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Vessel of Clay The Inspirational Journey of Sister Carla

Sister Carla Piette MM

By Jacqueline Hansen Maggiore

The Lord is calling me to be poor with His poor.

 Vessel of Clay traces the compelling life of Carla Piette, MM, as she accompanied the poor who suffered through two violent regimes—Chile and El Salvador.

Carla—remembered as clown, poet, artist, prophet, scripture scholar—was known for her radical poverty and fierce commitment to the "poor, ole beatup people" whom she loved.

As a Maryknoll missioner in Chile from 1964 to 1979, Carla lived with the poor during the terror of the 1973 military coup and years of the ensuing dictatorship.

When Monseñor Romero called for experienced missioners to help the people of El Salvador in a time of lawless violence, Carla volunteered. She arrived on March 24, 1980, the evening he was murdered.

Sister Carla Piette MMCarla and Ita Ford, MM, then worked tirelessly to rescue refugees—mainly women and children—amid extreme atrocities, danger, and hostility to the church. She died in a flash flood on August 23, 1980. Her last act was to push Ita to safety.

Carla is remembered as Martyr of Charity in El Salvador where the local community of San Antonio los Ranchos gathers each August for a memorial at the river where she died.

Vessel of Clay is a revealing story of the personal struggles of this sensitive, compassionate, courageous woman of faith as she battled her own insecurities.

Carla comes to life through her candid letters, poetry and clown imagery:

I leave the future in the Circus Master's hands.

Carla saw herself as a “weak instrument” for the Lord's work and relied on a deep spirituality, turning constantly to her Divine Circus Master for guidance. Her strong faith, close friendships, and zany humor sustained her.

Author's Note:

Carla and I were lifelong friends, schoolmates from kindergarten to college and correspondents throughout her life in mission. Her faith filled journey has inspired my own life. Many friends, family and religious colleagues of Carla have assisted this work. Special thanks to Robert Pelton, CSC, at Notre Dame, who has championed this effort.

Vessel of Clay is especially great for narrating the prosaic day today life of the missionary. We don't have enough of such honest narrative of what is, indeed, a heroic life.

 Peter Hinde, O. Carm., Tabor House
Member, Pro-Refugee Committee 1980, El Salvador
Cofounder, CRISPAZ

Two great passions ruled Carla's life: love of the ‘poor, ole, beatup people,’ as she called them, and love of Jesus. She struggled to live as a companion of Jesus whatever the cost, and called us all to greater faithfulness.

Joan Ratermann, MM
Fellow missioner, Chile

With the insight of her personal relationship with Carla, the author reveals the complexity of these real human beings, the profound inner struggles and personal hardships that framed the decisions they made as missioners, and the courage of their commitments.

Margaret Swedish, Director,
Spirituality and Ecological Hope
Former Director, Religious Task Force on Central America and Mexico

Although her life was radical in many respects, Carla comes across as a very human person with a wonderful sense of humor.

With a wealth of memories by people who knew Carla, as well as an analysis of the times in which she lived, Vessel of Clay captures her personality and commitment to the poor as well as her struggles.

Janice McLaughlin, MM
President of the Maryknoll Sisters

About the author:

Jacqueline Hansen Maggiore, a lifelong friend of Sister Carla, is a retired social worker whose career focused on family violence prevention programs. She is a graduate of Marquette University, with an MSW degree from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she is active with Maryknoll Affiliates, Gesu Parish, and peace and justice efforts.

Vessel of Clay

Available in July. It may be ordered  through and also through University of Chicago Press (1-800-621-2736).



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