Will Sister Ita Ford be a saint?
Father Kenneth Doyle
In January 2022, Mass was celebrated in El Salvador at the tomb of Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford by retired Bishop Octavio Cisneros of Brooklyn and Bishop Oswaldo Escobar of Chalatenango, El Salvador.
Q. Recently four men were beatified as martyrs in El Salvador. In 1980 Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass, and in 2018 he was declared a saint.
Are there efforts underway to beatify Sister Maryknoll Ita Ford and the three other churchwomen who responded to Archbishop Romero’s call for help? They were also brutally murdered in 1980. Aren’t they martyrs too? (Fredericksburg, Virginia)
A. Sister Ita Ford was a Catholic sister from Maryknoll who grew up in Brooklyn. She served as a missionary in Bolivia, Chile and El Salvador, working primarily with the poor.
On December 2, 1980, she was beaten, raped, and murdered by members of the Salvadoran military along with three other missionaries—Sister Maryknoll Maura Clarke, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, and lay missionary Jean Donovan.
In January 2022, Mass was celebrated in El Salvador at the tomb of Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford by retired Bishop Octavio Cisneros of Brooklyn and Bishop Oswaldo Escobar of Chalatenango, El Salvador. After Mass, Bishop Escobar told Catholic News Service that Salvadoran bishops were working on a cause for canonization that would include the four female martyrs.
Q. If someone has left the Catholic Church for a different denomination and is no longer a practicing Catholic, should they be allowed to receive Communion in the Catholic Church?
Recently, my wife and I were helping a priest prepare for his father’s funeral, and I asked the priest if someone who was no longer a practicing Catholic would be allowed to receive communion at the funeral. He said they weren’t to receive but he wasn’t going to monitor the situation.
At the funeral mass, this same priest announced that non-Catholics and Catholics who were not prepared were not to receive. But in fact, some of these people have come forward to take communion.
What should be the consequences for these people after they hear the announcement that they were not to receive? And should a priest who knows that someone is not eligible to receive refuse communion to that person when they present themselves? (Dinwiddie, Virginia)
A. On the general rule, you are right: Those who are not Catholics should not take communion at a Catholic mass.
There are some exceptions: Orthodox Christians, for example, are welcome to entertain; a Protestant spouse marrying a Catholic may be authorized to receive communion at the wedding mass. In all of these circumstances, the non-Catholic must share our faith in the sense of the Eucharist, and he or she must lack normal access to a minister of their own religious tradition.
As to what the consequences are when someone who is not eligible takes Communion, I don’t know the answer to that; I’d rather leave it up to God to sort that out. And as for a priest refusing communion at the altar railing, I’ve never done that, and I probably won’t. I just don’t know everyone’s circumstances, and the worst thing would be to make that judgment wrong.
– Father Kenneth Doyle is a columnist for Catholic News Service
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