She was our mother (Cleusa Carolina Rody Coelho)
In 1979, Sr. Cleusa Carolina Rody Coelho, a Recollect Augustinian nun, was sent to Labrea, in the Amazon, to be the directress of the St. Rita College. There, she developed a friendship with the poor Indians, who were abused by landowners. Out of love for them, Sr. Cleusa asked to leave the school in order to work with the indigenous. She defended the Indians from persecution. Because of this, many wanted her silenced. The police were angered with the nun because she works for the release of innocent imprisoned Indians. They wanted to kill her.
In April, 1985, a non-Indian entered the land of the Indians to collect woods. Agustin, an Indian, reported this to the FUNAI (a foundation which promotes the rights of the Indians). So, the woods collected by Damasio, the non-Indian, were confiscated and the other Indians were allowed to collect wood. So as an act of revenge, Raimundo Povidem, an Indian who was with Damasio, killed Agustin’s son and daughter.
When Sr. Cleusa learned of the news, she decided to go to Agustin to comfort him and prevent more bloodshed. The other sisters tried to stop Sr. Cleusa because of the dangers attached to her decision, but she decided to go.
When Sr. Cleusa arrived in Japiim, the place where Agustin lived, she advised Agustin to stay and remain calm, because she will report the incident in Labrea. So, she and a companion returned to Labrea by boat. While on their way, they were stopped by Raimundo Povidem. A year before, Sr. Cleusa took care of Povidem because he was ill.
When Sr. Cleusa recognized Povidem, she asked him to talk. But he shot Sr. Cleusa’s Indian companion, who fell and was wounded. Sr. Cleusa told him to flee, because he still has a wife and children to take care of. He fled to the forest, where he spent the night. Then, he went to the missionaries and told them of the incident. A search party was made, and Sr. Cleusa’s body was found on May 3, by the river bank.
The missionaries first noticed a flock of vultures in a bush near the river. So, they followed the vultures and saw Sr. Cleusa’s body. The autopsy revealed that Sr. Cleusa suffered beatings before she was shot to death. Her right arm was never found again. Sr. Cleusa was buried immediately. In her funeral, an Indian woman mourned, “Who will take care of us now? She was our mother!”