A Conversational Panel on Sister Dorothy Stang, continued.

In the mid-seventies, the government promised land to farmers who would help open a road through the Amazon Forest. Many Coroata farmers responded and Dot felt called to accompany themUnfortunately, rich farmers from the south of Brazil leaped on this chance to increase their wealth.  They bought false land titles, hired gunmen, and harassed the poor farmers who tried to settle the land. In Dot’s migration with the Coroataenses, they were chased seven times before they arrived in the progressive Bishop Erwin’s diocese.  There, Dot asked to serve those most in need. The bishop assigned her to the area later known as Anapu. 

In an adjoining area, Altamira, rich farmers had created cattle ranches and joined forces with lumber companies. On her side of the highway, Dot set up a pastoral center.  From there she and other Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur worked with the poor to create strong ecclesial communities and to develop the infrastructure for survival – schools, roads, soccer fields, chapels, little stores.  Among the social structures Dot helped the people develop were the Pioneer Association, a non-profit association that functioned as a cooperative, a Farmers’ Union, and pastoral leadership courses. She networked the CEBs The ecological crisis caused by excessive logging and the clearing of land for huge cattle ranches motivated Dot to work even harder to preserve the Amazon and to guarantee within it a place for the poor.  She helped the Pioneer Association become a pilot project of the federal government for sustainable development.  With two tracts of land on a federally-designated reserve, the poor farming families finally had their promised land

The wealthy ranchers and loggers could not bear to share the forest with the poor.  They invaded the federal land reserve, ravaging homes and farms, and plotting to kill Dorothy.

Joan described how Dot knew she was on the “hit list” but was determined to stand by the people. Joan drew a compelling picture of Dot as a Gospel Woman who firmly believed in the potential for goodness in every human being. She described how Dot, prior to her assassination, conversed with the two gunmen. Although hired by the rich, they were poor.  Dot appealed to them to change their minds and join rank with the poor farming families in the land reserve.  They asked her what she had in her satchel, what defense she carried.  She pulled out her bible and quoted from the Beatitudes, “blessed are the peacemakers.” Tragically, they finished what they set out to do and Dot was martyred

With a resounding PRESENTE, the panel completed its celebration of Dot and her life in mission and saluted Dot as a community builder, pioneer woman, ecologist, Gospel woman and a global citizen!


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