On a December morning in 1980 a small assembly of priests, nuns and peasants gathered in a cow pasture in El Salvador to witness the exhumation of four North American women. One by one their broken and disheveled bodies were dragged from the shallow grave: Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, both Maryknoll Sisters; Dorothy Kazel, and Ursuline Sister, and Jean Donovan, a lay missioner both from Cleveland. They had been missing since 2 December when Dorothy and Jean, in their distinctive white minivan, had left for the airport to pick up Maura and Ita on their return from a meeting in Nicaragua. Two days later some peasants alerted church authorities and led them to the site of this hasty burial.
Each woman had followed a different path. Maura and Ita had spent many years in missions in Nicaragua and Chile. Dorothy Kazel was the longest in El Salvador. Jean Donovan, only twenty-seven, had wrestled with the possibility of marriage and the security of a lucrative career before choosing, instead, to remain in El Salvador. But for each one, called by Christ to live out her faith in solidarity with the poor, the path had led to the same cow pasture.
It was a possibility they had all wrestled with and faced up to. After all, they had all to one extent or another been touched by the witness of Archbishop Oscar Romero, assassinated only nine months before. In words which Ita Ford quoted on the night before she died, he had said,
"One who is committed to the poor must risk the same fate as the poor. And in El Salvador we know what the fate of the poor signifies: to disappear, to be tortured, to be captive and found dead."
From Maura Clarke and Companions. Read the rest of this essay and other materials about these 4 martyred women at the Share Foundation web site.