Kazel, Dorothy

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Ursuline nun and missionary; b. Cleveland, Ohio, June 30, 1938; d. San Pedro Nonualco, El Salvador, Dec. 2, 1980. The only daughter of Joseph and Malvina (Kazlawskas) Kazel, Dorothy grew up in a predominately Lithuanian neighborhood on Cleveland's East Side. She graduated from Notre Dame Academy in 1957 and subsequently worked as a medical secretary, taught third grade, and became engaged. Deciding that marriage was not for her, she entered the Ursuline Community on Sept. 8, 1960, and became a novice the next year, taking the name Sister Laurentine, a prophetic choice since an Ursuline martyred during the French Revolution bore that name. Later Kazel resumed her baptismal name. She made final vows in August of 1968.

During the next few years, she earned B.A. and M.A. degrees and was certified as a school counselor. Sister Kazel was appointed to the Cleveland Diocesan Latin American Mission team in July of 1974 to serve a five-year term in El Salvador. After a period of orientation in Costa Rica, she was assigned to the parish of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Chirilagua. Later she was transferred to the parish of San Carlos Borromeo in La Union, and finally to the parish of the Immaculate Conception in La Libertad. In those parishes, Dorothy assisted with the liturgy, prepared children for First Communion, helped train lay catechists, taught reading, and instructed women in basic nutrition and child care.

As political unrest and violence escalated in 1977, Kazel continued her ministry undaunted by danger. She took on the additional tasks of transporting the dispossessed to refugee camps, helping bury the slain, and counseling survivors. When Archbishop Oscar Romero was murdered in March of 1980, Kazel, deeply affected, wrote to U.S. President Jimmy Carter to express concern that U.S. money was being used to intimidate and exterminate thousands of innocent people.

Her five-year term drawing to a close, Kazel offered to remain one more year to help the Cleveland team's new recruits. Shortly afterwards, on the evening of Dec. 2, 1980, she and her co-worker, lay missionary Jean Donovan, drove their van to El Salvador international airport to pick up Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke. As the four women drove toward La Libertad, five Salvadoran national guardsmen abducted them, drove them to a deserted area, tortured and raped them, then shot and left them by the roadside for strangers to bury in a common grave. Dorothy's body was returned to Cleveland for burial, where her wake was held at the Ursuline mother-house. After the Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated on December 9 at St. John Cathedral, she was laid to rest in the Ursuline community plot in All Souls Cemetery, Chardon, Ohio.

International public outrage at the murder of the churchwomen became so great that the Salvadoran government ultimately arrested the guardsmen. Yet almost four years passed before they were tried, found guilty, and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The people of El Salvador venerate the memory of Kazel. Her heroic sacrifice has helped raise the consciousness of Americans to an awareness of the intolerable plight of El Salvador's poor. Through her death Kazel has accomplished what she had set out to do in life.

Bibliography: a. carrigan, Salvador Witness: The Life and Calling of Jean Donovan (New York 1984). d. c. kazel, Alleluia Woman: Sister Dorothy Kazel, O.S.U. (Cleveland 1987).

[m. f. hearon]