Category Archives: Brazil

Farming Families Search for Land


Sr. Maria Vagner Souza Silva teaches Biblical Studies in the community of Sâo Joâo Batista in Anapu

By Sisters Jane Dwyer and Kathryne Webster, SNDdeN

We, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN), follow and walk with the people in Anapu, Brazil. From 1982 until 2005, Sr. Dorothy Stang was herself the Pastoral Land Commission in Anapu. Since her brutal murder, we have been coordinating this work. We accompany farming families as they search for land, respect nature, improve their production and life and their own organization. The right and responsibility to initiate belong to the people with whom we journey. Since 2005, we have created the Committee in Defense of Anapu (CDA). For the last fifteen years, we have met with this Committee for the entire day on one Saturday each month, to address issues pertaining to the farming families, their needs, problems and threats. The people share their difficulties, reflect together on the causes, make collective and group decisions to change attitudes. Opening each meeting, our SNDdeN role is to provide an initial reflection; we call it a mística. This ecumenical experience helps the people to deepen their values and motivation for sustaining them on this journey.

The people share their difficulties, reflect together on the causes, make collective and group decisions to change attitudes. Opening each meeting, our SNDdeN role is to provide an initial reflection; we call it a mística. This ecumenical experience helps the people to deepen their values and motivation for sustaining them on this journey.

Workshops in 2020

During 2020, we intend to offer practical workshops, requested by the families, on various ways of planting and cloning cacau in the forest, preparing and planting crops without burning, land homeopathy, the extraction of oils and essences from the forest, economic organization of the rural family, and other activities depending on the year’s journey. We offer Biblical studies, continually providing spiritual resources for motivation on the journey. We aim to decentralize these workshops by offering them in various sectors of the municipality. There are more than 100 communities and conflict areas in Anapu.

Sr. Katy Webster meets with landless farmers to give them advice in organizing their defense

Land Conflict and Organization of People

The land in Anapu is all public and destined for Agrarian Reform. We do not encourage people to occupy new lands but to take back lands that have been usurped, bought and sold illegally. The people work together within the judicial system with the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA). After Sister Dorothy’s assassination, the creation of the defense committee, the CDA, helped families with land conflicts, to settle and win in court. The people occupy the usurped lands or organize groups with clear objectives. This organizing does create a lot of tension, violence and imprisonment in Anapu. The Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) defends families against slaughter, murder and violence. At first, the people needed help with everything, from typing letters, reports, petitions to discovering where to get required help. Today they take the responsibility for organizing themselves, finding the information for their defense, approaching INCRA, and all for public defense.

SNDdeN Presence and Ministry

Srs. Jane Dwyer and Kathryne Webster continue the journey and mission of Sr. Dorothy with farming families in Brazil.

We continue formation and follow-up through workshops, visits, and seeking financial assistance and defense in the face of threats to life, murders and the constant presence of gun and militias. Since 2015, 19 people in Anapu have been brutally murdered, with three killed in 2019, over land conflicts. Several individuals and many families have fled from Anapu, to escape being murdered. People face the threat of gunmen who have murdered companions and family members and intend to kill others. Farm families and their organization have not yet been able to achieve their goal. Our journey with them in Anapu and the wider Brazilian community becomes clearer to us with time. Our Notre Dame de Namur presence in Anapu is more to inform, influence and open channels against isolation from the outside world.

Closed channels in national and international communication permit and invite a general massacre of the “retaken lands and their families.” Our Gospel journey is not about death; it is about life and life in abundance. In the current national political reality, this hope is threatened daily. We pray to Sr. Dorothy that our dream for the families in Anapu, will one day be a reality.

15th Forest Pilgrimage

Each year in July, motivated by the person and martyr, Sister Dorothy Stang, we organize the Forest Pilgrimage. On the journey, we reflect on the preservation of the forest, reforestation, protection of the waters and the creatures of the forest. We are constantly reminded that the land does not belong to us; it is we who belong to the land. As the pilgrimage leaves Sister Dorothy’s grave, we walk three days to the Esperança Sustainable Development Project (PDS Esperança) where Dorothy was murdered. Esperança means hope. The pilgrimage marks, moves and creates the desire to continue on the journey. The people share the expenses which we keep within the reach of the families themselves, since we do not have a secure, formal and continuous project to sustain the work financially. We realize that the people will be responsible to continue this pilgrimage when Notre Dame de Namur and the Land Pastoral (CPT) disappear.

At Sr. Dorothy’s tomb, the people added a red cross with the names of all our other martyrs, farmers killed in this land conflict 2015 and 2019 (3 killed in 2019).

These 15 years without Dorothy are years of hope, courage, continued conflict and martyrdom. Nineteen other martyrs have been assassinated in this struggle to return the land to those who belong to the land. People live, work and celebrate life, provide food for 80% of all families in Brazil, principally the poor. Families open their doors, share their tables, and give their lives for other. The little they have in this world is shared: their dreams, their hopes, their homes, their food, their children, their lives…

Les familles d’agriculteurs cherchent des terres


Sœur Maria Vagner Souza Silva enseigne les études bibliques dans la communauté de Sâo Joâo Batista à Anapu.

par sœurs Jane Dwyer et Kathryne Webster, SNDdeN

Nous, Sœurs de Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN), suivons et marchons avec les gens d’Anapu, Brésil. De 1982 à 2005, Sr. Dorothy Stang était elle-même la Commission pastorale de la terre d’Anapu. Depuis son meurtre brutal, nous coordonnons ce travail. Nous accompagnons les familles d’agriculteurs dans leur recherche de terres, dans le respect de la nature, dans l’amélioration de leur production et de leur vie et de leur propre organisation. Le droit et la responsabilité d’initier appartiennent aux personnes avec lesquelles nous cheminons. Depuis 2005, nous avons créé le Comité de défense d’Anapu (CDA). Au cours des quinze dernières années, nous avons rencontré ce comité toute la journée un samedi de chaque mois, pour aborder les questions relatives aux familles d’agriculteurs, leurs besoins, leurs problèmes et leurs menaces. Les gens partagent leurs difficultés, réfléchissent ensemble sur les causes, prennent des décisions collectives et de groupe pour changer les attitudes. A l’ouverture de chaque réunion, notre rôle de SNDdeN est de fournir une première réflexion; nous l’appelons une mística. Cette expérience œcuménique aide les gens à approfondir leurs valeurs et leur motivation pour les soutenir dans ce cheminement.

Ateliers en 2020

En 2020, nous comptons proposer des ateliers pratiques, demandés par les familles, sur les différentes façons de planter et cloner le cacao en forêt, préparer et planter des cultures sans brûler, l’homéopathie foncière, l’extraction des huiles et essences de la forêt, l’organisation économique de la famille rurale et autres activités selon le parcours de l’année. Nous offrons des études bibliques, fournissant continuellement des ressources spirituelles pour la motivation en chemin. Nous visons à décentraliser ces ateliers en les proposant dans différents secteurs de la commune. Il y a plus de 100 communautés et zones de conflit à Anapu.

Sœur Katy Webster rencontre des agriculteurs sans terre pour leur donner des conseils dans l’organisation de leur défense!

Conflit foncier et organisation des personnes

Les terres d’Anapu sont toutes publiques et destinées à la réforme agraire. Nous n’encourageons pas les gens à occuper de nouvelles terres, mais à reprendre des terres qui ont été usurpées, achetées et vendues illégalement. Les gens travaillent ensemble au sein du système judiciaire avec l’Institut national pour la colonisation et la réforme agraire (INCRA).

Après l’assassinat de sœur Dorothy, la création du comité de la défense, le CDA, a aidé les familles aux prises avec des conflits fonciers à s’installer et à gagner devant les tribunaux. Le peuple occupe les terres usurpées ou organise des groupes avec des objectifs clairs. Cette organisation crée beaucoup de tension, de violence et d’emprisonnement à Anapu. La Commission pastorale de la terre (CPT) défend les familles contre le massacre, le meurtre et la violence. Au début, les gens avaient besoin d’aide pour tout, depuis dactylographier des lettres, des rapports, des pétitions jusqu’à découvrir où obtenir l’aide nécessaire. Aujourd’hui, ils prennent la responsabilité de s’organiser, de trouver les informations pour leur défense, de se rapprocher de l’INCRA, et tous pour la défense publique.

Présence et ministère des SNDdeN

Srs. Jane Dwyer et Kathryne Webster poursuivent le cheminement et la mission de Sr. Dorothy avec une famille d’agriculteurs

Nous poursuivons la formation et le suivi par le biais d’ateliers, de visites, et recherchons une aide financière et une défense face aux menaces de mort, aux meurtres et à la présence constante d’armes à feu et de milices. Depuis 2015, 19 personnes à Anapu ont été brutalement assassinées, dont trois tuées en 2019, au cours de conflits fonciers. Plusieurs individus et de nombreuses familles ont fui Anapu pour échapper au meurtre. Les gens sont menacés par des hommes armés qui ont assassiné des compagnons et des membres de leur famille et ont l’intention d’en tuer d’autres. Les familles d’agriculteurs et leur organisation n’ont pas encore pu atteindre leur objectif. Notre cheminement avec eux à Anapu et avec la communauté brésilienne au sens large devient plus clair pour nous avec le temps. Notre présence à Notre-Dame de Namur à Anapu vise davantage à informer, influencer et ouvrir des canaux contre l’isolement du monde extérieur.

Les canaux fermés dans les communications nationales et internationales permettent et invitent à un massacre général des «terres reprises et de leurs familles». Notre cheminement évangélique ne concerne pas la mort; c’est la vie et la vie en abondance. Dans la réalité politique nationale actuelle, cet espoir est menacé quotidiennement. Nous prions Sr. Dorothy que notre rêve pour les familles d’Anapu devienne un jour une réalité.

15e pèlerinage forestier

Chaque année en juillet, motivés par la personne et martyre, sœur Dorothy Stang, nous organisons le pèlerinage forestier. Pendant le voyage, nous réfléchissons sur la préservation de la forêt, le reboisement, la protection des eaux et des créatures de la forêt. On nous rappelle constamment que la terre ne nous appartient pas ; c’est nous qui appartenons à la terre.

Alors que le pèlerinage quitte la tombe de sœur Dorothy, nous marchons trois jours vers le projet de développement durable d’Esperança (PDS Esperança) où Dorothy a été assassinée. Esperança signifie espérance. Le pèlerinage marque, émeut et crée l’envie de continuer le cheminement. Les gens partagent les dépenses que nous gardons à la portée des familles elles-mêmes, car nous n’avons pas de projet sûr, formel et continu pour soutenir financièrement le travail. Nous nous rendons compte que le peuple sera chargé de poursuivre ce pèlerinage lorsque Notre Dame de Namur et la Pastorale de la terre (CPT) disparaîtront.

Au tombeau de sœur Dorothy, les gens ont ajouté une croix rouge avec les noms de tous nos autres martyrs, agriculteurs tués dans ce conflit foncier entre 2015 et 2019 (3 tués en 2019).

Ces 15 années sans Dorothy sont des années d’espoir, de courage, de conflits continus et de martyre. Dix-neuf autres martyrs ont été assassinés dans cette lutte pour rendre la terre à ceux qui appartiennent à la terre. Les gens vivent, travaillent et célèbrent la vie, fournissent de la nourriture à 80% de toutes les familles au Brésil, principalement les pauvres. Les familles ouvrent leurs portes, partagent leurs tables et donnent leur vie pour les autres. Le peu qu’ils ont en ce monde est partagé : leurs rêves, leurs espoirs, leurs maisons, leur nourriture, leurs enfants, leurs vies…

Seeds Bear Fruit in Brazil

By Sister Jane Dwyer, SNDdeN

In February 2015, we will remember the 10th Anniversary of the death of Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN. During the years since her assassination, new life has burst forth even in the midst of continued violence and threatening situations. Sr. Dorothy was murdered, but her life and work have taken root in the hearts of the people in Brazil. Hope abounds in signs of new growth. When Sr. Dorothy died, there were 35 basic Christian communities; today there are more than 85 communities who live daily the Gospel message. In 2005, the

Sr. Dorothy Stang: Prophetic Witness of Justice

Projects for Sustainable Development (PDS) were fragile, just beginning. These projects for developing and cultivating the land, as well as protecting the rights of farmers in building their livelihoods were in beginning stages. Today, individuals and families, living and working in an ecological way in the forest, plant gardens on small plots of land. They take responsibility in defending a major forest surrounding this land and where they can only work collectively. Now there are two sustainable projects in Anapu: Virola Jatoba and Esperança. Sr. Dorothy was murdered on Lot 55 of PDS Esperança. Now there are more than 450 families in the two projects, many who have electricity and well-built homes. In the last ten years, more than 1,200 families have occupied government lands destined for agrarian reform. Their insistence has more or less secured their right to remain on the land until judicial questions are resolved. Schools appear as the people organize and demand them. Roads are at least passable in most cases.

On February 12, Sr. Dorothy’s anniversary, the Sisters and people will remember and relive the shock and pain of her murder, the fear and violence which haunted us during 2005. We will remember the empty chair at our table and at meetings, the lilting laugh and adventurous spirit so brutally silenced. We recall also, in the aftermath of Sr. Dorothy’s murder, that the local radio    hounded the parish and land pastoral team and terrorized the people. The local media portrayed Dorothy, the people and the Sisters as the culprits, who were getting what we deserved. The Sisters had no vehicle through which we could respond or question. We bore the calumny and terrible lies. The population was fearful and we did not know whom to trust. As the years passed, we made 9 trips to Belem for the trials of Sr. Dorothy’s murderers, always with 2 or 3 busloads of people, and always with police protection. During the first two trials, we camped out in the park area in front of the judicial building in simple tents put up by the Dorothy Committee and their friends who always welcomed us with open hearts and hands.

COMMITTEE FORMED Continue reading Seeds Bear Fruit in Brazil

Gathering the Stones: Story in Maceió, Brazil

By Sisters Lucyane Ribeiro Diniz, Betsy Mary Flynn & Mary Alice McCabe, SNDdeN

Since 1985, Maceió, located in Itapipoca, Ceará, Northeast in Brazil, has been an Agrarian Reform Settlement. It comprises 5,000 acres of arable lands, coconut tree plantations, sand dunes, lakes, streams and virgin beaches.

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) have been in Maceió since the 1970s. For generations, local fishermen, farmers, lace makers and algae gatherers have occupied and cultivated the land and sea providing them with all they need to sustain a simple lifestyle.

The people gathered in secret under the trees, as they prayed for land lights and discussed liberation from landlords.
The people gathered in secret under the trees, as they prayed for land lights and discussed liberation from landlords.

These courageous and faith-filled people have faced numerous challenges over the years. The first and most significant was their historical struggle for land rights during the early 1980’s. They call this time of unity their Holy or Sacred Resistance, when they liberated their land from unjust and illegal “landlords.”

The generation that lived through this oppression asks to preserve this story and pass it on to their grandchildren; “…so that they will remember that we, their grandparents, faced a very difficult challenge, a sacred struggle, so that today they can live on free land, and appreciate how this land was liberated…”

The people recall how they met together to study the story of Moses and the Israelites in the Bible: “We discovered that the people of God… lived the same kind of slavery and oppression that we were living… and finally liberated themselves. And we discovered that we, as a people of God, must imitate their struggle for liberation.”

They reflect on the Book of Joshua and how the People of God… passed on their story of struggle to future generations. The 12 tribes of Israel cross the River Jordan, with dry feet; Joshua orders one person from each tribe to carry and place one stone with the other stones, on the other side of the river.

“Why these stones for Maceió? To remember and tell your children that you gathered these stones and carried them over the river, with dry feet in order to recall the hand of Yahweh as he led you… to a new, free land.”

In those days, they did not write or record. So the stones were the way to remember. We, today, have paper, pens and recorders, our stones… they can tell our story.

Sisters Collaborate with People
The challenge in this book is to “gather the stones.” Sr. Mary Alice McCabe, SNDdeN has organized an Oral History based on 60 interviews, in Gathering the Stones: Maceió’s Story of Resistance – A Story of Faith.
In Maceió settlement since the 1980’s, Sr. Mary Alice has compiled the stories of resistance and victory told by the people themselves.

In thirteen chapters, the people describe their lives as veritable slaves under the domination of local tyrannical landlords.

They discover in the Bible the God of the oppressed who gives them courage to confront injustice and transform the land and their lives.

They tell about their struggles to live according to collective values on the newly liberated land. Twelve interviews are a study on collective values, contributed by Sisters Lorraine Connell and Ellen Dabrieo, SNDdeN after these Sisters had spent several months with the people in 1993. Sr. Betsy Flynn, SNDdeN, also serving in Maceió for many years, photographed many significant moments in gathering precious stones for this story.

Youth Ministry Today
Sr. Lucyane Ribeiro Diniz, SND, (Lu) is currently developing a dynamic mission with the youth, where through theatre, music and art, they are discovering new ways of recapturing key “stones” of Maceió’s story.

Sr. Lucyane with the children.
Sr. Lucyane with the children.

Sr. Lucyane says: “It is always a challenge to pass on the story of a people to future generations. Our Theatre Group, Seeds of Art, is producing a play based on Maceió’s story of resistance and faith. Our goal is not only to gather the stones but also to inspire the new generation to continue the work of liberation and transformation begun by their ancestors.”

Source: Good Works, June 2015, pp. 18-19. GWJune2015

Shouting for Life

by Sister Betsy Mary Flynn, SNDdeN

Shouting for Life PhotoBrazil will host the World Cup in June-July 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. Mega sports events increase the market for human trafficking. On January 9, 2014, The Guardian predicted increased child sex trade: Brazil’s Child Sex Trade Soars as 2014 World Cup Nears. The Church in Brazil has chosen human trafficking for the theme of the Lenten Campaign. Catholics throughout the country will study, pray and take action against human trafficking during this season.

Since 2009, religious Congregations from different countries have organized in small groups globally for education awareness, prevention, denouncement of human trafficking, and the protection of actual and potential victims. In Brazil, Sisters of Notre Dame serve with an anti-trafficking group, called Shouting for Life, known in Portuguese as Grupo Grito pela Vida. Read the rest of Sr. Betsy article: Shouting for Life | |
Reprinted with permission. Good Works Magazine 

Jubilee Joy: 50 Years in Brazil

“Every day, we help adults, adolescents and children to become conscious of their dignity, particularly through Bible study and popular education.”

SNDdeNs-BrazilSisters Respond to Needs

On Marajó Island, Pará, Sr. Rita Raboin works with the diocesan Justice and Peace Commission, the Land Pastoral and in community organizing.  Due to a precarious system of water delivery and waste control, Marajó’s unhealthy water supply has become a critical issue. Sr. Maria Socorro de Oliveira, returning from English study in Ohio, USA, will soon begin a new ministry among the people in Breves.

Read more:  JubileeJoy50YearsinBrazil
Lenten Theme Week One

Planters of Peace Nurture Hope in Brazil

We and the youth with whom we work are providing an island of hope in Jardim Tropical. A group of 30 to 40 young people that I (Sister Maria) facilitate are active in a weekly youth group. These youth help prepare the liturgy and also participate in novenas, processions, preparation for baptism, a nutrition program for babies, and protest marches – all activities that energize our community. The youth named their group “Planters of Peace,” a significant choice in light of their neighborhood situation.

“There is so much goodness in our young “Planters of Peace.” They are among the reasons why our neighborhood, poor as it is in some ways, deserves to be called “Tropical Garden.” -Sr. Maria

Learn More… PlantersofPeaceNurtureHopeinBrazil

Women and Water: Island of Beauty & Challenge

Slide4Our Notre Dame community lives on the island of Marajó, on the  largest navigable archipelago in the world, located at the mouth of the amazon river, in the State of Pará, Brazil. This is an island of beauty and challenge! The people find their means of support in extraction of açai for juice, palm hearts, wood from family-owned sawmills, and fishing. Some plant and sell cassava, rice, or beans. In our county, there is 80% unemployment, gang violence, drug trafficking, and other criminal activity. Unable to find jobs, the people are migrating from the river communities and searching for schools for their children. Our neighborhood with 4000 persons and 853 families, on the periphery of Breves, does not  have any school, health clinic nor potable water. Our streets are muddy in the rainy season and dusty in the dry season. Most women work in homes of wealthy families; the men find odd jobs daily. On days when adults do not work, the families do not eat….
Read the full story in GoodWorksJune2011 on pages 8-9.