They were killed by a military death squad, while volunteering to do charity work during the civil war there.
Four Churchwomen Killed
On 2 December, 1980, four North American churchwomen were killed by death squads in El Salvador. These same death squads were U.S.-trained and funded. The churchwomen bodies were found in a shallow, unmarked grave in a barren countryside not far from the San Salvador airport.
Sister Ita Ford was a Maryknoll nun who had spent years in Chile. Sister Maura Clarke, also a Maryknoll nun, had been in Nicaragua for years. Sister Dorothy kazel was an Ursuline nun from Cleveland, who had gone to El Salvador to do missionary work and finally, Jean Donovan. Jean was not a nun, but she was a missionary. She had volunteered to assist the church in El Salvador, after hearing a calling she believed to be from God.
From Connecticut to El Salvador
Part of Jean’s work in the village of La Libertad was to pick up the dead bodies of those the soldiers had killed and bury them. She would also support the relatives of those who had lost someone during the turmoil of the civil war which was going on at the time.
Archbishop Oscar Romero was an inspiration to all of the missionaries. He would make fearless homilies at mass, lifting up their spirits when they were feeling their very lowest. The soldiers did not like the things the Archbishop was saying – you know, that killing was wrong and all that... so while he was presiding over an evening mass, he was shot and killed. Obviously this deeply affected all of the church people, but it affected Jean in particular. She took vigil next to his coffin during the all night wake.
During the funeral the following day, the government threw bombs in the crowd of 3000 people who had come to say their final respects, killing at least 30 people.
Three months before Jean died, she went on a holiday. Visiting her parents and her fiancé, and catching up with friends, I wonder if she knew she would never see them again. It is said that after prayers one night she confessed to her parents that she was afraid she may be killed. When she returned from holidays, she went on with the work she had been doing, burying the dead, consoling the grieving etc.
It was the death of these four religious ladies, who only ever did good for the poor, that sparked the question of why the United States was funding overseas militia.
Put together by Ashley Hall 2014