Saturday, December 03, 2005

Martyrs of El Salvador, ...

... pray for us!

December 2, 2005

On the 25th anniversary of the martyrdom of the four North American churchwomen, our minds and hearts turn toward them, their families, friends, and religious communities, and to the Salvadoran people.

There is no way with our limited human capacity to sufficiently mark the profound nature of this day each year. We each try, in our own way, to mark the day and renew our commitment to sacred accompaniment, to walk with the marginalized, to journey with those who struggle for full recognition of their God-given human dignity.

The anniversaries of Mons. Oscar Romero's and these women's assassinations have always been sacred to me. As we mark the 25th year of remembrance, it's difficult to capture the significance in words but important to try.

25 years have passed, and yet in some ways it seems like only yesterday. December 2nd, this year, for me was marked in simple prayerful remembrance. I did not get to travel to El Salvador as I hoped or spend time with the Maryknoll community as I had envisioned in the alternative. Instead I marked the day in interior prayerful remembrance and closed the day joining my parish community and co-members of Credo Pax Christi in a special Taize prayer remembrance of the churchwomen. At the conclusion, we sang "Dona Nobis Pacem" (Give us peace, O God) and with that invoked God's peace on all the world.

It strikes me as I think about 25th anniversaries, about jubilees and remembrances, that Sister Ita Ford, MM never got to celebrate a silver jubilee, a 25th anniversary of her life as a religious, yet today we commemorate the 25th anniversary of her martyrdom, what could be considered the silver jubilee of homegoing. In that sense, through our remembrance of her legacy - and that of the other churchwomen, the many Salvadoran clergy and people - we celebrate her life as a religious and the ultimate sacrifice she made, laying down her life.

Throughout my life, I have always felt a special kinship with Ita, in part based on unusual parallels in our life and in part through knowing her brother Bill over the years. So on this day, dear Sister in Christ, Ita ("God's little one"), I remember you and bless you and thank God for you and your Sisters with whom you worked side by side in your sacred accompaniment with the Salvadoran people.

Ita, Maura, Dorothy, and Jean, you did what we could not, yet you remind us that we each have ours to do, all in Jesus' name.

Rest in peace, dear Sisters! Rest in peace, all those who have given their lives in the service of the Gospel and God's most chosen peoples!

In your names, let us continue to bear authentic witness to the Gospel call to LOVE!

In prayerful remembrance, I share the intercessions I prepared that were prayed during our Taize prayer on December 2:

--- The martyred missionaries accepted the ultimate challenge and gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel. Inspired by their lives and motivated by their deaths, may each of us be energized in our Baptismal commitment to live for, with, and in Christ, we pray to the Lord

--- Inspired by our sister Maura Clarke who embraced poverty in order to be free to walk with the poor, may we continue to be generous in placing our time, talents, and resources at the service of the most needy, we pray to the Lord

--- Inspired by our sister Ita Ford who lived out the meaning of Advent waiting throughout her life, ultimately experiencing the grace of surrender in all things, may we find in her example a map for our own life journeys, we pray to the Lord

--- Inspired by our sister Dorothy Kazel who endeavored to live the fullness of Gospel joy even in the most dire of circumstances, may we come to see more clearly the true center of our beings, Jesus Christ, we pray to the Lord

--- Inspired by our sister Jean Donovan who possessed a contagious love of life, may we be moved to leave the security of our own comfort zones in order to walk with those who are marginalized, oppressed, or exploited, we pray to the Lord

--- Inspired by these martyred missionaries who responded to the call to walk with the suffering people of El Salvador, may we respond generously to the needs of all who seek to live with dignity, peace, and justice, we pray to the Lord

--- Inspired by the Salvadoran people – especially the disappeared, the displaced, and the dispossessed, may we come to understand more deeply the bond that unites us all into one human family, we pray to the Lord

--- In thanksgiving for the living witness of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the North American churchwomen, and all who give their lives in the pursuit of a more peaceful and just world, may God grant to each them the joys of eternal life in Jesus, we pray to the Lord

On this Saturday, the third day of December, I am reminded that it was 25 years ago today -- the day after the murders -- that the pain of this tragedy truly began for the families of these women, and so to the families, friends, and religious communities of Maura, Ita, Dorothy, and Jean, I offer my continued heartfelt sympathy and solidarity. We shall never forget!


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