WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
15 Nov 2007 | News

Senate Passes Resolution Commemorating Lives of US Churchwomen Killed in El Salvador

WOLA applauds the passage of S.R. 381 commemorating the lives of four North American church women, two of whom were Maryknoll sisters, murdered in El Salvador by members of that nation's armed forces on December 2, 1980. The resolution was sponsored by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI).

WOLA applauds the passage of S. Res. 381 commemorating the lives of 4 Northamerican church women, 2 of whom were Maryknoll Sisters, murdered in El Salvador by members of that nation's armed forces on December 2, 1980 

S. Res 381 sponsored by Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin remembers and commemorates the lives and work of Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford , Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, and Cleveland Lay Mission Team Member Jean Donovan.

Full text of S.R. 381 

Below is Sen. Feingold's floor statement given Nov 14, 2007. 

Mr. DURBIN. I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of S. Res. 381 submitted earlier today.

   The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report the resolution by title.

   The legislative clerk read as follows:

   A resolution (S. Res. 381) remembering and commemorating the lives and work of Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford , Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, and Cleveland Lay Mission Team Member Jean Donovan, who were executed by members of the Armed Forces of El Salvador on December 2, 1980.

   There being no objection, the Senate proceeded to consider the resolution.

   Mr. DURBIN. I ask unanimous consent to be added as a cosponsor of this measure.

   The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

   Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, I am grateful to my colleagues for joining me in passing a resolution which remembers the lives of four American women who continue to be a source of great inspiration.

   Mr. President, on December 2, 1980, two Maryknoll Sisters, Maura Clarke and Ita Ford , Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, and Cleveland Team lay missionary Jean Donovan were brutally violated and murdered by members of the Salvadoran National Guard. We do not wish to revisit the events of those difficult times in Central America with this resolution. We wish to remember and honor the love and dedication these women of faith showed to those they came to serve.

   Two years ago, on the December 2 anniversary of the brutal deaths of these four American women, several 25th anniversary events were held in the United States including one at Milwaukee's Saint Therese Church in my home State of Wisconsin. I was pleased that the House passed a resolution honoring the lives of the four missionaries in the year of the 25th anniversary. Unfortunately, one or more members of this body anonymously blocked the Senate from passing a similar resolution to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the murder of these nuns. Along with my cosponsors, I am pleased that the Senate is now appropriately honoring these women with the passage of this resolution.

   Mr. President, remembering these women is a very personal and moving thing for those who actually knew them, but it is also truly powerful for those who have only learned of them after their deaths. I had the opportunity several years ago to meet many of their family members and have become well aware of one of the churchwomen, Sister Ita Ford , through my chief of staff and her aunt, Jean Reardon Baumann, who was a dear friend of Ita's from their childhood together in Brooklyn, New York.

   I would like to share with my colleagues a letter Sister Ita Ford wrote to her niece in August of 1980:

   Dear Jennifer, the odds that this note will arrive for your birthday are poor, but know I'm with you in spirit as you celebrate 16 big ones. I hope it's a special day for you. I want to say something to you and I wish I were there to talk to you because sometimes letters don't get across all the meaning and feeling. But, I'll give it a try anyway.

   First of all, I love you and care about you and how you are. I'm sure you know that. That holds if you're an angel or a goof-off, a genius or a jerk. A lot of that is up to you, and what you decide to do with your life. What I want to say ….. some of it isn't too jolly birthday talk, but it's real. ….. Yesterday I stood looking down at a 16-year-old who had been killed a few hours earlier. I know a lot of kids even younger who are dead. This is a terrible time in El Salvador for youth. A lot of idealism and commitment is getting snuffed out here now. The reasons why so many people are being killed are quite complicated, yet there are some clear, simple strands. One is that many people have found a meaning to life, to sacrifice, to struggle, and even to death. And whether their life span is 16 years, 60 or 90, for them, their life has had a purpose. In many ways, they are fortunate people.

   Brooklyn is not passing through the drama of El Salvador, but some things hold true wherever one is, and at whatever age. What I'm saying is, I hope you come to find that which gives life a deep meaning for you ….. something worth living for, maybe even worth dying for ….. something that energizes you, enthuses you, enables you to keep moving ahead. I can't tell you what it might be–that's for you to find, to choose, to love. I can just encourage you to start looking, and support you in the search. Maybe this sounds weird and off-the-wall, and maybe, no one else will talk to you like this, but then, too, I'm seeing and living things that others around you aren't. ….. I want to say to you: don't waste the gifts and opportunities you have to make yourself and other people happy. ….. I hope this doesn't sound like some kind of a sermon because I don't mean it that way. Rather, it's something you learn here, and I want to share it with you. In fact, it's my birthday present to you. If it doesn't make sense right at this moment, keep this and read it sometime from now. Maybe it will be clearer …..

   A very happy birthday to you and much, much love,

   From that one letter alone, I am sure that others will understand the kind of people these women were, and the impact they continue to have on us all.

   I also want to thank, in particular, my friend from Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern and his staff who have led the efforts in Congress to appropriately remember these four courageous American women who dedicated their lives to their faith and to the service of others.

   Mr. DURBIN. I ask unanimous consent that the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, the motions to reconsider be laid upon the table en bloc, and that any statements relating thereto be printed in the Record.

   The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

   The resolution (S. Res. 381) was agreed to.