A one-woman production portraying a sister who served 13 years in the Diocese of Phoenix and later died a martyr is headed to two local parishes.
Adrian Dominican Sister Nancy Murray — a sibling of comedian Bill Murray — will bring her one-woman show, “Rooted in Love: The Life and Death Story of Sr. Dorothy Stang,” to Most Holy Trinity Feb. 2 and St. Steven in Sun Lakes Feb. 3. Sr. Dorothy helped establish Most Holy Trinity School with three other Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur 60 years ago this fall.
Sr. Nancy wrote “Rooted in Love” to share the story of Sr. Dorothy, known by book title and deed as “Martyr of the Amazon.” Sr. Dorothy spent nearly 40 years standing up for peasant farmers and land issues in Brazil. She was killed Feb. 12, 2005 when two hired gunmen shot her six times as she read from the Beatitudes.
Among her awards was the posthumous 2008 United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights. The honor recognized Sr. Dorothy’s outstanding contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The two-act play covers her family life and her life in Brazil. Sr. Nancy will also include scenes depicting Sr. Dorothy’s life in Phoenix. Throughout both halves, Sr. Nancy hopes to have captured the essence of the modern-day martyr.
“Be sure to put in ‘Gee whiz’ and ‘Oh, that’s beautiful,’” other women religious and Sr. Dorothy’s family told Sr. Nancy.
The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur sought out the Adrian Dominican to write the play in 2010. It was meant as a tribute for the fifth anniversary of the nun’s death.
Turns out both Sr. Nancy and Sr. Dorothy are one of nine kids raised Catholic. After meeting Sr. Dorothy’s nieces and nephews, the actor agreed to write a script.
She has portrayed the martyr of the Amazon at least 15 times including for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and Sr. Dorothy’s family.
“It was a very powerful experience for them and for me,” Sr. Nancy said.
Her second audience was 3,000 high school students.
“The attention of the students absolutely amazed me,” she said.
Anne DeRose at St. Steven Parish helped bring Sr. Nancy’s other play, “Catherine of Siena: A Woman of Our Times” to the Valley last year. When she heard Sr. Nancy would return, she jumped at the chance.
“It’s telling people in a historical way a narrative that you may not have heard about or read about,” DeRose said the drama.
DeRose said it was important for people to see the play because Sr. Dorothy contributed many talents to the Phoenix area such as education and work with migrant camps. She described Sr. Dorothy as someone who cared about everyone and was innocent and trusting.
“She observed the law of Brazil and tried to help the people following the laws of Brazil and the law of God,” De Rose said.
Sr. Dorothy made strides locally too. Most Holy Trinity School started with 40 students and grew to 900 by the time she was principal.
She taught all but first and third grade. The sisters also taught religious education to the parish community outside of school hours and split up three ways every Friday. It was the best way to reach and teach children of migrant workers, according to her online biography through the religious community.
“People still mention the impact she had at Most Holy Trinity all these years later, where alumni remember her fondly as Sr. Mary Joachim,” said Maggie MacCleary, principal of Most Holy Trinity.
She said the school has preserved the memory of Sr. Dorothy’s accomplishments in both countries. Students have organized an annual Mass in her honor several times which has educated parishioners about the local martyr’s life too.
MacCleary said area Catholics will appreciate learning about the local aspect of Sr. Dorothy’s life, Phoenix’s Catholic history and what Sr. Dorothy, “the earthy aunt,” did in Brazil. She was instrumental in constructing more than 30 rural schools and chapels there.
’Rooted in Love: The Life and Death Story of Sr. Dorothy Stang’
2 p.m., Feb. 2: Most Holy Trinity, 8620 N. 7th Street; Tickets: $15 adults, $7 children. VIP meet and greet available. www.mht.org
2 p.m. Feb. 3: St. Steven, 24827 S. Dobson Road in Sun Lakes, $10 adults, $5 children.
Info: (480) 895-9266, ext. 107.