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Sister Dorothy Stang, slain in Brazil in 2005, still lives on in the hearts of the faithful

PHOENIX, AZ (The Catholic Sun) - Luis Aguilar didn’t speak English when he went into second grade in the 1960s at Most Holy Trinity School.

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/Reuters)

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/Reuters)


His teacher, Sr. Mary Joachim, of the Notre Dame de Namur religious order, spoke to him in Spanish, asking him to stay in at recess to help him succeed in class. But she made it a choice, something that was new to him as a second-grader.

“Choices are yours to make,” Sr. Mary Joachim taught Aguilar.

“In her class, everyone felt good,” Aguilar said. “She made everyone feel they were achievers.”

Aguilar was one of about 30 people who gathered at the parish Feb. 16 for prayer and reflection on the life and mission of Sr. Mary Joachim — founder, teacher, then principal at the school from 1953 to 1966.

After the Second Vatican Council, Sr. Mary Joachim was known as Sr. Dorothy Stang, the name she went by when she began missionary work in Brazil in 1966 until two assailants shot and killed her in the Amazon rainforest in 2005.

“Her mission was to help people to live in the rainforest and sustain it, living in harmony with the land, instead of destroying it,” said Sr. Jan Bohn, SNDdeN, who helped facilitate the event.

Known through stories

Sr. Roseanne Murphy, SNDdeN, author of the recently published “Martyr of the Amazon” about Sr. Dorothy, didn’t know the sister personally.

“I came to love this woman by listening to the stories, like your stories,” Sr. Roseanne said to the group gathered.

She spoke about the danger of being a part of the farmer’s union and working for social justice and preservation of the Amazon forest. Sr. Dorothy worked with the Amazon people for justice.

“She gave them the courage to do that,” Sr. Roseanne said. “She’s still in their hearts and present to them.”

Mike Sepulveda met Sr. Dorothy in 1996 in the Amazon when he went with a surgical team from Arizona on a mission trip to Brazil. The bilingual nurse who was to join them fell ill.

Having heard that a team was there from Arizona, Sr. Dorothy traveled a day and a half in a beat up old Volkswagen and wound up serving as their translator.

“God intervened for us on that particular mission,” Sepulveda said. The team had felt they couldn’t give the patients the best care possible without optimum communication. “Just as Sr. Dorothy saved us in our time of need, she probably did that daily.”

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