Sister Dianna Ortiz, kidnapping survivor and victims advocate, dies at 62

February 21, 2021 | 12:09 am

Updated February 20, 2021 | 9:46 pm

Dianna Ortiz

Sister Dianna Ortiz, an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph for 43 years, died Friday of cancer. The kidnapping-survivor-turned-victim’s-advocate was 62.  

According to the Global Sisters Report, Ortiz survived COVID-19 in October but she never really recovered and was severely fatigued.

Then, 3.5 weeks ago after battling what she thought were symptoms from the coronavirus, she learned she had cancer. 


According to the Global Sisters Report, “when surgeons operated to remove a tumor, they discovered it had spread everywhere and was untreatable. They told her she had perhaps two months to live.”

Ortiz was raised in Grants, N.M., but came to Daviess County for her senior year of high school. After graduation, she became a candidate with the Ursuline Sisters and entered the community the following year. She attended Brescia University and then went on to teach at Blessed Mother School from 1985-87 before doing mission work with Mayan children in Guatemala. 

In 1989 while working in Guatemala, Ortiz was abducted by government forces because of her work with Indigenous people. She was tortured and raped but managed to escape and make her way to the U.S.

According to her obituary, she became a grassroots organizer for the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission in Washington, D.C. (1994-2000). In 1998, she founded the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) International in Washington to advocate for the abolition of torture and to support its victims. 

Her book, “The Blindfold’s Eyes: My Journey from Torture to Truth,” was published in 2002. She testified before Congress concerning human rights and torture and received numerous honors for her work from peace and victims advocate organizations.

Ortiz served as deputy director of Pax Christi USA in Washington from 2010-2012. She served with the Center of Concern on its Education for Justice Project in Washington from 2012-18. In 2020, she returned to Pax Christi USA as deputy director, where she was serving at the time of her death.

February 21, 2021 | 12:09 am

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