From her earliest years in the Notre Dame community Sr. Dorothy had expressed a desire to be a missionary, preferably in China. But China was not in God’s plan for Dorothy. When Pope John XXIII sent out a call to North American religious communities for volunteers to go to Latin America, Dorothy was among the first to sign up. Soon she found herself in Brazil with her school friend, Sr. Joan Krimm. Both quickly learned that Brazil was a class society, that the poor were considered subhuman by many, and that the rainforest was expendable for profit.
Over the next 40 years Sr. Dorothy found gifts and strengths in herself. Nourished by her strong faith in a caring God, she grew in love and admiration for the people. Yet that did not keep her from dark times. Once she wrote home:
“I don’t want to flee, nor do I want to abandon the battle of the farmers who live without any protection in the forest.”
And another time she wrote:
“Our Gospel response calls us to take risks among our people. They don’t have this privilege; they would be killed if they resist openly—indeed they are killed.”
Yet hope prevailed in her. When she was among the children, worked with groups or confronted magistrates, her energy and strength was empowering to others. Her can-do spirit of love, humor and generosity drew people to her. They saw her dedication, felt her authentic spirituality, and experienced her steadfast support for their wellbeing. Even when death threats came, her reliance on the Good God sustained her. To this day, she continues to inspire the communities she helped to build. Her spirit lives on in the people. Viva, Dorothy!
O caring God, let us, like Sr. Dorothy, empower others. Let us support those who work for change always hopeful that one day there will be no more racism, classism, and other oppressions that prevent us from being the community God desires.
Written by Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND, Justice & Peace Coordinator. A former teacher, Sr. Margaret is passionate about issues of justice and inspires others to make a difference. She particularly enjoys working with students at Notre Dame de Namur University. An artist, her recent work includes a watercolor series on the Beatitudes set in the flora and fauna of Brazil.