Opera tells story of murdered nun who helped poor farmers, fought powerful landowners in Brazil

2004 file photo of Sister Dorothy Stang. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Ohio-born Sister Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and a naturalized Brazilian citizen, was known for her fight against large landowners in the Amazon region. And for that and her ministry to the marginalized there, she was assassinated in 2005 at age 73. Now her story is being told in an American opera titled “Angel of the Amazon.”

The work just had two performances in Boston this past weekend. The Pilot, newspaper of the Boston Archdiocese, carried an advance notice that featured a triptych of Sister Dorothy painted by a member of her order.

Sister Dorothy’s death sparked an international outcry. She was killed Feb.12, 2005, in Anapu, a remote community in the Amazon region. She was shot several times in the chest and head.

For nearly four decades, Sister Dorothy worked in rural Brazil, defending the rights of poor peasants. This fight made her many enemies, including some wealthy landowners. Shortly before her death, the town of Anapu declared her “persona non grata,” stating her work was hindering the region’s development.

In her book titled “Martyr of the Amazon,” published by Orbis Books in 2007, author Rosanne Murphy recounted that Sister Dorothy’s lifelong dream of mission work became a reality in 1966, when she was one of five sisters from her order sent to Brazil following an appeal by Pope John XXIII.

In December 2008 she was one of seven people name to receive the  prestigious U.N. Prize in the Field of Human Rights, awarded by the General Assembly every five years.

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