I never met Sister Dianna Ortiz.

But she was a former Daviess Countian who made a huge impact on the world before she died of cancer on Feb. 19.

And we should find a way to honor her here.

Sister Dianna came to Daviess County from her home in New Mexico for her senior year of high school at the old Mount Saint Joseph Academy in 1976.

After graduating the following spring, she became a postulant with the Ursuline Sisters here and officially entered the community the following year.

After her graduation from Brescia University, Sister Dianna taught at Immaculate Conception School in Hawesville from 1983 to 1985 and Blessed Mother School in Owensboro from 1985 to 1987.

Then, she went on a mission trip to the western highlands of Guatemala to teach Mayan children to read and write in Spanish and in their native language.

Sister Dianna said she was reading in a garden when she was kidnapped from a retreat center, tortured and raped repeatedly in November 1989.

There’s no need to repeat what happened over those 24 hours.

But one of the most unforgivable things about it is the fact that Sister Dianna firmly believed that someone with ties to the U.S. Embassy was involved.

The fact that the U.S. government chose to cover that up and not investigate it thoroughly is unforgivable.

But Sister Dianna turned tragedy into triumph over the next 30 years.

Following years of prayer and counseling, she became a grassroots organizer for the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission in Washington, D.C., from 1994 to 2000.

Sister Dianna founded Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International in 1998 to advocate for the abolition of torture and to support its victims.

She served as its executive director for the next decade.

Sister Dianna served as deputy director of Pax Christi USA in Washington from 2010-2012 and with the Center of Concern on its Education for Justice Project in Washington from 2012-18.

In 2020, she returned to Pax Christi as deputy director.

An experience that might have destroyed her life, instead turned Sister Dianna into a warrior for justice for people worldwide.

She’s a former neighbor of ours whose story we should continue to tell for generations.

At the least, she deserves a marker on our Walk of Fame downtown.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301


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