Sister Dorothy Stang, Martyr


Sister Dorothy, 73, was born in Dayton, Ohio, one of nine children. She was raised on a farm in a traditional Catholic family. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur  in 1948 and professed final vows in 1956. From 1951 to 1966, she taught elementary classes at St. Victor School in Calumet City, IL, St. Alexander School in Villa Park, IL and Most Holy Trinity School in Phoenix, Az. She began her ministry in Brazil in 1966, in Coroata in the state of Maranhao. In 1983, she moved to Anapu, about 700 km south of Belém.

A citizen of Brazil and the United States, Sister Dorothy 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. She was assassinated February 12, 2005 by two hired killers, “pistoleiros” in the State of Pará, Brésil. Her death came less than a week after meeting with the country's human rights officials about threats to local farmers from loggers and landowners.

Before her murder in 2005, Sister Dorothy was named 'Woman of the Year' by the state of Pará for her work in the Amazon region. She also received the Humanitarian of the Year award from the Brazilian Bar Association for her work helping the local rural workers.

Since her death, Sister Dorothy has been widely honored for her life and work by the United States Congress and by a number of colleges and universities across the United States. She was posthumously awarded the 2008 United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights. These posthumous honors had also been awarded to the ancient Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, Nelson Mandela, Amnesty International and Martin Luther King. Books, movies, documentaries and an opera have been developed about her. She was formally recognized by the Vatican as a modern day martyr.