Commemorating the Churchwomen of El Salvador

December 2, 2015, marks 35 years since Sr. Dorothy Kazel, O.S.U., Sr. Ita Ford, M.M., Sr. Maura Clarke, M.M., and Jean Donovan were brutally raped and murdered in El Salvador while traveling back from the San Salvador airport. They were killed because they were committed to being in solidarity with their brothers and sisters—in essence, for being Christians.  The deaths of these four churchwomen only hinted at the violence and atrocities that would await El Salvador. From the 1980 to 1992, the brutal Civil War in El Salvador took the lives of over 70,000 innocent people.  Many died at the hands of Salvadoran soldiers, many of whom received training at the U.S. Army School of the Americas (now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation).  The U.S. was integrally involved in El Salvador’s civil war, supporting the government with approximately $1 million of military aid per day throughout the conflict.

The world lost four saints on December 2, 1980, but these Holy Women remain with us today. They continue to teach us to be people of peace, people of hope, people of justice—people grounded in Christ.

“Sr. Dorothy, Sr. Ita, Sr. Maura, and Jean.”


Blog Posts Related to the Churchwomen of El Salvador

churchwomen of el salvador 35 years

Posts Related to the Current Reality in Central America


Four Churchwomen of El Salvador Prayer Service (used at IFTJ 2015)

A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sister Maura (2016)
Alleluia Woman: Sister Dorothy Kazel (1987)
The Voice: A Missionary’s Call to Give Her Life (2008)
“Here I Am, Lord”: The Letters And Writings of Ita Ford (2005)
Ita Ford: Missionary Martyr (1996)
The Same Fate as the Poor (1996)
Salvador Witness: The Life and Calling of Jean Donovan (2005)

“Death & Lies in El Salvador”
Story on the former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, Robert White. Written by Margaret O’Brien Steinfels, it was published in Commonweal Magazine on Oct. 26, 2001.

The Diplomat and the Killer
In December of 1980, Salvadoran soldiers brutally raped and murdered four American churchwomen. A young U.S. diplomat singlehandedly cracked the case, cultivating an improbable source who risked everything to gather the key evidence. Written by Raymond Bonner, special to ProPublica, Feb. 11, 2016.

PBS “Justice and the Generals”
Describes the monumental human rights trials of the Salvadoran general accused of ordering the deaths of the Four Churchwomen.

PBS “Enemies of War”
A documentary on the war in El Salvador with a special emphasis on human rights violations and the deaths of the UCA martyrs and the Churchwomen.

Remembering the Churchwomen of El Salvador
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet reflect on the lives and witnesses of the Four Churchwomen killed in El Salvador.