WASHINGTON — The four women arrived in the tiny country on the brink of war, each with a different experience formed in Catholic circles in various parts of the United States: Queens and Brooklyn in New York, Connecticut and Ohio.
The Ursuline and the Maryknoll women religious came largely from working-class families and the lay missionary from a wealthy community in Connecticut. Though they only interacted with one another for a few short months, the faith that united them led them to feed, clothe and provide refuge for hundreds battered not just by war but also hunger in El Salvador.
On Dec. 2, Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel and laywoman Jean Donovan will be remembered worldwide on the 40th anniversary of what many increasingly consider their martyrdom.
Their spiritual calling led them on that day in 1980 to a shallow grave, to share in the bloody and brutal history of tens of thousands of Salvadoran Catholics in the country who suffered rape, beatings and sometimes were ultimately killed for trying to help those around them.
Their example, based on the teachings of the Gospel, some say, should now lead to a time of reflection and discernment about whether a canonization cause should be opened for them.
“The canonization of these four women is an idea whose time has come,” said Carlos X. Colorado, a Salvadoran-born attorney who wrote and curated the prominent “Super Martyrio” blog that followed for years the canonization cause of El Salvador’s human rights icon St. Oscar Romero.
“They were killed the same year as St. Romero, in the same country and for the same cause,” Colorado said. “If he was a martyr and a saint, it follows that they are, too, unless someone can prove otherwise.”