She pulled out the only other photo—a snapshot of her team in La Bandera before the military coup. How thin and solemn they all looked. But then, they were all determined church workers set upon making Chile into a socialist state where the kingdom of God could get a good start ahead of most of the world. She and Molly now wore jeans and ponchos. Alfredo, with his black-as-coal beard and his pipe, looked for all the world like Che Guevara. José, also bearded, was a carbon copy Alfredo, only younger. Madre Rosa was a tiny, frail figure in her gray veil and green sweater. All except Rosa had their fists raised and their mouths in an open smile, because they were shouting presente for the photographer, who had come down from Newsweek to write about the election of their new socialist president, Salvador Allende.
The seatbelt sign flashed on as the pilot announced their final approach to the Ilopango airport in San Salvador. She put this last photo away and hurriedly finished her letter to Kay.
I've been reassigned to El Salvador. I guess the community thinks I need a change. But it's so hard to leave after everything that's happened. I'm weary unto death of all the killings and the violence.
Must close now. The plane's about to land. Will write more later. Whether they are the Buddhist or Catholic variety, just keep the candles burning in earnest for me and for my dear Chile.
Blood Flowers, published in 2010, is set in Chile and El Salvador during the tumultuous seventies. In 1969, Sister Meg Carney is fresh out of the Novitiate and off to Chile as a missionary -just in time to witness the overthrow of the socialist government of Salvador Allende. In the aftermath of the brutal military coup, the priest she works with is murdered and she herself becomes the target of surveillance.
Six years later, burned out and grieving over the loss of her compañero, Alfredo, Meg is no longer the young nun who had set out so enthusiastically to bring God’s word to the Chilean people. Accepting an invitation from her Mother Superior to work in El Salvador, the self-proclaimed savvy missionary finds herself face to face with an entirely different sort of revolt. As biblical reflection comes face to face with a Marxist revolution, Meg must balance her religious vocation to serve the poor with her own needs to find love and peace amid the rawness of life.
Blood Flowers can be purchased through amazon.com here.
Mary Judith Ress is a journalist and editor who has been living and working in Latin America since 1970. She has been a teacher, editor, nun, missionary, economist, wife, and the mother of two sons. At present, she is an ecofeminist theologian, a state of mind which she takes tremendous pride in explaining to the less tuned-in:
"What does a retired ecofeminist theologian do? The same thing she´s always done, just slower! Actually, my own searching has led me to promote anything that expands our consciousness, because I'm convinced that this is the evolutionary pressure our species is experiencing at this juncture. So I promote walking the labyrinth (we have one at my holistic health and spirituality center, Tremonhue in the Cajon de Maipo), shamanic ecstatic postures, biodance, mindfulness (Thich Nhat Hanh), circle dancing, Tai Chi/Chi Gung movements....anything that puts us into a more meditative state."
Her non-fiction work Ecofeminism in Latin America (Orbis books, 2007) won second place in “Best Gender Issues” at the Catholic Press Association in 2007. She lives in Santiago, Chile, where she is writing her second novel, My Name is Francesco.
Flores de Sangre, the Spanish-language edition of Blood Flowers is being released on Wednesday Dec 3 at the Café Literario Balmaceda (Av Providencia 430, Santiago).
Please join us for dancing, drinks and some really good words!