Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Modern martyrs for each day of Holy Week (Holy Wednesday, Jean Donovan and the Maryknoll Sisters of El Salvador, martyred on December 2, 1980)

On the afternoon
of December 2, 1980, Maryknoll Sister Dorothy Kazel and lay missionary Jean Donovan picked up two Maryknoll missionary sisters, Teresa Alexander and Madeline Dorsey, from the airport after the pair arrived from attending a Maryknoll conference in Managua, Nicaragua. They were under surveillance by a National Guardsman of El Salvador at the time, who phoned his commander for orders.

Acting on orders from their commander, five National Guard members changed into plainclothes and continued to stake out the airport. Jean Donovan and Sister Dorothy returned to pick up another pair of Maryknoll sisters, Maura Clarke and Ita Ford who were returning from the same conference on a flight not due until 7:00 pm.

The five members of the National Guard, out of uniform, stopped the vehicle they were driving after they left the airport in San Salvador. Sisters Dorothy Kazel, Maura Clare, Ita Ford, and lay missionary Jean Donovan were taken to a relatively isolated spot where they were interrogated, beaten, raped, and murdered by the soldiers.

Peasants living nearby had seen the sisters' white van drive to an isolated spot at about 10 p.m. on December 2 and then heard machine-gun fire followed by single shots, three hours after the flight was due. They saw five men flee the scene in the white van, with the lights on and the radio blaring. The van would be found later that night on fire at the side of the airport road.

Early the next morning, December 3, the bodies of the four women were found. The peasants who discovered them were ordered by local authorities—a judge, three members of the civil guard, and two commanders—to bury the women in a common grave in a nearby field. The peasants did so, but informed a local priest , who then relayed the news to the local bishop, and the United States ambassador, Robert White.

Their shallow grave was exhumed the next day, December 4, in front of 15 reporters, Sisters Alexander and Dorsey and several missioners, and Ambassador White. Jean Donovan's body was the first to be exhumed; then Sister Dorothy Kazel's; then Maura Clarke's; and finally, Ita Ford.

On December 5, a Mass of the Resurrection was said by Bishop Rivera y Damas; and on December 6, the bodies of Jean Donovan and Dorothy Kazel were flown out for burial; Donovan to her parents in Sarasota, Florida, and Kazel back to her hometown of Cleveland. The bodies of the Maryknoll sisters, Clarke and Ford, were buried in Chalatenango, in El Salvador.

“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his deeds’.”

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)