Category Archives: Brazil

Seeds Bear Fruit in Brazil

By Sister Jane Dwyer, SNDdeN

In February 2015, we will remember the 10th Anniversary of the death of Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN. During the years since her assassination, new life has burst forth even in the midst of continued violence and threatening situations. Sr. Dorothy was murdered, but her life and work have taken root in the hearts of the people in Brazil. Hope abounds in signs of new growth. When Sr. Dorothy died, there were 35 basic Christian communities; today there are more than 85 communities who live daily the Gospel message. In 2005, the

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Sr. Dorothy Stang: Prophetic Witness of Justice

Projects for Sustainable Development (PDS) were fragile, just beginning. These projects for developing and cultivating the land, as well as protecting the rights of farmers in building their livelihoods were in beginning stages. Today, individuals and families, living and working in an ecological way in the forest, plant gardens on small plots of land. They take responsibility in defending a major forest surrounding this land and where they can only work collectively. Now there are two sustainable projects in Anapu: Virola Jatoba and Esperança. Sr. Dorothy was murdered on Lot 55 of PDS Esperança. Now there are more than 450 families in the two projects, many who have electricity and well-built homes. In the last ten years, more than 1,200 families have occupied government lands destined for agrarian reform. Their insistence has more or less secured their right to remain on the land until judicial questions are resolved. Schools appear as the people organize and demand them. Roads are at least passable in most cases.

On February 12, Sr. Dorothy’s anniversary, the Sisters and people will remember and relive the shock and pain of her murder, the fear and violence which haunted us during 2005. We will remember the empty chair at our table and at meetings, the lilting laugh and adventurous spirit so brutally silenced. We recall also, in the aftermath of Sr. Dorothy’s murder, that the local radio    hounded the parish and land pastoral team and terrorized the people. The local media portrayed Dorothy, the people and the Sisters as the culprits, who were getting what we deserved. The Sisters had no vehicle through which we could respond or question. We bore the calumny and terrible lies. The population was fearful and we did not know whom to trust. As the years passed, we made 9 trips to Belem for the trials of Sr. Dorothy’s murderers, always with 2 or 3 busloads of people, and always with police protection. During the first two trials, we camped out in the park area in front of the judicial building in simple tents put up by the Dorothy Committee and their friends who always welcomed us with open hearts and hands.

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Gathering the Stones: Story in Maceió, Brazil

By Sisters Lucyane Ribeiro Diniz, Betsy Mary Flynn & Mary Alice McCabe, SNDdeN

Since 1985, Maceió, located in Itapipoca, Ceará, Northeast in Brazil, has been an Agrarian Reform Settlement. It comprises 5,000 acres of arable lands, coconut tree plantations, sand dunes, lakes, streams and virgin beaches.

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) have been in Maceió since the 1970s. For generations, local fishermen, farmers, lace makers and algae gatherers have occupied and cultivated the land and sea providing them with all they need to sustain a simple lifestyle.

The people gathered in secret under the trees, as they prayed for land lights and discussed liberation from landlords.
The people gathered in secret under the trees, as they prayed for land lights and discussed liberation from landlords.

These courageous and faith-filled people have faced numerous challenges over the years. The first and most significant was their historical struggle for land rights during the early 1980’s. They call this time of unity their Holy or Sacred Resistance, when they liberated their land from unjust and illegal “landlords.”

The generation that lived through this oppression asks to preserve this story and pass it on to their grandchildren; “…so that they will remember that we, their grandparents, faced a very difficult challenge, a sacred struggle, so that today they can live on free land, and appreciate how this land was liberated…”

The people recall how they met together to study the story of Moses and the Israelites in the Bible: “We discovered that the people of God… lived the same kind of slavery and oppression that we were living… and finally liberated themselves. And we discovered that we, as a people of God, must imitate their struggle for liberation.”

They reflect on the Book of Joshua and how the People of God… passed on their story of struggle to future generations. The 12 tribes of Israel cross the River Jordan, with dry feet; Joshua orders one person from each tribe to carry and place one stone with the other stones, on the other side of the river.

“Why these stones for Maceió? To remember and tell your children that you gathered these stones and carried them over the river, with dry feet in order to recall the hand of Yahweh as he led you… to a new, free land.”

In those days, they did not write or record. So the stones were the way to remember. We, today, have paper, pens and recorders, our stones… they can tell our story.

Sisters Collaborate with People
The challenge in this book is to “gather the stones.” Sr. Mary Alice McCabe, SNDdeN has organized an Oral History based on 60 interviews, in Gathering the Stones: Maceió’s Story of Resistance – A Story of Faith.
In Maceió settlement since the 1980’s, Sr. Mary Alice has compiled the stories of resistance and victory told by the people themselves.

In thirteen chapters, the people describe their lives as veritable slaves under the domination of local tyrannical landlords.

They discover in the Bible the God of the oppressed who gives them courage to confront injustice and transform the land and their lives.

They tell about their struggles to live according to collective values on the newly liberated land. Twelve interviews are a study on collective values, contributed by Sisters Lorraine Connell and Ellen Dabrieo, SNDdeN after these Sisters had spent several months with the people in 1993. Sr. Betsy Flynn, SNDdeN, also serving in Maceió for many years, photographed many significant moments in gathering precious stones for this story.

Youth Ministry Today
Sr. Lucyane Ribeiro Diniz, SND, (Lu) is currently developing a dynamic mission with the youth, where through theatre, music and art, they are discovering new ways of recapturing key “stones” of Maceió’s story.

Sr. Lucyane with the children.
Sr. Lucyane with the children.

Sr. Lucyane says: “It is always a challenge to pass on the story of a people to future generations. Our Theatre Group, Seeds of Art, is producing a play based on Maceió’s story of resistance and faith. Our goal is not only to gather the stones but also to inspire the new generation to continue the work of liberation and transformation begun by their ancestors.”


Source: Good Works, June 2015, pp. 18-19. GWJune2015

Shouting for Life

by Sister Betsy Mary Flynn, SNDdeN

Shouting for Life PhotoBrazil will host the World Cup in June-July 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. Mega sports events increase the market for human trafficking. On January 9, 2014, The Guardian predicted increased child sex trade: Brazil’s Child Sex Trade Soars as 2014 World Cup Nears. The Church in Brazil has chosen human trafficking for the theme of the Lenten Campaign. Catholics throughout the country will study, pray and take action against human trafficking during this season.

Since 2009, religious Congregations from different countries have organized in small groups globally for education awareness, prevention, denouncement of human trafficking, and the protection of actual and potential victims. In Brazil, Sisters of Notre Dame serve with an anti-trafficking group, called Shouting for Life, known in Portuguese as Grupo Grito pela Vida. Read the rest of Sr. Betsy article: Shouting for Life

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Reprinted with permission. Good Works Magazine 

Jubilee Joy: 50 Years in Brazil

“Every day, we help adults, adolescents and children to become conscious of their dignity, particularly through Bible study and popular education.”

SNDdeNs-BrazilSisters Respond to Needs

On Marajó Island, Pará, Sr. Rita Raboin works with the diocesan Justice and Peace Commission, the Land Pastoral and in community organizing.  Due to a precarious system of water delivery and waste control, Marajó’s unhealthy water supply has become a critical issue. Sr. Maria Socorro de Oliveira, returning from English study in Ohio, USA, will soon begin a new ministry among the people in Breves.

Read more:  JubileeJoy50YearsinBrazil
Lenten Theme Week One

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Planters of Peace Nurture Hope in Brazil

We and the youth with whom we work are providing an island of hope in Jardim Tropical. A group of 30 to 40 young people that I (Sister Maria) facilitate are active in a weekly youth group. These youth help prepare the liturgy and also participate in novenas, processions, preparation for baptism, a nutrition program for babies, and protest marches – all activities that energize our community. The youth named their group “Planters of Peace,” a significant choice in light of their neighborhood situation.

“There is so much goodness in our young “Planters of Peace.” They are among the reasons why our neighborhood, poor as it is in some ways, deserves to be called “Tropical Garden.” -Sr. Maria

Learn More… PlantersofPeaceNurtureHopeinBrazil

Women and Water: Island of Beauty & Challenge

Slide4Our Notre Dame community lives on the island of Marajó, on the  largest navigable archipelago in the world, located at the mouth of the amazon river, in the State of Pará, Brazil. This is an island of beauty and challenge! The people find their means of support in extraction of açai for juice, palm hearts, wood from family-owned sawmills, and fishing. Some plant and sell cassava, rice, or beans. In our county, there is 80% unemployment, gang violence, drug trafficking, and other criminal activity. Unable to find jobs, the people are migrating from the river communities and searching for schools for their children. Our neighborhood with 4000 persons and 853 families, on the periphery of Breves, does not  have any school, health clinic nor potable water. Our streets are muddy in the rainy season and dusty in the dry season. Most women work in homes of wealthy families; the men find odd jobs daily. On days when adults do not work, the families do not eat….
Read the full story in GoodWorksJune2011 on pages 8-9.