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"Martyr of the Amazon: The Life of Sister Dorothy Stang"

NDNU's Sister Roseanne Murphy Pens Book on Murdered Nun

Belmont, CA, October 15, 2007 — Sister Roseanne Murphy, SNDdeN, will host a book signing event for her long-awaited biography on fellow Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, Dorothy Stang, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. in Ralston Hall Mansion located on the NDNU campus.

Martyr of the Amazon: The Life of Sister Dorothy Stang, tells the story of how one courageous woman worked tirelessly for the rights of the poor and the preservation of the Amazon rain forest. Sr. Dorothy’s passion was to obtain justice for those who sought to live with freedom and dignity. For this, she gave her life.

The 73-year-old nun and NDNU alumna ‘64, was murdered in February 2005 by hired gunmen in the Amazon state of Para, Brazil, where she spent 39 years working as a missionary to preserve the land of the poor in the Amazon rainforest.

Sr. Dorothy taught peasants how to make a living by farming small plots and extracting forest products without deforestation. She became a naturalized Brazilian citizen and staunchly continued her work to oppose illegal loggers who used intimidation to run poor farmers off their land. She received numerous death threats over the years from loggers and land owners.

Sr. Roseanne, NDNU’s Executive Director of Planned Giving and Professor Emerita, was approached by fellow Sisters from Sr. Dorothy’s order in Ohio to write her biography shortly after her murder. They were impressed with the style and tone of Sr. Roseanne’s first book, Julie Billiart, Woman of Courage, about the founder of the Sisters of Notre Dame. Orbis Press concurred, and Murphy has since spent time researching, writing, and traveling to Brazil last summer to talk with the farmers for whom Sr. Dorothy gave her life.

“Dorothy embodies the qualities of the mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, and models the hallmarks of NDNU,” said Sr. Roseanne. “Her spirit lives on in the hearts of the people who have found their rights and are determined to continue her work for justice and peace in that troubled area.”

Sr. Dorothy’s life ended as she was walking towards a meeting with farmers whose homes had been burned and crops destroyed at the order of a cattle rancher. She was stopped by two gunmen. She tried to show the two hired men a map which proved the land belonged to the poor farmers, and when they asked her if she had a weapon, she pulled out her bible saying it was the only weapon she ever had. They shot her six times. Her murder sent shock waves throughout the world.

Hundreds of memorials took place to remember the passionate defender of the poor. The President of Brazil sent two thousand troops into the area to quell any violence that was threatened against the poor. They stayed in the area for nearly five months, as the killing did not end with her death.

In May 2007, Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, one of the ranchers who paid for Sr. Dorothy’s murder, was convicted and sentenced to thirty years in jail. Known as “Bida,” he is the first convicted rancher to serve any jail time. There were more than 800 murders in that region within the past 20 years, and only five convictions of ranchers who had paid for murder. Prior to “Bida” the ranchers didn’t receive any jail time, they were just sent home.

Prior to her murder, Sr. Dorothy was honored by the state of Para for work in the Amazon region.  She also received an award from the Brazilian Bar Association for her work ministering to the poor and teaching them to use sustainable agriculture. NDNU and three other universities posthumously awarded Sister Dorothy with Honorary Doctorate Degrees of Humane Letters. In 2006, she was inducted into the National Freedom Railroad Museum in Cincinnati which honors leaders who have fought against slavery. She was also honored by the United Nations and the U.S. Congress for her work with the poor and oppressed. The actor, Martin Sheen, had an icon created of Sr. Dorothy to honor her.

Sister Pat McGlinn, SND, fondly recalls “Dot” as she was known by close friends and family. “She was a true daughter of our founder St. Julie, who told us to be with the poor in the most abandoned places. And that’s where she found her life, in the Amazon, with the poor. You couldn’t ask for a more dedicated person.”

Sr. Roseanne has several other book signing events planned this year including October 18, at 7 p.m. at Pauline Books & Media in Redwood City. She will also sign books during Reflection Day at Notre Dame Province Center, Nov. 3 beginning at 9:30 a.m. The Province Center is located at 1520 Ralston Avenue in Belmont.

Ralston Hall Mansion is located on the Notre Dame de Namur University campus at 1500 Ralston Avenue in Belmont. For more information, contact Sr. Roseanne at (650) 508-3551.