Photo by Kal Visuals on Unsplash

Dorothy Mae Stang (1931-2005) was an American-born Brazilian member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.  She was murdered outside the city of Anapu in the Amazon Basin because of her efforts on behalf of the poor and the environment.  She is known as the Angel of the Amazon and was proclaimed by the Vatican as a Modern-Day Saint and Martyr.

Responding to the call of Pope John XXIII for service in Latin America, Dorothy and four other sisters spent 40 years in Brazil where they helped peasants make a living by farming small plots of land which were designated by the government to be used for sustainable living.  The sisters taught the peasants how to farm and extract forest products without deforesting the land.

In time, loggers, ranchers, and business speculators bullied the farmers by hiring criminal gangs to terrorize the farmers and to take over their land.  This discrimination against the peasants and plundering and destruction of the forests motivated Dorothy to take action against this great injustice.  She called meetings and met with the authorities who chose to overlook the tragedy unfolding before them. Dorothy received serious death threats, but chose, with her Congregation’s support, to stand with the peasants and the environment.

On her way to a meeting, she was accosted by two men who asked her if she was armed.  She held up her Bible and declared it was her defense.  She was shot numerous times and died at the scene.

After her death, the president designated 20,000 of the l.6 million square miles of Amazon forest to be under federal protection to be used in a sustainable way.  This legacy is supported by the mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur of defending human rights and promoting justice.  Dorothy was a brave and courageous woman who lived and died for what she believed — preservation of the planet and justice for all.

The Amazon equals 40% of the tropical rainforests in the world, 50% of all plant species, 20 million people, and 20% of the earth’s fresh water.  The Angel of the Amazon gave her life on behalf of this great resource.

Posthumous honors were received from Brazil, the UN, the Vatican, the US Congress, and many colleges and universities.

Dorothy is known for her quotes:

“The death of the forest is the end of our lives.”

“There can be no survival for any without the peaceful coexistence for all.”

This is a fine film about the life of Dorothy Stang.

Excerpt taken from Online course: Holy Women of History