Maryknoll Sister Ita Ford was one of the four US women killed on December 2, 1980, by the Salvadoran military.
They, like many in Latin America, had taken seriously the preferential option for the poor, sharing in the lives of the poor, accompanying them in their joys and struggles, showing the poor the mercy of God.
For this, they and many others were killed in Latin America, mostly by government forces. To be a Christian committed with the poor meant to put their lives at risk.
But for them it was what gave their lives meaning, partly because we see people living and struggling with a purpose.
Sister Ita Ford explained this in a letter to a sixteen-year niece:
This is a terrible time in El Salvador for youth. A lot of idealism and commitment are getting snuffed out here now. The reasons why so many are being killed are quite complicated, yet there are some clear, simple strands. One is that people have found a meaning to live, to sacrifice, struggle, and even die. And whether their life spans sixteen years, sixty or ninety, for them their life has had a purpose. In many ways they are fortunate people.
Brooklyn is not passing through the drama of El Salvador, but some things hold true wherever one is, and at whatever age. What I’m saying is that I hope that 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.
The killing of youth by government forces in Latin America doesn’t happen as much as it did in the 1970s and 1980s, but still “a lot of idealism and commitment are getting snuffed out” by the violence, the poverty, the desperation, the political machinations of economic elites.
Yet I too find small signs of hope.
Yesterday I witnessed the entrance of 92 mostly young people into the catechumenate in the parish of Dulce Nombre. It filled me with hope to see so many wanting to journey with Christ, to live as members of the People of God.
They are finding something that gives their lives a deep meaning.
May all of us find that – in opening ourselves to the workings of God in us and in the poor.