In Memoriam: Dorothy Stang, S.N.D.deN.
Sister Dorothy Stang’s name was not mentioned (as far as I know) during the Pope’s just-completed trip to Brazil, but before the focus moves away from that country it would be right and good to recall the memory of this remarkable martyr for the faith.
Many readers probably know the story of this Ohio-born sister of Notre Dame de Namur who went to work with the poor in Brazil in 1966, became a Brazilian citizen, and dedicated her life to working on behalf of the indigenous poor, especially in the Amazon. She worked with the base communities that have been so strongly opposed by powerful interests in Brazil. But she remained resolute.
In February 2005, after receiving many death threats from landowners, two gunmen apparently hired by powerful ranchers tracked her down. She knew what was about to happen, and opened her Bible and began reading from the Gospel of Matthew. They shot her twice in the head an five more times in the body.
“Dot,” as she was known, is to my mind the kind of witness to faith and justice who lived out the message of the Gospel. Despite all the criticism of “secularizing” and “activist” religious orders, perhaps her example is one we could look to for some answers to the challenges for the Church in places like Brazil.
One of the ranchers accused of hiring her killers (who have been convicted) goes on trial today, as you can read here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/13/AR2007051300675.html.