A Radical Faith


On a hot and dusty December day in 1980, the bodies of four American women—three of them Catholic nuns—were pulled from a hastily dug grave in a field outside San Salvador.

In A Radical Faith, journalist Eileen Markey breathes life back into one of these women, Sister Maura Clarke. Who was this woman in the dirt? What led her to this vicious death so far from home?

Maura’s story offers a window into the evolution of postwar Catholicism: from an inward-looking, protective institution in the 1950s to a community of people grappling with what it meant to live with purpose in a shockingly violent world.

At its heart, A Radical Faith is an intimate portrait of one woman’s spiritual and political transformation and her courageous devotion to justice.


A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sister Maura was published in 2016 by Nation Books. You are encouraged to purchase a copy from your local independent bookstore or from IndieBound, a network of independent bookstores, or to search for a library copy at WorldCat.


Praise for A Radical Faith

New York Times Editor’s Pick

 “A meticulous re-creation of the life of one of the American nuns murdered in El Salvador in 1980.”

The New York Times, Books We Recommend

“At a time when many in Maura’s country are once more questioning its imperial role in the world and her church is yet again searching its soul for ways to save not only the forgotten of the earth but the earth itself, this nun’s life and sacrifice seems more relevant than ever. A Radical Faith has resurrected her so that Sister Maura can, in fact, call out, continue her mission in search of justice. There is no better time to listen to this brave, compassionate woman, a committed role model for all those who, secular or religious, want to truly ‘be free.’”

Ariel Dorfman, New York Times Book Review

A Radical Faith
“brings excitement, tension, and compassion to an overlooked story that illuminates the courage and dedication of the sisters toward their fellow humans while highlighting the cruelty and senseless violence that have plagued Latin America for decades. For anyone interested in learning more about the multiple civil wars in Central America and the roles the American government and these Catholic sisters have had in encouraging change, this book is a great choice. Rich details and solid storytelling convey one nun’s story of her dedication to God and her fellow humans.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Responsibility, honesty, and faith are the three pillars of a strong character. Sister Maura Clarke, who recognized the humanity in everyone she met—from schoolchildren in the Bronx to farmers in Nicaragua—lived a life that served as a testament to that strength. Eileen Markey's beautifully told narrative reminds us of Maura's courage in the face of brutal dictators and shocking suffering. It's an important story that has been forgotten for too long, and Markey's book returns Maura to her deserved place in history.”

Martin Sheen

“A vivid (if maddening) reminder of how the United States sold its moral credibility for a bag of magic jelly beans and the smiles of a fading actor.”

Charles P. Pierce, Esquire magazine

An “irresistible biography...A moving portrait of one woman’s determination to do what she could to heal a broken world.”

Publishers Weekly

“Excellent...exhaustively researched.”

Christopher Dickey, The Daily Beast

“The epic story of an ordinary woman swept into the maelstrom of Central American terror.”

June Carolyn Erlick, Editor-in-Chief of ReVista: The Harvard Review of Latin America

“A beautifully rendered account of a true radical hero. Markey’s important book is a loving testament to their life and work.’

Greg Grandin, author of Empire of Necessity

“Who was this woman in the dirt? In life, she was selfless. In death, she is boundless. Eileen Markey’s patient, compassionate biography places Sister Maura Clarke in the firmament of Latin American icons.”

Ilan Stavans, Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture, Amherst College; author of Latino USA

“In this rare and beautiful book, Eileen Markey brings Maura to life. A searing testament to the meaning of faith amidst the hard choices imposed by desperate circumstances.”

Cynthia Arnson, Director, Latin American Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

“A beautiful and moving biography…The story of her life, and of her murder sheds light on the true nature of the Central American conflicts of the 1970s and 80s.”

Héctor Lindo-Fuentes, Professor of History, Fordham University; co-author of Remembering a Massacre in El Salvador

“Most journalists are glued to the here and now by this afternoon’s deadline, our microscopes tightly focused on today. Eileen Markey brings the telescope.”

Jim Dwyer, The New York Times, About New York columnist