In 2004, Sr. Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN, celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, went on pilgrimage to the birthplace of St. Julie Billiart in Cuvilly, France. Before founding the Congregation in 1804, St. Julie had a vision in Compiègne; she saw many women dressed in simple garb, standing around a cross. She heard the words: “These are the daughters I will give you in an Institute marked by my cross.” Often, St. Julie told those who asked to become her Sisters that she saw them at Compiègne – a sign that these women would belong as SNDdeN in this Congregation, marked by the cross!
On February 12, 2005, only months after her pilgrimage to Julie country, powerful ranchers, coveting the land, hired assassins to murder Sr. Dorothy, while she walked along a dirt road in Anapu, Brazil. Having advocated for the rights of landless farmers for almost 40 years, Sr. Dorothy defended the rainforest also from devastation. In 2008, the United Nations recognized Sr. Dorothy’s outstanding contributions to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and honored her posthumously with the UN Prize for Human Rights. This year, we remember Sr. Dorothy on the 15th anniversary of her martyrdom!
Way of the Cross in Rome
In October 2019, Pope Francis called the Bishops to Rome for a Synod on the Amazon. On one Saturday during the Synod, the prayer was a Way of the Cross, originating from the Castel Sant Angelo, down the Via della Conciliazione to St. Peter Square. The Bishops with members of indigenous communities from the Amazon reflected on suffering peoples who live in the rainforest and throughout the world. Reflections on different Stations of the Cross included some martyrs of the Amazon. The Eighth Station focused on the “clamor of women,” and the procession stopped there to pray to our SNDdeN martyr, Dorothy Stang. Sisters Sandra Araujo dos Santos and Rebeca Spires from the Brazil Province, in Rome for the Synod, participated in this moving prayer with members of our Congregational Leadership Team (CLT)! Later, they joined our Leadership Team with the Sisters of the Good Shepherd at the Generalate for a special liturgy honoring the martyrs of the Amazon.
Ohio Province Remembers
The entire Notre Dame de Namur World, Sisters, Associates, Co Workers, Students, Partners in Mission are remembering Sr. Dorothy in specific events. In early February, the Sisters in the Ohio Province welcomed to Mt. Notre Dame Convent three of Sr. Dorothy’s siblings, David, Tom and Barbara Stang Richardson, to a presentation and film of Samuel Clements: The Student, the Nun & the Amazon. Samuel described for his audience how his life transformed and his career changed radically after his encounter with Sr. Dorothy, in filming her in the Brazil rainforest. During his visit in Ohio, Samuel fascinated administrators, faculty and students of Mt. Notre Dame High School in Cincinnati and Chaminade Julienne High School in Dayton by his presence and film.
The SNDdeN Leadership in the United States has planned throughout this entire year a 15th Anniversary Project, a series of events, coordinated by Sr. Judith Clemens, who ministered with Sr. Dorothy for many years in Brazil. From February 12, 2020 through February 12, 2021, the project will aim at inviting and encouraging others to develop projects remembering Sr. Dorothy and to consider ways for continuing her legacy into the future. This project includes a brochure, entitled Her Legacy Endures in Us, easily accessed on the SNDdeN Website in the United States. www.snddenusa.org
Martyr and Prophet in Brazil
Sr. Dorothy’s influence lives on in Brazil and beyond! People honor, imitate and pray to this prophet and martyr in the Forest Pilgrimage each July. On February 12, 2020, the 15th Anniversary of her death, she is a strong witness to the Mission of the Gospel, the Church and our SNDdeN Congregation.