Archive for the ‘Ita Ford’ Tag

Feast of Maura Clarke and Her Companions (December 2)   4 comments

Above:  Flag of El Salvador

Image in the Public Domain

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MARY ELIZABETH CLARKE (JANUARY 3, 1931-DECEMBER 2, 1980)

ITA FORD (APRIL 23, 1940-DECEMBER 2, 1980)

DOROTHY LU KAZEL (JUNE 30, 1939-DECEMBER 2, 1980)

JEAN DONOVAN (APRIL 10, 1953-DECEMBER 2, 1980)

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U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN EL SALVADOR, DECEMBER 2, 1980

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What do you do when even to help the poor, to take care of the orphans, is considered an act of subversion by the government?

–Jean Donovan, December 1, 1980

One becomes a martyr.

These four women served God faithfully, especially among poor people, and followed Jesus to death.  Each one took up her cross and followed Christ.

The Cold War made for morally untenable compromises.  During U.S. presidential administrations of both major parties, the federal government supported brutal military dictatorships that targeted those who worked among the desperately poor.  The rationale for supporting such repressive regimes was that at least they were not communists.  One of these governments ran El Salvador.  Military death squads executed many, who in the name of Christ, worked with the poor, as well as many of those poor civilians, all in the name of fighting communism.

Dorothy Lu Kazel (1939-1980) had been Sister Laurentine of the Ursulline Sisters of Cleveland, Ohio, since 1960.  The native of Cleveland had taught at the Sacred Heart Academy in East Cleveland (starting in 1965) and taught catechism to deaf students at the St. Martin de Porres Center, Glennville, Ohio.  After serving as a missionary to the Papago tribe in Arizona in 1969, Kazel returned to Cleveland and earned her M.A. in counseling (1974).  That year she worked briefly at the Beaumont School for Girls, Cleveland Heights, Ohio.  In 1974 she joined a mission of the Diocese of Cleveland to El Salvador.  In that country Kazel, workin with the poor in dangerous circumstances, became “Madre Dorthea.”

Jean Donovan was a Maryknoll Lay Missioner in El Salvador.  She, born in Westport, Connecticut, on April 10, 1953, had been a business consultant in Cleveland, Ohio.  Donovan, having earned her M.A. in Business Administration from Case Western Reserve University, had gone to work for the firm of Arthur Andersen.  She had also begun to  volunteer with poor people in Cleveland.  The call to serve God in the poor took precedence.  Donovan quit her job, joined the Maryknolls, and trained to become a missionary.  She arrived in El Salvador in July 1979.

Donovan and Kazel worked together in El Salvador.  They were some of those who kept vigil with the casket of St. Oscar Romero (1917-1980) in March 1980.  They witnesses the military attack on the large crowd at his funeral on March 30, 1980.  Hundreds suffered injuries and forty-four died.  Donovan and Kazel knew the risks they took daily, and that each day could be their last.

Donovan was no fool, especially about U.S. military helicopters.  Her father build them for a living.  One day in November 1980, Donovan, 27 years old, riding her motorbike, noticed a U.S. military helicopter following her.  She recognized its name and model.  When Donovan asked the U.S. Ambassador about the helicopter, he denied the presence of any such equipment in the country.

Maura Clarke and Ita Ford were Maryknoll Sisters.

Clarke, born in Queens, New York, New York, on January 13, 1931, was a daughter of Irish immigrants.  She joined the Maryknoll Sisters in 1950 and made her vows in 1953.  After graduating from the Maryknoll Teachers College in 1954, she taught at St. Antony’s Parish School, in the Bronx.  Then Clarke spent 1959-1977 working with poor people in Nicaragua.  She spent 1977-1980 in the United States as part of a Maryknoll Sisters World Awareness Team.  She worked mostly on the East Coast.  Our saint returned to Nicaragua in 1980.  There she remained consistently until August.

Ita Ford, born in Brooklyn, New York, New York, on April 23, 1940, joined the Maryknoll Sisters in 1961, having graduated from Marymount College.  Failing health forced Ford out of the order in 1964, but she returned seven years later.  She worked as an editor at Sadlier publishers from 1964 to 1971.  She rejoined the Maryknoll Sisters in 1971.  The order sent Ford to Chile in 1973, shortly after the CIA-sponsored coup d’état that over threw the Allende government and installed Augusto Pinochet, who terrorized the civilian population for 18 years.  She left Chile for El Salvador in 1980, shortly after the assassination of Archbishop Romero.  In El Salvador Ford worked with Sister Carol Piette (September 29, 1939-August 23, 1980).  Piette and Ford were escorting a recently released prisoner to his home when they became caught up in a flood.  Piette gave her life to save those of Ford and the former prisoner.

Ford joined with Clarke in Nicaragua later that month.  Ford returned to Chalatango, El Salvador, with Clarke replacing Piette.  Later the women returned to Nicaragua briefly.  They returned to El Salvador on December 2, 1980.  Kazel and Donovan met them at the airport.

Soldiers abducted the women, beat all of them, raped Kazel and Donovan, and shot each woman in the back of her head.

The U.S. Government’s response was inconsistent.  The Carter Administration, set to expire in just over a month, suspended military aid to El Salvador.  Its policy toward brutal governments in El Salvador had been inconsistent, despite Carter’s pronouncements about the importance of human rights in foreign policy.  The Carter Administration had long been aware of the El Salvadoran death squads.  Archbishop Romero’s martyrdom in March 1980 had prompted international outrage.  The Reagan Administration, which did not link human rights to foreign policy in Latin America, restored military assistance and never pressured the government of El Salvador to respect the human rights of its citizens or those of the United States.  At least the government of El Salvador, with its death squads, was fighting communists, right?  The Carter Administration’s hypocrisy and the Reagan Administration’s indifference regarding human rights in Central America were both objectionable, but the former was preferable to the latter.

Clarke reflected,

One cries out, “Lord, how long?  And then too what creeps into my mind is the little fear or big, that when it touches me very personally, will I be faithful?”

–Quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), 526

All four women were faithful to the end.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST BRITISH MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, DUTCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, AND CONTROVERSIALIST; SAINT JOHN FISHER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, BISHOP OF ROCHESTER, CARDINAL, AND MARTYR; AND SAINT THOMAS MORE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, JURIST, THEOLOGIAN, CONTROVERSIALIST, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GERHARD GIESCHEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF YORK, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NOLA

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Almighty God, who gave to your servants Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan

boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of the world, and courage to die for this faith:

Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us,

and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

2 Esdras 2:42-48

Psalm 126 or 122

1 Peter 3:14-18, 22

Matthew 10:16-22

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 713

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