Sister Dorothy Kazel on El Salvador, February 1979

Sister Dorothy Kazel was an Ursuline Sister from Cleveland, Ohio. She was a member of the Cleveland Latin American Mission team to El Salvador from 1974 until her murder on 2 December 1980 by soldiers of the military junta. She has been celebrated by the Ursuline community and the greater Catholic community as an alleluia person, someone who embodied the faith and Gospels. After interviewing several individuals who knew Sister Dorothy, one cannot help but get the impression that she was a wonderful, love-filled individual, even in the worst of circumstances. Through the generosity of the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland, with the help from Sister Colette Livingston in the archives, the voice of Sister Dorothy Kazel can be shared with the world. Protest Voices began with the intent to bring the voices of the past, through the collection of new oral histories, into the historical record and social studies classrooms. It is only fitting, then, that we hear from Sister Dorothy herself. In the following clip from an audio tape recorded February 1979, Sister Dorothy talks about being called a communist and relates the story of a Maryknoll Sister who worked in Tamanique, El Salvador and was threatened with arrest by the military junta. She also describes the misconceptions the Salvadoran government had regarding the work of the missionary teams.

This story clip can be aligned to the following Ohio Department of Education Social Studies Standards:

  • American History Content Statement #24: The United States followed a policy of containment during the Cold War in response to the spread of communism.
  • Contemporary World Issues Content Statement #7: Individuals can participate through non-governmental organizations to help address humanitarian needs.
  • Contemporary World Issues Content Statement #9: Nations and international organizations pursue their own interests on issues related to civil and human rights, resulting in both conflict and cooperation particularly as it relates to injustices against minority groups.

Potential Classroom Uses:

This clip could be used to provide a powerful, personal viewpoint from someone who witnessed the poverty and hardships in El Salvador during the 1970s. Using Sister Dorothy Kazel as a model, teachers could highlight the usefulness and importance of organizations outside national governments in providing aid to those who need it most. This kind of story clip can be used to instill in students the need for civic responsibility and engagement, especially if it is paired with local issues. The idea being to connect the students local reality with the broader, global community.