Today marks the 21st anniversary of the death ofJosephite Sr. Irene McCormack, RSJ, at the hands of Shining Path terrorists in Peru. Born in Western Australia in 1938, Irene grew up on a sheep farm and was educated by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart.
In 1957, Irene entered into the community of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart and began teaching. At an early age Irene knew she wanted to serve God and educate young people. After 30 years of teaching, she was asked to do missionary work in Peru.
She arrived in Peru in 1987 for missionary work. McCormack's first assignment was in El Pacifico, a low income suburb in San Juan de Miraflores.
On June 26 1989, McCormack left to serve in Huasahuasi. McCormack, with her companion, Sister Dorothy Stevenson, were asked to supervise the distribution of emergency goods by Caritas, a charitable food organization in Peru.
McCormack continued her ministry of providing library facilities to poor children, who had no chance of obtaining books to aide in their school homework. She wanted the village children to know how to read and write. She also focused on training the village people how to be extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, so they could serve other parishioners in outlying districts.
On December 17, 1989, the priests of Huasahuasi were warned that they were in danger from Sendero Luminoso, so they and the two sisters left the village for Lima. McCormack and Stevenson, however, felt that the church could not abandon the villagers at this time and returned on January 14, 1990. For 12 months Huasahuasi was without a resident priest. During this time McCormack and Stevenson served the people, led the communion services, and provided leadership.
On the evening of May 21, 1991, McCormack was captured by the terrorist group named Shining Path. Following a mock trial, she was found guilty of being an imperialist and working for the Peruvian government by distributing food for the poor. She was then killed by the terrorist group.
McCormack was buried in Peru on May 23. McCormack believed the Holy Spirit motivated her to work in Peru once stating: "This overwhelming experience of the unconditional gratuitous love of God became a reality in my life—not just a conviction.
Below is the morning offering of Sister Irene. As you reflect on this prayer, pray for Sr. Irene McCormack and all those who are involved in missionary work.
God, my Father, you love and forgive me so TODAY I accept all as gift - and ask to find you Lord the Giver in the gift. I choose to face life without fear and to live wholeheartedly in each present moment. May my heart sing today a song of grateful thanks and praise. I am God's work of art! I am precious in His sight.
Read more about the life of Sr. Irene McCormack and other modern-day martyrs and saints here.