I wanted to take an opportunity to share this reflection by parishioner Larry Goodwin about the life and witness of Sister Dianna Ortiz. This courageous woman lived out discipleship by pointing out the reign of God and standing against the forces of abusive power. She reminds us that we have a responsibility to work for human rights and raise up the dignity of all people. Sister Dianna Ortiz is, in Christianity, a dangerous memory that hopefully gives us the courage to have a conversion of heart , to stand in solidarity with the oppressed, and to work to bring about liberation. May we recognize that, like so many other men and women that have gone before us, she joins us at the altar and gives us courage to work for the reign of God; to build a society based upon love, equality, and justice.
In 1996 while living in Washington, DC, I found out about a young Ursuline Sister from Colorado, who was on hunger strike outside the White House. She was advocating for the release of classified documents linking USA collusion with the Guatemalan Government in human rights abuse, the disappearance of indigenous people, and her own abduction.
I went to Lafayette Square to show solidarity with her, and victims globally, whose lives are shattered by the unimaginably cruel policies of governments that impose their rule by force and fear.
You may have read obituaries of this amazing woman in the national media last weekend. Sister Dianna Ortiz died on Feb. 19th at the age of 62. She had gone to Guatemala in 1987 on a two-year teaching assignment. In 1989, police abducted, tortured and raped her because of her support for the country’s indigenous people. She managed to survive and return home, where she endured a long struggle to get through the aftermath of her ordeal. With courageous faith, she committed the rest of her life to confronting the brutality of human rights abuse and advocating for a torture-free world.
In 1998 she founded the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC). My wife, Cathy, and I met Sr. Dianna in the early 2000’s and had the chance to speak with her about TASCC and its mission. Cathy had set up an anti-torture movement in the Amazonian region of Brazil and there was much to share during that meeting.
As Sr. Dianna explained, “We have a moral responsibility to speak out and to create a world where the next generation will be spared… where the dignity of all people is respected and where the human rights of all people are protected. We cannot ever lose sight of the reality that we are our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers.”
On this coming International Women’s Day, March 8th, let us celebrate and give thanks for Sr. Dianna and all the women leaders around the world who call out injustices, name the perpetrators, and whose stories continue to alert the world about the darkness which all too easily can threaten to engulf ideals of dignity, rights and accountability.
Thank you, Dianna, for the inspirational and blessed hope you have planted among us. R.I.P.