The SHARE Blog

Bio 2 of 4: Sister Ita Ford

July 17, 2015

Four Churchwomen- Ita

Sister Ita Ford (1940-1980)

Ita Ford was born in Brooklyn, New York on April 23,1940. She joined the Maryknoll Sisters in 1961 after graduating from Marymount Manhattan College. Only three years later, health problems forced her to leave. After working as an editor for a publishing company for seven years, Ita re-applied and was once again accepted to the Maryknolls.

In 1973, Ita was assigned to Chile where she joined Carla Piette in a poor neighborhood called La Bandera. After only one year, the U.S. sponsored a coup that overthrew democratically elected Allende and began the military dictatorship of Pinoche under which Ita and Carla lived for years.

Thousands of people who were suspected opponents of the government were tortured, imprisoned, killed, and disappeared. In 1977, Ita wondered, “Am I willing to suffer with the people here…? Can I say to my neighbors – I have no solutions to this situation; I don’t know the answers, but I will walk with you, search with you, be with you.”

Ita left Chile for a year back at Maryknoll. A friend described her to be “like a seething volcano.” She was angry with the injustice and, as a friend of hers described, felt that “The world had people in it who were beating up the poor she loved; the world had millions of other people who were closing their eyes and stopping their ears to keep from being aware of the slaughter going on.”

Even in the midst of her anguish, Ita’s vivaciousness and generosity remained her most prominent characteristics. Her Maryknoll friends explained that “Ita’s buoyant personality, her wit, her sense of humor and fun were striking contrast to the suffering and pain she experienced throughout her life. Her twinkling eyes and elfin grin would surface irrepressibly even in the midst of poverty and sorrow.”

In 1980, after hearing the sermons of Archbishop Romero, Ita and Carla embarked on a new mission to El Salvador. They arrived shortly after he was assassinated on March 24.

That June, Ita and Carla began working with the Emergency Refugee Committee in Chalatenango where they saw first-hand the Salvadoran reality of homelessness, persecution, repression, and violence of the ruthless military dictatorship. In a letter to Maryknoll President Melinda Roper, the two expressed concern that the US government would soon be taking decisive action “under the guise of ‘stopping communism’…” They also proclaimed that “…if we have a preferential option for the poor as well as a commitment for justice as a basis for the coming of the Kingdom, we’re going to have to take sides in El Salvador – correction – we have.”

On August 23, the two sisters went in their jeep to take a political prisoner home – something they often did for people whose lives were in danger. On the way back, they were caught in a flash flood while crossing a river. Carla pushed Ita out the window. While being carried down the river by raging waters, Ita was sure she had met her fate. But finally, she caught hold of a branch and pulled herself to the river bank.

Carla’s body was found the next morning. For Ita, losing her dearest friend had a profound impact and made her question why she had been spared.

Following Carla’s death, Sr. Maura Clarke became Ita’s new partner in Chalatenango. She described Ita as “a powerful example.” Having a new partner aided in Ita’s recovery. Her friends noticed her old spirit starting to return after an assembly of Maryknoll Sisters over Thanksgiving weekend. At the closing liturgy, Ita read a passage from one of Romero’s final homilies: “Christ invites us not to fear persecution because, believe me, brothers and sisters, the one who is committed to the poor must run the same fate as the poor, and in El Salvador we know what the fate of the poor signifies: to disappear, be tortured, to be held captive – and to be found dead.”

The following day, December 2, 1980, she and Maura boarded a plane to return to El Salvador where Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan picked them up. On their way back from the airport, the four women were abducted and brutally killed by National Guardsmen. Continuing with the Maryknoll tradition, Ita and Maura were buried locally in Chalatenango.

Before her death, at the end of a birthday letter to her niece Jennifer, Ita wrote: “… I hope you can come to find that which gives life a deep meaning for you, something that energizes you, enthuses you, enables you to keep moving ahead. I can’t tell you what it might be.  That’s for you to find, to choose, to love.  I can just encourage you to start looking and support you in your search.”

Volunteer with Us!

July 16, 2015

SHARE is seeking a volunteer for its El Salvador Office for the position of Communications and Technology Coordinator. The position requires a strong commitment as well as full participation in all SHARE activities so that they can be recorded and then transmitted in the social media, web page, and blog to our partners in the United States.


  1. Commitment to mission and vision of SHARE, and to struggles for social and economic justice.
  2. Four month to one-year minimum commitment required. Applications accepted on a rolling basis. Must attend orientation/training in El Salvador.
  3. The applicant must be bilingual. Must possess the ability to interpret/translate Spanish-English and English-Spanish. International experience preferred.
  4. Capacity and interest in working with groups of varied backgrounds and ages.
  5. Capacity for political and program analysis and attention to detail.
  6. Ability to work both independently and as a team.
  7. Open-minded, leader, responsible, punctual.

Julie LavenBenefits:

  • To learn from the ample experience of SHARE.
  • The opportunity to live with a Salvadoran family.
  • Immersion in Salvadoran culture.
  • The opportunity to visit rural communities, stay there for at least two days sometimes, and experience first-hand how they live and survive.
  • To be able to learn the history of the country.
  • Job opportunities with SHARE and/or sister organizations; plus letters of recommendation to graduate program and/or other jobs at the end of the volunteer term if requested.

Click here to learn more.



CRIPDES Celebrates a New Board

June 24, 2015

Last Saturday, June 13th, SHARE’s partner organization CRIPDES celebrated their 10th General Assembly to welcome new board members.

The activity started with breakfast and popular music performed by a group from El Barío village in Suchitoto.

CRIPDES board 1


Current CRIPDES Board members arrived and sat at the table of honor as part of their last activity celebrated as a board. Marcos Galvez, CRIPDES President thanked all of the present people in the activity .

After lunch, the voting process started to elect the new board.

CRIPDES board 3

Finally, the new board of CRIPDES was established as follows:

  • President – Bernardo Belloso from CRIPDES San Vicente region.
  • Vice President – Miriam from CCR region.
  • Claudia Castro from UCRES region.
  • Osmin Salinas from UCRES region.
  • Maribel Moya from CRIPDES Sur of La Libertad region.
  • Erika Murcia from CRIPDES San Vicente region.
  • Otilio Serrano from CCR region.

All the new board members were recognized by the current board and assembly members. At the end, they shared a cake for celebrating all of the anniversaries of the regions and most importantly, to celebrate 31 years of CRIPDES in the accompaniment for the Salvadoran people in their struggles for justice.

Congratulations to the New CRIPDES Board members. Keep working hard!

28 Years of Solidarity

Good Shepherd

Good Shepherd delegation from Kansas City

The Good Shepherd Parish Delegation from Kansas City traveled to El Salvador with a group of 11 delegates in June 2015.

One of the objectives for this trip was to get to know the present and past situation of El Salvador and to live for at least three days with the families in their sistering community of El Buen Pastor in Aguilares, San Salvador.

Upon their arrival to the community, what a surprise! All of the kids were gathered to wait for them at the main entrance of the community and sang three songs to welcome their friends. There is no doubt that the delegation was excited to be received in such creative way. Click to watch the videos.


The children in the community of El Buen Pastor sing songs to welcome their friends

Some other activities included visiting the crypt and house of Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, a trip to the Museum of Revolution and a visit to the village of El Mozote- home to one of the biggest massacres during the armed conflict.

Good Shepherd Parish from Kansas City has been supporting the Buen Pastor community for over 28 years now. They want to invite you to continue supporting projects and to establish more grassroots relationships between communities in El Salvador and institution in the United States.

Thank you to Good Shepherd for your 28 years of inspiring solidarity!

Watch this video on the security issue by Teresa Aley.

Bio 1 of 4: Sister Dorothy Kazel

June 23, 2015

Sister Dorothy Kazel

Dorothy Kazel, O.S.U. (1939-1980)

Dorothea Lu Kazel was born in Cleveland on June 30,1939, to Lithuanian-American parents, Joseph and Malvina Kazel.

Feeling called to a devoted religious life, Dorothy left her family and fiancé to join the Cleveland Ursuline Sisters in 1960.

After years of teaching in local high schools and a transformative missionary experience, in 1967 Dorothy joined the Cleveland Latin American Mission (CLAM).

During a 1968 retreat, Dorothy proclaimed that she wanted to be remembered as, “an alleluia from head to toe.” According to her retreat notes, she also showed determination to, “…accept the person I am with all my weaknesses and not to pretend that I don’t have them; that I may accept the fact that I am human and with this human nature to strive to become as perfect and loving a woman, Christian, and religious that I can be.”

In 1974 she left for Costa Rica to prepare for serving in El Salvador where she worked to strengthen the parishes of Chirilagua, La Union, La Libertad, and Zaragoza among others.

At this time, tensions were growing as El Salvador spiraled toward civil war. Sister Dorothy described it as “a country writhing in pain—a country that daily faces the loss of so many of its people—and yet a country that is waiting, hoping and yearning for peace.”

On October 3, 1979, just shortly before the start of a U.S.-backed, bloody, twelve-year civil war, Dorothy wrote to Sister Martha Owen: “We talked quite a bit today about what happens IF something begins. And most of us feel we would want to stay here. . . . We wouldn’t want to just run out on the people. . . . I thought I should say this to you because . . . I don’t think they would understand. . . . If a day comes when others would have to understand, please explain it for me.”

Sister Dorothy spent increasing time transporting displaced refugees to refugee centers that she and other team members created. At these centers, Dorothy and her team organized and led educational programs to help mothers learn nutrition, child care, home care, and health care skills. Concerned friends and family members pressed her to return home to pursue missionary work in safety, but she knew she couldn’t leave the people who she came to love so dearly. She knew she had to stay.

On December 2, 1980, Sister Dorothy and Jean Donovan went to the Comalapa International Airport to pick up two Maryknoll Sisters. The four women were labeled “political activists” for their work with the poor. Four national guardsmen- Daniel Canales Ramirez, Carlos Joaquin Contreras Palacios, Francisco Orlando Contreras Recinos and Jose Roberto Moreno Canjura abducted, assaulted, and shot the four women whose bodies they barried in a shallow grave. This news “shocked the conscience of the American people”. (National Catholic Reporter, 2000)

In 1984, the men were sentenced to 30 years in prison for this crime. Two of these were released early for good behavior and retired to Florida in 1989. The Reagan administration awarded one of these the U.S. Legion of Merit, a high honor.

Dorothy’s life serves as a reminder to us all of the meaning of solidarity. She sacrificed her safety and her life to walk with those on the margins, and to stand up against a brutal, violent war backed by the U.S.

Join us in El Salvador this November 28th– December 5th to celebrate the lives of these four churchwomen!

Investing in Futures of Hope

Two scholarship funders, Paul Kendall and Sharon Rives have supported scholarships through SHARE for many years and still attend every graduation. Recently, we were honored with Paul´s visit which included meeting new scholarship recipients and their families, spending time with CRIPDES leaders, attending University graduations, meeting with former scholarship recipients who are now graduated, and last but not least, to evaluate how the program is going and discuss its future.

Paul Kendall Visit

Paul with UCRES high school students

Speaking personally, having a university education has fundamentally changed the course of our lives, opening doors that otherwise would have been closed.  That opportunity was made possible by the sacrifices of our parents, by scholarship programs created years ago by donors whom we could never meet or thank, and by God´s blessing.  Walking in the same footsteps as those unknown donors who helped us and in recognition that we are but stewards of all that God has given to us, we have been supporting other young people in their educational dreams for over 50 years.

Paul Isabel Jose with Edith and Yesenia

Paul with SHARE’s Executive Director Jose Artiga, Field Office Director Isabel Hernandez, as well as Edith and Yesenia who just received their diplomas in Social Work

The scholarship program for young leaders that is administered by SHARE is our largest such commitment.  After living in Ecuador in the early 1990s, we decided to create a program in Latin American for persons who have demonstrated their commitment to bettering the social, economic, political, and environmental conditions within their communities and regions.  Serendipitously SHARE came to our attention at just that time in 2004.  University-level knowledge and communication skills by themselves, however, are just crude tools.  What guides their use are the basic values of their possessors, values that are developed over time by witnessing the examples of their parents, with the support from mentors, and through personal experience.  Continued nurturing of these students is therefore a central element of the program.

Paul y fam  de Noris.

Paul with Noris and family

We have chosen to be a part of that on-going process.  We get to know each of the students when they are first selected; we visit their families in their homes; and we meet with them individually and in small groups at least annually, during which time we review their progress and offer encouragement and counsel as they face the daily struggles of family problems, personal security, financial insecurity, and academic pressures.  The goal is to ensure that once they have been selected for the program every one of them will fulfill his or her dream, receive a diploma, and return to their community as a caring professional.

This program and our process of personal engagement has been a great joy.  It has also been a humbling experience to witness them triumph over unimaginable difficulties and a rare honor to be invited to their graduations and to join them, their families and their communities in celebrating their achievements.


Paul L. Kendall and Sharon K. Rives

Reflection on the Beatification of Archbishop Romero; Its Meaning Today

June 12, 2015

Written by SHARE board member Jean Stokan on May 24, 2015

Romero crowdAfter decades of work on El Salvador, yesterday’s event ofthe beatification of Romero consumed me.  I watched the ceremony live streamed from El S, the formal Church service, and coupled that with watching several DVDs of the war years from the perspective of el pueblo.  My husband, Scott Wright, and a host of friends from the US went down for the events, and to be with the people’s celebration in the streets.  Estimates range from a quarter to a half million people gathered.  Rep. Jim McGovern went as well.   Mercy Sister Betty Campbell, a friend who together with Carmelite priest Peter Hinde had been in El Salvador in the early 80s and seeded much solidarity, attended the beatification, and she emailed me this morning.  Reflecting on the day before, she wrote: “The sermons were pretty words, but not the essentials, no clear words of why San Romero was killed….Please pray that the Amnesty Law is lifted and past crimes are recognized…It is like the USA, when we recognize our crimes of war, of poverty and bring those responsible to recognize what they did and what is being done, what we participate in, then we will be able to have a new society”.

Words also came from the White House about Archbishop Romero: (; and Secretary Kerry: (

Both had “pretty words,” and I imagine heart-felt, but no words of apology from the U.S. government. Five weeks before Romero was assassinated, he wrote to Pres. Carter pleading for the U.S. not to intervene militarily, nor with economic and political pressure (  Eighty thousand deaths later, and many more from the fruits of liberalizing the economy and structured injustice, U.S. policy makers lament the violence now from gangs and the attempts of the Salvadoran leftist government to stand up to Monsanto and mining interests.  The U.S. is proposing a billion dollars in aid for the No. Triangle countries, coming with answers to the very problems it created decades ago.  And it has been remilitarizing the entire region to keep people from fleeing, to lock the youth in their countries’ furnaces of violence.  Such is life between pretty words.

Yet we go forward, and will continue to accompany the people.

The final line from Secretary Kerry’s statement strikes me, and I have suggestions of how to live it out, if it’s to be more than pretty words:  “His message was both timeless and universal: that we should be good to one another, that we should pursue peace in all that we do, and that we should respect the fundamental rights and dignity of every human being. We could pay no more profound a tribute to the life and memory of this champion of truth than to do as he taught us, today, tomorrow, and for generations to come. 

If we are to “do as he (Archbishop Romero) taught us,” then this means:

  • We (including our political leaders) have to draw close to the lived reality of the poorest, most marginalized and threatened populations. Romero was transformed by this.  We have to listen to the victims of war and violence, including those being crushed by having land taken from them, or those receiving death threats.  We have to put our hand in the wounds, and see the world from their perspective.  Six weeks before Romero was killed, he gave a speech in Louvain, Belgium entitled “The Political Dimension of Faith,” where he talked about the Church needing to be enfleshed in history, and it has to take sides.  He said that we are either at the service of the poor or we are “accomplices in their deaths.”
  • We (again, including our political leaders) have to publicly denounce human rights violations by security forces, as Romero did each Sunday in his homily, publicly naming them. For this he was condemned to death.  Breaking the long history of relationships between Church, political and military leaders, Romero refused to be on stage at any formal event with political leaders until the repression stopped.  A powerful public message.
  • We have to re-read Archbishop Romero’s letter to President Jimmy Carter, and apply it now to Honduras, and more. (link to it)

Last week, my parish priest invited me to come to the Spanish-language mass this past Sunday, as he was going to invite a number of Salvadoran parishoners to do a shared homily on the occasion of Romero’s beatification. It was all quite moving.  In a corner of our big Church, they also had prepared a Romero altar and memorial.  On one wall were pictures of Romero walking with his people, and there was a prominently posted copy of Romero’s February 1980 letter to Pres. Carter, in both English and Spanish languages.  On the other wall were pictures of the current mining struggles in El Salvador, and one big picture of a protest outside the World Bank during the recent review of the case of Pacific Rim Co. suing the Salvadoran government for trying to protect its environment—the fruit of trade policies in which investors’ rights trump human rights.  It was amazing to see how my Salvadoran parishoners made that connection…Romero’s spirit thick.

Romero’s life trajectory changed when he began to see from the eyes of the poor.  He became a target of the military; he was isolated by some in the Church hierarchy–his very faith and integrity questioned.

This weekend, he was beatified.  Close to a half million flooded the streets of San Salvador to say yes to his life and to his example.  I pray my country will as well.

35th anniversary of the martyrdom of Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan

May 15, 2015


Dear brothers and sisters,

SHARE El Salvador and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, LCWR are inviting you to help us organize the 35th anniversary delegation to El Salvador to celebrate the lives of Ita, Maura, Dorothy, Jean, Carla and all the martyrs. Delegation dates: November 28 to December 5.

We invite you go to El Salvador with us and to share the attached flyer and letter of invitation with your friends and network. We are also attaching an application. Please email us and or call us with any questions.

Help us remember them, help us continue with their spirit of struggle for peace with justice.


hermanas (2)

Keep alive the spirit of these 4 women by making a gift to SHARE so that we may
continue working toward economic sustainability, justice, and human and civil rights.



Food and Water: Human Rights? Not yet.

April 30, 2015

As April comes to a close, so does a hotly debated issue. The amendment to Article 69, that would define food and water as human rights, failed in El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly. But not all hope is lost.

Right to food and water

“Endow the constitution for the right to water and food”

According to data from the National Board of Food and Nutritional Security (CONASAN), 900,000 people in El Salvador are undernourished and 1.5 million people have no access to clean water. What is being done to solve this problem?

In 2012, the Legislative Assembly passed a reform to Article 69 of El Salvador’s constitution which seeks to guarantee both food and clean water as human rights, with the objective to provide an adequate life to every person. This reform needs ratification from the Legislative Assembly to become binding. The current Legislative Assembly, which is coming to an end, failed to ratify this reform.
This amendment would pave the way for further policies to protect food and water. It has been considered a vital starting point for this process.
This matter is now in the hands of the 2015-2018 Legislative Assembly. Good news may come soon.

Delegate Reflection: What to share?

April 20, 2015

The Northwest School from Seattle sent 22 students and 5 teachers to El Salvador at the end of March to learn about El Salvador and commemorate the life of Oscar Romero. One of the students reflects on how to share the experience.

From the very beginning of the trip, I have been thinking about what I wanted to share with the Northwest School community. I have been wondering since we arrived what we will take back to Seattle.

We have learned so much about the damages of the wealth gap in El Salvador, and a government overly influenced by U.S. interests during our time here. However, it is so easy to take ourselves out of the equation. It’s hard to ask ourselves what role we play not only in El Salvador but also back in the United States.

First, we have learned of our country’s participation in oppression of the many people living in poverty in El Salvador in favor of economic interests. We must take that information and understand our influence to our government. As students who have been graciously given the painful stories of the people we have met here, we have a responsibility to take this information with us and share it with others.

On another level, we live in a country with an ever growing wealth gap and many people in power who have more interest in corporations than the majority of the population. I cannot speak for my peers, but I would love to remain educated about my country’s participation globally and how I can pressure my government to keep the interests of the people of the world over those of large corporations.

Lastly, understand that most of my peers and myself come from positions of privilege in regards to education and wealth and our U.S. citizenship. This is, in my opinion, the most important way we must acknowledge our place in the equation. Many of us were incredibly lucky to be born at the top of the equation. I most certainly do not have the answers on how we must begin to even reflect on this or begin to give power back. None the less, I urge my peers and those who have read what we have shared to think harder about our role and our responsibility.

To read more reflections by Northwest students, check out their blog:


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