean explained in a letter to those who wanted her to return home, “They don’t shoot blue-eyed blonde Americans.” But they did. Just weeks before she died she also wrote: “The Peace Corps left today and my heart sank low. The danger is extreme and they were right to leave… Now I must assess my own position, because I am not up for suicide. Several times I have decided to leave El Salvador. I almost could, except for the children, the poor, 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.” *
This tragedy has always been particularly close to me; Jean studied and worked in Cleveland, my hometown. Dorothy Kazel was a Cleveland Ursuline, the order teaching in my high school, Beaumont. Bill Ford, Ita’s brother, lived in Montclair and continually pushed for resolution to the case along with Ambassador Robert White who protested the cover-up here and in El Salvador.
U.N. Ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick exonerated the government of El Salvador, claiming the nuns were political activists. And, while Google searches refer to the women’s generous giving of themselves, one painful reference reflects attitudes toward almost all working for peace by seeking justice and the poor. Those plainly following in the footsteps of Jesus are called “leftists”, “communists” “Marxists.”
We have since learned that the Salvadoran government was indeed responsible. Yet US military aid multiplied even after these murders, which were not prosecuted for many years. Fear of communism justified terrible violence just as fear of terrorism is justifying today’s perpetual war and violence.
This labeling is on-going. When Pope Francis spoke out against the extreme capitalism which hurts the poor, Rush Limbaugh referred to him as Marxist. I guess this means if you see the poor and the peasants brutally treated and try to change that or stand up for them you’re branded. Trina Paulus
** The Life and Example of Jean Donovan by Rev. John Dear, 12/02/ 2005; accessed online December 9, 2006. St. Peter Claver Church Parishioners for Peace & Justice 12/07/14 Issue 48
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