A "conversational panel" held at Villa Julie in Stevenson, Maryland celebrated Sister Dorothy Stang's life-in-mission on this tenth anniversary of her death. Two of Dot's comadres from Brazil, Sisters Joan Krimm and Bobby English, were part of the panel. The third panel member was Sister Sarah Fahy representing the Amazon Connection, an active group supporting the work in Anapu, Brazil, these 10 years since Dot's murder.
As the conversation began, Sister Bobby described the context of the world that she and Dot, Joan and Pat McWade encountered in Brazil in 1966. The country was under a military dictatorship marked by political oppression and socio-economic monopoly.
The years 1966-74 were full of reflection and action. The CEBs, inspired by Salvation History, saw that God willed them to live in freedom. In sync with the Brazilian Land Statute, they took steps to claim their rights and to organize Farmers' Unions and Cooperatives to defend themselves.
Translated into the reality of Coroata, where Dot, Joan, and Bobby were missioned, this meant that five families owned the entire huge municipality in the state of Maranhao. Poor farmers lived on their land, produced and harvested crops and were obliged to sell them to the landowner and buy them back from his village store. The farmers thought this system was God's will for them.
During this time, the Church in Brazil rallied around a group of prophetic bishops attuned to what the Spirit was saying through Vatican II. They envisioned a church that heard the cries of the poor. In Maranhao two priests began the formation of ecclesial base communities (CEBs) as a way to create a vital church life in their huge rural parishes. With these two Spirit-forces challenging them, Joan and Bobby remembered the amazing opportunity afforded them to respond to Vatican II by helping poor farming families create strong faith communities to sustain them in their struggle for freedom and dignity.
Sister Bobby English
Sister Joan Krimm
Sister Sarah Fahy