Jean Donavan, a member of an affluent American family, was a college graduate and a successful accountant, but she quit her job to spend two years as a lay missionary in El Salvador. She sorted out the mission accounts, distributed food, and eventually led Scripture discussions and buried whoever had been shot that day. In the first five months of 1980 aver 2,000 ordinary Salvadoreans were killed. Priests who lived alongside the peasants, introducing basic literacy and caring for the people, became targets for the death squads. Mission teams of nuns and lay people like Jean attempted to look after the parishes that the priests had been forced to abandon. She said:
I’m never sure if I’ve got enough to share with people and then I realise that I do, it’s God
that helps us, He sort of carries us, because I couldn’t do this by myself.
And she wrote in a letter to a friend:
Several times I have decided to leave El Salvador. I almost could except for the children, the
poor, bruised victims of this insanity. Who would care for them? Whose heart could be so
staunch as to favour the reasonable thing in a sea of their tears and loneliness? Not mine,
dear friend, not mine.
Two weeks later, Jean Donovan and three nuns were driving from the airport when their van was ambushed by six guardsmen who raped and shot them. The soldiers were paid hundreds of dollars – they had been ordered to do this so as to humiliate and destroy ‘subversives’.
Our prayer uses some words from ‘The Way of the Cross’ no. 5 in Celtic Daily Prayer:
Lord, You have taught us that we must bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Sweet Jesus, like Simon of Cyrene, may we carry Your cross. May we carry Your cross. Amen.