Sr. Dorothy Stang, modern day martyr, to be remembered

U.S. Sister Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, is pictured in a 2004 file photo in Belem, northern Brazil. The nun was 73 when she was murdered Feb. 12, 2005, on an isolated road near the Brazilian town of Anapu. She had lived in the country for nearly four decades and was known as a fierce defender of a sustainable development project for the Amazon forest. (CNS photo/Reuters)
U.S. Sister Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, is pictured in a 2004 file photo in Belem, northern Brazil. The nun was 73 when she was murdered Feb. 12, 2005, on an isolated road near the Brazilian town of Anapu. She had lived in the country for nearly four decades and was known as a fierce defender of a sustainable development project for the Amazon forest. (CNS photo/Reuters)

A modern-day martyr once served in the Diocese of Phoenix and a special Mass will celebrate her legacy.

It’s been 10 years since Sr. Dorothy Stang, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, was killed Feb. 12, 2005 in the Brazilian Amazon. She essentially spent her life there after serving in Phoenix in the 1950s and 1960s.

Both major periods of her life will be recalled during a special Mass and reception Feb. 12 at Most Holy Trinity Parish. The sister — known then as Sr. Mary Joachim — spent 13 years at the parish school teaching nearly every grade and serving as administrator.

She is often remembered around Most Holy Trinity for her slow pitch softball skills against the older students. Students sometimes partnered with the nun on the weekends serving as tutors at migrant camps where Sr. Dorothy and fellow sisters visited. They also taught catechism, first aid and nutrition.

After Vatican II, Sr. Dorothy became one of the many sisters sent from various religious communities to serve in missions worldwide. She moved to Brazil in 1966 and never looked back. Her life was with the poor, landless and indigenous people deep in the Amazon rain forest. She educated them, and at the time of hear death, was working with a government initiative to help landless families benefit from sustainable farming systems.

Sr. Dorothy Stang in the media

“She was always trying to recruit people to Brazil,” said Sr. Margaret Campbell, SNDdeN.

Sr. Margaret serves at St. Matthew Parish, so never worked directly with Sr. Dorothy, but encountered her several times over the years at gatherings of their shared religious community.

“She was totally focused on helping these people to have a decent life,” Sr. Margaret said.

She succeeded in opening 39 schools in the hills and villages of Brazil before her death. There are now 115 schools throughout the rain forest, with more opening all the time, according to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur’s Ohio Province where Sr. Dorothy was based.

The modern day martyr had received death threats for years. Powerful ranchers wanted the same land that Sr. Dorothy and the government granted for struggling families. Her death came less than a week after meeting with human rights officials about ongoing threats to local farmers.

Upon encountering gunmen hired to kill her, Sr. Dorothy read the Beatitudes. She was among 26 Catholic priests, religious and lay catechists killed while serving the Church in 2005, according to an article on CatholicCulture.org.

As much as people’s independence in the Amazon and sustenance of the rainforest — “the earth’s lungs” — mattered to Sr. Dorothy. Sr. Margaret recalled a woman who was equally vested in the story of anyone she encountered.

“When you talk to her, she was all interested in what you were doing,” Sr. Margaret said.

Remembering Sr. Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN

What: Mass and reception honoring the life of Sr. Dorothy Stang, Catholic school educator and activist in the Brazilian Amazon
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 12
Where: Most Holy Trinity Parish, 8620 N 7th St., Phoenix
Info: reservations@ohsnd.org or call Meg Sharp at (513) 679-8120