Ita Ford : biography
Sister Ita Ford, M.M. (April 23, 1940 – December 2, 1980) was a Roman Catholic Maryknoll Sister who served as a missionary in Bolivia, Chile and El Salvador. She worked with the poor and war refugees. On December 2, 1980, she was tortured, raped, and murdered, along with fellow missionaries Sister Maura Clarke, M.M., laywoman Jean Donovan, and Sister Dorothy Kazel, O.S.U. They were killed in El Salvador by members of a military death squad of the right-wing Salvadoran military-led government.
In November 1980, Ford and Clarke attended a regional assembly of Maryknoll Sisters in Nicaragua. At the closing liturgy on December 1, 1980, Ford read a passage from one of Archbishop Óscar 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, Ford and Clarke boarded a plane to return to El Salvador. They were picked up by missionaries Dorothy Kazel, an Ursuline sister and Jean Donovan, a Roman Catholic laywoman. Several members of the National Guard stopped the vehicle they were driving after they left the airport in San Salvador. The four women were taken to a relatively isolated spot where they were tortured, raped, and murdered by the soldiers.
According to the Maryknoll Sisters:“The U.N.-sponsored report of the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador concluded that the abductions were planned in advance and the men responsible had carried out the murders on orders from above. It further stated that the head of the National Guard and two officers assigned to investigate the case had concealed the facts to harm the judicial process. The murder of the women, along with attempts by the Salvadoran military and some American officials to cover it up, generated a grass-roots opposition in the U.S., as well as ignited intense debate over the Administration’s policy in El Salvador.
In 1984, the defendants were found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison. The Truth Commission noted that this was the first time in Salvadoran history that a judge had found a member of the military guilty of assassination. In 1998, three of the soldiers were released for good behavior. Two of the men remain in prison and have petitioned the Salvadoran government for pardons.”
Ita Ford's brother, attorney William P. Ford, spent more than 25 years using the U.S. court system to try to obtain justice for his sister and the other three murdered women. He worked closely with Human Rights First (formerly the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) on federal lawsuits to try to bring Salvadoran generals to answer for the murder of the women, and, in other cases, for the torture and murder of members of the Salvadoran poor. biography of William P. Ford, accessed online December 11, 2006.
The head of the National Guard, whose troops were responsible for the murders, Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, went on to become Minister of Defense in the government of José Napoleón Duarte. After their emigration to the American state of Florida, Vides Casanova and his fellow General, José Guillermo Garcia, were the named defendants in a federal civil suit brought by Bill Ford on his sister's behalf. The case is styled Ford v. Garcia. The defense won the case.
Life and work
Born in Brooklyn, New York, on April 23, 1940, Ford was the daughter of William Patrick Ford, an insurance man who took early retirement due to tuberculosis, and Mildred Teresa O'Beirne Ford, a public-school teacher. She had an older brother, Bill (1936–2008), and a younger sister, Irene. The family lived at 1029 57th Street in Brooklyn.
William Patrick Ford was related to Austin B. Ford, whose son, Francis Xavier Ford (1892–1952), was the first seminarian to apply to the newly established Maryknoll Fathers in 1911 and, after being ordained as a missionary in 1917, went to China, where he became a bishop and a martyr. He died in a Communist prison camp there in 1952, when his young "cousin" Ita was twelve."Here I Am, Lord": The Letters And Writings of Ita Ford by Ita Ford and Jeanne Evans (New York: Orbis Books, 2005) ISBN 1-57075-605-8., accessed online December 11, 2006.
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