Related: Civil & Human Rights, Dorothy Stang, Sisters of Notre Dame, Social Justice Issues, Women, Women's Leadership

Dorothy Stang's Witness to Justice


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Brenna Daugherty, Trinity 2013, grand niece of Sister Dorothy Stang, SND

at the February 13, 2010 symposium marking the 5th anniversary of Sister Dorothy’s death

She knew she would be killed.   Listening to author Binka le Breton retell the story of Dorothy Stang’s murder in the Brazilian rainforest in 2005, I was struck by this thought that stayed with me all night.  Dorothy knew she was going to be killed one day or the next, and yet, she did not relent in her quest for justice.

Yes, she was certainly afraid at times.  Surely, Dorothy must have had moments when she wondered if her life’s work would continue when she was gone.  Surrounded by the people of the Amazon to whom she devoted her life, we cannot know what moments of great loneliness and uncertainty she might have faced.

What we do know, however, is that she set out on the pathway that fateful morning, February 12, 2005, armed with her bible and her conviction that she must continue her quest for justice.

She was 74.  She could have long retired to a safer and less strenuous life, perhaps even returned to her family home in Ohio.  No one would have faulted her for walking away from a lifetime of sacrifice in a time of increasing danger.  but, not Dorothy.  She stayed in her adopted country, she remained devoted to her community in Anapu, she continued to live a life that exemplified the Catholic principles of social justice:

*Advocacy for life and human dignity

*Protection of human rights

*Standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters everywhere

*Taking the option to work for the poor and vulnerable of ur society

*Upholding the rights of workers

*Accepting responsibility to build community

*Caring for God’s creation

Caring for God’s creation, Dorothy Stang was shot six times by the assassins who were working on orders from the powerful land and logging interests.  She was left to die on the muddy rainforest floor.  This diminutive white-haired nun was so threatening to those gigantic wealthy interests that they had to get rid of her.   She knew they would.  That’s the most remarkable part of the story.  She knew this would happen, and yet, she walked into the forest, alone.

Most of us will never face such a life-threatening choice in pursuing our life’s work.  Many of us will retire long before we reach our seventh decade.  A few of us might choose to leave family and friends to move far away to pursue God’s work, but most of us hope to be able to do that in time to get home each night for supper and the late news.    We are stressed-out about whether snow plows will get to our street sometime soon; we are afraid of running out of milk, bread, coffee during the storm.

The 5th Anniversary of Dorothy’s death should shock us up off those couches and out the door into action.   Here at Trinity, our heritage and still-vital life force through the Sisters of Notre Dame calls us to action for justice each day.   We say that we do that in our teaching, our service, our commitment to the education of all in our city.  Sometimes, though, we need to do even more.

In the weeks ahead, we will renew conversations at Trinity about how to express our commitment to environmental justice and sustainability in our academic programs as well as institutional practices.  We do some things here and there, we could do more.

In memory of, in honor of, and with the inspiration of Dorothy Stang, Trinity will advance the cause of social justice and especially the care for God’s creation.

I invite comments from the community about the best ways to translate this intention into real programs and practices.  Please make a comment by clicking on the link below.

See Binka le Breton, The Greatest Gift:  The Courageous Life and Martyrdom of Sister Dorothy Stang

Here are photos from the February 13 symposium:

Author Binka le Breton…

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Brenna Daugherty introduces members of the Stang family…

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maggie stang hohm (Large)

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Sisters of Notre Dame …

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Trinity staff member LaWander McFarland helps Binka le Breton with the setup…

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The audience in O’Connor…

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Comments?  Please click on the link below…

This entry was posted in Civil & Human Rights, Dorothy Stang, Sisters of Notre Dame, Social Justice Issues, Women, Women's Leadership and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Dorothy Stang's Witness to Justice

  1. Mike Carolus says:

    Thank you for this inspiring statement of faith. I am shamed at my recent defeatist attitude toward writing my elected officials and taking an activist role in our democracy. Sister Stang, I will write, call, donate and fight for opressed and abused people everywhere.
    Peace in Christ

  2. Zealous says:

    I like to thank Trinity for honoring Dorothy, the lady stood against injustice. I hope we all take lessons from her life.

  3. Barbara Richardson says:

    Thank you for all you do.On my 2 trips there with Brenna I see what a caring community you are. Dots death is not in vain when saints like you keep it alive
    Our local Dean had confirmation for 62, he came down to them with the Natl Geographic in hand and told them all of Dot the St from up the street and how the Holy Spirit can give them the same passion and drive.One little project one story to read Binkas, Roseanne Murphy Michelle Murdock. God bless you all Barbara Stang,Richardson. Sorry for lateness had knee replaced just able to get to computer

  4. Angela Mason says:

    Thanks for the wonderful tribute to my Aunt Dorothy. We appreciate you keeping her dream alive. I had to briefly speak at our in-service here at Chaminade-Julienne Catholic High School. Someone said “What was Dorothy’s dream” I said “I really believe her dream was that we all get to achieve our own dreams, without being persecuted, ridiculed, enslaved, etc. I am so glad my daughter, Brenna Daugherty, made the choice to attend Trinity. It seems you are a caring and committed community

  5. mcguirep says:

    Marguerite, your praise means so much to all of us. We are honored that you were able to be at the program.

    Just one small correction — I’m not leaving! Perhaps someday, but as of now, I have much work still to do at Trinity. But thanks for your very kind note!

    Pat McGuire

  6. Since my sister Dot’s martyrdom I have been privileged to meet so many courageous people who work for the common good. I am hopeful.

  7. Susan Hohm says:

    Thank you Trinity for honoring Dorothy with such a grest program! We may not feel that we can do what Dorothy did but we can all care for God’s creation in our own part of the world. We can stand for justice and help others, especially the poor, in our communities.

  8. Since my sister Dot’s death I have been
    privileged to have met so many courageous people who are continuing to pay witness and advocate for social justice for the common good.
    I am sorry to read that Pat McGuire will be leaving the great Trinity University for she is one whom I speak.

  9. Keeping all reminded of what Aunt Dorothy did keeps us all reminded of what is still wrong in Brazil and other parts of the world. I pray every night that people who have the ability,position or desire to change things will use those characteristics to bring about change to the treatment/oppression of the poor, and to challenge agribusiness and corrupt govt. officials to change their ways. Keep on educating the young, they will push for these things as we older encourage and join in the ways we can.

  10. Pat McGuire says:

    David, what an honor to have you comment on this blog — your passionate commitment to the cause of justice carries Dorothy’s witness forward each day. Her story is amazing, inspiring and a call to action for justice for all of us. Keep up your great work!


  11. david stang says:

    Thank you for this great article and of course pictures of our Stang Family.
    Dorothy not only knew she was going to be killed but was at the forefront of challenging the Status Quo of Oppression, Slavery, Destruction of the Amazon, and Corruption in the Amazon. Her “Way of the Cross” was very similar to the cross of Compassion and Love that Jesus chose.
    David Stang

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: