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Events commemorate martyrdom of Sister Dorothy Stang

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

By David Eck

ARCHDIOCESE — For five years the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have remembered the life and ministry of Sister Dorothy Stang on the anniversary of her murder, but now the community will celebrate Sister Dorothy’s legacy on her birthday.

About 250 people attended a Mass in memory of Sister Dorothy at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains on June 6, the day before she would have turned 79. Retired Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. ­Pilarczyk celebrated the Mass, with Father James Bramlage and Franciscan Father Warren Zeisler concelebrating.

David Stang
Sister Dorothy’s brother, David Stang, poses near two trees planted in her honor by the Knights of Columbus on the grounds of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains. (CT/Colleen Kelley)

“This afternoon we also remember a servant of God who offered her life for the work of the Lord,” Archbishop Pilarczyk said during his homily.

Sister Dorothy, who grew up in Dayton and ministered for decades in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, was shot in February 2005 as she traveled to Boa Esperanca in the northern state of Para. Wealthy loggers and ranchers opposed her efforts to protect the land rights of poor farmers and create sustainable development in the rainforest.

After the Mass, Archbishop Pilarczyk blessed two trees planted by the Knights of Columbus on the cathedral grounds in memory of Sister Dorothy.

David Stang, Sister Dorothy’s brother, joined the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, friends of the community and archdiocesan officials at the Mass.

“Dorothy was a great Sister of Notre Dame and all her gifts were enhanced by the Sisters. This celebration is merely another celebration that Dorothy loved with her Sisters,” he said. “I’m honored to be here. I’m honored to be a part of these great women.”

Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Teresita Weind, the order’s congregational leader, said the outpouring of affection and celebration of Sister Dorothy’s life and ministry has inspired the Sisters.

“It is indeed an affirmation of the work of Sister Dorothy and an affirmation of the ministry of the Sisters of Notre Dame, which has always been to proclaim the goodness of God among those who are struggling, laboring, anguishing in conditions that are less than human,” Sister Teresita said.

She added the tight bond that has developed between the Sisters and the Stang family is “another outward sign of the solidarity of Dorothy’s work. It brings together families, it brings together countries, it brings together nations. It just brings together people.”

A large banner featuring images of Sister Dorothy, trees, birds and blue sky was carried during the Mass processions. The Sisters were pleased with the Mass and tribute.

“It was wonderful,” said Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Dorothy Kiley. “She’s still very much a part of us even after five years.”

Other events marking the anniversary of Sister Dorothy’s killing are also being held across the archdiocese:

• St. Rita School in Dayton, the elementary school Sister Dorothy attended, hosted a celebration in May to honor her and recognize her mission. Precious Blood and St. Paul parishes and Mercy Siena Retirement community participated.

“We did it as a joint event honoring both St. Rita of Cascia and Sister Dorothy Stang,” said Matthew Ruttle, pastoral associate at St. Rita. “Both women were peacemakers in their own ways and they worked for justice.”

More than 200 people shared dinner before a Mass of Thanksgiving. Father Ed Pratt, former associate pastor at Precious Blood Parish, was the celebrant. Concelebrants were Father David Brinkmoeller, dean of the Dayton Deanery and pastor of St. Helen and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception parishes; and Father Kenneth Baker, pastor of St. Paul Parish.
Participants included Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Sisters of the Precious Blood, Marianists and representatives from Dayton’s Chaminade-Julienne High School.

Corryville Catholic students
Corryville Catholic students proudly display masks they made representing animals of the rainforest for a celebration honoring Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Dorothy Stang. (Courtesy photo)

• At Corryville Catholic Elementary School in Cincinnati, students explored Sister Dorothy’s story on April 22 in observance of Earth Day. Different grades presented details of her life and ministry.

The seventh- and eighth-grade students presented a choral reading of Sister Dorothy’s life, family, her work as a teacher in Arizona and her missionary service. Other grades delved into the land structure where Sister Dorothy lived, what the geography was like, and the rain forest. The younger students researched games children in Brazil play and how they entertain themselves, and made masks of animals found in Brazil.

The project helped all the students become more aware of Sister Dorothy’s ministry and the importance of carrying on her work.

“I think they became more aware of what it means to go to a [mission] area and help, and to stand up for what is right,” said Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Marie Smith, principal. “That’s how we connected it with the earth today.”

• The first annual Dorothy Stang Awards were recently given to 10 Catholics across the archdiocese who demonstrate the values of Sister Dorothy. The winners are graduating high school seniors and Catholic teachers. They are: Emily Hornback of Seton High School; Cora Harrison of Chaminade-Julienne High School; Sydney Murray of Mother of Mercy High School; Erin Morrisroe of Archbishop McNicholas High School; Gerry Becker of St. Xavier High School; Linda Dintamin of Archbishop Alter High School; Joan Krueger of St. Ursula Academy; Sharon Meyer of St. Peter in Chains School; Linda Thieman of St. Henry Parish in St. Henry; and Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Elizabeth Anne Schaad of Mount Notre Dame High School.

The awards were given to commemorate the anniversary of Sister Dorothy’s martyrdom in collaboration with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and the archdiocesan Mission, Evangelization and Catechesis, Catholic Social Action and Youth and Young Adult Ministry offices.

• On June 27 the Mother Seton Council of the Knights of Columbus will dedicate a tree in memory of Sister Dorothy on the campus of St. William Parish in Cincinnati.
• During the first week of October Dominican Sister Nancy Murray will portray Sister Dorothy in a one-woman play. The play, depicting the life of Sister Dorothy, will be held at four locations across the archdiocese. Sister Nancy is the sister of actor Bill Murray.

• On Oct. 26 Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Jane Dwyer will speak at Precious Blood Church in Dayton. She was Sister Dorothy’s co-worker in Brazil.

David Eck can be reached at [email protected].

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