Ursuline Sisters of Louisville Carol Curtis, OSU, went to El Salvador in early December, 2022, participating with “The Roses in December” delegation of SHARE with Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) to mark the 42nd anniversary of the martyrdom of the four U.S. churchwomen in El Salvador. The delegation will walk with women religious and the communities they accompany to El Salvador and Honduras.
On December 2, they visited Chalatenango where Sisters Carla Piette, Ita Ford and Maura Clarke used to work; were welcomed by communities in Los Ranchos and had a celebration of their lives at the cemetery.
December 2nd marks the 40th anniversary of the Roses in December martyrs, Dorothy Kazel, OSU, Maura Clarke, MM, Ita Ford, MM and Jean Donovan who were brutally murdered by the U.S.-supported Salvadoran military for their ministry and for their dedication to those living in poverty. They were called “subversives” because they were accompanying refugee families who had fallen victim to the escalating violence and oppression that eventually led to civil war.

Day One and Two Reflection of #rosesindecember2022
By Sister Carol Curtis, OSU
Blessed are you when you are persecuted for the sake of justice…

When I first arrived in San Salvador, as we drove from the airport, Mary Ann quietly reminded me that we were taking the same road the four churchwomen took the night of their murder.  Images from Roses in December came to mind, solemn and sobering.

When our bus arrived in Chalatenango, we were surprised by the festive welcome by the community there.  From the bishop’s blessing at the place Sister Karla drowned to the cemetery where all three Maryknoll sisters are buried, the people of Chalatenango led the celebration of the living memory of Karla, Maura, Ita, Jean and Dorothy.  I did not expect so strong a sense of communion with the people there, united in the memory of our sisters and our faith in the God of Life.  I experienced with SHARE a community that crosses the boundaries of time and place.

A Reflection from Day Three of #rosesindecember2022
By Mary Anne Perrone
Ita, Maura, Jean and Dorothy, PRESENTE!
December 2, 2022
The Road to Santiago de Nonualco: then and today
Then they were driving from the airport, in the dark, on their long ride home, the 4 of them.
Today we, a busload, started out on the road toward the airport, on a clear, sunny day, in memory of them.
Then, abducted and in fear and terror, their captors made the turn onto an isolated country road that took them all the way to a clearing near the town of Santiago de Nonualco.
Today we made that same turn, holding red roses, quieting our voices and maintaining silence for the 20 minutes and 22 seconds it took us to arrive at the same site.
Then their bodies were cruelly violated and they were shot at close range, killing them and spilling their blood on the soil of the pueblo of El Salvador.
Today we processed to that site, where they were hastily buried in a shallow grave, and where the seeds of their sacrifice have sprouted into joy and hope and a liberating message in all of the communities they touched in El Salvador and around the world.
We remember them, we walk and pray and share communion with the people who have come from all around to give thanks for their continuing presence among them. And among all of us, today and in all the days to come.
Reflection on Day Four of #RosesInDecember2022
By Mary Kay Flannery
A pilgrimage is not only about the destination but the entire journey! This wisdom become poignant as we traveled together in silence on the autobús, following the same journey as Maura, Ita, Jean and Dorothy when they were kidnapped on Dec. 2, 1980, and taken down a forsaken path at night, on the way to their torture, rape and execution by a Salvadoran military squad. I found myself reflecting back to my youthful and idealistic spirit as a novice in the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1980. Learning of this atrocity stirred my soul profoundly then … and even more so 42 years later! Is this what it could mean to “lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” as the greatest expression of love (John 15:13)? What is God asking of me in my own embodiment of compassionate love at this time in my life?
Out of the depths of my being, I began to spontaneously pray my revision of the “Hail Mary” over and over again in the silence: “Hail Maura, Ita, Dorothy and Jean, full of grace, God is with you, blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your wombs. Holy women and martyrs, daughters of God in Chalatenango, intercede for us, as both sinners and advocates, now and at the hour of our own death. Amen.”
Once we arrived, we stopped 1 km away from where the women were murdered, and we entered a procession with members of the local villages who were awaiting us to join them in their annual commemoration. And what did we pray along the way to the little chapel? Yes! It was the “Ave Maria,” over and over again … as tears flowed abundantly … with the depth of sorrow over what happened to these courageous, committed women, and our shameful complicity as U.S. Americans. At the same time, I experienced profound joy in the power of the resurrection ~ as people of mixed ages, backgrounds, and nationalities embraced one another in unifying and reconciling love. ¡Presente! Maura, Ita, Jean and Dorothy!
We closed our joyful celebration of these faithful Gospel women by joining together with hundreds of people on zoom as we sang the inspiring song written in their honor in 1981, by the Monks of Weston Priory. It left me and all of us with the work that lies ahead:
“Witnesses of dying and of rising, these martyrs who live the Good News of Jesus risen. Spirit calls to heed their voice, their message: transform all fear with justice and compassion.”
At the heart-wrenching Human Rights Forum we attended this morning, we heard a stark and frightening picture of where and how to begin responding to the present-day situation in El Salvador as Gospel witnesses in 2022! ¡Adelante!
Day One and Two in Honduras of the #RosesinDecember2022 pilgrimage that our Sister Carol Curtis on. The pilgrims stopped to visit Sr. Pat Farrell and Sr. Carol, both Franciscans, who had both known Ita Ford, one of the Maryknoll nuns murdered in El Salvador in 1980. They also stopped in the town of Macuelizo where the children learning to play guitar received us with a holiday concert.
Reflection on Honduras by Jesús de la Torre:
What is resistance? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a long time. As a student of migrations, I have seen first-hand how many people face the injustice of a migration system that divides, expels, imprisons, and kills. Faced with so much pain, so much suffering, some of us ask ourselves, how could this happen? Why? However, some other people, a special few for me, wonder: and me, how can I change it? These are the ones who resist, those who even in despair, never extinguish the flame that they can do something to change the situation. And that something happens not only because of oneself but because of the community. Today was a testimony of that.
Sisters Pat and Carol, telling their story in a house where even the animals found peace, have shown us the resilience of those who put intelligence, faith, and heart at the service of justice. In Chile, during the bloody dictatorship of Pinochet, they accompanied young people, workers and many others in a resistance that, in deafening silence, led the country to democracy. They organized secretly by word of mouth and, in a moment of outburst, bang! Hundreds of posters flying, messages for freedom resounding, and a society vibrating.
The same vibration brought by the strings of the guitars of the boys and girls of Macuelizo. Between Christmas carols interpreted by the children themselves and Christmas candies, there was an air full of conviction. Conviction on the part of the young people, who have found in art, music, and education a place full of joy and hope. But also conviction on the part of parents and authorities that there is a possibility to break the vicious circle of work in the coffee plantations where children should have only come to play.
But let us not be deceived. Resistance exists because there is a struggle against inequality, suffering, and injustice. If only someday people, no matter where they come from, would not have to resist! If only they did not have to fight for their dreams to be as valuable as those of any other human being. I pray that, someday, neither you nor I would be accomplices, but humble walkers with these communities towards the common good.