Dorothy Hennessey

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Sister Dorothy Marie Hennessey O.S.F. (March 24, 1913 – January 24, 2008) was a Roman Catholic Franciscan Sister and activist. Hennessey was born in Manchester, Iowa. The 13 Hennessey siblings — Dorothy Marie Hennessey was the eldest — grew up on an Iowa farm. She was 19 years older than her younger, natural sister, Sister Gwen Hennessey, who is also a religious Sister.[1]

Hennessey was drawn to the Peace and Justice movement and the School of the Americas Watch by her brother, the Rev. Ron Hennessey, M.M., a missionary in Latin America from 1964 until his death in 1999. Her brother wrote letters to his family describing his life in Guatemala and El Salvador. In the 1980s, his letters recounted how Mayan Indians in his parish were being terrorized and killed by Guatemalan military squads. Father Ron later befriended Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero of El Salvador, and when the Archbishop was assassinated, Father Ron wrote of his funeral in the Cathedral when the Salvadoran military fired on the mourners.

Sister Dorothy Marie's views began to shift to a view more critical of her government's policies in Latin America. This stand became more public when she agreed to participate in the "Peace Walk across the United States" in her 70s to protest the U.S. Cold War buildup in that region. She was most widely known for protests at Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the Army's School of the Americas, a facility for training Latin American soldiers. Hennessey believed that the School of the Americas teaches torture techniques to Latin American soldiers, and that graduates of the program have been involved in atrocities, including the 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests and two women in El Salvador. The school denies these claims and argues that it helps to spread democracy in Latin America.

Sister Dorothy, along with Sister Gwen, was arrested and convicted to six months in federal jail for their protest in 2001. She was 88 years old at the time. [2]

In 2002, Dorothy and Gwen Hennessey were jointly awarded the Pacem in Terris Award.[3] It is named after a 1963 encyclical letter by Pope John XXIII that calls upon all people of good will to secure peace among all nations. Pacem in Terris is Latin for 'Peace on Earth.'

Sister Dorothy died on January 24, 2008, aged 94. At the time of her death she resided at a Dubuque, Iowa, retirement home of her religious congregation.


Through a Glass Darkly: The U.S. Holocaust in Central America by Thomas R. Melville Hardcover: 652 pages Publisher: Xlibris Corporation (January 14, 2005) Language: English ISBN 1413469671 ISBN 978-1413469677