On a hot and dusty December day in 1980, the bodies of four American women - three of them Catholic nuns - were pulled from a hastily dug grave in a field outside San Salvador. They had been murdered two nights before by the US-trained El Salvadoran military. News of the killing shocked the American public and set off a decade of debate over Cold War policy in Latin America. The women themselves became symbols and martyrs, shorn of context and background.
In A Radical Faith, journalist Eileen Markey breathes life back into one of these women, Sister Maura Clarke. Who was this woman in the dirt? What led her to this vicious death so far from home? Maura was raised in a tight-knit Irish immigrant community in Queens, New York, during World War II. She became a missionary as a means to a life outside her small, orderly world, and by the 1970s was organizing and marching for liberation alongside the poor of Nicaragua and El Salvador.
Maura's story offers a window into the evolution of postwar Catholicism: from an inward-looking, protective institution in the 1950s to a community of people grappling with what it meant to live with purpose in a shockingly violent world. At its heart, A Radical Faith is an intimate portrait of one woman's spiritual and political transformation, and her courageous devotion to justice.
Cover image courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives
We've sent an email with your order details. Order ID #:
To access this title, visit your library in the app or on the desktop website.
How do we carry the love of God into the world?
Be Attentive-Be Reflective-Be Loving
Eileen Markey’s excellent book, “A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sister Maura” confronts us with the critical question, “How do we carry the love of God into the world?”
Sister Maura Clarke, a Maryknoll Sister, served in Nicaragua from 1959 until 1977. In 1980, she answered Archbishop Oscar Romero’s call for Maryknoll Sisters to assist in El Salvador at a critical junction in that country’s history. Months after her arrival, members of the military of El Salvador assassinated her along with fellow missionaries Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan.
I was fortunate to meet Sister Maura in Boston in early 1978. She was in the United States bring attention to the atrocities and poverty in Central America, while working out of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston (RCAB) Urban Planning Office. I served with Sister Maura for a brief period on the RCAB Peace and Justice Commission.
Markey perfectly described Sister Maura as “open hearted.” To her, “everyone mattered.”
Markey not only captures Sister Maura’s extraordinary work in Nicaragua and El Salvador, but also her spiritual and personal evolution from the pre-Vatican II era or obedience to a woman willing to stand in solidarity with the poor and oppressed at great personal risk each day.
Sister Maura after seeing actions and judging them to be unjust, knew she had to act. In other words she was attentive to the people she met, reflected on their conditions and then put her love into action.
Markey develops the key relationships in Sister Maura’s life – her family, her religious order and the people of Nicaragua and El Salvador. She beautifully bridges the struggles in Ireland that her parents experienced a generation earlier with those that Sister Maura faced in Central America.
Having recently completed, Kate Hennessy’s, “Dorothy Day: The World Will Saved By Beauty,” I was stuck that these two amazing women died within 3 days of each other – Dorothy Day (November 29, 1980) – Sister Maura Clarke (December 2, 1980). Earlier that year (March 24, 1980) Archbishop Oscar Romero was murdered.
I highly recommend Markey’s challenging and extraordinary book.
- D. Manzo