Sister Dorothy Stang taught us a lot by her decisions and her actions—even the short reference from her brother about her washing her clothes in the sink while at a hotel bespeaks a teaching: That of a simple life style.  At least one commentator on yesterday’s DM shared the impact  that story had on her.

Sister Jose Hobday (1929-2009), from the Sister Jose Women’s Center website . Photographer unknown.

By the way, my friend and faculty member Sister Jose Hobday, who was both a Franciscan and a Seneca woman, would travel with just two outfits and would clean one in the hotel sink like Dorothy did while she wore the other.

Dorothy’s decision to stay and work with the peasants and others trying to save the Amazon forest was her ultimate teaching.

Sister Dot’s religious community, the sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, have gathered some of her written teachings, much of it from letters to her sisters and her family, in a collection called My Faith Sustains Me: Words and reflections of Sister Dorothy Stand, SNDdeN martyr for Justice.*  I draw from them below.

“My Faith Sustains Me,” the recorded words and reflections of Sister Dorothy Stang in a flipbook on Issuu. Click the photo to open.

In the Introduction we are told that the night before her death she brought food and clothing to a family whose home had been burned to the ground.  She worked for 31 years among the poor in the Amazon and “her great desire was to live out the Gospel message beside her people.”  On February 12, 2005, she was assassinated on a lonely country road in the small village of Boa Esparanca in Para, Brazil. 

From Dorothy: I have to fill myself up with Scripture and the spiritual life so I have the grace to continue in the struggle.

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur honor Sister Dorothy Stang’s martyrdom by calling on viewers to take action for justice and for the earth in her memory.

I have learned that Faith sustains me.  I have also learned that three things are difficult: As a woman to be taken seriously in the struggle for land reform; to stay faithful to believing that these small groups of poor farmers will prevail in organizing and carrying their own agenda forwards; and to have the courage to give your life in the struggle for change.

Together we can make a difference bringing peace, joy, caring, love to our world that is losing sight of our guiding star—the goodness of the real God.  

To be continued.

*See, website of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Cincinnati OH, 45215, 513-761-7636. These sisters have graciously granted me permission to publish these words from Dorothy.  I am deeply grateful that they are keeping her work and person and teachings alive.

See Matthew Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth.

And Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest.

Banner Image: “The seed planted sprouted/ We are Sister Dorothy.” Banner and cross beside Sister Dorothy’s tomb at the São Rafael Training Center. Photo by Amazônia Real on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

What do you find most striking and meaningful in these reflections from Sister Dorothy?  Do you agree that humankind is “losing sight of our guiding star—the goodness of the real God?”  Is the “real God” for you all about goodness?

Recommended Reading

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest (Revised/Updated Edition)

Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.
“The unfolding story of this irrepressible spiritual revolutionary enlivens the mind and emboldens the heart — must reading for anyone interested in courage, creativity, and the future of religion.”
—Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self

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5 thoughts on “Lenten Meditations?  Try These Teachings from Sr. Dorothy”

  1. Avatar

    The ‘real God’ is about goodness, but the truth can both sting and be painful for us. We tend to profess love but fear and hide from ‘the truth of God’. One of Love and Truth does not come without the other. Sister Dot recognized that her love manifested would result in ‘the truth’ of her death and she accepted one with the other. That was her ultimate teaching. — BB.

  2. Avatar

    Sister Dorothy is another loving spiritual being in our human history of saints, mystics, martyrs, justice warriors, prophets, angels and many good Souls in our past, PRESENT, and future in the spiritual realms inspiring our Souls with Our Source~Co-Creator’s SPIRIT of DIVINE LOVE~WISDOM~CREATIVITY~COMPASSION… PRESENT within and among Us in Our Hearts~SOULS in the Sacred Process/Flow of the ETERNAL PRESENT MOMENT in Our Evolving Sacred multidimensional-multiverse DIVERSE ONENESS COSMOS….

  3. Avatar

    Integrity of the Heart, this is what I see in Dot. She walked the talk, embodying faith, trust and hope in LOVE. She kept turning towards the light of this, even though she knew she was walking through the shadowy valley of death.

    We are all stardust, shining in our own unique ways and we all are a part of the same cosmic story, each one radiating the beauty and goodness of our one shared destiny… of BEING LOVE… each one, in their own sacred way through their own authentic life lived right where one is, with everything and everyone around oneself.

    All are invited to participate as a co-creative contributing partner, within the greater Webb of LOVE. Responding is a choice we each make daily, again and again, in the midst of whatever it is we are encountering, each moment a sacred opportunity to manifest the LIGHT of LOVE.

    Never underestimate the radiance of faith, hope and trust in love; for even if it is the size of a small mustard seed, it is enough… to begin…. again and again.

  4. Avatar

    I truly believe life begins after “death,” so maybe that’s when the completion of goodness begins, too.

    And then when I was going to type a comment, I see it’s reported that Alexei Navalny may have died. I watched that documentary about him a few years ago and I remember the look on his face when he was incarcerated and saw his wife for the first time…that face. When the mask of the public persona dropped, and he was emotional looking at his wife, that was his real courage. To be afraid (because his Russian populace was silent), and yet the ability to overcome your fear.

    Moscow journalist Andrei Loshak, in a January 2022 Facebook post wrote:

    “With each day in prison, [Navalny] becomes morally stronger, deriving strength from the knowledge that he is historically correct,” Loshak wrote. “But there is a third player in this struggle. Unfortunately, lone heroes only overcome the villain in fairy tales and comic books. In reality, the outcome will be decided by our still-silent people.”

    “The hero has already done everything in his power,” he added. I wonder what his Russia will become. Maybe when we die, it just means that the Soul wakes in the dream with the Holy Spirit, and then sees her desire blooming. I’m not sure. But Death does some to play a role in that cosmic template.

    1. Avatar

      I grieve for him and what he stood for, but I am not surprised. He was imprisoned in the most brutal place in the coldest part of Siberia, and Amnesty International and other organizations were protesting his treatment. I pray that his courageous struggle to tell the truth lives on in others in the Russian Federation and around the world. May his legacy, just like Sister Dorothy’s, live on in us.

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