A Real Woman for Real Times

By Sr. Judi Clemens, SND

Sr. Dorothy Stang and I grew up in the same city, but I first met her when, at her insistence, I travelled to Arizona in 1963. I was on my way to Puerto Penasco, Mexico, to animate a summer religious education program for the youth of this fishing village. Dorothy had been told these youth had no faith formation and so she sent out the word.  I was in admiration of her enthusiasm and passion for the people.

Dorothy arrived in Brazil in 1966 and I followed in 1968 and we lived together in Coroatá, Maranhão. There are many qualities of Dorothy to admire. From our beginning day, I was always touched by her commitment to youth and education. My own attraction to Brazil came from letters the Sisters sent back to our Provinces speaking of their work building faith communities.

Our spiritual growth was a real treasure. Our lives were intertwined with the faith communities we accompanied. What I would have liked to say during the panel was how important Marlene de Nardo (then a Sister) and Sr. Eliska Durovec were to the journey of Sisters of Notre Dame in Brazil.  Marlene was a vital mentor, inviting us to stretch ourselves into Godliness. Eliska was key in the foundational moments of our formation program that today counts eight professed Brazilian Sisters and four women in formation.

Dorothy was a deeply spiritual woman.  She was a woman rooted in Scripture and the light the Word shed on her every step was visible and striking.  Dorothy had a contemplative soul that yearned for justice.  She developed earth spirituality long before it became a recognized spiritual dimension.  For Dorothy it was foundational and she grounded herself in its depths.

Dorothy, and all Sisters who arrived in Brazil in the 1960s, entered a vast country under military dictatorship. We were formed under the guidance of prophetic bishops and a Church committed to the poor.  Dorothy was as common as the rest of us, a real woman for real times, and she calls us now to continue God’s revelation wherever we are.

Sr. Judi Clemens is a member of the Ohio Province who served 22 years in Brazil animating the Base Christian Communities and 18 more among Brazilian immigrants as a Pastoral Minister in Boston and Florida. She is presently the Site Director for Notre Dame Mission Volunteers AmeriCorps in Cincinnati.