Posted by Mary DeTurris Poust
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the martydom of Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel and lay missioner Jean Donovan. It's hard to believe it's been that long, or that it happened at all. People willing to lay down their lives to carry out the Gospel. We're all asked to be willing, but few of us dare to follow through. These women did, and many more continue to do so today.
Maryknoll Sister Janice McLaughlin this week offered a reflection at Maryknoll, New York, to mark the anniversary:
The death of our Sisters, Maura, Ita and Carla, lay missioner Jean Donovan and Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel was a wake-up call to all of us – those who knew the women and those who only heard the news in the media. Their brutal murder shocked us out of our complacency. It made us aware of the cost of discipleship.Read the full text HERE. And let us pray tonight for all those missioners who serve around the world, putting their own lives in danger so that others might have dignity, peace and justice.
Our martyrs were awake. They were conscious of the dangers they faced. I entered Maryknoll in 1961, the same year as Ita. We were together in 1978 as consultants to the General Assembly on matters of justice and peace. I recall clearly Ita’s words when we read the first draft of the assembly document. “We are considering allowing lay people into our parlour’s, and we think that’s radical,” she said, with that dry humour of hers. She then became deadly serious and concluded: “In the next few years some of us will be killed.” Ita was wide awake. She left Chile for El Salvador and stayed in El Salvador after Carla’s death, aware of the dangers she faced. Maura volunteered to come to El Salvador to be with Ita, aware of the risk of this choice. Jean and Dorothy, Maddie Dorsey and Terry Alexander all stayed on because they were committed to justice and a better future for the people, even though they knew it was dangerous to be there.
Our founder, Mother Mary Joseph was fully awake throughout her life. She issued many wake up calls to us over the years. From the earliest days of Maryknoll, the possibility of martyrdom was held out to us as an element of our mission vocation.
In 1940, Mother told us: “Ours are to be the labors of the apostolate at home and abroad, hard, unflagging, continuous: we are to expect reproach, ingratitude, weariness of soul and body; to be betrayed – to have our own passion – and in the end, death.” She ends this somber reflection with what appears to be a contradiction. She tells us to accept all this with “joy, eagerness and exhilaration.”