Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN, was a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur who was killed in February 2005 because of her work with and on behalf of the people of Brazil. She had lived in Brazil for over 40 years ago and worked with the Pastoral Land Commission, an organization of the Catholic Church that fights for the rights of rural workers and peasants, and defends land reforms in Brazil. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have a web page dedicated to Sister Dorothy Stang.
There was a lot of news coverage recently because one of the persons responsible for her murder was acquitted. Then this article came out about Sister Dorothy’s brother, David Stang — “Nun’s Dream Lives On” by Colleen O’Connor of the Denver Post. Though the story emerges from the terrible tragedy of Sister Dorothy’s death and the ongoing oppression of the poor in Brazil, it is filled with hope and with light.
Dorothy’s murder had a profound affect on her brother David. According to this article, the murder “thrust David — blissfully retired and tending his coin and stamp collections — smack in the middle of an international drama of land wars and death lists.”
[David] Stang, who is studying Portuguese, has traveled to Brazil nine times, attending all the trials. He has trekked deep into the rainforest to visit Dorothy’s grave and to sleep in the bed where she spent her last night….
Over the past three years, he has met with Brazilian politicians and embraced countless farmers who grieve the loss of Dorothy.
And he has worked with journalists from CNN and international newspapers to keep her story alive. A week after the murder, he traveled to Brazil with Denver independent filmmaker Daniel Junge to be part of his documentary “They Killed Sister Dorothy,” which won first prize at the South by Southwest Film Festival and will be featured this fall at the Denver Film Festival.
“I think it’s incredibly brave for someone in his stage of life to really put himself out there in the way he has,” Junge said. “I don’t think he planned to spend his retirement this way.”
The investment of time, however, helped the prosecution, said Brent Rushforth, the Washington, D.C., lawyer who represented the Stang family at the trials.”His presence as a representative of the family, and keeping the spotlight on the story, is one reason why the Brazilian guys have done their job,” he said….
Stang, who calls himself “the living spokesperson for Dorothy,” … vows to keep her legacy alive, even if it means spending time with people such as Henri des Roziers, a French priest in Brazil who, according to local journalists, has a price on his head of 100,000 Brazilian reais — about $38,000, or twice the amount allegedly paid for Dorothy’s murder.
When des Roziers invited Stang to attend the opening of a new school named for Dorothy in Xinguara, at the heart of the violent conflict, he didn’t hesitate. The trek included two airplane flights and a four-hour drive in a pickup truck on rutted jungle roads deep into the frontier, where he was greeted by hundreds.
“The workers wore hard hats and were standing at attention. The kids came out in their uniforms. Everyone sang songs. There were hugs and tears. If I’m a symbol of pride to them, then, yes, I’ll be there.”