A Girl From Queens

On Saturday, May 12 at 2 p.m., author Eileen Markey will discuss the life—and death—of Sister Maura Clarke, M.M., whose brutal assault and murder at the hands of Salvadorian soldiers in 1980 became the source of international news and years of debate over America’s Cold War policy in Latin America. Who was Maura Clarke, and why was she in El Salvador? How significant for her endeavors were her youthful connections, through her parents, with the Irish? And what about the influences from her early encounters with the people of Latin America? This insightful program will be in the McCloskey meeting room in the parish house of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, 263 Mulberry Street, Manhattan. A reception will follow. Suggested donation: $5.

On December 2, 1980, Sister Maura Clarke and three other women were assaulted and killed by El Salvador’s National Guard. Prior to her death, Maura Clarke, during two decades of service in Central America, had come to support popular movements against dictatorial regimes, first in Nicaragua and then in El Salvador. Why?

The child of Irish immigrants, Maura Clarke was raised in Queens. She grew up in Rockaway during the l930s and 1940s. At home, she heard her father’s stories about the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Irish Revolution, and the Irish Civil War. And she heard her mother’s tales of the discrimination and intimidation she had experienced growing up as a Catholic in County Antrim. How significant were these domestic experiences? And what about Sister Maura’s early work in Latin America? Were those experiences transformational for her? Living and working every day in poor communities could have changed her from an obedient young woman to a provocative critic of authority who pushed the boundaries of what it meant to be faithful to religious conviction—even if it meant challenging national regimes cruelly exploiting the poor people of their own countries. These and related issues will be the focus of Eileen Markey’s research-based discussion of Sister Maura Clark.

Eileen Markey is an investigative journalist. Her book, A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sister Maura, was published by Nation Books.

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