Dec 24, 2010

Christmas Eve in Litmanova

(Update: I'm not sure why the original photos included with this post are no longer visible, especially since they were my original photos. But I have 'deleted' the remnants of them, to remove the distracting exclamation points!)

Spent a wonderful Christmas eve at the Marion Shrine of Litmanova, Slovakia, with my young friend, Mike, and his charming carpenter father, Honza. Mother had to stay home back in Liptovsky Mikulas to care for her ailing mother, but we returned in time for our Christmas Eve dinner.

When one is present in such a place of holiness and peace, you realize why you are 'Catholic' to the core of your being, for a Marion shrine of this nature epitomizes all that is best about the Catholic mystical tradition, and what distinguishes it from other Christian traditions. What also wells up within your heart is the quiet, peaceful, but firm determination to fight all those forces within the religious institution that are impervious to this spirit of holiness, peace and love. It is a never ending battle, this need to resist the forces of exclusion and intolerance, which would twist the religion into an instrument of prejudice and tribal superiority. However, the gentle grace of the Mother of Litmanova gives one the courage and inner peace to continue to witness to the holiness of being called to the gay vocation.

Christmas blessings to one and all from Mary's holy mountain in Litmanova, Slovakia.

Dec 22, 2010

A Jewish Prophet for a Christian Season

Off to the Tatras Mountains with my young friend, Mike, to spend Christmas with his lovely family - his somewhat gruff,  uncommunicative,  but rather sweet father (sporting the classic walrus mustache that is characteristic of virile men in Slovak and Poland), his gracious, friendly, effervescent mother who holds the only paying job in the family, and his saintly, bedridden grandmother who exudes an aura of holiness, peace and love to all who come to visit her. It is an atmosphere one breathes the moment one steps foot into her tiny bedroom with it's many icons of the Virgin on the wall. Even though I've only met her three times, she grasps my hand and holds it the entire time I'm in the room, as if I'm one of her long lost sons.  She searches my face and eyes for evidence of ... of what I don't know ... when she is speaking to me, but the intensity of her gaze convinces me that every person she encounters is God to her, whom she worships and adores. However, she knows that I am a religious man with a devotion to Our Lady of Litmanova and she hopes I will draw Michael into this  same sphere of  supernatural light. Goodness and holiness like this are so rare in this world, and this remarkable woman discovered her path to holiness through the folk religion of Slovak Catholicism, with it's passionate devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

With Michael's parents Christmas last year, Liptovsky Mikulas, Slovakia.

On another note, as a prelude to Christmas, this evening I watched the documentary, American Radical, The Trials of Norman Finkelstein, a radical Jewish intellectual whom I much admire for his courageous criticism of Israel and the Israeli lobby in the US. He has suffered much for his views,  including losing tenure at De Paul University, despite the overwhelming vote of the faculty in his favor, but in that he is similar to another Jewish prophet from long ago, put to death amidst fanatical cries for his extinction. A simple google search will unearth a disturbing amount of hate directed towards him as a "self hating Jew, supporter of Terrorism, nasty piece of work." And on and on it goes, the hysteria, the fanaticism, the blindness - while Finkelstein himself keeps on plodding, witnessing to the truth as he sees it, the truth of a radically unjust world whose injustice demands radical solutions - with no teaching position now available to him.

One such bizarre example I discovered is a site for wine, with the following pithy comment about Finkelstein:
 Taken from Jewlicious

As you all know, I’ve caught a bit of flack for running an ad for Norman Finkelstein’s new book. Finkelstein is one of the most noxious anti-Israel voices out there, beloved of supporters of terror and a nasty piece of work in general. Today, running that ad has paid off!

How sad to see such blindness and how difficult to counteract it. The documentary was a sober reminder for me of the profound seriousness of this issue and puts into clear context all of our narrower concerns for the radical reform of Catholicism (though I don't think the policy of Catholic Charities to deny condoms to abused women in Africa is a small scandal).

For those not familiar with him, here is a link to the film's website and a review:

a revolutionary career does not lead to banquets and honorary titles, interesting research and professorial wages. It leads to misery, disgrace, ingratitude, prison and a voyage into the unknown, illuminated by only an almost superhuman belief.

This observation by Frankfurt school luminary Max Horkheimer would serve as an epigraph to the new documentary on Norman Finkelstein that opens on February 11th at the Anthology Film Archives Theater in New York. While the trials of Norman Finkelstein are interesting enough in and of themselves to warrant attending this powerful film, what stands out above all is the force of Finkelstein’s personality that is captured by co-directors David Ridgen and Nicolas Rossier. In an age of banality and anti-heroes, Finkelstein is virtually Byronesque even if rendered with a Yiddish accent.

I first got a sense of Finkelstein’s on-screen charisma in a 2009 documentary titled Defamation that included a scene with Norman at his building out in the Coney Island neighborhood in Brooklyn, where he upbraids the director for suggesting that Norman tone down his rhetoric, especially when it comes to likening Israeli leaders to Hitler. With biting irony, Finkelstein reminds him that all Israeli politicians call each other Nazis when the opportunity arises. But it his facial expressions, hand gestures and ringing voice that make the scene as memorable as his words. If an actor such as Dustin Hoffman auditioned for a role playing Norman Finkelstein, I doubt that he could be half as compelling as the former professor himself.

The question of “going too far” runs like a red thread throughout the new film. Although the directors, veterans of leftwing documentaries, are obviously sympathetic to Norman’s views, they make sure to include interviewees who openly question some of his decisions. For example, Noam Chomsky states that it was probably a mistake to focus on Dershowitz’s plagiarism rather than the issues of Israel and Palestine. In my view, his decision to pursue this line of attack had a lot to do with his outrage over Dershowitz’s much ballyhooed academic reputation, which could only be a painful reminder of his own problems merely getting a tenured position. We learn that in 2001 Norman Finkelstein was only making $18,000 per year at Hunter College in New York. When he came out with “The Holocaust Industry” that year, Hunter demanded that he take a reduced workload and lower pay. After refusing, he took another job at Depaul University in Chicago where pressure from Alan Dershowitz and the Israeli lobby resulted in his being refused tenure, despite the overwhelming vote in favor from the faculty.

The movie fills in just enough biographical detail so that Norman’s tendency to stick his neck out becomes understandable. He says that he takes after his mother who, like his father, was a concentration camp survivor and a participant in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Unlike many such survivors, the experience left her politically engaged and vehemently anti-war. When the war in Vietnam began, she used to explode at the senselessness and brutality of the war continuously. Her outspokenness obviously had a big impact on Norman who was radicalized during the war.

In 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon for the first time, the 29-year-old Princeton PhD graduate began demonstrating at the Israeli embassy in New York on a daily basis. You can see a photo of him in the film with a poster likening the invasion to Nazi barbarism, a first sign of the militancy that would turn him into a target of the Zionist movement in the U.S. From this early gut reaction against Israeli aggression, he turned into a scholarly critic of Zionism with a critique of a book by Joan Peters that essentially denied that the Palestinians lived in the land that Israel conquered. Chomsky contacted him at the time and developed a warm and supportive relationship with Norman that lasts until this day. Finkelstein states that Chomsky helped him with the conceptual framework for his Middle East analysis, if not his willingness to speak truth to power.

Although the movie does not spend any time at all on biographical material, except obviously for the role of his parents’ experience in Nazi death camps in shaping his worldview, you get a strong sense that his politics are all-consuming, even to the point of fostering a monastic existence. He lives in one of the most untrendy neighborhoods in all of New York, but one that he loves. His life revolves around research and traveling to campuses far and wide, where he gives talks on Israel to audiences that are sure to include people determined to shout him down. Things have reached a point that the Jewish Defense Organization, a crypto-fascist outfit, has plastered leaflets around his building demanding that his landlord evict him.

With his strong Yiddish accent and glowering but affectionate disposition, Finkelstein is a true prophet of the Jewish people. Refusing to bow down to officialdom, he speaks tirelessly on behalf of the Palestinians, who, as they were in the time of the fictions depicted in the Old Testament, are regarded as little more than vermin by the tribe that calls itself “the chosen people”.

As a modern day Jeremiah, Finkelstein is reminding Israel of something the prophet said long ago:

For thus hath the LORD of hosts said: hew ye down her trees, and cast up a mound against Jerusalem; this is the city to be punished; everywhere there is oppression in the midst of her.  As a cistern welleth with her waters, so she welleth with her wickedness; violence and spoil is heard in her; before Me continually is sickness and wounds. Be thou corrected, O Jerusalem, lest My soul be alienated from thee, lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited.

Dec 19, 2010

Encountering the Lord of Advent in Venice

In Venice at the moment, which is glorious and magical in winter with the snow and the paucity of tourists. One can actually walk down the alleyways in peace and freedom, savoring the beauty of this mystical city. It's such a gift to be here. 

In celebration of the US military repeal of DADT, I attended the Eucharistic Liturgy at St. Mark's Cathedral this morning. It was my (mis)fortune to have chosen the 10:30 Latin High Mass, celebrated by a band of 'elderly' priests and attendants, not one of whom was under the age of 50. They were accompanied, incongruously, by one very young girl altar server with plaits of beautiful, wavy brown hair descending down her back to her waistline. She was also wearing white sneakers. It made for a charming juxtoposition as well as an ironic commentary on the absurdity of the whole 'treatment of women' in the Catholic Church. The tottering, aging males, hanging on by their curling toenails to the last vestiges of power and privilege, made for a rather poignant, pathetic sight. The presiding priest, no disrespect intended, was so wearied and dispirited that he cast a pall of depression over the entire congregation (small). The choir master, a flamboyant gay monsignor in all his purple regalia, with dangling tassles at the end of his lacey white surplice, was quite testy with us in the congregation as we missed his cues - arms flailing about like Mama Rose directing her line of chorus girls. I thought to myself, "My god, the stranglehold these gay queens exercise over Catholic culture. And there are so many of them!'"Yet somehow it all didn't seem to matter. By the time we laboriously struggled though the communion ritual - with no evident joy whatsoever - one felt interiorly that sense of 'connection' with the divine and received in turn that sense of satisfaction that one had honored the mystery of the Mother/Creator God, as one should every Sabbath. The mystery remains in the midst of the absurdity and contradictions. 

And yet... speaking for myself only - it is a matter of conscience that I can't attend these kinds of all male rituals on any regular basis, because to so participate feels like endorsing injustice and hypocrisy. This is a deep interior movement of conscience, and feels like a calling, a gift and a burden, since I so love the grand settings of these great cathedrals for the honor they give to God and the Eucharistic mystery. If only the priestly caste which presently controls these grand churches weren't so dishonorable and corrupt, refusing even to consider the use of condoms to prevent the deaths of thousands of African women and the orphaning of thousands of African children as a result. The present posture of the Catholic Church towards women and gays makes these formal liturgies a violation of the respect we owe to the all embracing divine source of the universe. Without a doubt, this posture is directly linked to the horrific sex scandal in the Church, the one is the mirror image of the other. Far from feeling I am honoring her and renewing my connection with the divine source of the universe, continued participation in these show trials of hypocrisy feels harmful to my spirit and disrespectful to the Divine Source and to the Risen Lord. Yet I also deeply respect those loyal and progressive Catholics who feel called to stay in the pews Sunday after Sunday, year after year after year, longing for some small sign of change. One Spirit, different gifts. However, I do feel quite strongly that we can't simply sit Sunday after Sunday, waiting patiently for some small crack in the wall of defenses, offering our critiques as we may, hoping  against hope for change (not that this is a fair depiction of most enlightened church goes). We are being told not to wait, because change is already occurring in heterodox fashion on the margins -in alternative, breakaway communities - in the Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement - in the Old Catholic Church - in the home Eucharistic movement and others - and all of these alternative movements deserve our respect and support, because it is here that the Spirit is showing us the way into the future. And I feel this is really the mysterious, providential point of the present intransigence on the part of Churh leaders - to compel  us to look elsewhere for the signs of the Spirit's guidance and direction and not be so dependent on the formal institution. After all, if we are truly persons of faith, then we must believe that the Spirit could effect radical, transforming change in the formal institution if she so wished. That it is not occurring in any meaningful sense is to me one of the "signs of the times," and a clear indicator of the will of the Risen Lord and His Spirit. We are to look elsewhere for signs of inspiration, even those of us who do not feel called to formally join one of these alternative movements.

As for the danger of splintering and fragmentation - let it come, in my opinion, and let us trust in the Spirit of Unity that we will be held together in the end. Several years ago, I attended a small Evangelical Christian service in Thailand in the seaside resort of Pattaya, notorious for the thousands of young women and boys employed in the sex industry. We met in an upstairs room (the Upper Room), and all  twenty of us together rocked back and forth in our chairs as we responded to the chants of the preacher. "God has a plan for Pattaya!, yes he does.And we shouted in reply, "Yes, he does, Oh thank the Lord, yes he does."  "And he has a plan for all of these poor women of Pattaya, God has a mighty plan." "Yes, he does, he does have a mighty plan," we echoed in our enthusiasm, carried on the wings of the living, breathing Spirit. And on it went in the most intense, Spirit-led revival I have ever experienced in any Church anywhere anytime. These marginalized, bible thumping Evangelicals, how easily we condescend to them - yet the place was filled with a holy peace and fire that made one burn with the Love of God and the love of the poor and the love of one another. And this was not mass hysteria or hypnosis, the interior peace and joy were too deep and pervasive. This was about as far from a  formal Catholic liturgy as one could possibly get. And at the end of this great revival, I did indeed feel I had honored the Divine Source of the Universe in her all embracing love for the most marginalized. And for our Eucharist, we went downstairs into the larger hall and shared potluck togtether, with the Risen Lord present within the potato salad and fried chicken. So...if this is fragmentation...well then, let it come, since without the Reformation and all its chaos and pain, we would not have had this simple, sweet, loving community praying together in the Spirit in the seaside resort of Pattaya for the thousands of abused women in the sex trade. Quite honestly, though, I don't think it will come to this, for the Catholic tradition will endure and survive somehow with its identity intact, though radically ransformed in astonishing ways we cannot yet forsee. But we do need to be fearless in imagining and then enacting new ways of being Catholic communities, and new  ways of celebrating the sacraments, fearless in our trust in the Lord and His Spirit who ultimately controls the future of the church. The wearied old souls and the flaming gay faggots in purple are not going to step aside and relinquishg their power. So we must simply sidestep them and disempower them, in peace and joy and love. Let us show them, in the love of our hearts, how to be Spirit filled worshippers of joy, gay and straight together, men and women as equals, not dispirited, repressed, broken men of angst and guilt. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

Dec 17, 2010


Thanks to blogger JD of Exsilium for referring me (in the comments section of previous posting) to this official portrait of Benedict alongside a nearly nude Christ. Whereas I found the video of the Pope watching half naked acrobats somewhat sweetly amusing, this 'official portrait' is quite alarming for it's self-evident homo-eroticism.Yet another example of a Catholic culture in profound denial.

I located the portrait on the  traditional Catholic site, Canterbury Tales, and some of the comments below the portrait do show some awareness of the dilemma. Others are dumbfounded that anyone could fine this inappropriate or homoerotic.

TESS: I do not think Our Lord or Our Lady would think the sculpture Of Christ was fitting in this work, however the Holy Father is quite beautiful. 

DEACON GREG KANDRA: A commenter at my blog thought the homoerotic connotations were a bit much -- and I have to say, he has a point. Seeing the prayerful pontiff beside a nearly nude Christ is, in a word, weird. 

LESLIE COOPER: Say wha??? "Homoerotic"? "Tiny hands"? :( What is wrong with some of you?

That portrait is beautiful. The Holy Father looks intelligent and thoughtful and sensitive

Dec 16, 2010

ON THE EDGE OF HIS CHAIR: Pope and Topless Acrobats

Many thanks to Michael Bayly at Wild Reed for cluing us in to the existence of this 'remarkable' video of the Pope watching topless male acrobats perform. The irony is just too extreme to process, and too funny for words. Pay close attention to the Pope's ardent gaze as he watches the acrobats depart.  The incident would be rather sweet were it not for the continuing harm being done by this Pope's inability to come to terms with the perfectly natural and holy phenomenon of same sex attraction (not to mention the sex abuse crisis). The Cardinals and Vatican functionaries politely clapping in the background only add to the surreal nature of the scene. In light of the sex abuse scandal and all it has revealed to the world about the secret sex life of many priests (abusers and not), is this really the kind of entertainment the Vatican wishes the world to see the Pope enjoying with such relish? The naivete is astonishing. Clueless would be my word. Yet I can't resist feeling a pang of sympathy for the old Pontiff, entrapped by layers of denial and false religious ideology. There is something rather tender and sad about it all, until one remembers the horrific suffering such blindness has engendered in the lives of gay people everywhere, especially the young. And then sympathy gives way to indignation and the need to hold such leaders accountable.

For Michael's valuable commentary, click here.

Dec 13, 2010


A new documentary on the pioneering life of Father John McNeill is now ready for distribution. To find out more about the film and contribute to its dissemination, click here.

Taking A Chance on God 

A documentary profile of John McNeill, pioneer gay priest.

Taking A Chance on God  tells the story of 85 year old John McNeill, Catholic priest and  pioneering advocate for LGBT human rights. The film traces his life from a childhood in Buffalo, his months as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany, call to priesthood and his passion for justice and equality. In the 1960s with fellow Jesuit Dan Berrigan he was a herald for peace and nonviolence at the height of the Vietnam war. After the Stonewall riots of June 1969 he became a voice of liberation for gay people. In 1972 he co-founded the gay and lesbian Catholic group Dignity NY. In 1976 he published the  groundbreaking classic The Church and the Homosexual and his “coming out" on the Today Show before millions in 1976 was historic. In the 1980’s he proclaimed hope for the gay community in the face of despair and paralysis during the AIDS crisis.

On April 14 1987 Jesuit superiors arrived at the apartment of Fr John McNeill at 98th Street in NYC. In English and Latin they read the Vatican “Decree of Expulsion”.  McNeill, Jesuit priest of 40 years, was expelled from his religious community because of disobedience to Vatican authorities. He questioned Roman Catholic teaching on homosexuality. This was the final act of an expulsion drama begun a decade prior in 1977. In 1983 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine and Faith sent a further order of silence. When Cardinal Ratzinger issued the October 1986 letter on the “Pastoral Care of Homosexuals” defining the lives of gay and lesbian persons as “objective disorder” and  “intrinsic evil," Dignity chapters were expelled from Catholic parishes. It was the height of the AIDS crisis a time of pain and anger. John broke the Vatican imposed silence he endured for 9 years and refused to end his public ministry among the gay community. In conscience, John wrote to superiors from Gethsamani Abbey, he could no longer be silent. He was dismissed finally in the words of the decree because of his “pertinacious disobedience”. Unembittered, John continued his ministry as a therapist, a retreat director, and in his writing. On the road or from his blog John continues to be that voice today proclaiming same sex love as holy and encouraging lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender  persons around the world! 

In the film McNeill is a natural storyteller whether at a kitchen table or in his homilies and retreats. He details his life as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany and the survival he owes to the kindness of a stranger. He chronicles the early days of lesbian and gay liberation with the stories from the Gospel. McNeill inspires some and frustrates others with his constant spirit of hope and trust. His scholarly books and articles, translated in many languages, reflect his brilliant mind and wisdom. There is a tenderness to the man easily felt in his warm and welcoming embrace. He is serious psychotherapist and theologian, but he lightens up with a glass of wine and easily laughs and sings.

Wherever he goes John introduces and gives thanks for Charles Chiarelli his partner of 45 years.Taking A Chance on God is also a story of the “love that dare not speaks its name”. It is very much a story of the heart, of John McNeill’s love for his Church, his gay community, his Jesuit brothers and his beloved Charlie. With honesty and tenderness, he reflects on the challenges and joys of their relationship. Theologian, Mary Hunt, says that McNeill differs from most priests because “John is an honest gay man!"  Taking A Chance on God gives a rare look into the heart of a gay man’s journey as he wrestles with life as a Catholic priest and a gay man.

Interviewees include bishops, fellow Jesuits, leaders from the US, Canada and Ireland, activists, friends and family. Among them are: Rev. Nancy Wilson, Leader of The Metropolitan Community Church, Dr. Mary E. Hunt, feminist theologian, Bishop Gene Robinson, comedian Kate Clinton, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Fr. Robert Carter SJ (co-founder of Dignity 1972 and in 1973 of the NLGTF), Fr Bernard Lynch from Co. Clare, Ireland  and Andy Humm, journalist for Gay USA. Critics of John McNeill are also interviewed: Msgr. William Smith of St. Joseph's Seminary and Fr. Jim Llyod CSP of “Courage” .

Dec 4, 2010

Remembering the Martyrs, Mourning Our Loss

A very moving, poignant lament by William Lindsey at On Bilgrimage prompted me to make the following reflections. William was commenting on the 30th anniversary of the  deaths of the Maryknoll women in El Salvador, and comparing his reactions then and now. It came as a real shock to me to be reminded by Bill's posting of this terrible event of 30 years ago. A different time and a very different climate in the Church in those days. Even though the institutional clerical structure refused to pay appropriate homage to the extraordinary witness of Ita, Maura, Jean and Dorothy, as well as  the assassination of Archbishop Romero, there was still a sense within the Catholic community that the Spirit that inspired such martyrdom was in some way reflected within and supported by the institutional structure of Catholicism. Alas, that sense is no more. It really does seem as if the clerical structure has so strangled the very life of the Spirit within the Church that, simply to breathe, some of us must go 'elsewhere' in order to survive.

It does feel as if the Church that once inspired Maura, Dorothy, Ita, and Jean is now no more. Something very precious has been taken away from us, and the sense of loss and grief are very real. I do think we need to trust in the Spirit and ask, "What is 'God' asking of us through this trial and where is S/He leading the People of god." Into the Wilderness, it seems, into the diaspora, where we must form pockets of hope and light in the dark. Without wishing to trivialize the suffering of the Jewish people, it reminds me of the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 ce. This precious religious icon/artifact/symbol that lay at the heart of Jewish religious and cultural identity and seemed to form its core was forcibly taken away from the Jewish community in one brutal act of destruction, and the shock was overwhelming. The Jewish community was then scattered worldwide and had to rediscover the "Shekinah," or 'Presence of the Lord," in the study of Torah rather than through worship in the Temple. Though we can't compare our suffering of the present to this overwhelming cultural tragedy in the past, something similar is being played out here in the Catholic community. We are being ripped from the womb of Holy Mother Church, at least its formal institutional structure, which is now held in a stranglehold by the clerical cast. We are being forced outwards into the Diaspora through the creative actions of the Spirit. Another comparison would be the expulsion of the Tibetan Buddhist community from Lhasa and Tibet, forcing them to let go of the sacred symbols of their religion (Potala Palace being pre-eminent), but thereby rediscovering a new vocation outside the previous institutional structure. "Blessed be the name of the Lord," we must say on our journey into the wilderness, trusting in the Pillar of Fire by night and the Pillar of Cloud by day.

Nehemiah 9:19. "Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. 

The following is the Maryknoll press release celebrating the 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of these heroic women of faith. 
The night of December 2, 1980, two Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford arrived at the airport in San Salvador from a Maryknoll community meeting in Nicaragua. There to take them home were two women from the Cleveland Mission team working in La Libertad, Ursaline Sr. Dorothy Kazel and Lay Missioner Jean Donovan. Their van was stopped at a road block by National Guardsmen. The women were taken to a remote area, abused and murdered. Their bodies were buried in a common grave by a  farmer compelled by the Guardsmen.

This year on Sunday, November 28th the memory of these women and the thousands of Salvadorans who also lost their lives will be commemorated at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Ossining, New York. Included in this remembrance will be Sr. Carol (Carla)  Piette, another Maryknoll Sister who worked with Ita Ford in Chile and preceded her to El Salvador arriving the day Archbishop Romero was assassinated. Sisters Carla and Ita were together in a jeep caught by a flash flood while crossing a river bed August 23, 1980. Carla pushed Ita to safety but was herself drowned. The two Sisters had been working with refugees and displaced people in the region of Chalatenango in NE rural El Salvador during the undeclared civil war. The people of the Barrio where Carla’s body was found refer to her as a “Martyr of Charity” and honor her on the anniversary of her death each year. After Carla’s death, Sr. Maura Clark came from Nicaragua to take her place working with Ita.

On March 24 of 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero y Damas was gunned down while celebrating Mass in the Hospital of Divine Providence chapel. The day before in his Sunday homily he had appealed to the National Guard and the police not to kill their fellow brothers and sisters. “No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God,” he said. “No one has to fulfill an immoral law. It is time… to obey your consciences rather than the order of sin.”   The Maryknoll Sisters as well as the Cleveland Mission Team had come to El Salvador in response to the Archbishop’s call to Sisters for help in a situation of extreme oppression and violence experienced by the Church and by the suffering people. After the deaths of Romero and the Church Women, the brutal repression continued. Nine years later in 1989, six Jesuit priests teaching at University of Central America (UCA) together with their housekeeper and her daughter were dragged out of their residence and slain in their garden.