Dorothy Kazel bigraphy, stories - American Roman Catholic nun

Dorothy Kazel : biography

June 30, 1939 - December 2, 1980

Sister Dorothy Kazel, O.S.U. (June 30, 1939 – December 2, 1980), was an American Ursuline Religious Sister and missionary to El Salvador. On December 2, 1980, she and fellow missionaries, Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford, Maura Clarke and laywoman Jean Donovan were raped and murdered by members of the military of El Salvador.


  • There is a section of the Ursuline High School, Wimbledon in England campus named after Dorothy; it is widely known within the school as the DK block. That particular block is used for business studies and is fairly new, only built a few years ago. It contains many computers and new technology, and acts as the finance office of the school.
  • There is a home that houses members of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in South Central Los Angeles named in Dorothy's honor. Members of the program work as full-time volunteers at non-profit organizations such as Verbum Dei High School, , , and Homeboy Industries.


On the afternoon of December 2, 1980, Kazel and Jean Donovan, a layperson who worked with her in La Libertad, picked up two Maryknoll missionary sisters, Teresa Alexander and Madeline Dorsey, from the airport after the pair arrived from attending a Maryknoll conference in Managua, Nicaragua. They were under surveillance by a National Guardsman of El Salvador at the time, who phoned his commander for orders.

Acting on orders from their commander, five National Guard members changed into plainclothes and continued to stake out the airport. Donovan and Kazel returned to pick up another pair of Maryknoll sisters, Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, who were returning from the same conference, on a flight not due until 7:00 pm.Judith Noone, The Same Fate as the Poor, Orbis Books (1995) pp. 1-2. Text not available online. (ISBN 1570750319)

The five members of the National Guard, out of uniform, stopped the vehicle they were driving after they left the airport in San Salvador. Kazel and the three other women were taken to a relatively isolated spot where they were beaten, raped and murdered by the soldiers.

Peasants living nearby had seen the women's white van drive to an isolated spot at about 10 p.m. on December 2 and then heard machine gun fire followed by single shots, three hours after the flight was due. They saw five men flee the scene in the white van, with the lights on and the radio blaring. The van would be found later that night on fire at the side of the airport road.

Early the next morning, December 3, they found the bodies of the four women, and were told by local authorities—a judge, three members of the civil guard, and two commanders—to bury the women in a common grave in a nearby field. The peasants did so, but informed a local priest, and the news reached the local Catholic bishop and the United States Ambassador to El Salvador, Robert White.

Their shallow grave was exhumed the next day, December 4, in front of 15 reporters, Sisters Alexander and Dorsey and several missioners, and Ambassador White. Donovan's body was the first exhumed; then Kazel's; then Clarke's; and last, that of Ita Ford. On December 5, a Mass of the Resurrection was said by Bishop Rivera y Damas; and on December 6, the bodies of Jean Donovan and Dorothy Kazel were flown out for burial. Donovan's body was returned to her parents in Sarasota, Florida, while Kazel's was taken back to her hometown of Cleveland, where she was buried in All Souls Cemetery in Chardon, Ohio. The bodies of the Maryknoll sisters, Clarke and Ford, were buried in Chalatenango, El Salvador, in keeping with Maryknoll practice.

At that point, a series of investigations began. The earliest investigations were condemned as whitewash attempts by the later ones, and in time, a truth commission was appointed by the United Nations to investigate who gave the orders, who knew about it, and who covered it up. Several low-level guardsman were convicted, and two generals were sued by the women's families in the U.S. federal courts for their command responsibility for the incident.

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